How do you introduce children to today’s exploding maker culture, which fuses cutting-edge technology, like 3-D printing and DIY robotics, with traditional arts and crafts, like woodworking and metalworking? With The Makers’ Alphabet, that’s how. It’s a whimsically illustrated A-to-Z manual of all things maker-y in 2014, created by Sneha Pai and Melody Quintana, interaction design MFA candidates at New York’s School of Visual Arts. The book is simple enough to serve as a primer for creative kids, but its breadth makes it appeal to anyone with an interest in innovation and design.
"The book captures the magic and spirit of how it feels to produce something tangible in the world," Quintana tells Co.Design. "Everyone can be a maker, and we want to spread that joy and celebrate that." The book stemmed from a course they’re taking together called Entrepreneurial Design, in which they’re required to launch a small business and make a $1,000 profit online over the course of one semester. The pair is currently raising funds for a limited print run of 100 books on Kickstarter. "The idea behind the course is, what if I had to drop everything and make money now?" Quintana says.
Quintana, who studied English as an undergrad, did a stint as a content strategist at Facebook, and Pai’s background is in animation and illustration. "Our pairing is uniquely special because we bring different but compatible views to design," Quintana says. Both called on their creative childhoods and combined their unique skills to channel the passion for making a children's book. "We care a lot about taking concepts that seem complex to people and making them simple," Pai says. "We share that value as designers."
They call the current maker movement a "modern Renaissance"—it's helping to revive traditional modes of craftsmanship, like bookmaking and weaving, once considered dying art forms, while fusing these with exciting new technologies. "The Internet is making all this possible," Pai says. Online communities around the world are surprisingly eager to help one another learn new creative skills. "I now see kids on Instructables that are teaching me how to write code," Pai says. The duo plan to collaborate again in their second year of their MFA program, on what they call "a deep dive into one area of interaction design."
The Makers' Alphabet is available on Kickstarter.