As architects and designers we see the world through different eyes then the ones we are designing for. We are trained to design solutions with an interesting and seductive aesthetics with the “right” proportions; we are supposed to have “better taste” then the general public. However, we are not the people we design for, and we do need the knowledge and insight that the user possesses since it determines the solutions designed – this is true when it comes to most areas, whether it is product design, service design or systemic design.
We believe that co-creative processes is the best way to work when it comes to designing sustainable solutions which is meaningful for the current and future user. Therefore we based this project on co-creative processes where the students are the experts in this field, and must be respected on equal terms with every other profession, such as teachers, constructors and layers.
Allison Druin, a recognized user of participatory processes with children, argues children’s special skills as their “children professionalism”. She also says that children cannot, and should not, be seen as “small adults”, they are a completely different target group that has it’s own culture, norms and complexities. Therefor it is not enough to speculate on what children’s need consist of, but one must however include them if you want a greater insight in this segment.
Allison Durin identifies four different levels to work with children. The most peripheral is the ‘user’, where the child is observed while he/she test the design. With more focus on the child’s interaction with the design one can collaborate with the child as a ‘tester’ of unfinished prototypes. Here you e.g. monitor the child’s interaction with the product at several different occasions.
If a greater understanding of the child’s needs is this required the collaboration can happen with the child as “informant” where the child provides feedback on the design and helps during the development process.
In the last level Allison describes the child as a ‘design partner’ on equal terms with every other member in the project/development team. This will typically take place over several months, since both children and adults need time to negotiate a new ‘power structure’ and be equally partners in the collaboration.
However, Allison stresses that it is particularly important to see children as a co-developer of a diverse group and this group will be more creative because of it’s diversity. This doesn’t mean that the children should be developing a project alone, but enter a group with several academic skills where they represent the profession of being a child.
The “The Role of Children in the Design of New Technology” was published in 2002 under the center for “Behavior and Information Technology”, University of Maryland, College Park, MD USA and can be read and downloaded at http://hcil.cs.umd.edu/trs/99-23/99-23.pdf