In addition to their studio work at Beth Singer Design, veteran designer Beth Singer and her strategist husband, Howard Smith, have developed a robust Design Thinking curriculum for the past ten years, which they deliver to elementary-aged school children in the Arlington, Virginia area.
The curriculum engages students in a thoughtful problem-solving process. Though it wasn’t their intention for the program, it may have succeeded in cultivating a future design superstar, through second-grader, Noah Golden.
Earlier this year, a fellow Temple Rodef Sholom congregant approached Beth and asked if she’d participate in a logo design contest for one the synagogue’s newest programs, Rodef Reads. The program was designed to have synagogue families year-round, read and discuss Abigail Pogrebin’s book, My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew. In the nicest way possible, Beth declined due to her belief, and the recommendation of AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts), that for a professional designer, local design contests are highly discouraged as they usually qualify as spec work—jobs in which clients expect to see examples or finished works before agreeing to pay compensation.
After a week or two, the contest still hadn’t received any entries. Beth wanted to help the synagogue get what they needed, so she decided to call the committee and tell them of a silver lining that she had found within the cloud that had formed. She recommended Noah Golden, a second-grader in her Design Thinking class who had wowed her with his sketches, mature understanding, and incredible talent for letterforms and identity design.
“I called the committee and said, ‘Look, we have this extraordinarily talented and intelligent young man in our Design Thinking class … If you agree to compensate the winner of the contest 50 dollars, we will invite Noah to our studio and mentor him to design a few logos for the contest and submit them.’”
Understanding her point of view, the committee accepted Beth’s proposal. Noah came to the studio and blew the entire Beth Singer Design team away.
“It was wonderful, just wonderful,” Beth said. “We were completely overwhelmed with his enthusiasm and creativity, and his grasp of the logo process.”
For four incredible sessions, Beth, Howard, and Senior Designer Amy Billingham were astounded with Noah’s ability to comprehend and apply complex design concepts and digest their teachings. Under their tutelage, he developed sketches. Amy would then scan his sketches onto the computer to make minor adjustments via Adobe Illustrator. As a result, Noah made three impressive and strong logos. Designs sure to stun all who witness.
“We explained what an Art Director was, and he just got it!” Beth said. “He sat with Amy, and he art directed her. Together, they experimented and made nice modifications, and Noah began to understand collaborations … The idea that together all of us are better than any of us. That ideas become stronger when we all contribute.”
“I really liked coming up with the ideas for the logos, because I love creativity and thinking,” Noah said. “You think that designing takes a lot of steps, but it takes a lot more when you actually do it. It’s nice working in a community, making each other’s ideas better and better.”
As you might have guessed, Noah won the Rodef Reads logo identity contest.
As a side project, Beth asked Noah’s parents to have him document his entire experience through a journal. Throughout his notes, Noah’s sophistication and level of understanding continue to impress.
Beth said that Noah’s journal proves that logos do not form easily.
“Noah’s journal shows that design takes time and patience. It takes a thoughtful, nuanced process, even for a second-grader.”
And it all comes back to Design Thinking.
“Noah and his story help prove that Design Thinking is a way of solving problems, and that the earlier you teach that to children, the better chance you have of them being able to tackle complex problems. As they become adults and work collaboratively using some of the same techniques that designers use already, they have the tools to make the world a better place on so many different levels.”
To view Noah’s other submissions and notes, please click on the images below:
To learn more about Beth Singer and Howard Smith’s Design Thinking classes, see here.