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Monday, May 16, 2011

ICFF: Bernhardt Design and The School at Columbia University - Tools at Schools

We went to ICFF and several of the surrounding design events over the weekend. I wasn't blown away by ICFF this year - it felt like a lot of the same old same old. That's not to say that there wasn't a lot of great design to be found at ICFF, and over the week we will be featuring what we consider to be the standout pieces from the show. This year I enjoyed the surrounding shows the most, especially those that were part of the Noho Design District, but more on that later.

My favorite project from ICFF was a collaboration between Bernhardt Design, aruliden, and The School at Columbia University - Tools at Schools, "an initiative to teach eighth graders the value of design as a problem-solving tool".
Forty-four eighth grade students were immersed in the entire design process, from research to ideation to 3D modeling and ultimately launch. What started as a simple effort to get involved in the community grew into a much larger realization that design has a role in the classroom. Their success was not only in their concepts, but in the awareness each student gained in the process. The result was a collaborative vision of today’s classroom – designed for kids by kids.
I realize that part of the appeal of this project is the fact that these kids were introduced to design and were made a part of the the design process, but I think that the end product is pretty great, too. The desks are beautiful and streamlined, with interchangeable components that allow the kids to transform their desks on an as-needed basis: white board, water colors, storage, science lab... Now that I'm looking through the pictures, I realize I didn't check to see if the desktop includes storage (a la traditional desks), but hopefully it does. The chair includes a rack for books and trapper keepers, etc.

The lockers are visually stimulating, with lots of clever storage, and with another white board for kids to personalize (maybe that will keep kids from defacing their lockers!). I loved the locker handles - the lock was integrated into the door knob.

Most of all, I love that these kids were consulted and brought into the design process, from the design concept to the fabrication. How can an introduction like that not be influential and educational? I wish that more schools had programs like this. For some great videos on the collaboration, check out the Tools at Schools website.

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