There’s a growing number of social networks and sharing sites geared towards designers and front-end developers.
There’s some established networks in this list along with some of the up and coming networks you might not have thought of yet. This list is by no means exhaustive. Want to add a network? Please add it to the list or in the comments along with why you find it valuable!
I had the privilege of attending the 80th birthday celebration of Dutch graphic designer Jan van Toorn. In honor of his birthday, the designer was presented with a stunning reprint of his 1972 “Mensenkalender”. This is the story of the reprint:
Komende zaterdag is het feest: Jan van Toorn is tachtig. Op 19 mei wordt de wereldberoemde grafisch ontwerper gevierd bij Bijzondere Collecties in Amsterdam. De bezoeker wordt getrakteerd op een bijzonder cadeau: een heruitgave van de ‘Mensenkalender’ uit 1972, een hoogtepunt uit de geschiedenis van Nederlands grafisch ontwerp en één van de bekendste ontwerpen van Jan van Toorn. Het initiatief voor het heruitgeven van deze designklassieker komt van mijn collega Mark Schalken, zelf grafisch ontwerper en samen met Robbert Slotman en Albert Hennipman eigenaar van de Ruimte ontwerpers. We spraken over het proces van deze kalender: van gedachtekiem tot realisatie en over wat Geert Wilders te maken heeft met uitgeven anno 2012.
A Work of Art and Love
If you’ve never seen it, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes is an incredibly unique book. This video offers a glimpse into the final months of production. The technical process is amazing - it’s why I first clicked on this link - but what captured my attention in the 3 minutes is the labor of love that fueled production. I don’t know if the workers loved making this book or not, but the absolute attention to detail and handwork that they invested to realize the vision, makes it a work of love.
Fitting considering all the work and love that went into creating the book in the first place.
I am convinced more than ever that our youth are in desperate need of an education that incorporates creativity and emotional intelligence.
Missing skill sets and capacity
Over the past several months I have collected a series of articles lamenting the lack of creative problem solving abilities in students emerging from the education system. From primary schools removing art and focusing on test scores to design schools teaching primarily techniques , there appears to be a growing concern that today’s students aren’t taught to solve problems creatively.
Even more concerning is that, as a result, students never get the chance to develop empathy and other aspects of emotional intelligence (broadly categorized under: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills) that are proven to be critical to development. For example, Barbara Thistle, R.N., B.A., M.Ed. suggests that high job performance is directly linked to a competence in at least 6 of the emotional intelligence competencies across the 5 categories. Innovation, teamwork, leadership and collaboration are all linked to emotional intelligence. (For more information on emotional intelligence I highly recommend Daniel Goleman’s books on the topic).
The ability to solve problems (innovation), to think about others (empathy) and work with others (collaboration and interpersonl skills) are skill sets we can’t afford to ignore. We need leaders we can trust and we need people who will do more than complain about problems. In every area of society, we need people who are capable of critical thinking, of solving problems and of working together.
Unfortunately, the reality is often that: in public education creative arts is often the first to go when funding deficits hit, universities (even design schools) are producing graduates who can’t successfully solve problems, and emotional intelligence is frequently neglected entirely. Meanwhile, employers are noting the lack of innovation capacity in job candidates.
Why is creativity, emotional intelligence and problem solving neglected in education? I started exploring ideas about why art is the first to go in an education institution when research clearly shows the benefits of exposing youth to creativity. It appears to me that it is more challenging to measure the result - to test students on effective problem solving and emotional intelligence. I also suspect that art/creative education typically lacks a focus on problem solving thinking and collaborative environments. If we developed better methods of measuring success and assessment in these areas would it be an easier sell?
There’s another problem though. The truth is, it’s also much harder to educate this way. It requires moving away from drilling students and prepping them for tests to embrace a more complex and messy process. I know many teachers who would be happy to embrace this role but struggle to as a result of current education policy, resources available, etc.
Luckily there are other avenues for gaining exposure to creativity, emotional intelligence and problem solving. Many are fortunate enough to grow up in environments where they have access to this - whether because of family, means or perhaps a non profit. Unfortunately, many students -often the ones who need it most- never get this privilege. Which is the topic of another article.
In the midst of becoming aware of this trend I’ve found a number of organizations committed to reincorporating art, creativity, problem solving and emotional intelligence into the education process. There are also many teachers working to incorporate this into their classrooms on a daily basis.
Collaborators working toward solutions
Reckoning has several programs spanning primary and secondary education. They train educators and teachers-to-be in their approach to education. Within schools, they run after school programs focused on developing leadership and emotional intelligence through art. They also provide exchange programs (for which the students get education credit) taking teenagers on service trips to Africa. Reckoning currently works in Europe, North America and Africa.
ICAF focuses on art, empathy and leadership working primarily with US students. Some of their programs include Peace through Art and Healing Arts.
IDEO - IDEO focuses on providing tools and resources for designing solutions. Amongst their many initiatives, they offer a Human Centered Design toolkit as well as an adapted version for educators. In their own words IDEO “walks users through the human-centered design process and supports them in activities such as building listening skills, running workshops, and implementing ideas. The process has led to innovations such as the HeartStart defibrillator, CleanWell natural antibacterial products, and the Blood Donor System for the Red Cross—all of which have enhanced the lives of millions of people”.
Standford Design School - Works extensively with K-12 Educators and offers an online “crash course” in design thinking along with design thinking toolkit.
Into the future
I don’t have one solution to the problem, but I do have some avenues to suggest for further exploration:
A few directions that might help:
- Finding ways to test and measure problem solving and emotional intelligence in education environments.
- Incorporating design thinking into education
- Supporting organization who are taking strides in this direction
- Participate in one of the many youth mentor programs in existence
- Political activity
- Start something new
My hope in writing this is to solidify for myself what I’m discovering and then to give exposure to those who are actively working towards solutions and finally to pose the question to myself and anybody kind enough to read this: now what?
My personal interest is in using design thinking systems to teach youth important skills: collaboration, empathy (understanding others), and problem solving along with the ability to evaluate their solution’s impact.
Should we fail to develop new instructional strategies and create solutions to this crisis in education, it seems the effects could be wide reaching - people who can’t solve problems - a lack of empathy and innovation, a lack of true leaders.