Montclair State Design Students Help Local Middle Schoolers Get Creative

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Published November 6, 2019
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The Montclarion
The Montclair State product design student mentors pose for a photo at the event. Zoe Nolz | The Montclarion

Local teens and tweens had the opportunity to learn the ropes of design and create their own prototypes as part of Montclair State University’s Montclair Design Week.

The event was run by the product design department adjunct professors Andrea Panico and Michael Lyden. Lyden also serves as the web content and digital communications manager for the College of the Arts.

Montclair State product design majors played a key role in the event through their mentorship.

“I was involved with Montclair Design Week last year, as well as [being] one of the initial members,” Panico said. “The product design department didn’t really do an event per se last year, so this year we wanted to make sure we got both students and staff involved.”

Montclair Design Week brings the community together through events focusing on design and creativity.

“I wanted to make sure that the Department of Art and Design and the College of the Arts had a presence in a Montclair-based Design Week activity,” Lyden said.

Montclair State hosted this event, where kids learned how to design their own wallet while being taught about creative thinking and problem solving.

Most attendees were in middle school and expressed interest in creating things based on their own thoughts and ideas. They had the opportunity to look at product design projects and hear about different careers in the industry.

Katya Hube, a 13-year-old participant, was excited to learn from the product design department.

“I’ve always been kind of thinking about graphic design and stuff like that,” Hube said. “And I’ve always been interesting in drawing.”

The attendees received handouts and were assigned to pair up with someone they did not already know for a more open-minded approach. They did an exercise in which they had to draw portraits of their partners in less than a minute. This enabled them to focus on creative ability and getting their ideas on paper.

Panico and Lyden discussed the objective of the wallet workshop, which was to invent better ways to carry things. The attendees brainstormed and sketched their ideas based on their partners’ needs.

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One of the prototypes made of pipe cleaners at the product design event.
Zoe Nolz | The Montclarion

They wrote problem statements for their partners based on what they were looking for and started working on bringing their ideas to life. Participants were provided with materials such as straws, paper, bubble wrap, pipe cleaners and scissors.

The Montclair State product design students helped the participants develop their ideas.

Victor Stivala, a junior product design major, enjoyed his role in the event.

“I think it’s really great that we’re engaging with this younger generation to inspire them to become designers and to think critically about what they see in front of them in the real world,” Stivala said.

The participants checked in with their partners and gave each other feedback on their work. They then utilized this information to continue working on their prototypes which varied in form, shape and size.

Jennifer Hodge, a junior product design major, also enjoyed helping the attendees.

“I just think it’s really cool to see how the kids here view design because we’re so comfortable with it and do it every single day,” Hodge said. “It’s refreshing to see how they think about it and see it from an outside perspective.”

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The inside of a purse prototype made with straws, pipe cleaners, tape, paper and bubble wrap.
Zoe Nolz | The Montclarion

At the end of the event, the kids stood up with their partners and presented their prototypes to obtain feedback.

The participants learned a lot from the event and the product design majors were happy to be a part of it.

“I love seeing when someone finally understands what we do, and when it clicks for them what [exactly] design is, that it’s really everything,” Stivala said. “I think that’s really inspirational to see.”

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