Designing for Teens, With Teens

We can learn a lot from the next generation

Joshua Lavra
Modus
Published in
4 min readAug 20, 2019

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Photos: SecondMuse | Location: Artists for Humanity

RRecently, while digging a bit deeper into my own connection to human-centered design and inclusivity, I came across a simple yet powerful mantra:

Nothing about us, without us.

This phrase, with origins in Central European politics, came into use through disability activism during the 1990s. The idea is simple: Never create something for a group of people, without that same group of people being involved in the creation.

It sounds simple, yet it’s often overlooked or replaced with customer personas and unchecked assumptions about a specific community. This mantra (sometimes shortened to “nothing without us”) is a simple way for designers, product managers, leaders, innovators, educators, lawmakers, and many others to practice more inclusive design.

This past week, I had the opportunity to join 40 folks, similar to those I listed above, in Boston for two days of brainstorming and prototyping as part of Headstream: Springboard. Over these two days, we worked directly with teens as we thought about ways to positively impact that group’s mental health and well-being.

The outputs ranged from a music app plugin to help listeners transition moods, to a system for helping break the act of mindless…

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Joshua Lavra
Modus
Writer for

focused on human ways to support the health and happiness of young queer people @Hopelab. formerly @IDEO @EY_Doberman @AirLiquideGroup