Cooper Hewitt’s Design at Home activity book was developed to increase educational equity in communities with less access to digital tools and platforms. Geared toward a multi-generational audience, it includes open-ended design prompts, hands-on activities, and coloring pages.

Animation of Design at Home activity book

“Digital divide” is a term you may have heard prior to COVID-19, but one that has become even more pronounced in its wake. With so many educational resources shifting online, there is a risk of leaving audiences in the dark—creating an urgent need to facilitate hands-on learning in a world that is becoming increasingly hands-off.

This was a problem that could be solved by design. How might we facilitate experiences with design offline?  We needed a way for people to connect with design that didn’t require an internet connection or any special materials. We also recognized the need for something multi-generational: a resource that would engage a young designer independently, but still inspire an older one.

Cooper Hewitt’s education team started this work by sharing design literacy resources via “activity sheets” with 14 Department of Education (DOE) Regional Enrichment Centers in New York City, which serve the children of frontline workers. Building on this work in a few short weeks, the Design at Home activity book was born.

The book itself contains open-ended design literacy prompts, exercises, and cut-out prototypes. Activity book users can prototype their own eyewear, design a protest poster, or brainstorm ways to get healthy food to communities. It is designed to allow anyone who picks it up to gain familiarity with design literacy, explore objects in the Cooper Hewitt collection, and most importantly, see themselves as designers.

This month, we are looking forward to sharing 4,000 Design at Home activity books with 4 community partners:

  • The Point is a non-profit organization dedicated to youth development and the cultural and economic revitalization of the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx
  • Community Access expands opportunities for people living with mental health concerns to recover from trauma and discrimination through affordable housing, training, advocacy and healing-focused services. The organization provides supported housing throughout New York City.
  • United Way of New York City is dedicated to helping low-income New Yorkers make ends meet and lead self-sufficient lives. Working in the poorest communities, they ensure that individuals and families are never one paycheck away from hunger or homelessness; that children can dare to dream and build a future for themselves; and that cross-sector partners can collaborate to provide the resources and infrastructure necessary to support community needs.
  • Feed the Frontlines NYC. Launched by our friends at Tarallucci e Vino—the restaurant operators of Cooper Hewitt’s café and other restaurants throughout Manhattan—Feed the Frontlines began in the face of COVID-19 delivering meals to healthcare workers. It has since expanded its mission to reach individuals and families in shelters and supportive housing.

In a world that is shifting quickly, this work is far from done. We remain committed to helping to bridge the digital divide—the future of design depends on it.

The Cooper Hewitt Design at Home activity book is made possible by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Author: Kirsten McNally, Manager of Integration Programs, Cooper Hewitt

2 thoughts on “Cooper Hewitt Develops Design at Home Activity Book to Bridge the Digital Divide

I saw this on my feeds and i couldn’t scroll passed it. I love designing except i don’t have the right tools to make it easy for me instead i go old-school with a pencil, pen and paper.
I stay in South Africa and i want to know if it’s possible for me to get the Copper Hewitt Design at home activity book. I’d really love to have one.

Can this be pubulished as a PDF file so many more communites could access and use it?

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