5 great ways to empower students’ creativity in the design process



In D&T we’re tinkerers, so naturally we want to build, modify, and adapt. Testing our prototypes in real life, working with our clients to improve the design, ultimately this is human centred design. And behind it all, the iterative design process.

So here are some great ways to inspire critical thinking and empower students to look at design ideation in different ways


1. Co-creation

Our personal favourite! Why?

The end users are the ones who know the design problem the best.

In a past life I worked with an Arthritis Care group to understand their issues first hand. Pretty much everything they owned had to be modified because the products available for people with Arthritis were expensive. Worse, the designs were seen as bulky, badly constructed, and made in ‘disability white’ plastic. What they really wanted was the same as everyone else, just with a consideration for their extended needs.



Source: kimseungwoo.com


2. Adopt agile project management principles

Agile is a sleek way of managing projects. It originates from the software industry where delays were frequent, and often the final product didn’t meet the customers’ expectations. The agile approach is human centred:

a)      Regular team meets (called SCRUMS) mean that projects keep moving forward and keep planning processes streamlined

b)      A ‘dive in and get it done’ mentality is adopted. They refine the product by producing a minimum viable product, this is then tested on the target market, and developed (iterative design)

c)       Customer collaboration and communication happens regularly

d)      There are few straight lines in development. Being flexible means that improvements are made, even if the final product is different from what you started



3. The Quirky approach (rapid iteration)

Rapid iteration is all about generating lots of ideas, and then testing them. It involves prioritisation, identifying positives and negatives of those ideas, then choosing the most viable option. Accepting criticism and embracing opinion (good and bad) is critical. Every failure is a lesson learned. But most of all have lots of ideas, not just idea A,B and C. But D, E and F, maybe even G to Z.


4.The Worst Idea method

 This is more of an idea generator, but we like it. Try getting students to consider the worst idea possible. It’s much more fun to come up with impossibly silly product ideas, but then flip the idea around to come up with great ideas. Here’s some we created:

An edible lightbulb                                       

Biodegradable lightbulbs made from corn derivative

Grow your own coffee

You could buy a pack of coffee which comes with a kit to grow mushrooms, making a closed loop product

A life jacket (a coat that inflates)

Marines are taught to use their jeans to make a lifejacket. Using a waterproof membrane inside a t-shirt could be used in the same way


5. Be like a ninja

We don’t mean throwing lethal moves in the workshop, it’s more about the mindset. Ninjas are ninjas because they are calm, cool and collected, and mindful ideation is about just that. Abandoning judgement of good and bad, and letting go of chasing that one big idea. Instead, opening the door to possibility.

Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo found that people with an orientation toward the process of making—that is, staying focused on the act of creating, rather than the end product—develop more creative outcomes. He says, “When we are concerned about the product of the process in which we are engaged, we worry about how it will be evaluated, judged, accepted, and rejected. Our ego is put on the line. Worries can then feedback and distort the process of creating new ideas, new visions, new products.”

Here’s a great video that brings together the ninja concept, by looking at different ways to address a problem through iterative design thinking: