"Sketching the Future" By: Sarah Raskin, Design Engineer

posted Dec 11, 2017, 10:44 AM by Sarah Raskin   [ updated Dec 11, 2017, 10:50 AM ]

Sketching the Future

Reflection on Guest Speaker, Michael DiTullo

6th Grade Quest Class at Del Mar Heights School

By: Sarah Raskin, Design Engineer

When Michael DiTullo was thirteen years old, he vividly remembers his parents asking him, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” His simple response, “I want to draw stuff from the future,” made a profound impact on the direction his career aspirations would take. Michael DiTullo, of DiTullo Designs, who has designed for such top companies as Nike, Google, Motorola, Hasbro, and Honda, recently visited Del Mar Heights School and introduced 84 sixth grade students to the world of Industrial Design through sketching. And whether intended or not, he drew beautiful connections between the purpose of sketching and our reimagined mission for teaching and learning in the Del Mar Union School District.

Michael began his presentation by asking the students if they had ever heard the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words?” As students nodded emphatically, Michael described his fascination with drawing and thinking about the future of what this or that might be from a very young age. As a thirteen year old during the holidays, instead of asking for sports equipment, or other more typical teenage gifts, he wanted a drafting table and tools, a set of Prisma markers, and drawing paper. Michael recounted a particularly poignant interaction with his high school math teacher. After being busted in the back of the class for doodling, rather than completing his math assignment, his teacher took away his drawing and crumpled it up. Like a balloon losing its air, you could see our students slowly begin to deflate. Admittedly, there were a few administrators and teachers squirming a bit in the back of the room, including myself. It is our goal in DMUSD to ignite the inner genius in our students by empowering them to apply their passions and interests into the learning experience. Had we ever proverbially “crumpled a dream?” Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. At the end of the math period, the teacher returned the crumpled drawing with the words “Rhode Island School of Design” written on the paper. And on Michael’s journey went to “draw the future.”

As these sixth grade students are currently working to design a chair for a fifth grade student with the goal of optimizing their learning experience, Michael gave a world-class demonstration of how one might draw a chair. While his artistic vision was awe-inspiring, it was the lessons that he shared about human-centered design that best exemplified our goals for learning in DMUSD. Michael shared that he practices sketching everyday. For him, sketching provides a way of visually processing his thinking and continuously refining his ideas. Sketching is his vehicle to communicate ideas that exist in his mind and push them out to the world. Most importantly, it is through the exchange of sharing his ideas with others that a feedback cycle is formed and “his ideas” start becoming “our shared ideas.” When this occurs, you create something new and you truly innovate. Michael explained that his goal is to understand the real problems and needs of his user, so as to design objects that go beyond satisfying their immediate purpose, and move toward signifying our values and progress as a culture.  

It is our goal in the Del Mar Union School District to provide opportunities for students to “sketch their future” now. When we talk about our mission to “ignite the inner genius with our students,” we are empowering students to combine their personal interests with the academic and personal skills they are acquiring to become confident, problem-solvers. We embrace opportunities for our students to consider new ways of addressing needs, communicating those thoughts to others, and collaborating with experts to refine and advance original thoughts. The cool thing is, this is happening now. Our kids are learning the skills to sketch their future now.

Michael DiTullo