Review: Extraordinaires Design Studio Pro

For the past few months I’ve had some time to work on developing my graphic design skills. This is something I’ve always enjoyed and I’m finding that it comes in very handy at the print shop. I’m actually being able to do some simple projects for customers now, which I find very rewarding.

One of my first projects was quite a challenge, though. The customer was a restaurant owner. The project was a poster for a party celebrating the work anniversary of someone who worked there. That’s all the information I had. What kind of design did they want? My instructions were: “The customer wants to be surprised!” The problem with that? I did not know the customer or the honoree. I had never been to that restaurant. I could make a poster to my taste, but what if it wasn’t to their taste? I hopped on Google to see if they had a website. Nope. The only clue I had to work with was a picture of the outside of the building on Google maps. Using those scant details I finally did come up a design, and fortunately the customer was happy with it.

You never know in these situations. Often the customer doesn’t know exactly what they want, but they’ll let you know what they don’t like when you present your ideas. I’m learning that it’s very important to ask lots of questions to get as many details as possible to come up with a design that meets the customer’s specific needs. I think this applies in many situations, not just design.

Design Studio Pro review

Extraordinaires Design Studio Pro is a great way for budding designers to learn to think outside the box… (It actually does come in a box but you know what I mean!) …and to know what questions to ask. Rebecca and I had a chance to review this program from Timberdoodle this fall. I received it free in exchange for my honest review.

So what is it? I wasn’t sure myself at first. I thought it might be a beginning graphics art course, but no. The best way I can describe it is that it’s an open-ended game to develop creative thinking skills.

Timberdoodle also carries the “little brother” of this program: Extraordinaires Design Studio for younger students. The Pro version, however, is meant for older students (age 16+) and those in designed-based careers to build on their creative skills.

Sounds a little intimidating, doesn’t it? It’s not. Good design is about ideas and this program helps your student develop his or her ideas.

What’s in the box?

  • 24 Character Cards
  • 30 Design Projects
  • 50 Think Cards
  • 5 Awards Cards
  • Drawing Pad
  • 2 Pens
  • 120-page Design Guidebook

The character cards are the “Extraordinaires”– fantasy characters/super heroes. These Extraordinaires are your clients. Your assignment is to design a specific item for a specific client. Design projects include inventions, gadgets, buildings, clothing, and vehicles. You’ll draw a card to find out who your client is, then draw another card to find out what item you’ll be designing. The character cards include detailed pictures with clues about the Extraordinaires specific needs, and the guidebook includes even more information, so part of the process is researching your client.

Design Studio Pro review

As you work on your design, you’ll draw any number of Think Cards to help stretch your imagination. The idea is to focus on what your client (the end user) needs. You don’t have to be a good artist to sketch out your ideas.

Extraordinaires Design Studio Pro is very flexible and can be used in a number of different ways. We read through the rules for playing the multi-player game and thought that sounded fun, but Rebecca has also enjoyed just sitting down with the box and working through some of the challenges on her own. It has been a good thinking exercise for her.

Design Studio Pro review

One of the fun elements of playing this with multiple players is the awards system. Each player randomly draws one of the awards cards. After everyone finishes their designs they present them to the group and then each player decides who is most deserving of the reward card they drew. I can even imagine adding a few customized award cards to the mix just for laughs.

If you, or your student, are at all interested in creating custom designs of any kind (not just graphic design) you’ll find this program helpful for building those essential thinking skills to help develop a product that is exactly what your customer needs.


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