Tune Your Project’s Design Dials

by David Hamilton, Creative Director.

When designing challenge-based projects for students, key in on three distinct constraints: environment, materials, and rules. 

Imagine the following scenario. You’ve designed a great challenge for your class and just moments ago, you set them free to work on it for the rest of the period. There is a happy buzz of energy in the room when a group of hands shoots up, and you hear, “We’re done!” You glance at your watch. It’s been 7 minutes. You look at their solution. Impossibly, they really are done. 

In any kind of project-based challenge, each student’s prior knowledge, experience, and skills not only mean they will work at different speeds, but some may find challenges too hard (they won’t know where to start) and others too easy (they are done right away). How do we make something more or less difficult in the moment and on the fly? Rather than trying to invent a new challenge, try dialing three constraints one at a time. In the following Designs in 60 Seconds, we introduce the concept of constraints as design dials. As the title promises, it’s a 1-minute watch. Take another minute and watch Part 2, where we demonstrate how these constraints impact the “real world.”


Design Dials Part 2

In this video, we share a real-world example of how each type of design constraint (environment, materials, and rules) will dramatically alter a basic challenge. We thought about calling this video “Every Sport is a Variation of Golf.”