Cultivating design thinking in kids

DesignEd K12 is AIGA’s initiative to encourage members and chapters to become involved with local schools and school districts to improve understanding of design practices among young people, and to encourage the use of these practices as problem-solving techniques.

As with all AIGA activities, DesignEd is driven and sustained by passionate volunteers. The initiative will take many forms, from mentoring programs that engage with students after school to formal curriculum development efforts. DesignEd will complement the work being done in this area by many others, including IDEO; Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum; INDEX: Design to Improve Life; and the Creative Education Academies Trust. AIGA is not endorsing any particular program; instead, it is encouraging the community of designers to find ways to offer meaningful design experiences to elementary and secondary students, and to share relevant knowledge, resources and ideas with each other.

With that in mind, DesignEd K12 programs seek to:

  • Encourage creative problem-solving through design thinking
  • Enable design professionals, educators and design students to develop, execute and share information about programs that influence and inspire
  • Guide the development of national education standards
  • Foster and sustain youth interest in design and design skills, which, in turn, may spark student interest in career opportunities in design

Many of AIGA’s 60-plus chapters are involved in projects to introduce creative studies in schools and after-school programs. A number of chapters currently offer mentoring programs for secondary school students who have already discovered a passion for design. These projects represent points on a wide spectrum of activities focused on education, professional development and public awareness.

AIGA supports learning for “kids” of all ages! For college students, AIGA offers membership in student groups, which provide access to information about the design profession, informal networking opportunities and resources to help young professional designers with the issues they face.

At the same time, AIGA works with college-level design educators through the Design Educators Community to address curriculum challenges and offer design education conferences and workshops.

For emerging designers, AIGA offers training in design tools and practices through its partnerships with companies like Adobe, Aquent and A full list of AIGA benefits and training opportunities is available online.

AIGA also offers professional development opportunities for designers across the arc of their careers, including programs that help designers develop their leadership skills, business strategy and business practices.

Through all of these efforts, AIGA aims to strengthen designers’ relevance in a rapidly changing world and bring design to the forefront of public awareness.

About the Author: Richard Grefé is the director emeritus of AIGA, the professional association for design, the oldest and largest professional association of designers in the United States representing the interests of 27,000 designers working in a variety of communication media and dimensions, ranging from type and book designers to new media and experience designers. AIGA, o ver twenty years under Ric’s aegis, has become a leading advocate for the value of designing, as a way of thinking and as a means of creating strategic value for business, the civic realm and social change. Currently he is teaching “Human-centered designn for social change” at Wesleyan University. Ric earned a BA from Dartmouth College in economics, worked in intelligence in Asia, reported from the Bronx County Courthouse for AP, wrote for Time magazine on business and the economy and then earned an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Following an early career in urban design and public policy consulting, Ric managed the association responsible for strategic planning and legislative advocacy for public television and led a think tank on the future of public television and radio in Washington.