As you may know, Imagine More was involved in some work in Cuba in early 2016. Run by Groundswell Community Project, this ongoing project brought (and continues to bring) surf instruction, donated gear, and a greater sense of community and sisterhood to young women and girls all over Cuba who surf, want to surf, and are just generally badass and awesome. One of the main issues they face in their native country, though, is that in Cuba, surfing is not considered a sport.
It might seem irrelevant what the government "considers" to be a sport, but it actually has a massive impact on whether gear is available, whether Cuban surfers can compete internationally and receive sponsorships, whether they can compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics (where surfing will be an event!), and even whether surfing is considered legal.
To raise awareness of this issue and to help Cuban surfers gain recognition and the ability to compete in the 2020 Olympics, our friends at @surflibre (look them up on Instagram!) put together this incredible short video.
Check out the video, sign the petition, and let's see Cuban surfers compete in 2020!
For more about our work in Cuba, check out our Groundswell Community Project page.
While teaching YDS students about the “ideate” phase of being a designer, we had a lesson on using photography as a design tool. A Cape Town-trained film technician, Aurora Drummer, was on-hand to give expert visual insights and career tips.
We discussed that in order to be a good designer and problem-solver, you need to be a detective! You need to be able to show what is going on around you. You can do this by:
Telling – through asking questions and recording observations
Showing – through drawing or photography
In this class on photography, we explored how you can use photos as a communication and storytelling tool. We experimented with photography as a method not only for taking nice pictures, but as a way to tell stories, and to learn stories about the people and places you photograph. We used photography to explore our ideas about ourselves, our identities, and our communities (both human and structural).
For our students who were experiencing photography for the first time, we ran through a set of basic concepts, including light, motion, subject, shapes, and space. We also introduced techniques like framing, distance, level, angle, focus, leading the eye, and the rule of thirds.
In preparation for taking our own photographs, we practiced first with paper frames, testing views from different heights (level), angles, and distances. We also examined some examples of famous photographs and well-composed photographs in magazines. We analyzed them for techniques used, and how we could tell what kind of story was being told.
Once we had mastered the basics, we moved on to using real cameras! Thanks to an AMAZING group of friends from both the USA and South Africa who donated cameras, we had 11 digital cameras available for our students to use. We explained the parts of the camera and proper handling, safety, and maintenance.
Before we started taking photos, we introduced the idea of community, asking students to brainstorm ideas about who is included in their school community. They shared a broad and insightful list, including students, teachers and tutors, parents, and building/groundskeeping staff.
Our first in-class activity was to take photos that:
(1) represented or showed the community around them
(2) represented what the community meant to them
Here are one group’s photos about their community at Muizenberg High:
After discussing the community photographs, we gave our first take-home assignment: to take a photographic autobiography. The photos they took needed to tell the story of their day-to-day life, depicting people, places, and things important to them, positive or negative. They were tasked with taking 10-15 well-composed photographs, using the techniques we covered in class.
Here is a sampling of the incredible results!
Throughout Youth Design Studio, our students used photography as a tool to tell stories and learn stories. Stay tuned for more! Curious about how we get our students moving, creating and designing at the start of each class? Check out our post on Youth Design Studio Creativity Exercises!
In one of our early Youth Design Studio classes, our students assembled handmade sketchbooks from recycled cardboard.
We talked with our students about what it means to be a designer and a critical thinker: that you're always ready to be creative, constantly recording new ideas that may help you improve upon your designs. This is part of our circular design thinking process:
In their new-found role as designers, our students used their sketchbooks to jot down ideas and sketches throughout the class, and also recorded inspirations outside of class.
While the sewing technique was challenging, using a needle and thread helped our students give extra security and structure to their sketchbook bindings. As we shared in class, this is the way that books were made by hand historically, before machines came onto the scene! Now our students are not only design thinkers, but they have also mastered the art of ancient book-binding!
Our students were patient, exacting, and careful with their sketchbook binding, and they created some amazing results! Several of our crowdfunding supporters will be receiving student-made sketchbooks as a reward, so look for those coming your way soon!
Curious about the Youth Design Studio perspective on design? Check out our earlier blog posts on what design is and who designers are. These ideas have shaped the class, and we hope they’ll get you thinking about your world in a new way as well!
When we were putting lessons together for Youth Design Studio, we came up with the idea of starting classes with quick (10-minute or so) creativity exercises to get our learners moving, creating, and problem-solving in real time. In these exercises we use mainly recycled materials (waste cardboard, plastic bags, anything else we can get our hands on) occasionally supplemented by a few bright or versatile additions (pipe cleaners, tape, colored paper, markers, etc). Each assignment has both creative and problem-solving elements, so our students have to think like real designers. We always knew our learners would surprise us with their creativity and ingenuity, but every time we’ve been blown away by what they produced!
In one exercise, high school learners at Ikamva Youth Makhaza were asked, in groups of three or four, to create something that (1) could be used in everyday life and that (2) was both functional and beautiful. Their responses were incredible – everything from matriculation (graduation) gear to fashion accessories!
In a similar excercise at Muizenberg High School, learners were asked to create something that could be worn on the body (clothes, accessories, anything they wanted to come up with). The results were both incredible and highly entertaining!
Another of these exercises at Ikamva involved a number of large pieces of cardboard (actually a giant cardboard box from a supermarket, cut into large irregular pieces). Three groups of three students each were tasked with creating, out of cardboard and tape with the help of scissors, the tallest tower possible. However, in addition to simply being tall, their tower would have to support a small but significant weight: in this case, a point-and-shoot camera.
Each tower was impressive and vastly different from its neighbors, but they were wonderful in another way as well: each group of students, unprompted, picked up materials from the ground around them and incorporated them into their designs. A brick, a length of wire, an extra piece of cardboard – everything nearby immediately became a tool to improve their structures. One tower even doubled as a carrying case! It was problem-solving and creative design in action, even more effectively than we could have imagined!
What is design? In an Imagine More blog post earlier this year, we discussed the definitions of “design” that we had encountered throughout the World Design Capital 2014 activities that we had visited. We also added our own definitions, which have been a big part of our inspiration for creating Youth Design Studio.
Now that YDS is up and running, we can add a third perspective: our students! On the first day of class, we asked all of them to write down their answer to the question: What is Design? Here are some of the incredible responses we received from one class, high school learners at Ikamva Youth Makhaza. We hope they get you thinking about design, what it means, and how it can be a part of your life, no matter who you are!
The Youth Design Studio team has hit the ground running on our World Design Capital 2014 project! We are thrilled to be back in the Rainbow Nation, and have done some frolicking through flowery fields in our non-teaching time to celebrate.
Even more excitingly, Youth Design Studio is LIVE! We have begun teaching the class with two groups of high school learners: one at Muizenberg High School, and one at Ikamva Youth Makhaza. Our students have been fabulous so far, and we’re excited to be starting our second week of classes with both groups!
Our first week covered some basic design principles as well as our overall purpose with Youth Design Studio: to teach that design is something that everyone can access, that doesn’t require fancy equipment, expensive materials or extensive training. It’s about using the skills you have, the materials around you, and your own intuition and experience to solve the problems around you. We’ll be posting updates about our classes, activities, experiences, and day to day surprises as much as we can, so follow us on the Imagine More Blog!
Lastly, an amazingly GIANT THANK YOU to all the people who donated to our Thundafund campaign, loaned or donated cameras, or donated materials or time to make Youth Design Studio a reality! From our students and ourselves, THANK YOU SO MUCH, we would never be here without YOU!
HELLO friends & supporters!
After going briefly back to our day-to-day lives (while simultaneously working toward Youth Design Studio in our different cities and continents), the YDS team is back in Cape Town! We’ll be implementing Youth Design Studio with TWO different Cape Town high schools, as well as a local youth group. And we need your help!
If you have an old digital camera lying around (come on, you updated to the latest & greatest tech at least once in the past couple years!), we would love to borrow it! Alternatively, if you’d like to donate it, your donation is tax deductible. As part of Youth Design Studio, our students will be using photography to help focus on their community, their identity, and how they can change things for the better. We are shooting for a camera for each of 20 students. We have 5 cameras – that’s 15 to go! Help us reach our goal by loaning or donating your used digital camera for the next 5 weeks!
If you’d like to help, email us at email@example.com. If you’re in San Diego, one of our team members would be happy to come fetch your camera from you; if you’re somewhere else in the US, we’re happy to reimburse your shipping costs.
Thank you again, from our students and from us!!
Katie & Julie
PS Check this great video from Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 – we’re so proud to be a part of it!
If you haven't checked out Youth Design Studio's crowdfunding video on Thundafund (essentially the South African Kickstarter, and a partner of the World Design Capital Cape Town 2014), here's a link to the video!
Enjoy! Thank you to everyone who has already contributed, we're well on the way to reaching our goals!
If you’ve been keeping up with us via Facebook, Twitter, or our blog, you know that we pitched Youth Design Studio to a crowd of participants, supporters and staff of Thundafund and the Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 back in February. In fact, we wrote a blog all about our experience putting together our Youth Design Studio pitch for the pitch session!
In case you were curious how it all turned out, we finally managed to get the video up! Our cameraman didn’t have enough time to set up properly, so the angle is a little weird and the focus goes in and out sometimes, but check it out! I'm talking about our program while Julie's in the background, building the letters for “Youth Design Studio” out of low-cost and recycled materials!
We’ve all wondered. Especially in Cape Town at the moment, the concept of “design” is thrown around with the expectation that everyone just automatically knows what it means. On the contrary, however: it’s hard for most people to wrap their minds around, even those who deal with “design” every day. As far as we can tell, the answer to the question we’re so often asked is this: there IS no good definition.
It’s true: everyone you ask, every website you visit, even people who design things for a living will have a different definition of “design.” Some people think of it as exclusively art-based: graphic design, for example. For others it conjures images of well-made objects: product and architectural design, in these cases. Some think of places and spaces when they hear the word “design”: for them, the concept is associated with public planning, landscape or interior design. Still others think of “design” in broader terms: for example, “design thinking” as a method of problem-solving.
When Julie and I were recently in Cape Town attending World Design Capital events, other participants would ask us if we were designers. Does “design” have to be explicitly in our job titles for us to be designers?
These are questions that the Cape Town World Design Capital brings up every day, and they’re incredibly important to answer: in a city dedicated to design, who is doing the designing? It is just the artists and engineers and planners and architects? Or is there a way that everyone could be involved?
Although it often feels like the “design world” is closed off to non-professionals, in our teachings, EVERYONE is a designer. To us, design is using creativity and imagination to create something that doesn’t exist; it’s using the skills and materials you have to address the problems around you in new ways. As we’ve emphasized in our presentations, workshops, and other events we’ve conducted in making Youth Design Studio a reality, everyone faces difficulties on a day to day basis. Whether they’re professional or personal, we all have challenges: and we all have the power to design solutions to those challenges. The key is feeling like you have that power.
You could say that’s our objective in being a part of Cape Town World Design Capital: we want to make sure that EVERYONE knows they have a place at the design table. No matter who you are – no matter what age, job, city, nationality, ethnicity, or anything else – YOU can help design the world you want to live in. Whether it’s in your home, school, office, community, city or globe, you CAN contribute to solving the problems around you! To us, that’s what design is.
If you’d like to start a conversation on what design is to you, we’d love to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or get your ideas out there by Tweeting us @ImagineMoreOrg or posting on the Imagine More Facebook page! If you’d like to learn more about Imagine More and how we use design in our work, feel free to visit our About Us section.