book review: d.i.y kids

by kath_red on 16/10/2007

in Books

D.I.Y. Kids, Ellen Lupton & Julia Lupton, published by Princeton Architectural Press (website for the book and old blog).

The official blurb (an excerpt):

All over the world, parents are raising kids to get active and embrace the “design-it-yourself” spirit of homemade arts and crafts. … D.I.Y. Kids is designed to trigger imaginative play, without requiring fees, teams, or a minivan. It’s for parents, teachers, aunts and uncles, friends and babysitters, neighbors and citizens—anyone who wants to create a better world not only for, but also with, the next generation. Most of all, it is for kids who want to make their mark by exercising the arts of design with wit, intelligence, and style.

The sequel to D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself (Design Handbooks), bringing design to the home and to the family. I am impressed by the authors vision of design, using it not to sell stuff but rather to get away from the commercialization and consumerism of design and emphasize the DIY aspect of making and crafting and doing it yourself. I like how this book helps kids to see their way through the maze of products and shows them how they can become creative and use their imagination to make their own mark on the world. This is not just a book about craft activities for kids, rather it is a tool for teaching about design, starting right at the very beginning – not for the passive observer of the world – but for those who are ready to take action and do something – using design as a way forward, design as a tool to communicate your own message.

(caption: Make your own stencils, recycle stuff from your art supply bin, or buy stencils from a hardware or craft store – the rest of this project here.)

This is not a theoretical book at all – action packed with plenty of projects and ideas and variations, illustrated with designs and crafty endeavors by children. There are so many fantastic projects in this book, from drawing and illustration based – which can lead to computer projects to paper projects to cloth – such as printing t-shirts, making books, cards, labels and logos, there are also plenty of 3D sculptural projects too, such as making cardboard towns, sewing toys and building kites.

(caption: Write your creature’s name, draw a picture, make up a phone number, or invent a secret icon. Tie on the tag with ribbon or yarn. – see the rest of this project here)

I liked that while the emphasis here is on design, and showing kids ways to communicate their message effectively – using appropriate materials, graphics and colours etc, it is not precious about perfection – rather the emphasis is on experimentation and learning to see what works and what doesn’t – the children can learn whether or not their end product had the result they were after – was it effective or not. (I am all for experimentation as an end it itself too – but I find that sometimes even kids need a reason to create and need to know what they are trying to achieve).

(caption: On a wrist band that you make or buy, draw initials and secret symbols to represent all your friends. the rest of this project here)

Another aspect that I enjoyed about this book was how the projects evolved with the children – they took the instructions and did what they wanted with them, giving their own personality to the project. The children’s designs and ideas are a major part of this book which shows that the authors really practice what they write. This really gives the book depth and soul as well as insight into what is achievable with these projects for kids of different ages – and means that when kids pick up the book they are instantly inspired.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Heather October 16, 2007 at 10:41 pm

I just picked this book up a couple of weeks ago and I agree with your review. It is just a treasure trove of ideas. I love the way it encourages kids to ceate their own characters and designs, really use their own imaginations. Also the projects are planned so there’s a likely to be a high rate of success – nothing too fussy or fiddly.


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