Winston Churchill once said “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”
In the last ten years, there’s been a huge push to redesign and beautify the spaces students learn in. Teachers started implementing flexible seating on their own, Starbucks became a flagship model for classroom design and started a Twitter trend to #ditchdesks.
This push to reconsider the look of the classroom doesn’t just please some teacher’s right-brain-inclined inner aesthete — it’s been well-researched as an advantageous pedagogical shift to increase efficacy and performance in schools.
One such study, undertaken by The University of Salford in 2015, provided conclusive evidence that the physical characteristics of a classroom — like air quality, color and light — can increase the learning progress of primary students by as much as 16 percent in a single year. Compounded, the effects can be much more.
“The most powerful impact is made by the physical design of the particular classroom in which they spend such a vitally important time with their teacher,” said John Coe, Chair of the National Association for Primary Education (NAPE).
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to us — historically, society has valued, if not prioritized, exceptional architecture, prominent public installations and “civic beauty” zones for the betterment of every citizen’s well-being. Our physical spaces are reflections of who we are and the aspirations of who we want to become.
In the Architecture of Happiness, an exploration of the evolutionary impulse to build and beautify, Alain Botton said, “…at its most genuine, the architectural impulse seems connected to a longing for communication and commemoration, a longing to declare ourselves to the world through a register other than words, through the language of objects, colors and bricks: an ambition to let others know who we are — and, in the process, to remind ourselves.”
Beauty allows us to express who we are and who we hope to be. Beauty has the potential to create meaning in our lives — and the classroom is no exception.
It would make sense then that the place in which students spend an average of eight hours each day (the classroom) be beautiful. Thing is, there’s somewhere else they are spending just as much time that hasn’t been as considered in research and funding: the internet.
“No one is immune to bad design.” John Cary
Writer and architect John Cary believes design has a unique ability to dignify and make people feel valued, respected, honored and seen. Watch his TEDtalk on the subject above.
Ten years ago we may have been straddling the analog and digital divide, but today, we are fully immersed in both. There seems to be little no division between how we live our lives off and online — two worlds have become one. And just as beauty and good design are deeply powerful forces in the “real world,” so they are in the digital one.
An 8-12-year-old spends an average of six hours online each day, while high schoolers are spending nearly nine. Students are spending as much time in digital spaces as they are in physical ones, which means it’s time to take the design and intention of our digital tools seriously. There are very few educational technology business willing to dedicate the time it takes to develop thoughtful technology, and bulb is trying to change that.
bulb is in the beauty business.
We take design seriously, because we believe it’s the foundation of quality education, not the cherry on top. We know beautiful tools inspire beautiful work and beautiful work changes the world. This is why everything about how bulb functions has been thought through with an eye for beauty, an affinity for good design and a belief that the beautiful will save the world.
- Covering the “how” so you can focus on the “what.” The best tools get out of the user’s way, so they can get down to what really matters — creating. bulb is intuitive and consistent, from our tile and list view layout to our dialog boxes. You shouldn’t ever have to guess how to do something because we made it obvious. This simplicity and ease frees up your time and energy to focus on your quality content, not the app.
- Highly Limited Style Options. Not everyone has time to be a web designer. We understand the amount of time and training it takes to design good websites. Most students don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time they want to share their work. This is why we’ve pro-loaded fonts, colors and formatting to make is easy, basically impossible, to make something look bad in your bulb digital portfolio. Go ahead, just try — we dare ya!
- Plenty of whitespace. White space, or negative space, is the space between elements in a composition. You’ll see plenty of space between collections and pages and lines of text. Avoiding noise and clutter gives students a sense of balance, harmony, time and empowerment to create from a clean slate. You’ll notice your eye likes whitespace, too. It’s easier to read, pick out important information and connect ideas when your eyes have time and space to rest between bits of information.
Our digital environments, just like our physical ones, remind us who we are and, as architect John Cary put it, “literally shape our ideas about who we are in the world and what we deserve.”
bulb began with one big idea for education which was to make things beautiful. We are firm believers that beautiful platforms dignify the work students and educators are creating and we set out to create the mother of them all. We’re even crazy enough to think beautiful work can save the world.