Krystal Persaud on stage at Reinsch Pierce Auditorium. A projection screen beside her reads, "Design is so sorely needed in climate change solutions, public policy, and every single field."

Play Is Essential for Design

Play Is Essential for Design

Wes McRae | October 11, 2023 – Atlanta, GA

School of Industrial Design students gained a serious perspective on a light-hearted subject when Krystal Persaud explained the importance of play in creativity and education in an Open Talk held October 4th, 2023.

Persaud (ID '10) gave a history of her development as designer, both as a student and after graduation. Throughout her talk, she showed how themes of sustainability, play, and education developed over her career. After graduating, she was Director of Product Design at LittleBits, co-founder of Grouphug, and founder of Wildgrid.

"Seymour Papert was really a shepherd of the idea of learning through playing and making," Persaud said. "According to him, if you want to teach someone it should be easy to get into, it should offer lots to learn, and there should be lots of different ways to approach it."

"Play creates a safe space for experimentation, for not having any failure, and for having fun. Design school is sort of the ultimate play experiment where you're making all these products that don't have real consequences yet."

"One of my projects in school was to design a lamp, and I was always trying to shift my assignments to be sustainability assignments," she said. "So I made a lamp that was a microbial fuel cell. It's a plant on top, and the bacteria in the soil actually power the LEDs that come out of the bottom."

Krystal Persaud listening to an audience member's question at her Open Talk.
Persaud listens to an audience member's question during her Open Talk.

"That project really shifted her view on design, I think," said Kevin Shankwiler, undergraduate program coordinator for the School. "That was the genus of what led her to eventually do the  Grouphug solar charger."

"What Georgia Tech enabled her was, one, the freedom to craft and explore that area; and two, the resources, equipment, and support to prototype it. The combination of freedom to explore and the tools and infrastructure to support that exploring is one of the things that makes this program strong."

"I started Grouphug, and our mission is we make ridiculously good-looking solar panels," Persaud said, "and the tie back into play is that I was thinking about the intersection of design, tech, and education, and I wondered, 'How can we teach people about solar through play at home?'"

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