Design and education: the ideal combination

There are things that I simply have a hard time remembering and learning: news, formulas, directions, data, routes, etc. It happens to me all the time and it’s normal, to a certain extent.

I’m the type of person who forgets people’s names; I don’t do it on purpose, I just can’t remember them. Oftentimes I only remember the first letter of the person’s name. If it were socially acceptable to greet everyone by their initial, I’d save myself from multiple embarrassments.

People have suggested countless times I associate a person’s name with a thing or an animal. Although it works very well with certain people, the truth is, it’s not as effective for me. What I do believe is that this innocent exercise holds one of the fundamental secrets for education.

We acknowledge what we already know and repeat what we already know

We are beings who love patterns, order and repetition. It is easier for us to understand the things that resonate with what we already know and acknowledge the things that exist in our surroundings.

In other words, we take things that are already popular and insert them in other contexts to increase their popularity, or, we repeat elements in a constant manner until they become popular.

Two basic techniques that illustrate this are: insert and repeat.

Insert: It has to do with taking something popular and inserting it in another context. Example: Political campaigns based on the background songs of a popular artist to deter voters.

Repeat: Repeat the meaning of something many times until it becomes normal and popular. We love the repetition of signs and symbols that reaffirm what we want to hear and listen to. Example: the way Steve Jobs referred to his products.

Great… Now, the important question is: How can we use the power of acknowledgement and repetition to create a positive impact on society?

Throughout my professional career, and in collaboration with teams, I have explored and developed purposeful innovation projects. I believe that solving this issue is essential in order to positively impact our environment.

Acknowledgment and repetition in education

At Cirklo we’ve had the opportunity to create models, systems and tools with different themes, purposes and for different sectors of the population. These projects have helped us understand the power that acknowledgement and repetition achieve in topics such as education.

Thanks to the use of different methodologies in the development of pedagogical models (design thinking, innovation processes, etc.), we have detected several points which in our perspective are crucial to develop effective and successful programs:

  • It is essential to understand students and their environment: Only by allowing yourself to discover the signs, symbols and their real uses within their context can these lessons be adapted.
  • It is important to design educational models that are similar to systems they already understand: Traditional models are obsolete, it is important to develop more dynamic, fun and challenging frameworks; to do so, we can get inspiration from systems we already know and admire (i.e., getting inspiration from the aspirational framework and the way knowledge is transmitted in skating).
  • The educational content must be transmitted through a design that coexists and nurtures the educational model: If the design of the materials does not express the values that the students seek, it will be harder for them to appreciate and adopt them. It is essential to develop characters, language and expressions that entertain and attract.
  • Information should inspire and challenge, not overwhelm the student: Complexity does not mean it’s good. We need to make significant efforts to simplify information through diagrams, drawings and good writing. In these cases, using and promoting visual thinking is essential.
  • Developing dynamics that promote learning is essential: It’s not only about providing information, but about developing dynamics and games that encourage social interaction, practice and create a collaborative community among students. Gamification techniques are becoming increasingly relevant and important for these purposes.

These points help us create unique, fun and memorable educational models that stimulate a university student as well as a professional in training.

I will undoubtedly keep forgetting the names of people I just met until I take the time to develop a method that meets these points and works for me. In the meantime, I will continue working to develop projects that help teach much more complex things to organizations, institutions and companies.

If you’re interested in getting to know your users, the world they inhabit and the motivations that drive their decisions, do not hesitate to contact Cirklo. We love developing educational strategies and implementing them.

**Illustrations by Juan Carlos Boo

Originally published at on March 30, 2017.

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