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Blog — Workshops & Education

Building Skills for Creative Problem Solving at “Design Thinking” Workshop

April 07 2015

DESIGN THINKING is a problem-solving process that leads to innovative and effective solutions to challenges both large and small. An essential part of our curriculum for high school students, Design Thinking "builds confidence that everyone can be part of creating a more desirable future."*

Youth Designers learn Design Thinking on the job and also through our creative classroom education. Our recent DESIGN THINKING WORKSHOP was a fast-paced day in which Youth Designers and design professionals worked collaboratively in teams to creatively address several challenging problems facing people and communities. 

"It's important that students see the power they have as creative people to solve real-world problems," said Alisa Aronson, YD Education Specialist and MassArt Assistant Professor of Design, who developed the workshop with UX/Graphic Designer Fatimah Kabba. Improving the T daily commuting experience; defining and addressing a problem that effects teens; and designing a festival that unites diverse populations were the challenges Alisa and Fatimah developed for the collaborative teams to solve.

Defining the problem, brainstorming many potential solutions, choosing one idea to follow-through with, developing the solution in as much detail as time allows, and presenting the solution to the larger group for comments and feedback were the steps designers and students undertook. It was a dynamic day filled with great creative energy, lively discussion and debate, and lots of quick sketching and ideating.

"What impressed me the most was the students' open and positive attitude to solving problems," said Richard Delgado, a graphic and industrial designer who found working collaboratively with Youth Design students to be very inspiring. "I would totally be on a different level if I had known the design process before college or had any ideas of what to do," Richard adds.

Faith Donnelly, a Northeastern University senior majoring in graphic design and a design freelancer, echoed Richard's sentiment. "As a college student and a working designer, I was most impressed by the ease with which the students came up with quality and original ideas. It's amazing to see young people developing a propensity for design thinking—a concept I wasn't introduced to until later in college." Faith added, "What Youth Design students learn in this program are invaluable skills that will really help them stand out in the workforce as independent and creative thinkers."

Youth Design thanks the professionals who collaborated with our students at the workshop—designers Richard Delgado, Faith Donnelly, Fatimah Kabba, Elizabeth Randlett, and Orpha Rivera, as well as Margaret McGovern of Boathouse Communications—for their participation that contributed to a valuable learning experience and a stimulating day for Youth Designers! 


At Fashion Design Workshop Students Find Inspiration in “Anything and Everything”

December 03 2014

As part of Youth Design Academy, fist-year Youth Designers enjoyed a terrific workshop led by MassArt Fashion Design student Christian Restrepo, whose dramatic, award-winning designs have been showcased at the ICA, in Boston Magazine, and many other venues and publications.

“The designs Christian showed us were very interesting and different," said Youth Designer Tara Rahman, a junior at Boston International High School, "I learned that you can be inspired by anything and everything.”

Christian’s work challenged Youth Designers to think about fashion as visual story-telling and “wearable art” that needs to be daring, dramatic, and original to complete in today’s high-fashion marketplace. Jessica Villar, a Youth Designer from Brighton High School, echoed Tara’s sentiment. “I learned that anything can be a great idea,” she said, “like when Christian used the bottom of a frying pan in his dress design!”

Yes, Christian did, in fact, incorporate an image of a frying pan into the design of a gorgeous gown! After breakfast one morning he noticed the interesting combination of colors and textures left in the frying pan, so he photographed the pan, printed the photograph on fabric, and designed the rest of the dress to harmonize with it.

“What I loved about the workshop is that we got to do our own designs,” said Janet Diaz, another Youth Designer from Brighton High. Indeed, each student designed a “collection” of  three looks on a common theme, learning steps in the design process—defining the brief, creating a mood board, sharing their ideas and sketches for feedback, exploring a range of tools and materials, and finally presenting their work in critique format for discussion. “The project we did was helpful because we got to learn about the process and the work it takes to just make one design,” said Tara.

Although time was short, the students took up the challenge to mine their own interests outside the world of fashion as inspiration for their clothing designs. Janet's clothing designs, for example, were inspired by the colors and textures of the beach in her native Puerto Rico. 

“The Fashion Design workshop was a great way to get students to stop and think about what they see every day,” says Alisa Aronson, Youth Design Education Specialist and MassArt Assistant Professor of Design. “Moving from uncritically following trends to creating expressions of their own uniqueness is an important step in their growth," she adds. "Being resourceful, imaginative, and using the design process to create their own looks is empowering.”

The chance to learn more about the world of fashion is of strong interest to today’s teens. Youth Design provides a variety of opportunities for students to explore fashion design process, learn about fashion careers, and express themselves through this medium while building transferrable skills.

The Fashion Design workshop was a memorable experience for the Youth Designers' first summer. Thanks to Christian Restrepo for teaching this workshop and to MassArt Fashion Design faculty Sondra Grace and Meg Young for working with Alisa to plan and coordinate it.

Elizabeth Resnick’s MassArt Workshop Engages Youth Designers with the Power of the Word

December 03 2014

We are honored that Elizabeth Resnick, Professor of Graphic Design at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, brought her reknown expertise as a design educator to Youth Design this summer, leading a workshop for students that engaged and challenged them in many different ways. Professor Resnick, an internationally-recognized design educator, author, and curator has been a dedicated advocate for Youth Design since its founding. The workshops she leads for our students always provide an eye-opening and transformative educational experience.

Professor Resnick began her workshop on "Three Expressive Modes of Visual Language: Practical, Poetical, Persuasive" with a presentation in her most notable area of expertise—social issues poster design. Her presentation introduced students to the many ways designers use visual language—text, image, color, and graphics—to convey a strong message about important social issues.

The assignment that followed—based on a design project required of all MassArt graphic design majors—challenged Youth Designers to create three small posters that showed how the same word can express three different meanings—practical, poetical, and persuasive—when it is paired with a different image.

The "practical" use of graphic design is to communicate information with a single meaning, characteristic of clarity for direct information. A design's "poetic" quality communicates emotionally with its audience through use of visual metaphor and symbolic imagery. Graphic designers use the "persuasive" mode when they shape visual communications to send a message from a specific point of view.

After Professor Resnick’s presentation, the students were divided into small groups. Each group was given a word: culture, diversity, consume, or community. With the assistance of Professor Resnick and Dan Vlahos, a graphic designer who also teaches at MassArt, the groups quickly brainstormed ideas about what images they might use to convey their word. Students were then brought to a classroom filled with computers in which they worked in their groups to create and print out their three posters. It was a fast-moving morning with each team working furiously to complete three designs that worked well as a group but also each conveyed a different message, within a tight time-frame!

After each team presented their work, Liz and Dan talked together to determine a winning set of poster designs. Students on the winning team each recieved a stunning large poster designed by internationally-known poster designer Luba Lukova. 

We are grateful to Professor Rensnick for her many years of dedication to Youth Design!


Liz Resnick served on the Board of Directors of the AIGA Boston chapter (1989–2007) where she has organized numerous graphic design lectures and events. She is a member of the AIGA Boston Advisory Board, 2008-present.

Curated Exhibitions: Russell Mills: Within/Without (1991) with Teresa Flavin; Dutch Graphic Design: 1918-1945 (1994) with Alston W. Purvis; Makoto Saito: Art of the Poster (1999) with Jan Kubasiewicz; The Graphic Imperative: International Posters for Peace, Social Justice and The Environment 1965–2005 (2005) with Chaz Maviyane-Davies and Frank Baseman, and Graphic Intervention:25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985-2010 (2010) with Javier Cortés.

Publications Design for Communication: Conceptual Graphic Design Basics for John Wiley & Sons Publishers (2003) and Graphic Design: A Problem-Solving Approach to Visual Communication for Prentice-Hall Publications (1984). Liz also writes short critical commentaries and event reviews, and has published interviews with prominent designers and design educators in EYE (England), AIGA Journal of Graphic Design (USA), Graphics International (England), tipoGrafica (Argentina) and IDEA (Japan).

Awards: Type Directors’ Club, Print Magazine Annual, AIGA Fellows Award, AIGA Boston 2007.

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