WordBuild at Pratt

Participatory Design, over the last 40 years, has begun to infiltrate mainstream commerce and culture in the US. Increasingly our always-on, instant feedback society of users demands a voice in the products, services and environments in which they engage. Many businesses recognize that without user-generated content, they cannot respond quickly and accurately enough to satisfy user needs.

Participatory graphic designers embrace user-generated content by scaffolding acts of amateur creation. Zvezdana Stojmirovic and Helen Armstrong explored one technique for engaging users in the design process during a recent workshop with MFA CommDesign students at the Pratt Institute in NYC.

Test Run of the Project at the Miami U XD:MFA Studio



WordBuild: A Workshop in Participatory Design

Oily, Fuse, Silo, Burn—Pratt CommDesign students established rules and then worked in groups to co-create letterforms.

Wordbuild OILY from Helen Armstrong on Vimeo.

wordbuild FUSE from Helen Armstrong on Vimeo.

wordbuild BURN from Helen Armstrong on Vimeo.

Wordbuild SILO from Helen Armstrong on Vimeo.


WordBuild by Helen Armstrong; Zvezdana Stojmirovic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

In other words, you may use these videos for non-commercial purposes as long as you attribute the creators.


Instructions for the workshop were as follows: 

—Pick a word out of the hat.

—Using the provided letter templates, pick two of the provided materials to build your word in a fresh way.

—Establish clear rules for how to use the materials in your composition. (Materials provided included string, tape, rubber bands, and office labels)

—Working as a group, start following the established rules to rapidly fill in your letterforms. When you hear the signal, move to the next station, read the next team’s rules and begin completing their word by following their rules.


Interested in leading a participatory letterform building exercise yourself? Here’s a list of random words to get you started: wordsinahat_001

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