DesignPrep Scholars: Prototyping Interactive Experiences for the Cooper-Hewitt

Interaction design is not just about the way an individual interacts with his or her surroundings, it is about bringing people together and starting conversations. On February 4th at Cooper-Hewitt’s uptown Design Center, this was the theme for our group of Design Scholars’ most recent workshop. We held our first meeting with a few user experience (UX) designers from Local Projects, a New-York based media design firm..

Throughout the four-day workshop we focused on brainstorming ideas for new ways individuals might interact with the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s collection. During the first session we were introduced to the objects available at the museum, and each chose our own individual ones to focus on.  There were varying thoughts about what could be done with the objects and how we might collaborate on new designs. In the second session we broke out into smaller groups and were challenged when some of use had differing views on what we wanted to accomplish. The goal was to talk it through and learn how to problem solve together..

We made rough prototypes of our designs in the third session and came up with ways to share our concepts with the other scholars. The prototypes ranged from small models, PowerPoint presentations, and creative posters that showcased the well thought out ideas behind the students’ designs. Finally, in the fourth session, the scholars came together present the concepts to the group as well as a few other members of the Cooper-Hewitt family.

The prototypes presented were an interesting combination of provocative and innovative designs. Two seniors from Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts, Alexis Cotton and Arielle Budnick, based their design on The Rumba, an automatic vacuum cleaner. Cotton and Budnick created a prototype of a fun electronic game out of the object that allowed the users to design their own objects. It was clear that there was a running trend of the use of technology in the designs. Two other groups that chose to use electronics created ideas based on fashion and music. Two juniors, William Aung of Stuyvesant High School and Niko Arranz of the N.Y.C. iSchool, took a different approach. The duo envisioned a room filled with chairs of all different sorts—the styles included historical, modern, ornate, and simple-- organized by decade. Arranz managed to lighten up the professional mood of the room by jokingly starting his presentation by saying: “Chairs. If you don’t know what they are, you’re sitting on one.”

Overall, the series of workshops were a great learning experience for aspiring designers that allowed us to start with a simple idea, work through the whole design process, and end up with a prototype.

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