Response to “If you could redesign a toy, what would it be, why should it be redesigned, how might you make it better?“

I’d Redesign...

Digital Screens

I realize this isn’t a branded toy per se, but hear me out. TL;DR: Digital screens are the most common “toy” in use now. That’s a problem, and I have some early ideas that play with a solution.

Let’s start with the whys: Why perform a design-thinking Judo flip on the brief? Why digital screens?

The answer to the first why is simple. I want to solve the biggest problem I can. The brief’s scope was quite open, so I had to prioritize. Sure, I’d like to work with some big brands, and redesigns are fun, but there needs to be a good reason for those brands to want to come to the table to solve a problem.

Regarding the second why, I have an above-average concern about digital screen abuse and addiction. Our phones have become the thing we fidget with for hours of our day. I could go find citations of research, journalism, or thought leadership that point to the scenario being troubling for childhood development (as well as adult-ing). I think there may be a solution somewhere near the problem.

As to how I would solve this problem, I don’t have a magic wand to know what would work. However, I can bring a methodology to move towards a solution. In the beginning, I do like to ideate potential solutions to explore the problem space. Here are some initial ideas I’d consider bringing to the field and spurring other ideas among a team.
  • Fidget cases. Phone or tablet cases that are toyful objects in themselves, that allow the user to play with without using the digital aspect. For children, parents could detach the case from the device and allow the kid to play with just the physical part—great for digital curfews.
  • Toy Branded cases. Make device cases that integrate real world toys, such as Magnadoodle, Etch-a-Sketch, or Connect Four, or See 'N Say Farmers Says. Make the device as much fun when the screen is off as when it’s on.
  • Device lock screens with toyful interactions, that gets the user to consider staying with their thoughts or staying in the real world. Maybe with a prominent “Go outside!” message. Or  something more subtle that delivers that suggestion.
  • Funky device locking mechanisms, toyfully designed, sort of like device chastity belts. I want one of these for my Switch!

These are all fun, but moreso they’d help start a research interaction where parents and kids consider how they might seek digital/real world balance.

An added bonus answer to this bonus question, I think this approach could bring toy brands to the table to be part of solution to this problem.
-Will Capellaro, 10 Aug 2022

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