“It Became Elvis”: Co-design
Lessons with Children
Aalto University School of Art and Design, Finland | Kirsikka.Vaajakallio@aalto.fi
Aalto University School of Art and Design, Finland | Tuuli.Mattelmaki@aalto.fi
Aalto University School of Art and Design, Finland | Jung-Joo.Lee@aalto.fi
[ 1] Brandt, E.
A Framework for
Proceedings of PDC
2006, Trento, Italy. Vol.
When the children started playing the design game,
we soon noticed that a boy was missing from one of
the groups; he was crawling under the table while
the rest of the group continued the game as if nothing had happened. Our strategy to support equal
participation was obviously not working. We started
to feel anxious. Suddenly the situation changed as
the kids moved on to build artifacts. They all gathered around corners of tables; they were standing
close to each other, touching the variety of make
tools, starting to talk. Creative corners had emerged.
[ 2] Sanders, E. B.-N.
“Scaffolds for Building
In Design for Effective
Creating Contexts for
Clarity and Meaning,
edited by Frascara, J.
Allworth Press: New
July + August 2010
[ 3] Vaajakallio, K.
and Mattelmäki, T.
with Make Tools.”
Proceedings of DPPI07.
University of Art and
Design Helsinki, 2007,
Children as Co-designers
The situation described above is from a co-design
experiment that we organized with children.
Co-design, or collaborative design, is rooted in the
tradition of participatory design (PD); hence it typically refers to an activity in which potential users
are empowered to bring their ideas into the design
of new solutions. The notion of co-design is also
conceived as a collaborative knowledge-sharing and
creation process, in which the skills and experiences of various participants are brought together
to reach novel solutions. In co-designing, the role
of professional designers or design researchers may
vary from that of active participant to almost invisible facilitator. However, regardless of the variations, two fundamental needs remain: to enhance
participants’ creative thinking and to support
dialogue between participants. Thus, one of the
cornerstones of co-design is facilitating creative,
generative collaboration [ 1].
In the experiments discussed in this article, we
refer to co-design in PD. Here the potential users,
children, are designing in teams but without a pro-
fessional designer’s direct influence. Instead the
setting, tasks, and design material were designed
to enhance children’s creativity, collaboration, and
contribution to the design process. The aim of our
study was to explore how co-design methods and
tools developed mainly for adults were applicable
when designing with children.