Michael Seo wants you to climb on this 7-foot-tall table. There’s a warning written on it, asking big kids (15+) to watch out for little ones, but right now it’s overrun with the shrimps. So he goes around, adding “+ climb on it” to the signs to remind them that everyone is welcome to interact with it.
There’s hardly space for anyone else up top as kids are eating pizza and corn dogs, dangling their feet off, and getting a taller-than-grown-up view of the 2015 Bay Area Maker Faire. The table, and the two chairs along with it, are called 3 for Life. The display was originally manufactured by Seo, Cindy Jian, and Marie Applegate at the Exploratorium Studio for Public Spaces, with the help of Shaun Swanson and Chris Vanderbrink, as well as Kadi Franson and Noah Balmer for the Market Street Prototyping Festival.
Seo says the installation is aimed more at adults; it’s supposed to remind them of when they were preschoolers, and everything was bigger.
We’re most creative — and compassionate, confident, and fun — up to age 3, reasoned Applegate as she conceived the idea. It idea originated from a talk from David and Tom Kelley, about their book Creative Confidence. “In part, 3 for Life is a tribute to their mission,” says Applegate. She settled on age 3 thanks to her experience with her daughter’s pre-Kindergarten class. “You should hear and see the totally wild, out-there things preschoolers do and say without a trace of shame — it’s beautiful to be reminded of that time in our lives,” she says.
She also recalls a friend FaceTiming with her daughter: “The perspective [my friend] got of our place was that of the height and heart of a 3-year-old — table tops, an out of reach cookie jar, door knobs, etc. It reminded me of how the world might look like to someone her age.”
Did it work? Did grown-ups at Maker Faire find their way back to a place of youthful confidence? Applegate says yes, but only if you told them what to do in the form of printed instructions (“+ climb on it”). “How adult of them,” Applegate says.