Designing with Children

Forgot to mention that last week, we presented a paper which used literary and cinematic extracts to illustrate the kinds of interactions children and designers have, when they are involved together in design processes.

We drew on our interviews with spatial designers as well as from our recent two case studies in Germany and Sussex. The presentation grew in our minds some months ago, as a number of books and films had served as reminders, illustrators and theory builders for us to reflect upon how particular themes continually rise to the fore for us. These themes are: co-creative process; keeping possibliities open; the competence of children (including improvisation as a kind of competence); the honest, open and direct communication of children and of adults and children acting together. To summarise, we raised the interesting question of the extent to which adults and children may be friends and equals in some elements of design, and indeed in wider life.

We used short extracts from the books: Tove Jansson's 'The Summer Book'; David Walliams: 'Gangsta Granny' and Nick Hornby's 'About a Boy'. And we took brief clips from films: Tarsem Singh's 'The Fall'; Luc Besson's 'Leon'; Henry Hathaway's 'True Grit; Adam Elliott's 'Mary and Max'; Charlie Chaplin's 'The Kid' and just a teeny piece illustrating the difficulty of choosing(and the wonders of keeping possiblities open!) from Jaco Van Dormael's 'Mr Nobody'. We wanted all visuals for the presentation to appear here, but our CMS is not very happy with Powerpoint; we'll try to get a link or another format up here soon. In the meantime we hope you enjoyed just one clip from The Kid, illustrating competence and collaboration in a beautiful way.

Posted 8th July 2014 12:11 by Jo Birch

Leave a comment

Conference season. We've been lucky to have 2 on our doorstep in Sheffield: 5th International Conference: Researching children's everyday lives and just yesterday: Co-producing knowledge 2nd International Conference. Both have been great for building our theories and understandings around our own work.

There were too many interesting ideas to mention really but a few thoughts stick in my mind at least. At the childhoods conference, Margaret Mackey inspired all with an autobiographical account of the development of her own childhood literacy. As she humorously and eloquently talked about childhood books, recipes, knitting patterns, board games and music sheets - all of which were key for the flourishing of her own literacy - we noticed the relevance of these interpretations for our understanding of spatial literacies and of design literacies. Margaret referred to Malafouris (2013) when she talked about our hands having literate knowledge. There is power in the non-discursive, unreasoned actions of our bodies. We can refelect on the hands and the minds of the designer/designer-child workd in discursive and non-discursive exhanges as they work through their creative processes.

Continuing on that which is embodied, Susana Manso helped us think further, about both play and about the way designers work, through the lens of dance choreography. Susana, herself a dancer, talked of both choreographers' and child-players' roles: from expert, author, pilot, facilitator to collaborator. She illustrated choreographer's and dancers' skills and approaches that are enabled by such different roles. All this sounded remarkably similar to the different aspects of designer and child roles we have encountered.

Yesterday's, stimulating plenary, as we considering Co-producing knowledge of places, saw Margaret Somerville, talking of one of her place-learning projects in Australia. Margaret recounted her methods whereby a group of children took videos of throwing stones in their local lagoon. Because they didn't like the sounds of their own voices in the first video, the children re-shot the action and the scene. We were reminded us of the reflective and iterative qualities of children's making-behaviour and their attention to detail. Later in the day, prompts around notions of power-relations cropped up as we continually noted that co-production (of knowlege and spaces) often privileges those who already have social capital (thank you Lee Crookes). We had lively discussion around themes such as: process versus outcome; difficulties in creating collaborative environments; the value of the qualitative and everyday versus the value of 'hard data' to worlds of research and beyond. We touched upon the prominence of emotion and relationship in co-production of any kind and the need for common languages between different partners whether they be residents, makers, children, tenants, professional service providers or academic researchers.

Leave a comment