October 6, 2007

Design21's Child's Play Competition: Anyone Find Anything Interesting?

This past summer, Design21 Social Design Network sponsored a competition called "Child's Play". The brief:

Design an affordable object or a series of objects that a child can play with in which the function is more suggestive than prescriptive and is open to interpretation.
The objects were also to be keyed to the cognitive developmental levels and priorities of whatever the target age is, and also "environmentally responsible."

The first and second place winners seem to have read the brief: Barro de Gast's Yo'Play is a connective building system made from yogurt cups, and Johanna Kiss and Shlomi Friedman's Bacbucon is a toy bracket for snapping plastic soda bottles together.

But many of the 240+ entrants look like they didn't read jack, but instead just uploaded whatever kid-related concept they had lying around. Design21 is a non-profit organization founded by the Japanese retailer Felissimo--and in case you miss the 5000 mentions on the site, it's also affiliated with UNESCO--to encourage "social design." It sounds like it wants to be Fabrica, Benetton's thinktank-y design school thing, but with a more feelgood veneer.

I'm not sure if it's much more than a vehicle for self-promotion and mutual congratulation, but still, with that many kid-related ideas that aren't tied to a TV character or Ikea, it may be worth a surf.

Here are a couple I found kind of interesting:


Alexandra Denton's Shape Up: a set of abstract little finger puppet creatures where you put your fingers in for the eyes. She suggests making them in birch, but I think that foam your floating keychain is made of might be better [unless you're the environment, that is.]


April Capil's Fridge Box: a cool-looking playscreen/store/puppet theater thing that has a few modernist predecessors [including one by the designer of that wooden restaurant high chair, Stephan Gip]. Ultimately, it also shares many features with a cardboard box, which makes much more environmental and economic sense.


Lucas Maassen's Family Furniture: as in family of furniture. Little baby chairs sitting on the daddy chair's lap. So cute. I think Stokke is already working on this, actually.

Other things I noticed: William Wilson's inside-out teddy bears are not Kent Rogowski's much earlier ones. Also, there are at least two competition entries and one be-sideburned Design21 member called "emo", which I find hilarious.


Emily Meza's Patterned World is pretty sweet: a blanket fort that can hold it's own shape.

[A little bit similar but much more grounded than John Comazzi's "In The Fold," the velcro/zipper/button-covered felt mats that can twist and turn and fasten into a fort. Seems cool but a bit to conceptual for kids. -ed.]

i like the simplicity and the idea behind the mocambo blocks.

How about a link to the "In The Fold" piece?

[sorry, formatting problem, fixed now -ed.]

Thought you might like to know, Fridge Box was re-invented during the course of the competition and although I was too late to re-submit it to Design21, it made its debut at www.FridgeBoxWorld.com this January. After making the original wood version, I too felt it would be more eco-friendly if I could produce it in cardboard (great minds think alike!). The tooling costs of drilling and cutting all the wood panels (and the preservatives used in wood) were also a big concern. I added some eco-friendly stickers in four versions - 50% post-consumer recycled content - and a "cow catcher" attachment option to turn it into a pirate ship or race car. The best part is, unlike the original wood version, when you're done playing with it, you can put it in your recycling bin!

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