Youth Design Studio Creativity Exercises

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 entertaining!

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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, the weight of a point-and-shoot camera.

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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!!

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If you’d like to see more photos of these classes and some of the projects they’ve been working on, visit our Facebook page at, and keep up with us as we move forward!

August 27th, 2014 by imblog

Youth Design Studio in the WDC2014 Pitch Session!

Hey there!

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!

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Well, in case you were curious about how it turned out, we finally managed to get the video on here!! 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 if you read our blog and want to see how the actual pitch went, or if you’re just curious about Youth Design Studio, check it out!  It’s a fun in-person overview of the project, with some one-of-a-kind flair thrown in (ie. Julie in the background, building the letters for “Youth Design Studio” out of low-cost and recycled materials)!



Youth Design Studio/Imagine More Cape Town World Design Capital Pitch Session from Imagine More on Vimeo.

May 7th, 2014 by imblog

What is “Design”?

design challengeAdmit it: 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.  And if you’re somewhere else – like me, for example, here in San Diego, talking about design to all kinds of people – it’s even tougher!  Because as far as we can tell, the answer to the question we’re so often asked is this: there IS no good definition.

That’s not the response you were hoping for, I’m sure.  But 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.  Well, that’s kind of a difficult question! We certainly think of ourselves as designers – we’re creating a sustainable design education program at the moment – so in that sense, yes.  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 opinion EVERYONE is a designer. what is design imagine more 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 has difficulties that they face 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, 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 us and how we use design, feel free to visit our About Us section!

April 27th, 2014 by imblog

Youth Design Studio: Project Inspiration

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Because very few of you out there have actually read our project application for the Cape Town 2014 World Design Capital, you may be wondering why we’re doing what we’re doing.  In case you’re behind the times and have no idea what we’re doing at all: Youth Design Studio is a sustainable design class that will teach secondary school students in Cape Town to research, design, and build a project of their choosing that will  benefit their whole community.  In the process, they will talk to their neighbors, city officials, university students, local professionals, and other people who will teach them about the world beyond their classroom.

Now that we’re all caught up, we’d like to share with you what inspired us to embark upon this journey.  Our story starts over the year and a half or so that Julie Goodness, the main project proposer, spent in Cape Town working on a Fulbright Grant.  Over the course of her Fulbright work, which focused on urban biodiversity in Cape Town, she had the opportunity to interact with and learn from people all over the city, all from different communities, backgrounds, fields, and perspectives.  Here is part of her narrative on what inspired her to create Youth Design Studio:

“In 2011, I spent several months interviewing City of Cape Town elected city councillors in a project regarding their knowledge of environmental issues and integration of these matters into their work. In addition to the information that I was seeking, I gained a deeper, richer perspective into Cape Town’s history, people, culture, challenges, and opportunities, as narrated by the people who are working to improve the city every day.

In one conversation, I spoke with a leader in the social development portfolio committee, who described her work with many of the poorer, more resource-pressed communities in the city. She often gives lectures and church sermons in these neighbourhoods, and frequently engages the young people in conversation. She asks them about their thoughts, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Once, in a community located within sight of the air traffic of Cape Town International Airport, she asked a boy what he wanted to do someday.

“Someday,” he responded timidly, “I want to ride in a plane.”

The official told me that she was heartbroken.

What I want to hear him say,” she said, her eyes sparkling with hope and energy, “ is, ‘Someday, I want to FLY a plane.’”

In this spirit, I have been inspired to create Youth Design Studio. It is to help Capetonians grow wings.”

February 18th, 2014 by imblog