Empowering Kids to Solve Problems

Product, Tangible Interaction Design


Design Thinking for Kids and Beyond. Engaging non-designers w/ design thinking through hands-on interactive experiences.


4 weeks

Individual Project

Tools & Techniques
Paper Mechanics, Hardcover Binding, Secondary Research, Illustrator, Wide-format Printers, 🖐



The Challenge

Research, design and produce a Design Thinking Manual introducing the topic to a non-expert.

1. A set of “your own” design thinking, tools and methods
2. Self-made illustrations and diagrams throughout
3. An effective layout enabling readers to “use” it in different ways

The Outcome Overview

An interactive pop-up book for 6-8 year olds and beyond to learn design thinking. A manual to experience design thinking for the first time; A guiding toolkit to apply design thinking to solving all kinds of problems.

Design Thinking is both a process and a mindset. The solution-based methodology empowers every individual to be a problem solver, no matter at what age, and provides guidance in each phase. It fosters innovation, encourages learning from trials and errors, and unleashes the potential in everyone.


Since kids are often regarded as too young and naive to be a mature individual who can solve problems, I wanted to create an engaging tool kit to empower them. Therefore, this interactive pop-up book is designed for kids, mainly 6 to 8 years old, to learn with an adult companion. According to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, kids at the age of 6 start to gain the ability to see from someone else’s perspectives. They’re capable of empathizing others and responding to people’s views and needs. I want to create a space for kids to experience Design Thinking, to solve a real problem for loved ones, to learn from the experiences, and to kickstart their journey as a change agent.

Imagine if kids learned Design Thinking early in life, how complex problems would they be able to solve when growing up? What new problems would they be able to identify that we were unaware of? “Imagine them being aware of the infinite possibilities of what they can do and who they can be.” quoted David Lee, an educator and the author of Design Thinking in the Classroom.

I hope to empower every kid to be a confident individual who believes in him/herself and solves problems for the community at large. No one is ever too young to be a real-world change agent!



dtkids process.png



Secondary Research & Synthesis Finding

  • Target User Profile: Targeting mainly 6-8 years old

On the cognitive development front:

I researched on Piaget’s theory of cognitive development — kids at the age of 6 start to gain the ability to see from someone else’s perspective. They begin to be able to empathize with others and learn to be responsive to others’ views and needs.

On the curriculum front:

I found that Design Thinking practices also align with the K-2 & 3-5 Engineering Design section in Next Generation Science Standards, the new education standards created by multi-state efforts in the States —

K-2-ETS1-1. -- Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
K-2-ETS1-2. -- Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.

3-5-ETS1-1. -- Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
3-5-ETS1-2. -- Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
3-5-ETS1-3. -- Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
  • Communication Methods:

    Researching effective methods (in the setting of a book) for communicating with kids: Graphics, Bright colors, Plain language, Interactive components, Playfulness

  • Fabrication Methods:

    Learning pop-up design and paper mechanics




Concept Ideation

  1. Build the book with a specific sample case — Get the readers started in an immersive environment with a practical case.

  2. Provide universal guidance thru the design thinking process — Readers can use the book whenever they attempt to solve a problem.

  3. Visual style: Simple color blocks instead of cartoony miscellaneous details — Focusing the readers’ attention to a central concept on each page instead of being fascinated by fluffy details on the rich cartoony illustrations. Inspired by Kelli Anderson, the designer of This Book is a Planetarium.


Design & Content Development

New product decisions:

  • Inclusiveness — Being neutral in the language and design, for every reader to find him/herself in it. No he or she; no parents or siblings but family members; no specific decorations on the sample home environment.

  • Large texts for kids & small texts for adult companion — Provide the most simplified instruction to the kids, and provide additional tips/guidance for the adult companion to facilitate the experience.


Prototyping & Iterations



  1. Finalized the content and visual design on Illustrator

  2. Printed the pages for the “base” of the interactive pop-up book

3. Printed the components

4. Built the interactive pop-up components

5. Hand-bound the book with a hard cover




Public Feedback Session

Public Feedback Session in Carnegie Mellon School of Design | Dec. 12, 2018 | Photo Credit: Joseph Lyons

Public Feedback Session in Carnegie Mellon School of Design | Dec. 12, 2018 | Photo Credit: Joseph Lyons

“Well done for putting together a well-made book which provides the user with a hands-on, and highly interactive experience with design thinking.”

“A really great job of putting together a fairly complicated idea into a simple format which young people can easily engaged with.”

“It was interesting to see students and colleagues at the exhibition enjoying your book also, and so I can see how your audience for this book potentially could be much wider than just kids.”

Featured by CMU School of Design