UX: Not just for adults

“I love rainbow chard! It tastes really good if you make it right,” an 8-year old Cooper U student assures me. I still feel reluctant about this bitter-tasting vegetable, but this student’s enthusiasm is mighty hard to resist. Even more charming is the mobile app game, “Arty-choke”, she and her classmates designed. In it, you peel artichokes as you search for hearts, gaining points and level advancements as your peel speed increases! This is just one of the mobile app games that 25 children designed to encourage their personas to eat veggies in our workshop for 2nd graders at Cooper U.

Alan Cooper gave an introduction to design after the children took a quick tour of our office:

Alan: “Okay guys, what is design?”
8-year old: “Um… making things?
Alan: “How is it different from art?”
8-year old: “Art is self expression. Design is… more than that (giggle giggle)?”
Alan: “Raise your hand if you are a designer.”
Two children boldly raise their hands. “I’m a designer!” announces one. “I make lots of stuff!” declares the other.


Workshop Design Principles

  1. Design to solve problems, even common problems such as trying to eat more veggies. We thought our second graders were uniquely able to relate and respond to this universal food challenge. “Gross, bitter, squishy, and tasteless” were some of the words they enthusiastically used to describe vegetables.
  2. Design for others, not just ourselves. The kids closed their eyes and imagined a person, a sibling or friend, who hates veggies. These ideas helped us create two personas, Ryan and Jesse, as a class. Each group then picked a specific veggie to focus on for the day: avocado, cucumber, squash, artichoke, bok choy, broccoli, zucchini or red pepper.
  3. Work with others on ideas, don’t just rely on yourself. They put their imaginations and experiences to work as they created personas and mobile app templates in teams of 3.

With these three principles, their own personas, veggies, and an explanatory sketch of an existing mobile app game, the kids were ready to design!

Team Personas

Bob: Bob has a mohawk and spends a lot of time sleeping. He loves to eat carrots because his mom lets him eat them in bed. He hates leaf veggies, though, because they remind him of brains. Gross!

Jake: A tough, athlete basketball player, Jake boldly rocks blue hair and skull t-shirts. He also loves carrots but hates tomatoes because they are too soft-skinned for his taste.

Julianna: Juliana loves to dance and dreams of becoming a ballerina. She has a diverse palate that includes rainbow chard (her favorite veggie!) but not peas – they are mushy and tasteless!

Team Presentations

Each group introduced their personas, veggie, and game despite long outbreaks of nervous giggles and clammy shyness.


Red Pepper Ninja app concept

  1. Chop up the red pepper.
  2. Try to squirt ranch on it as it moves around the screen.
  3. Then Pac-Man tries to steal it away from Tommy (persona) before he can eat it.

Broccoli Giant app concept

  1. Children turn into monsters when they eat broccoli.
  2. As monsters, they search for more broccoli so that they can become stronger. The player helps the kid-monsters get more broccoli.
  3. There is a time limit, and you can find coins to help you advance to the next level.

Bok Choy app concept

  1. Veggies drop down from the sky and you guide them into the mouths of monsters.
  2. The monsters disappear after they eat the veggies. The veggies saved you!
  3. Enter “mystery mode” where Pac-Man comes in and tries to steal the veggies.

Cucumber Market app concept

  1. Create an avatar. Buy a farm and seed and supplies. Water it.
  2. Keep watering it.
  3. After it grows, take it to market and sell it for $11. Then plant more seeds.


Their games were bold, wildly creative and inspiring. Most had gesture based interfaces that included animations. Simple icons guided the player along – there was little need for text. Audio feedback let the players know if they were being successful or not, and there was usually a time challenge to intensify the gaming experience.  I thought it was fun that nearly every game had a chasing component (you either aided the chase or hindered it) as well as some sort of villain (monster, alien, or Pac Man). I’d love to see what additional screen shots they’d create if only given more time!

At the conclusion of the class we again asked: “Raise your hand if you are a designer.” Armed with our key design principles and a portfolio that includes a persona and a mobile app (with guest appearances from Pac-Man, veggie loving monsters, ninjas and avatars), these 8-years olds are ready to pursue a lifetime of creative pursuits as designers.

Cooper U Class of 2022

All class photos are posted on Flickr UX: Not just for adults

Nikki Knox

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