In conjunction with the exhibition By the People: Designing a Better America, Cooper Hewitt collaborated with IBM to host a hands-on workshop that explored design thinking and the tools required to meet social, economic, and climate change challenges. Guest designers and By the People exhibitor Anthony Schloss from Brooklyn’s Red Hook WIFI initiative shared how their mesh network helped the neighborhood recover from Superstorm Sandy, while Dorn Cox, cofounder of Farm Hack, discussed the importance of designing open-source tools for diversified farming systems.

After short guest designer presentations, students broke into small, facilitated teams and asked the question: How might we empower urban and rural communities to design solutions in the context of climate change?  They were each given one of two scenarios to work from: either “Massive flooding in an urban community” or “Un-seasonable drought in rural a farming community.”

Jordan Shade presents to a group of students

Jordan Shade from IBM discussing design thinking.

Dorn Cox of Farm Hack presenting.

Dorn Cox of Farm Hack discussing the group’s projects.

Students working at a table.

Students identifying key stakeholders and mapping out ideas.

Students brainstorming ideas.

Students brainstorming ideas.

Using the design thinking process, the groups identified the stakeholders, created need statements, brainstormed ideas, and then as a team created a final storyboard that combined their prototype ideas.

Students brainstorming as a group.

Students brainstorming as a group.

Students brainstorming as a group.

Students brainstorming as a group.

Students brainstorming as a group.

Students brainstorming as a group.

Student writing on note.

Student storyboarding ideas.

Student writing ideas onto note.

Student storyboarding ideas.

After completing the design thinking exercise, each group presented their ideas to Cooper Hewitt staff, subject matter experts Anthony Schloss and Dorn Cox, as well as IBM designers Jordan Shade, Jessica Zhang, Hannah Graffeo, Wonhee Baek, and Suzanne Choi who gave feedback and advice.

Students presenting their ideas.

Students presenting their ideas.

Students presenting to the group.

Students presenting to the group.

Key ideas that came out of the presentations included a need for trust, strong community partners, and open communication. In that spirit, we hope this post will be an opportunity to explore the ideas generated in the workshop and continue the conversation for designing resilience to climate change.

Final group storyboard.

Final group storyboard.

Final group storyboard.

Final group storyboard.


By the People: Designing a Better America is on view now through February 26, 2017. Discover other Cooper Hewitt programs and events like this one.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *