Can 13-Year Old Kids Design? You Betcha!

By Meera Dolasia on March 27, 2011

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When Rinat Aruh and Johan Liden, from New York-based design studio, Aruliden offered to teach a design seminar to the eight graders at the School at Columbia University, they did not expect much. It was just their way of thanking the school for allowing them to conduct student focus group studies, for a client. So you can only imagine their surprise when the 13-year olds came up with what Ms. Aruh describes as 'mind blowing ideas'!

Dubbed 'Tools for Schools', the seminar focused on getting the kids to envision the classroom furniture of the future. Divided into three teams, the students were asked to come up with innovative designs for a chair, desk and school locker.

Unlike other similar collaborations between schools and design firms, the class was not treated as a stand-alone 'after' school program, but integrated in the normal coursework. During math, the teams figured out the design in terms of ratios and proportion, in science they researched materials, while during language arts, they worked on their presenting their final ideas.

Besides drawing from their own experiences, the teams also conducted copious amounts of research, by interviewing fellow students, members of the school faculty and scouring around the Internet, for inspiration. While some ideas incorporated in the final design came from this research, others were inspired by simple observations - like the idea to make the chairs more comfortable using wooden balls, came after one of the students accidently sat on some balls and realized that it was comfortable, while the suggestion to add a swivel and enable the chairs to bounce up and down, came as a result of a student watching his dad swivel around as he pondered for an idea.

Once the teams had completed the design work, they built prototypes from pipe cleaners and balsa wood and also, created Power Point presentations on the cost, potential market and advertising strategies. 

To take it to the next step, Ms. Aruh took the design sketches and created computer renditions, which she has presented along with the specifications, to North Carolina's, Bernhardt furnishing company, so that they can manufacture actual samples. The designs are so impressive that Bernhardt plans to showcase them at New York's International Contemporary Furniture show, this May.

So back to our question - Can 13-year-old students design? The results above speak for themselves. If only more firms and educators would collaborate on these kind of 'out of the box' projects - School would be soooo much more fun!

Resources: Fastcompany.com

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130 Comments
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  • headream100
    headream10011/28/2013
    I made tons of antique design furniture when I was young. I don't want to brag, but they were amazing. I like the handmade chair with the t shirt on it. It's so creative.
    • legend-of-zelda
      i want to do that! but I gotta alot of other projects to finish first...lol..i'm still working on animating a song....i only finished the first picture..
      • tiaisy
        tiaisy5/19/2013
        Wow AWSOME
        • chica
          chica3/19/2013
          I could do that
          • bananakiller
            bananakiller11/15/2012
            thats cool
            • cahill74
              cahill7410/8/2012
              i wish we could do that
              • cahill74
                cahill7410/8/2012
                wow!
                • mick231
                  mick23110/20/2011
                  That's so cool!!!!!
                  • Lisa10/2/2011
                    It doesn't really suprise me that they can design. Younger people do often have better imaginations.
                    • omg
                      omg9/21/2011
                      Well dugh 13 year olds can design and their better at it to.

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