Any area of study can benefit from a well-designed methodology or toolkit. This year, the Educational Initiatives category of the 2014 Core77 Design Awards saw submissions that tackled financial awareness, the ever-changing studio space, and generally more hands-on, activity-based learning. This year's entrants prove that design has a place in every classroom.
Charlie Cannon, CEO at Epic Decade and Associate Professor of Industrial Design at the Rhode Island School of Design, led his jury team through the entries and they ended up with eight favorites. Read on to see which projects impressed them and why.
Professional Winner: Media Design Practices/Lab+Field Curriculum Redesign, by Media Design Practices (MDP) Core Faculty
Education programs are changing just as quickly as the technology around us. The Art Center College of Design called up the Media Design Practices (MDP) Core Faculty to come up with their own lesson plan for the ever-evolving realm of design education. The result: Lab+Field—a two-track program that explores the cultural impact of new science/technology/culture ideas and combines it with social issues in international situations. "This is a bold experiment," the jury says. "At a time when there is a proliferation of 'topical' degree programs (social innovation, sustainable design, critical design), Art Center's program is arguing for a 'liberal arts' approach that design students benefit when they apply tools and techniques to a wide array of topics."
Professional Runner Up: Design for America Process Guide, by Design for America
Design for America Process Guide allows just about anyone to explore local and social challenges through design thinking, walking readers through the design process phases and relating the practice to real-life situations. More importantly, the publication asks students to reflect and re-evaluate their work created with help from the guide for better understanding of the craft at hand. The jury shares their thoughts: "For us, the guide appears to be an incredibly useful introduction for people who want to use design and make a difference but don't necessarily know how, and who aren't necessarily designers. We liked that it was developed in an iterative process of development and field-tested... After making our decision, we reviewed the previous year's entries and noted that Design for America appears to be engaged in a long-term and systematic development of their systems (building cohorts, infrastructure, and tools) to increase the effectiveness of their programs and their chapter's projects. We really want to applaud them for this work."
Professional Runner Up: City Studies, by The Center for Urban Pedagogy
The Center for Urban Pedagogy is bringing design to high school students with City Studies. By creating programs that encourage students to investigate and explore the communities around them—specifically in NYC—students get out of the classroom and are able to apply design-thinking to the environment around them in a more hands-on manner. Through interacting with city decisionmakers and talking with fellow citizens, students are able to break down local issues and see what make the city around them tick. "What is so exciting about this submission is it empowers students to engage these kids in investigating the world around them and through that process benefits themselves and the people in their communities," says the jury. "An essential model of learning here is that students are acquiring skills not in a stand alone course, but necessary tools for exploring an issue that is relevant to them. CUP notes that 'students not only learn design and media skills, but they learn about the power of design as a tool for research, problem solving and effective communication.' For us, this is an interesting model of how to enable students by allowing the work to be guided by practicing designers but the content is still selected by student choice."
Professional Notable: A Toy for Empathy, by Ilana Ben-Ari of Twenty One Toys
Ilana Ben-Ari, lead designer and founder of Twenty One Toys, looks to bridge the gap in the classroom between visually impaired learners and their classmates. The tactile toy set works by blinding sighted students and giving the same task to both the students with and without sight. The kit includes the building blocks, a guidebook and classroom outlines for ages K-12. "What we liked about this tool is that it is a beautifully designed object —both in tactile and interactively speaking—with real pedagogical supports to encourage cooperative and collaborative learning. Twenty One Toys is thinking about how physical objects can be used to introduce and and embed important skills to people of all ages."
Professional Notable: Appropriate Technology, by Makeshift
Makeshift pulls the economic innovations from regions around the world who don't necessarily garner a lot of press time. All of these efforts are included in an instructional magazine featuring the international designs and how they can be improved and scaled. "The Appropriate Technology 'edition' is a compelling take on the course reader, providing vivid articles, discussion supports and resources in a package you would want to keep," says the jury. "As an idea, the magazine is playing in an interesting space between open co-Âcreation and curation with university professors to create customized, personalized and curricula delivered via traditional print media and online."
Professional Notable: Carton House, by Yestermorrow and UMass Semester in Sustainable Design/Build
Small space design and mobile homes are nothing new—but combining the two made for some unique design constraints for one UMass team. Eleven college students and three professors crafted a lifestyle shift by exploring aesthetics, theory and context to design and build a 350 sq. ft. dwelling in 16 weeks. The task was a part of a semester-long course in the autumn of 2013 called Semester in Sustainable Design/Build. "Students participated in an immersive retreat prior to the typical studio starting point offering them a chance to 'pause' and re-examine more fundamental questions before they began to formulate the problem or the solution," says the jury. "And when they return from the woods, that the students sit down and work out how to make decisions collaboratively."
Professional Notable: D3 Toolkits: Teen Empowerment Through Design, by Commonstudio
Commonstudio's D3 Toolkits are a means to incorporate creative education into any classroom or study. The methods don't require any kind of one-on-one student or faculty facilitation/training, making it a seamless way to incorporate design thinking in more classroom activities. The jury's thoughts: "D3 Toolkits positions students as problem solvers, and enables them to engage in projects that are relevant to student interests and community needs, such as when it was used by students living in a homeless shelter to improve the environment in which they lived. It's open source and widely available creating a strong framework."
Professional Notable: NCAD Folio Brief, by Core Studies NCAD
The NCAD Folio Brief is a compilation of design projects from students completing an undergraduate degree at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland. The project is required for graduation and comprises various interrelated art and design tasks, giving students a chance to experience the work type and load before entering into a design-focused institution. "The brief is exciting to us because it introduces students to principles of creative thinking in advance of the their entering art school," says the jury. "We also liked that the NCAD is explicitly recruiting students whom they believe will be able to sustain creative work over the course of their college experience—not just ones who benefitted from the most training in high school."
Professional Notable: Little Treasures: Understanding Money and Value for Children, by Ritika Mathur
Ritika Mathur designed a learning system that teaches children the value of money at a young age. The kit features hands-on activities that can be incorporated into existing lessons, helping students grasp the intangible concepts of money and wealth, in a social and playful way. The jury was excited to see design show up in a new territory: "We were quite excited to see you children debating the value of sharing their skills Âvs. sharing their things in the video. [We also enjoyed] how Little Treasures applies design tools to a new subject area, allowing students to rehearse and practice those tools in pursuit of an learning about money."
Professional Notable: Einhorn 21st Century Studio, by KBL Studio and Brandway
KBL Studio and Brandway's Einhorn 21st Century Studio explores the elements of a studio space and the most time- and cost-effective tools and machines. The 2,000 sq. ft. studio is specified for architecture students and equipped to adapt and transform with changing technologies and work methods through various compartmentalized stations. "While there were a number of applications that explored new classroom or studio design, what was exciting about this one was that it began from zero—throwing out the assumptions about work, work desks and work stations," says the jury. "It engaged the students and faculty in the studio in an exploratory process to test different ideas about studio-Âbased work and the equipment to support that work."