16 April 2015

Toy Design 2020. Toymakers of the Future

Text: Anja Neidhardt

The Spielwarenmesse, the world’s biggest toy fair, was held once again in Nuremberg at the beginning of the year. In the contest for upcoming designers, Toy Design 2020, organised jointly by the fair and the Wooden Toys specialist group, awards for “Toy of the Future” designs were bestowed on Angela Corrado (USA), Lena Mühl (Germany) and Wanhyun Ko (South Korea). While we explain how each toy works in form 259, you can find out more about the processes and the background of the designs here. 


The first prize went to Angela Corrado who developed the Imagine Fort construction set as part of her Industrial Design studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Using her set of sticks and connecting elements, children can build castles, caves, playgrounds and much more. Corrado says that she is influenced by her course and that she focuses primarily on the interface between product, culture, commerce and context and always thinks through these criteria to find how a product finds its place in the world. During her studies she believes she was able to develop a good understanding of various types of product and an empathetic, user-focused perception of design that she mirrors in all her products. At the moment, she is finalising the design of Imagine Fort and is preparing to also present it at the New York Design Week in May. 


Lena Mühl, who took second price developed a colour wheel using methods of “participative designing” in toy and learning design at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle. She visited a children’s day care centre to find out which toys the children enjoyed most and how they played with them. She then hit upon the idea of designing a mixed colour stacking game based on various aspects of her research. Later, she tested the prototypes with the kindergarten children and developed her ideas further. The large workshops at her university were important to her work and the fact that she was supported there for example with the use of CNC milling machines was essential. She named her wheel after Robert Musil, an Austrian author and engineer, who constructed a colour wheel as early as 1906 to carry out experiments in optics and psychological perception. 


Wanhyun Ko – who is also an undergraduate at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design, Halle – wanted to develop a toy that above all would bring children and parents together. To do this, he examined the fine-motor skills of one- to four-year olds. He particularly found interesting the principle of threading a thread through holes using a type of large needle. And it was also important to him that the toy that can develop together with the child. The child should be able to set himself new challenges and have new opportunities with the given material. His research showed him that in many existing needle-type toys, having threaded the needle, the thread served no real function – nothing new happened. And this is why he developed a new construction principle using a rubber band. Animals can be put together and taken apart again using the individual parts in Zoo Mix. Like Lena Mühl, Wanhyun Ko was able to test out his project at children’s day care centres. Here he observed that young children primarily enjoyed stretching the cord and threading it into a groove represents a huge success as the components lock together with ball joints and have a motoric function Above all, older children enjoy working out the construction sequence and constructing the animals accordingly. “At my university, a great deal of value is placed on sustainability within the project – and generally, too. We do not only learn about new materials but also how to use them meaningfully,” explains Wanhyun Ko. As he is particularly interested in motor functions within new connection systems that can be disconnected again and he enjoys working with wood, he found the workshops at the university very useful in his work. 


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