Media and Design Club for Kids
Activity 1: Door Investigation
Activity Objective: Evaluate design choices by touring the school and counting the different types of door styles we encounter.
Discussion: This was a hands-on exercise where we walked around the whole school and noted and counted the different door designs we saw. I had the kids bring notepaper and pencils so they could keep track. Some drew the doors, some wrote down descriptions of key features. Before too long we had amassed a list of 30 different door types in our very small school!
This gave rise to the opportunity to talk about design features and constraints. For instance, most of the classroom doors have a hydraulic arm on the top, in addition to hinges. We talked about how at a school, one of the most important features of any design is going to need to be safety, so the hydraulics were used as a safety feature to keep doors from slamming. At home, where usage is much lower, we don’t generally have these kinds of features.
We discussed design variations, too. We noted several classifications of doors – the “bathroom door” type, which has no window, and came in several varieties (with lever handle, push bar), the “classroom door” which has a skinny window and aforementioned hydraulics. The “School door” which is all glass. I began introducing the design concept of “affordances” – wherein certain styles of design afford certain uses. A pushbar on a door affords pushing, a pull handle affords pulling. This is a concept we’ll come back to as we move into different styles of design, as it is particularly relevant in information design of computer systems and webpages.
Activity 2: Business Card Investigation
Activity Objective: Translate some of the concepts of design to the world of business cards.
Assignment: I handed out business card magnets (conveniently stolen from my own garage door where business card magnets go to retire and pass a quiet existence.) One by one I asked the kids to bring their magnet up to the whiteboard, place it with the others, and then talk about what kinds of information was on their business card and what they thought some of the reasons or rationale behind the design of the card were.
Discussion: I was absolutely astonished at how even the 3rd and 4th grade students could talk about things like the use of color on a business card and friendly graphics in an attempt to convey a warm, welcoming storefront, or the way a pizza place used a photograph of pizza with a checkered table cloth and raw materials in the background to show they used fresh ingredients. We also talked about other design concepts like boldface, larger fonts, and the use of whitespace to separate key areas of information on a card. The kids got a kick out of the fact that on some business cards, the “whitespace” wasn’t white at all, but yellow or blue like the rest of the business card.
We will revisit this concept using some ideas from another blog about design that I found called Bluemoon web design. Using this as a resource and our business card exercise as a reference, I’ll start introducing the general design vocabulary of things like Line, Form, Texture, Value, as well as big picture design concepts of balance, movement, repetition, etc. This is the exciting part, I love introducing this whole world to these kids, each time I tell them something new or give them a word to describe something they observed (e.g., “whitespace”) their faces light up and I can practically watch the gears turning as they start asking questions about other examples, firing off comparisons and anti-examples too. Fabulous!
Activity 3: Draw your own business card
Activity Objective: Apply the ideas discussed to your own design, having to make tradeoffs in how you use space, what information you give priority to, etc.
Assignment: Using the ideas we discussed with existing business cards, make your own business card for any made up (or real) business. Dog walker, web designer, secret agent, whatever you like.
Discussion: We ran out of time so we will take a look at business card designs at the next session and discuss the tradeoffs people made.