The Extraordinaires Design Studio


The Extraordinaires Design Studio comes to us from Anita Murphy and Rory O’Conner, creators of Rory’s Story Cubes. In both design and execution it reflects the depth of  their understanding of and appreciation for the fun of the creative process. What the Story Cubes did to invite children to channel their imagination and develop their skills at story telling, the Extroardinaires Design Studio does for creative problem solving.

The Design Studio comes in a hard plastic case. It looks and feels like a laptop computer. Open it, and there are compartments for the large, colorful, beautifully illustrated Extraordinaire cards. Each card displays the drawing of a fantasy character. On the back of the card, select scenes from that character’s life. Another compartment contains the object cards describing what particular thing you will be creating for your chosen Extraordinaire. Another compartment houses a collection of “Think Cards,” prompting you to think through the development of your work. There’s a lovely tablet of graph-like design sheets that can be used as guides to draw in perspective, or not, and a fine-pointed pen for the fine points.

The case itself is so well-made, the components fitting so snugly, that it makes you feel designerly, and respected, even. The cards invite fantasy and creativity. There’s even an app so you can share your completed designs with the known universe.

Figure Head Bed

If you click on the image (above) it will take you to the Extraordinaire gallery – where we found this particular Figure Head Bed invention (uploaded to the gallery via the Extraordinaire app). Below the image there’s a sound file allowing you to hear the inventor explain her creation.

Major Fun Award

There’s genius here. Ingenious genius. There’s genius in the design and execution. There’s genius in the recognition of not only the joy of ingenuity, but the delight inherent in the conversations that accompany ingenuity. There’s the invitation to be a genius and use your ingenuity. And, even more important, there’s fun, genuine, creative, major fun. You can play it by yourself. You can play it with together with a bunch of people (though we recommend the smaller bunch version, the designers make it clear that you can, if you so desire, play with more than six players). Playing together gives each of you the opportunity to explain your design, and that turns out to be at least as much fun in the telling and listening as it is in the designing.

There are three different levels of cards, each level presenting more complex characters. There are award cards (five different kinds) so you can give each player a different award, or, if you’re playing competitively, you can each try to get as many different awards possible. There are very useful recommendations for how to present your completed design.

We found it fun enough as a solitaire activity, but even more fun in the company of others. The award cards help players apply different criteria to their inventions, giving them a richer perspective on their designs. But it’s as good to know that you can, if you need to, get competitive about the whole thing as it is to know that there’s no real reason to.


Recommended for ingenious people 8 and older.

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