Within the Industrial Product Design Course at the Politecnico di Milano, the Final Synthesis Laboratory has always proposed a methodological path of project development based on the key principles of Design for Kids.
Designing a toy and/or any product/service for children means having the skills to design the entire system of artefacts, products and services that surround the child. Design for Kids requests and implies very different disciplinary subjects ranging from psychology, cognitive ergonomics, economics and technology to regulations and materials. If the child is not considered at the centre of the design process, there is risk of developing products that represent only the declination of something pre-existing, overloaded with signs, functions and colours inserted in a deliberately redundant packaging, or the unmediated reproduction of an object for adults.
“Since I couldn’t change adults, I chose to work on children to raise better ones. It is a revolutionary strategy to work on and with children as future men”.
Thus, the Final Synthesis Laboratory course offers students a design path that simulates professional activity in the field of product development for the world of children. The design path starts from the analysis of early insights, trends (in materials, technologies and solutions), cultural and intercultural changes, new use and consumption behaviours, new social aggregation phenomena, new needs linked to lifestyles and new relationships and cognitive skills, which will then be translated into the design input and then into final products. Students will then be guided during the whole design process, from the research to the implementation phase. The research activity will allow students to define the sense-making at the basis of the project development throughout a systemic point of view.
The prototyping phase of the product plays a very important role because it will be an opportunity for comparison and involvement with potential users (children), by means of iterative design reviews that are typical of design thinking.
Topic: Via Vai – bambini in movimento (Via Vai – kids on the go)
Target age: 1-6 yo
Exercise plays an important role in the motor development and well-being of the child. It can influence cognitive development in childhood, increasing the child’s potential, as well as the ability to relate to others.
Research in this area has shown that there are many advantages that motor skills bring in comparison to certain childhood pathologies that are becoming a real emergency at an international level:
- childhood obesity: physical activities, even unstructured ones, are fundamental both for the prevention and treatment of this disorder;
- attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: channelling energy into exercise helps to disperse the symptoms of the disorder and improves the ability to focus;
- childhood depression: children who are moderately or strongly active tend to develop fewer depressive symptoms than their more sedentary peers;
- motor coordination disorder: complementary to therapeutic activity, daily physical activity helps to improve symptoms.
From this general picture of new needs and new emergencies a promising field of design arises. It becomes the objective of the Laboratory that of identifying possible product and system solutions capable of exploring new ways of playing-related to mobility in order to answer to the challenges of the contemporary world, with children at the centre of the whole process of innovation development.
Topic: I primi mille giorni (The first thousand days)
Target age: 0-3 yo
The first thousand days of a child can be considered the most important moment in a child’s formation. The mind is still a blank canvas ready to receive the first stimuli. For this reason, designing products, services and systems capable of educating the child at this age is a very important challenge, not to be underestimated.
The students have faced this problem by proposing different creative solutions able to fit into different contexts and at different times in the child’s life. This is also reflected in the partner companies that the students have identified for the different projects.
Topic: STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Maths)
Target age: 6-10 yo
Understanding the impact of digital transformation on the new generations means trying to understand what space children occupy today in the Italian (and more generally European) social system and what role products (games, furniture, accessories, etc.) play in children’s lives. Digital transformation has certainly changed the way children play (and the medium, the toy) with which they shape this experience.
The topic of STEAM is of growing importance not only in the school and education sector but also in terms of innovation of companies and organizations that have school-age children as their privileged target. This is a new approach to the study of scientific subjects capable of building a bridge between art and science and children’s cultural, cognitive and social development.
Technologies become an opportunity for positive experience, for the development of logical and creative skills.