Someone Else’s Shoes
The students in a middle school art class were challenged to work on a sculpture unit in pairs. Each student was tasked to design a shoe for their partner. They started the process by interviewing their partner to discover what they want or need in the ‘ultimate shoe’. They were told that the sky was the limit on their shoe designs and were encouraged to be as creative as possible. After developing a concept, they created a drawing of their idea for the ‘ultimate shoe’ on paper and shared this with their partner. Based on the feedback they received from their partner, they revised their concept and used Sculpey to build a small prototype.
A college preparatory school in Monterey, California had a tradition of designing a class T-shirt each year. The process was cumbersome. It would take months for students to decide on a design, and the loudest students usually had a disproportionate influence over the outcome. There was very little order or democracy to the process. Students inevitably became frustrated. The goal of the exercise was for the students to create their own T-shirt design as a symbol to represent their class. Unfortunately, the lack of structure usually led to inefficiency and chaos rather than unity and pride among the class. The teacher wanted to try something new.
Through Design Thinking the teacher streamlined the T-shirt design process while making it fun, democratic, efficient and exceedingly productive. As he recalls, “When I started designing the process I just wanted to make it work better. After thinking about what the T-shirts represented, I realized that they were really about identity. So I prepared a PowerPoint show about how artists explore identity in their work. Then an opportunity for exploration into legacy presented itself. So, I put together a PowerPoint show on Marketing and tied it in with legacy. After watching the presentations the students created a final statement that addressed their own identity and legacy.”
“After they created their statements, I had them do another brainstorming session. Then, I gave them T-shirts to create their first prototypes. Fortunately, the period they did their prototypes was just before lunch so they wore the prototype T-shirts to lunch and asked other students for feedback. The next meeting each group presented its findings and the whole gaggle of students voted on which T-shirt design they wanted. It was chosen with ease and buy-in from every student.”
“I then took the chosen prototype and made a mock-up of the design and presented it to the junior class representatives. We worked together refining the design until they were satisfied. We did this whole project in about 4 classes or one month, rather than the three months it used to take. All the students loved the process and were genuinely proud of their design. It was a huge success.”