Framing Design Methods for Children’s Creativity

by Dr. Wouter Sluis-Thiescheffer

Thesis Wouter Sluis-Thiescheffer
promotor: Prof. dr. ir. Berry Eggen,
co-promotors: prof. dr. ir. M.M. Bekker, dr. ir. A.P.O.S. Vermeeren, prof. dr. H. De Ridder
Eindhoven University of Technology
Defense: June 11, 2021

This thesis starts from the premise that children are creative. The research on the development of a framework for design methods and skills to support professional designers in creative design processes with children, starts from the premise that children are creative.

In any design process involving children (see figure 1), designers need to (1) take grounded decisions on which activities to execute in the design process that best facilitate the creative powers of children and (2) understand the creativity of the solutions generated by and with children. To address these challenges, we performed co-design sessions with children to solve the problem of attending class from a remote location. Examples of children’s solutions are, a face-mask which controls a hologram in school, with a broadcasting device, or a digital twin to control a pen and a notebook at school.

figure 1: The generic design process followed in this thesis

To help designers understand which design activity to choose to obtain results with the appropriate level of creativity, we developed the Multiple Intelligences, Design Methods and Children’s Creativity (MIDMACC) framework.

The framework matches design methods with the skills required to perform these methods. The skills are based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Gardner (1999). We define the intelligence as a problem solving skill. Examples of these skills are: linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic, mathematical etc. By framing design methods in terms of required skills, the framework can help designers to identify design methods that maximize the available design space with children, based on children’s skills (see figure 2).

figure 2: Overview of dominant skills per grade in primary school. A yellow cell indicates a skill (column) as defined by the Theory of Multiple Intelligences

We have compared design solutions generated by children using a Nominal Group Technique (a form of Brainstorming) with those using Prototyping. Prototyping requires children to engage with more skills. The results show that children generate more ideas with Prototyping than the number of ideas resulting from Simulation/Roleplay or How-How Diagramming methods (see figure 3).

figure 3: Sample of the results of defining required skills for a selection of design methods in terms of Multiple Intelligences. A green cell indicates a skill (column) needed for that particular method (row)

To evaluate the resulting design spaces, we experimented with creativity measures to assess the solutions generated by children. We have evaluated children’s design solutions (see figure 4) for quantity in terms of options and criteria, for novelty and for creativity.

figure 4: Children’s solutions, from left to right: (1) a facemask to control a hologram at school; (2) a broadcasting device to send messages; (3) a digital-twin control unit

We found support for the hypothesis that the number of intelligences involved in a design method results in a larger number of design solutions (see figure 5). We also concluded that the more intelligences involved, less creative, but more workable solutions will span the available design space.

figure 5: Children’s solutions, from left to right: (1) a facemask to control a hologram at school; (2) a broadcasting device to send messages; (3) a digital-twin control unit

More information: (webpage defense)
gnMethods (download thesis)