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Design & Prototyping

What kids can teach you about prototyping

Posted 1 month ago by Kelsey Traher
What kids can teach you about prototyping

Marvel’s design and prototyping tools are used in some of the most forward-thinking companies in the world, while the exact same tool is also used to run design workshops for school-age children. Schools, design clubs and even museums use Marvel in workshops to teach kids about the design process, and about how to solve problems using creative thinking.

As we’ve seen kids using Marvel in these workshops, we’ve noted some important lessons they can teach us adults (aka bigger kids) on curiosity, playfulness and working together with others, to improve our own prototyping skills.

No idea is a bad idea

Brainstorming sessions can sometimes lead to participants overthinking their ideas to the point of saying very little for fear of judgement. The fear of ideas being dismissed or rejected by others around the table can mean participants would rather stay quiet than risk judgement on their idea. It can be tempting to point out why ideas from others might not work due to constraints of time, money or resources. Children meanwhile don’t carry as much learned baggage here, their natural curiosity allows them the space to explore ideas without immediately jumping to why it might not work.

In fact, kids are much less likely to hold back on expressing their more creative or outlandish ideas. An app for unicorns to find friends, or designing a car with an in-built shower system might be exactly what solves their user’s problem! Where an adult might kill off some ideas straight away as too expensive or too unrealistic to implement, kids follow those ideas, and see where they lead. No idea is a bad idea.

Curiosity keeps your heart and mind open to follow the idea through to other ideas that might be sparked. It’s hard to reject an idea while you’re in that genuinely curious mindset of exploring.

In the brainstorming phase of a project, paper prototyping in Marvel allows quick sketches to be tested out as prototypes in minutes, before you commit anything to digital design. This can help explore some of your ideas in a low-risk way where mistakes are almost a baked-in expectation. When you’re happy with your sketch on paper, turning those into interactive prototypes can be done in minutes, and gives you a working idea of your solution to start to test with potential users.

The beauty of the creative process is that sometimes by allowing a more unlikely idea to unfold, you might spark a follow-on idea that you end up using in your final product.

Playing with LEGOs and design thinking

A fun example of bringing a child-like sense of curiosity and play to design thinking is the Lego Serious Play model. Something so fun and silly, it uses the brightly-coloured blocks so many of us are familiar with from childhood, yet so serious it needs trained facilitators (there’s actually a qualification you can take) to run the sessions 😳

As adults, we’re so used to thinking logically and rationally, and it’s sometimes a challenge to tap into the creative imagination that’s needed to build innovative products and services through a design thinking process. The LEGO technique helps us to connect back in to that creative world, by taking us away from our screens, into the tangible and 3-dimensional world of everyone’s favourite coloured bricks.

The playfulness of the legos invites a kid-like spirit of trial and error without so much fear of failure. It’s a low-stakes way to play with prototype ideas, in an environment where it’s easy and quick to try new things. Modifying the prototype is as easy as adding or removing blocks to change the narrative. Ideas flow more easily, and the legos act as a prop for adults to tap into that playfulness that is second nature to kids.

Once the ideas are flowing, prototyping in Marvel is a natural next step - testing out variations of the best ideas generated, and approaching it with the same spirit of willingness to try things, modify them, and test again until you get it right.

Everyone can be involved in design

The conventional line of thought is to leave the ideas to the product designers. What we’ve learned from watching countless design workshops for kids is that everyone can be involved in the design. Some of the kids who have designed apps with Marvel probably couldn’t yet colour within the lines, yet they’re able to come up ideas and app designs that perfectly solve their user’s problem.

The lesson here is that it doesn’t matter what someone’s role might be, anyone in the team can be involved in the creative design process, whether they are customer-focussed, or working in sales, marketing, or finance; good ideas can come from anywhere, they’re not constrained to the world of designers. They may still need designers to make it look pretty... (we hope 😅)

Collaboration happens easily in Marvel, where creating, commenting and iterating on ideas and designs across multiple teams and members is all captured in one place. Even after you start work on bringing an idea to life, those same team members involved in the ideation stage can continue to input and feedback, helping improve the final outcome.

How to be more “kid-like“ in your creative-process

Be curious

Use your imagination

Play and collaborate with others

A child’s approach to design thinking and prototyping includes enthusiasm, empathy for the end user, curiosity, and a sense of play. By incorporating some of these attributes we see in children, we can end up with a more interesting outcome in our own brainstorming and prototyping. Leading to better products, and better outcomes for our users.

Get started by running your own design thinking workshop and prototyping your ideas in Marvel.

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