When I was offered the chance to review The Extraordinaires Design Studio Pro, I immediately sensed that Pam Daniels wold be the perfect person to assess it. Pam is a human-centered designer and avid contributor to the entrepreneurial and maker movements in Chicago. She’s a Design Innovator in Residence as well as faculty member at Northwestern University who believes in everyone’s capacity to imagine and create a better future.
Wintertime in Chicago calls for happy diversions. To take our minds off the sub-arctic temperatures in Chicago yesterday, I gathered a group of colleagues at the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University over lunchtime to try out the new The Extraordinaires Design Studio Pro. It was described to me as a creative thinking game and a way to build skill sets for those in design fields. Fortified with a plate full of cookies, we dove in.
The essence of Design Studio Pro is developing new product concepts for a set of characters dubbed The Extraordinaires. Characters include such figures as Vampire Teen, Snow Queen, and Merman.
The process begins by selecting a design project from a range of areas including inventions, gadgets, buildings, clothing, and vehicles. We drew the card labeled “A single person vehicle.” Then we selected an Extraordinaire for whom to design this vehicle.
Our first task was to imagine a single-person vehicle for a Vampire Teen. We came up with a list of things the vehicle might include, and laughed a lot while imagining everything ranging from a puncturing pogo-stick concept to a driveable coffin to a three-wheel mobile blood bank eventually dubbed the “vamper”. We were further helped along by a “think card” prompting us to consider the parts that would make up our vehicle. Soon we were sketching concepts and visualizing the ideas in our heads.
We had a great time experimenting with Design Studio Pro, though I’d characterize it more as a toolkit for sparking creativity than a game.
- We liked that the Extraordinaire characters were not too “real world.” They didn’t feel like standard personas along the lines of “Men 25-54 with household income $75k+” and therefore allowed our imaginations to take flight.
- The “think cards” stretched us in new ways and provided well-considered prompts.
- The visually rich Extraordinaires character cards provoked a lot of conversation and laughter as we imagined more about the characters based on the illustrations.
- The process allowed plenty of room for creative freedom.
- The instruction book is thick (120 pages) and a bit intimidating; it was hard to know how to get started. It could use a “quick start guide” and maybe be better defined as to whether it’s a game or a toolkit. It looks and feels like a game, but there is no objective or way to win, no stated number of players, and it was unclear if we should play as individuals, as teams, or even just interact with the toolkit on our own as a solitary exercise.
- Illustrations and characters feel pretty dark, and we weren’t sure why this needed to be the case.
- We think it would make a fun party game and would love to see it tweaked to accommodate a range of ways to interact with it.
Design Studio Pro retails for $80 at can be found exclusively at Barnes and Noble. See The Extraordinaires website for more information and the product line.