More than ever, young people are raising their voices on issues they care about. From Extinction Rebellion Youth to FridaysForFuture, there’s a worldwide movement of children getting involved in activism. This generation have opened our eyes to the power of children’s voices – showing us that they should be our role models. They’ve made it clear that for human life on Earth to continue, we all need to make big changes.

But activism isn’t just about big societal change. With children, the powerful change happens within; through activism, you learn about yourself, about others, and about the world you live in. This seed, planted early, causes growth into socially engaged, responsible citizens. Design has a responsibility to invest in the thinkers, makers and doers who will build our future society.

Agents of Action is an activist project platform, facilitating an ‘activism sprint’ to help children engage in activism in a playful, understandable way.

Activities are broken into bitesize chunks, guiding you step-by-step through the process of an activism sprint. Definitions and examples help make tricky concepts like ‘what is activism?’ and ‘making change happen’ easy to understand for first-time activists.

Although the interactive instructions are digital, the focus remains on the physical world. Sketching with pen and paper, acting with your body and talking to people around you are the core materials of every activity. Projects can be logged and shared, creating a global collection of projects for inspiration.

The system is designed with respect for individual’s values and beliefs: rather than imposing a set of values, Agents of Action encourages children to explore what is important to them, consider different points of view, and reflect on their actions.

Thesis project (2020, completed over 20 weeks) at the Umeå Institute of Design in collaboration with The LEGO Group. Winner of the Best Student award at the Interaction Awards 2021.

How could we give children greater agency to empower themselves through activism?

How could we platform children’s activism to inspire advocacy, foster learning and help make change happen?

The Aesthetics of Activism

From toddler tantrums to self-immolation, the spectrum of activism is broad and the word is charged. Whether at a domestic or global scale, the possibility for activism is everywhere. It’s by no means just protest; there are many slow, quiet forms of activism: covering creativity, provocation, communication, endorsement and more. A key question in this project is defining what constitutes activism and what it means for children.

Activating Values

As well as provoking societal change, engagement in activism serves as a powerful agent for education. Biased adults are taught by children, whilst they learn too. Through taking action on something you believe in, you learn about yourself and the world around you; gaining values such as morality, justice and empathy. Facilitating these learnings in children is crucial to build a global community of responsible citizens.

Challenging Norms

We see adults devalue children’s views as “just kids”, even claiming that a strongly opinionated child must be a puppet for an adult behind them. The same adults may believe that these children lack the experience to form valid opinions. In fact, the opposite is true: their lack of experience means they lack baggage and bias, so are more free to form original ideas. Young people have shown us that they should be our role models.

Creative Play

Play matters. It stretches our imagination, enabling us to experiment and learn about the world. LEGO is an amazing medium for play, with universal appeal. Their involvement brings an interesting perspective to the project, exploring the role of creative play in activism, as well as a challenge, in the contradiction of activism and commercialism.


punk visual design reference

The Art of Punk

Punk rock’s harsh, chaotic and DIY art style served as inspiration for the platform’s identity. Pink, yellow and black are a strong symbol of the 1970s punk graphic style, one that would translate into the visual identity for Agents of Action. As a counter-culture movement, much of the art subverted graphical conventions – something that would have to be carefully navigated in this execution. One challenge of applying a punk aesthetic to a digital interface is incorporating the analog, rough quality of the printed materials whilst maintaining usability.

I also drew inspiration from Extinction Rebellion’s brand identity, who themselves take cues from punk. XR have successfully brought a contemporary appeal to graphics with sans-serif type and clearer, simpler layouts.

Visual Identity

A halftone effect is applied to imagery throughout the platform; including a subtle texture added to user-generated content.

Calling back to the DIY aesthetic of Punk, the wordmark is textured and placed onto duct tape strips to bring a tangible physicality to the identity.

Thesis Report

No long, wordy PDF here. This report is made accessible and interactive, in Notion.

Read the full report