Understanding Desirable Plush Toy Forms

Today, the class helped me with a post-it exercise in trying to understand what qualities were desirable in a stuffed animal to a seven-year old. Everyone was given four post-its of different color and asked to tag the ones (or split the post-it to tag multiple) that were bad, engaging, comforting, and enduring.

We discussed the qualities that made certain stuffed animals bad, engaging, comforting or enduring.

Bad: small, sad, gender-specific, stupid looking, too shiny/slick, scary, scratchy fabric, spiky, moldy

Engaging: not so rigid, something that can be mushed around a bit where the arms can be pushed into the body and pop back out, not “loud,” simple, has interesting features

Comforting: dogs, bunnies, floppy ears, huggable sized, meager expressions, relatable

Enduring: personal, dogs, bunnies, classic shapes that can be dressed up (e.g. bears)

The issue of whether to design in the cultural context or universal came up. Designing local and exporting those learnings to other situations would be ideal from a design perspective, but having a universal set of responsive toys would allow an NGO to stockpile them in advance of a disaster. If I design local, I need to find out what animals and toys are popular in Talca. Either way, I need to find ways of making the form customizable so that kids will know which one is theirs. This could be done through different clothing, color variations, accessories, etc. Even the One Laptop Per Child project had different colors available and the eyeglasses for children in Mexico project succeeded in part because the customizable options gave kids a say in what they wore.

I also need to get a better handle on what constitutes positive and negative feedback in the electronic component of the toy. Is aggression good (in providing that safe outlet)? How do children let out angst constructively? When should a parent be alerted? Should the toy only provide positive feedback (comfort and security)?

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