Given all the twists and turns of the past few months, we’re wondering exactly what the rest of 2017 has in store. We know we’re not alone! We recently participated in the Women’s March in New York and were overwhelmed by the incredible passion and energy of our fellow marchers. The experience reminded us of the importance of civic engagement and the power that people have when they come together. As we continue to design projects related to education and publishing, we can’t help thinking about this spirit of engagement as a goal for our work. Collaboration is our favorite part of the design process, and good design—with the goal of elevating the lives of its users—is almost by definition democratic. Many of the projects we’ve worked on over the past year touched on these themes, and we hope to build on this aspect of our practice in 2017.
Over the past year, we’ve continued to expand Li’l Stories, our language arts framework for young students, as it has made its way into classrooms. With the help of our Kickstarter backers, we were able to donate an astonishing 122 story pads to 12 elementary schools (encompassing 25 classrooms) and the Children’s Museum of the Arts. We also recruited our first curriculum design fellow, Julliene Gatchalian, who joined us in the spring. With Julliene’s input, we’ve developed individual lesson plans for Grades K to 2 and Grades 2 to 4, as well as plans for self-guided activities and for English Language Learners. All are now available as digital downloads on the lilstories.com site, along with Li’l Stories storyboards, idea cards, and content cards.
We are now offering consultations to educators to help develop materials specific to their classroom needs, and we run workshops and labs at schools by invitation. In October and November, we presented a six-week long Li’l Stories Lab based on our lesson plan inspired by “The Tiny Seed” and other stories by Eric Carle, the great children’s author and illustrator, at P.S. 3 in the West Village. Students created original stories based on the characters of the book, then captured their narratives using the Li’l Stories app and shared them with their friends. Coming up this month, we’ll be hosting a Li’l Stories Lab based on our lesson plan “Animal Study” at P.S. 3.
We continue to look for ways to make Li’l Stories even better. We recently shared the framework at House of Genius in Brooklyn, where entrepreneurs present projects to get advice from an audience of innovators. It was a great way to finish the year with valuable feedback and new ideas to implement in 2017.
Our skills in design for education and design for photography intersected in The Josephine Herrick Project: A Story Behind Every Picture, an exhibition presented by the Project to celebrate its 75th anniversary. Displayed at the Fedcap headquarters building in New York, the show chronicled the history of the nonprofit, which focuses on photography and social justice. The organization is named after Josephine Herrick (1897-1972), a professional photographer who initiated programs in veterans’ hospitals to aid the recovery of wounded servicemen following World War II. The Project now conducts 25 photography programs a year in the New York metropolitan area, chiefly serving communities of veterans, youth with challenges, seniors, and children with disabilities. We collaborated on the design of the exhibition with the curator, Bonnie Yochelson, and Maureen McNeil, executive director of the JHP.
Photography and history are also the basis of the books we continue to design for Time Inc., which share the stories behind landmark moments in world events and popular culture through a visual record of images from the extraordinary Time-Life archive. For LIFE Books, we completed Chicago Cubs: Champions at Last, which was on newsstands in Chicago a short 48 hours after the team’s 2016 World Series win. (It may have been the fastest publication we’ve ever designed!) Other books completed in 2016 are Science Fiction: 100 Years of Great Movies and The Great Space Race: How the U.S. Beat the Russians to the Moon. We’ve also been teaming up with Sports Illustrated on several new titles, including Michael Phelps: The Greatest Olympian, timed to the Rio 2016 Summer Games, and the upcoming Sports Illustrated: The Pittsburgh Penguins at 50 and Sports Illustrated: The Philadelphia Flyers at 50.
We’re not athletes ourselves, but we love a good game, and we’ve been exploring how games and other game-inspired elements can positively impact learning in the classroom. In August we had a great time co-teaching a workshop on game-based learning in action with the designer and educator Shula Ehrlich. Join us for our next workshop, coming up on March 13. Register here.
The world in 2017 may be a crazy place, but we’re still confident that design can help find a way through. We wish you all the best in the New Year—even if we don’t know quite where it’s going yet.