The first week of DESIGN YOUR ‘HOOD (DYH) has commenced and it looks like we have our work cut out for us. The monumental task before us is the redesign of the computer lab space at the Arts and Academics Academy in South Seattle. It’s a bright space, with large windows, painted brick walls and a colorful (yet somewhat grim) mural. It’s a space full of potential and DYH designers are here to realize it.

before 2

So where do we start? Well, before we do any kind of collaborative brainstorming, we need to get to know our fellow designers. Everyone introduces themselves with a quick icebreaker. We share why we want to participate in DYH and our favorite things. Many students say they just wanted to get out of the house and DO something.  Favorite activities included eating, dancing, watching TV, playing soccer, sleeping and listening to music. I think by the end of the program, we will be able to add “designing” to that list.

After the team gets to know each other a little bit better, we discuss what we want to get out of the program. Students receive school credit for participating in DYH, but what else is in it for them? DYH is designed to help students strengthen and grow their creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills. Naturally, DYH designers will be asked to think creatively about solutions and ideas for the redesign of the computer lab. They will be asked to think critically about the possibilities and constraints of the space. Students will also need to be able to communicate their ideas to fellow designers not just verbally, but through mood boards and other visuals. And, since, “enlightened trial and error succeeds over the lone genius”, it will be especially important that each designer collaborate with one another to implement a shared vision.

This is why it is so important for us to create a type of social contract–we call them “community norms”–that acts as a promise from each individual to respect one another.  As we brainstorm possible norms, it becomes clear that RESPECT is necessary for effective creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration to happen. Many students want to be free from fear and judgement. We finally narrowed down to six norms:

1. Don’t talk bad about other’s opinions

2. Share ideas!

3. Support each other

4. Work hard and relax!

5. Be positive!

6. Be on time and participate

Every designer (literally) signs their name to this contract. We can now begin to work as a respectful and productive team!

The next day, we spend most of our time in the computer lab, in order to learn more about the space and inspire new ideas. Each designer gets and iPad to take pictures of their least favorite parts on the computer lab. Then, the designers write imagery poems in order to explore the experience of the current computer lab. There is no ambivalence in this group; all of the designers have strong opinions about what could be improved.

As we wrap up week one, we start to understand the task before us. The designers are eager to get their hands dirty in the coming weeks and transform the computer lab into an inspired space.

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