The link between play, learning and creativity is no longer foreign today when companies create new product solutions or optimize their development processes. But play can be equally rewarding when developing innovative solutions targeted societal issues.
Play can motivate, spur curiosity and strengthen problem-solving abilities. Integrating play in design can create relevant play experiences within the fields of education, security, health and work life when targeted the users’ physical, cognitive and emotional needs.
That is why we at +PLAY work with play within three areas: playful exploring, role-playing and playful constructing.
Playful exploring helps us break with biased ‘adult’ beliefs and ideas of the world, so we can develop and create innovative and creative solutions. The playful approach to innovation where you take risks, fail and try again is alpha omega when we have to come up with unique solutions for sensitive areas such as health or security.
When we start on a new project, we use role-play to understand experiences. Role-play allows us to familiarize ourselves with interactions and understand how the individual will encounter a situation over time. Research on childhood role-play shows that role-playing helps children to understand and learn basic rules for social interaction. So, when we as adults use role-playing in projects, we are working with our intuition and acquired knowledge learned in our childhoods and can test how they function in different scenarios. If we for example work on optimizing the purchasing situation at a supermarket, we would sketch up the space of the supermarket with chalk on the floor and act out shopping scenarios from the point of view of the shop owner and the customers.
Playful constructing is the final part of our design process, which we use for our actual design of solutions. An average child in the Western world spends about 50% of their play sessions with constructive play. This kind of play covers building and creating – and in this way support the classic learning process: learning by doing. In a design process, we use playful constructing to quickly craft low-tech prototypes, which we subsequently can test and further develop. Designers need the opportunity to “think with their hands” with access to materials such as glue guns, plasticine and building articles to build prototypes and models as soon as ideas occur. The models can be used as dialogue tools and are easier to understand and discuss than concepts described only in words.
Play is creating meaning together
We believe playful design processes are essential – not as free play and silly games, but as an innovative way of thinking. Play, imagination and creativity are among the most valuable resources for humans. Play is where we create meaning together. And it is precisely the cooperative element and the common understanding in a play session that can lead to unique, innovative design and problem-solving ideas.
For play to unfold, we have an important preparatory work as design responsible with planning context for the playful experiences we are sharing.