Celebrating uniqueness through design

November 16, 2022

In advance of Young V&A opening in 2023, we are collaborating with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ Childcare scheme by bringing creative workshops to them every school holiday. 

For the summer, we brought back the Imagination Playground and used it to respond to the weekly themes of the scheme. The young people enjoyed seeing images of the new museum’s collection to influence their designs (for example, the Bauhaus Bauspiel construction blocks inspired water-themed designs in ‘Under the Sea week’). They also relied on design challenges and story books to prompt what they built.  

Using the ‘Whatever Next!’ storybook to inspire designs in Week 2, ‘Space’
A response to the design challenge ‘build something to help you travel through the jungle in all types of weather’ in Week 4, ‘Jungle’ 

Read more about National Play Day at the summer Childcare Scheme in our previous blog post.   

October half term with the Childcare Scheme  

This October half term, we delivered new content based on an exhibit from our Design gallery, the Hero Arm. The Hero Arm is a prosthetic arm inspired by bionic superheroes, designed alongside children. It was exciting to bring these new workshops to the scheme, where we could introduce the unique design process of the Hero Arm.

In these sessions, we used a book called ‘I am Sheriauna’ to introduce limb difference, amputees and prosthetics to this young audience.  

Zak Dubin wearing his Hero Arm. Courtesy Open Bionics
The Hero Arm with its user-friendly box design in the V&A storeroom. Photo by Julia Josephson / Courtesy Open Bionics

In a previous post, Assistant Curator Trish Roberts introduced the prototyping process of the Hero Arm. She explained that due to the 3D-printing process, circular patterns appeared on the palms and fingertips of the prototypes. While this was incidental, it created what looked like fingerprints. This was something that children and young people immediately connected with as it made the arm feel more realistic and personal.  

Two early Hero Arm prototypes, showing the fingerprints created in the path of the 3D printer. Photos by Trish Roberts / Courtesy Open Bionics

At Young V&A, we believe that even our youngest participants can get involved in design. We decided to take inspiration from how designers sometimes embrace the ‘unexpected’ and developed sessions in which 3 – 5 year-olds explore the complexities of user-centred design, through some simple and relatable activities based on the uniqueness of fingerprints. 

Try it at home!

If you missed us this October half term, you could still try this activity at home! 

For this activity, you will need: ink pads, paper, pens, felt tips, Play-Doh (optional) and a magnifying glass (optional).  

Part 1 – examining fingerprints

There are a few different types of fingerprints. Why not try to see what type you have? If you have some Play-Doh and a magnifying glass, you can find out! Take a small piece of Play-Doh and flatten it. Then, pick a finger to press gently into the Play-Doh and use the magnifying glass to examine the print you made. If you don’t have a magnifying glass, you can use a phone’s camera to take a photo and then zoom in on the picture! 

Part 2 – fingerprinting

Now to start our fingerprint designs! Take the ink pad (you can use a little bit of paint if you don’t have one) and press a finger into the ink and then onto the paper to make a print. Try different fingers, colours, and methods of tapping and pressing! 

Part 3 – prints into picture

Finally, it’s time to see what makes our creativity so special and unique! Examine the fingerprints across the paper and look for any hidden images. Using a pen or felt tip, turn the fingerprints into a picture or design of your choice. Do the fingerprints connect into one picture that tells a story, or are they individual pictures? We will all see different things!  

Share what you create with us on Instagram (@young.vam) or Twitter (@young_vam). 

And don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to follow the latest news on the development of the Young V&A

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