Prototyping Stories

Testing in the classroom

As every parent or teacher knows, kids have little to no filter when it comes to saying exactly what they think. This remarkable freedom made them the perfect collaborators for Li’l Stories (currently on Kickstarter), a new educational tool that helps teach first through third graders to express themselves through visual, spoken and written storytelling. Li’l Robin and its founder Anke Stohlmann had the opportunity to work with children as part of the process of developing Li’l Stories. The kids were an integral part of the project, and aided us immeasurably in creating something that they and their teachers can use in the classroom or at home.

Read More

Our Summer Reading List, 2015

Whether we’re digging into a new design manifesto or getting caught up in a classic novel, summer vacation is our favorite time to clear our heads, hit reset and expose ourselves to fresh ideas and ways of looking at the world by reading a good book. Earlier this summer Li’l Robin founder Anke Stohlmann completed her thesis in the School of Visual Arts MFA Interaction Design program. For this year’s edition of our annual reading list, we asked nine of our fellow 2015 SVA IxD graduates and one alumni to recommend books that have inspired them—during their time in the program, over the course of their careers, or simply what they’re reading right now. Now that our studies are over—and as a new school year begins for others—these titles will help us continue to learn.

The selected books explore how design and technology intersects with our lives, how organization can lead to creative breakthroughs (two readers chose the same book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up), and include more than a few good novels and visual narratives. Here’s what we’re downloading now. You can also find them on our bookshelf.

Read More

Learning Through Stories

Image of two girls using Li'l Stories in the physical and digital world

When we were very young, stories helped us make sense of the world, and in many ways they laid the foundation for how we’ve interacted with information—and people—ever since. (The irresistible appeal of a good story lasts well into adulthood, as our late-night reading and binge-viewing habits demonstrate.) Whether children are the ones doing the telling or are simply listening to a parent or teacher, stories give kids the opportunity to fire up their imaginations, put themselves in other people’s shoes, and learn how to communicate. Story structures and elements like characters, plots and settings engage the developing mind in ways that help organize thinking and make connections between words and images—the fundamentals of reading and writing. Storytelling is an amazing catalyst: When children build narratives around content they have learned in class or at home, they strengthen and enhance what they have learned. They begin to make ideas their own.

Li'l Stories product image

Li’l Stories framework: storyboard, app, and web site.

Li’l Stories is an educational framework that helps teach first through third graders to express themselves through visual, spoken and written storytelling. Structured as a classroom activity, the framework guides students through the collaborative creation of a visual narrative. The system supports the teaching of communication, creative thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as self-expression and confidence with others. It also establishes concepts of physical and digital production, and how the two are linked. An accompanying app and website give students the opportunity to capture their stories, so teachers can assess them and share them with parents.

Read More

A Year of Connection

Red Hook Hub ribbon cutting event

Red Hook Hub ribbon cutting event at the Brooklyn Public Library in Red Hook, December 6, 2014

Human-centered design is the focus of our practice, and over the past year we’ve had a chance to work on diverse projects that have connected people—communities, students, and readers—with information, and with each other.

Working with AIGA/NY Design/Relief, an initiative to support areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, we helped create The Hub, a new information system for Red Hook, Brooklyn, which officially launched last month. (Read more about The Hub in our November newsletter.) For students and educators, we collaborated on <codr>, an online tool that helps kids move from the building block-based coding language Scratch to text-based coding languages like Javascript and Python. And finally, somewhere in between it all, we got to spend time with subjects as varied as Paul McCartney, James Dean, Kurt Cobain, Robin Williams, Tony Bennett, the Vietnam War era, and “The Wizard of Oz,” as part of our ongoing design of the LIFE Books series.

We had an inspiring 2014 and look forward to staying in touch in 2015. Happy New Year!