Tiffany Ard has been a long time favorite artist of UncommonGoods. We’ve featured a multitude of her fantastically scientific and geeky products. However, she had some ideas that she couldn’t execute herself, so she asked UncommonGoods to develop products with her. We knew this would be a huge opportunity for us and couldn’t wait to get on board.
While she may be known as the Nerdy Baby Lady, she is a creative force to be reckoned with. From the very beginning of development, her enthusiasm was exciting. I couldn’t believe the depth of her knowledge for these higher level STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math, as she taught me) concepts. Every time she would forward a new set of art for our review, I would learn something new while fact checking. Who knows what a P-Orbital is? I do now.
This was our first product with the manufacturer, so Tiffany and I would go back and forth, refining her artwork until we got it right for production. After a grueling development cycle, we finally blew a sigh of relief when we got the final sets in hand. We collectively agreed that the aptly named Super Nerdy ABC Blocks would be a big hit in our collection. It is still one of my favorite projects during my time here at UncommonGoods. I can’t wait to get working on our next project with Tiffany, but before diving into our next brainstorming session, Tiffany agreed to take a pop quiz about her art, the blocks, and growing up geeky.
What was your favorite science project as a kid?
Oh, gosh just one? I loved science and read almost everything in the school library’s nonfiction section. I liked inventing stuff. When I was about nine I wanted to make a doorbell that our dog could ring by scratching on the door. The guy at Radio Shack showed me how to make a circuit with a switch. I set it up with a horrible sounding buzzer, and when it was done, my dad helped me attach this clunky, awful-looking contraption to the front door. Which thinking back is weird because we were renting and our landlord was sort of a grump! I hope they got their deposit back.
But the other constant was art. My earliest memories are of mixing paints. What an awesome experiment that can be for a kid, you know? Nothing blows up, nothing expensive to ruin, just seeing what happens when you mix this shade with that until you have a big gray sludgy mess—and then you rinse your brushes and start again.
When did you first come to the conclusion that you were a nerd?
Well, you know junior high is an age where kids are looking around to see where they fit in. I was too afraid of being hit by a ball to do sports, too shy to be a theater kid, too unpopular to be one of the popular kids. The kids I spent time with liked Douglas Adams and Carl Sagan. We liked writing stories and inventing languages and pretending to be time travelers. Hmm. Maybe “dorks” is a better word than “nerds!”
What are your favorite science facts that everyone should know?
I tell my kids that there are no scientific FACTS. Just answers that explain what we see happening around us, and new information can always change our understanding. But I’m being annoying, homeschooley, science mom.
My current favorite facts:
1. Evolution is real, y’all. It’s worth the effort to understand, because it is amazing.
2. That said, dinosaurs and humans DID co-exist. In fact we still do! My son has two of them as pets and they’re just as loud and messy and demanding as you would expect little, feathered dinosaurs to be.
3. Your body has more bacteria cells than human cells.
Why is it important to give kids gifts that are both fun and educational?
It isn’t! I mean, let’s be honest—you really do not need to cram kids’ brains with scientific terminology. The best gifts invite open ended play and make kids feel empowered to experiment fearlessly. If they happen to learn some fun science facts, all the better.
Which illustration on the Super Nerdy ABC Blocks is your favorite and why?
Oh gosh. I love Io with its cute little active volcano. But my favorite might be the derpy-eyed flatworm. Those worms really look like that!
From Absolute Zero to Zoological Oddity, your ABCs cover some pretty interesting material. How did you decide what to put on the blocks?
This was a fun exercise in problem solving. There are 26 letter blocks, each block has six sides. My kids helped me brainstorm ideas. For some letters, there were too many options to choose from! Feynman, Friction, Fahrenheit, Force, Freefall, Fibonacci… For those it came down to deciding which would translate best into small, one-color illustrations.
What are some fun ways to use Super Nerdy Blocks, aside from just stacking them up and knocking them over?
Spell your name. Look for patterns. Sort by type of interest—biology, chemistry, math. Make paths. Hide them all over the house and look for A-Z. Close your eyes and pick one block, and then challenge a friend to define the term.
Besides giving kids super-fun math and science toys, what else can grownups do to help encourage kids to embrace their nerdiness?
Model CURIOUSITY. Act excited when you don’t know something. Let kids see you trying and failing and trying again as you tackle learning something that’s hard for you. Let them experiment, let them play, and create a space where it’s always okay to make wrong guesses.