DESIGNEDIN was born out of a strong desire to make a difference in a society where children need to reclaim their rightful place and enhance their social impact. We no longer see them as just “beings under construction” or “future citizens.” They are complete individuals and citizens, equal to any adult.
As per the World Bank, children make up over 25% of the population, and their specific rights, carefully protected by the 1989 UN Convention, make them active, creative social agents representing not only the future but also the present.
The name is inspired by George Monbiot’s phrase, “If children are not designed into our cities, they are designed out.” DESIGNEDIN carries a positive, optimistic, and constructively hopeful ethos. This project serves as a platform for reflection, intervention, and information, advocating for the inclusion of children right from the start of any endeavor.
In 2021, I led a project in a European Commission application, bringing together a remarkable team of dedicated professionals—engineers, scientists, psychologists, and designers. While the project wasn’t approved, its impact resonated deeply with us, leaving an enduring legacy of inspiration. This was the seed that grew into what we now know as DESIGNEDIN.
The journey of DESIGNEDIN is ongoing, marked by determination, dedication, and an unshakeable belief in the power of design to uplift our society and shape a future where children thrive.
What might a world designed for children look like?
During the first lockdown in 2020, I gained a new perspective and took a moment to reflect deeply on my roles as a designer, a mother, and an educator.
The suddenness of the lockdown caught us by surprise, with schools closing, and home learning becoming our new routine. Managing education became crucial, especially for those of us dealing with early childhood education. Balancing work while helping children learn basic social and communication skills was quite a challenge.
In the midst of the pandemic, I found myself engaging in daily co-design and co-creation activities with my child. We drew, built things, made stop-motion videos, and experimented with different materials. Since kindergarten was unavailable, I used design methods to keep her engaged. This time became an opportunity for both of us to bond and tap into her imagination, providing an enjoyable escape from the world’s happenings.
By closely observing her daily life, I started to realize that the world around her wasn’t designed with her best interests in mind. Sometimes, she struggled to fit in because she couldn’t understand or interact with her surroundings. This made me question: What might a world designed for children look like? As George Monbiot puts it, if our cities aren’t designed for children, they’re effectively excluded: “This means that they are deprived of contact with the material world, with nature, with civic life and with their own capacities.”
I’m genuinely interested in how design can enhance life and empower children, parents, designers, researchers, entrepreneurs, innovators, educators, communities, and society as a whole. Through intentional design, I aim to create solutions based on a child-centered and children’s rights-based approach. This way, we can shape new worlds that are suitable and fair for our children, recognising them as complete individuals and active citizens.
Hello, I’m Maria Clara Vieira Rodrigues! I’m a designer with a master’s degree, an entrepreneur, and a design activist.
In 2008, I founded my design and innovation studio, Claan, specializing in experience design and experiential design, interaction, UI & UX, audiovisual production, signage design, and environmental graphics.
I serve as a dedicated mentor, guiding individuals and startups to success at NEW INC, the New Museum of Contemporary Art NY incubator for art and technology.
As a passionate volunteer, I’ve founded the Portuguese chapter of the Designing for Children’s Rights Association. I’m committed to promoting children’s rights and driving positive change in society.
Originally from Porto, Portugal, I’ve lived in various cities, including overseas. In 2004, I studied interaction design at the Willem de Kooning Academy of the University of Applied Sciences in Rotterdam, Netehrlands. Early in my career (2005-2007), I freelanced in Vienna at Siemens Austria. In 2011, I joined the International Acceleration Program Startup Chile, living in South America and sharing expertise in creativity, entrepreneurship, and digital creative design at universities in Chile and Brazil.
I was an invited tutor, coach and mentor at the School of Startups, an acceleration program for entrepreneurs of the Science and Technology Park of the University of Porto and at Startup Pirates.
My work as a visual artist has been exhibited at institutions such as the Angewandte University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Villa Zebra Rotterdam Children’s Museum, Fabrica Features in Lisbon, and Mama Boat Gallery in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
I am a columnist at the daily newspaper PÚBLICO about Child-Centred Design and Children’s UX.
Most importantly, I’m the proud mother of an inspiring girl. 🙂
Listen to the podcast ‘Designing for Children’s Best’ episode 6 about co-creation and design activism: