Imagining the Future of the Barbie Dreamhouse Studio challenged a team of interdisciplinary ArtCenter students to envision innovative forward-thinking ways of reimagining the iconic Barbie Dreamhouse for 2022 by responding to the cultural and societal needs of children around the world while creatively predicting how people will live, work and play in the future.
Students explored the dynamics of play as essential in childhood development through research, noted speakers, and observing focus groups interacting with the current iteration of the Barbie Dreamhouse. Drawing upon their own childhood experiences with toys and games, students imagined how the Dreamhouse could evolve to expand the concept of what home will mean in the future.
Through field exploration, ideation, and prototyping, students thoughtfully considered how Mattel could update the Dreamhouse to create a toy that’s fun to play with and will act as the trend maker of tomorrow, incorporating the possibilities of home in the future as well as encouraging the hopes and dreams of all children.
“So many people wondered about the social impact of this TDS. Barbie and Designmatters? Yes! I see this TDS as a brave and bold endeavor. I am so excited and energized by every brand going through DM now. This reminds me of the book “Responsible Company” by Yvon Chouinard who writes about the experience with Patagonia. While the impact can be what we do, you and I in our daily lives, but the more real impact happens in our role as workers and producers. The Mattels of the world — that’s where we will make a difference. Chouinard says that most of that difference, about 70 percent, happens at the design level. So it’s here, in places like Los Angeles, where we can steer that ship to have a positive social impact in the future. I am so excited.”
– Sherry Hoffman, Senior Educational Liaison, Designmatters
All images used with permission from Anna Wahlgren.
In the fall of 2014, Designmatters and ArtCenter’s Product Design department collaborated with the Nike Foundation, Yale School of Management and fuseproject to address the challenge of empowering adolescent girls living in poverty around the world.
Student teams on both coasts built on existing everyday practices and developed social impact design ideas for income-generating and time-saving tools and techniques that would be widely accessible, radically affordable and could be used intuitively by girls in diverse cultures all over the world.
In this innovative studio, ArtCenter’s commitment to global social and economic justice reflected the Nike Foundation’s belief that adolescent girls can play a crucial role in solving the toughest problems facing the world. When a girl living in poverty has the chance to reach her full potential, she isn’t the only one who escapes the circumstances she was born into. She brings her family, community and country with her. This is called the Girl Effect.
Too often the reality for a girl in poverty is a life of limited education, unending household responsibilities and unfulfilling income-generating work to help support her family. However, research has shown that when an adolescent girl in poverty is able to stay in school, delay marriage and delay having children, not only do her life chances radically change, but the children she will later have are far more likely to be healthy and educated.
The “Girl Effect” Studio represents a groundbreaking international challenge that builds on the pioneering efforts of the Girl Effect movement, created in 2008 by the Nike Foundation in partnership with the NoVo Foundation, United Nations Foundation and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls.
The “Girl Effect” Studio challenged student teams to develop an ecosystem of access to tools, products, and services, with integrated scalable and sustainable business models and strategies. The focus of the studio was to create innovative, affordable and accessible physical assets that are currently not available to girls living in poverty.
As part of their design research and conceptual development process, students explored many “A Day in the Life” scenarios and considered the current tools girls use daily for sewing, mending, cooking, cleaning, fetching water and firewood, as well as other tasks. The teams were faced with the overall project goal of generating new time-saving tools and practices that could create potential income opportunities that girls could easily learn, acquire and leverage.
ArtCenter students were teamed with MBA students from Yale School of Management’s Design and Innovation Club who offered concurrent strategic integration to the proposed design concepts during the ideation, development and making phases of the studio. This unique and collaborative pairing informed the design students’ understanding of the rationale behind developing viable business models. Meanwhile it also allowed their business counterparts to gain a deeper understanding of the iterative ideation and prototyping design processes necessary to bringing new products and services to life.
Since the students were unable to perform hands-on fieldwork due to the studio’s global scope, the Nike Foundation and fuseproject provided initial detailed research and framework, allowing students to explore verticals and cross them with human benefits to create advantageous global strategies and prototypes.
Among this studio’s many impressive outcomes was Flo, an inexpensive cleaning, crying and carrying kit for reusable sanitary pads. Flo, which was spearheaded by Product Design student, Mariko Iwai, went on to garner great media acclaim and a prestigious gold IDEA award.
In this Designmatters studio, interdisciplinary ArtCenter students imagined the future of the democratic participation and civic engagement in the United States and offered interactive campaign concepts that could increase voter participation in and beyond California. Students examined the landscape of the U.S. elections as they digested research, gathered field work and heard first-hand from knowledgeable experts across the political spectrum, including studio partner, the citizen lobbying group California Common Cause. Students designed campaigns, collateral, systems, experiences and spaces that would resonate with voters of all ages, inspiring them to participate in civic opportunities and infusing them with the power of the political process.
Communicating the Wellbeing of a City with Santa Monica challenged ArtCenter students to work alongside Santa Monica civic leaders and other community stakeholders to translate the City of Santa Monica’s pioneering Wellbeing Index into innovative transmedia design campaigns that would communicate a shared understanding of the community’s strengths and needs, encourage collaboration among city leaders and local organizations, and improve a collective sense of wellbeing for all citizens of Santa Monica.
Employing wellbeing data results and field research, student teams designed, constructed and tested conceptual campaigns in real-time with real residents. Teams had immediate feedback to retool and iterate on their concepts. Students drew upon the knowledge of Santa Monica experts to help guide them to create captivating, connective and resonant campaigns for residents of Santa Monica.