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Clowning curiously in Human-Centered Design

by Kate Weinberg:

Barbara Ann Michaels, a professional clown and self-proclaimed “Jester of the Peace,” popped into my Human-Centered Design class to shake things up and share the power of humor with our students. Not only did she make us laugh at 10 a.m. on a Friday morning, she also explained how she did it.

Barbara dispelled our notion of humor as a cultural phenomenon and instead showed us that humor is deeply rooted in the human psyche. She shared some sure fire ways to make anyone laugh, such as setting up an expectation and then breaking it. This trick works with everyone – if you found someone who had spent their entire life on a deserted island, and you put Barbara Ann Michaels in front of them, she could still make them laugh!

“When you address an issue through laughter, people open up. Humor allows us to look at things that seriousness may not.”

– Barbara Ann Michaels

The Human-Centered Design class is currently working on Design Project 2, where we are redesigning transportation around The Claremont Colleges. Barbara took us out onto the streets to expand our thinking and help us embody through clowning what it means to locomote around campus. Students brought their bikes, skateboards, scooters, and magic carpets to experiment with unconventional modes of transportation – one student even brought a cello. Then this happened …