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Project Design Stephen
Design research for an interactive
constructive toy/puzzle for adults
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Today with modern technology, we spend a large percentage of our both our
working lives and our leisure time in front of screens or interacting with brain
numbing technologies like Mp3 players, mobiles, games consoles, TV and
"...[P]oker is now the third most-watched televised sport on cable TV - behind
only car racing and football...Every day, 1.8 million players - more than 70
percent from the United States - throw their chips into the virtual pots of the
Internet...online-poker revenues have grown from $82.7 million in 2001 to $2.4
billion today...Last month at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, nearly two
thirds of the 5,619 players qualified in online competitions...[T]here are 80,000
players on PartyPoker.com every night."
-Brad Stone, "Going All In for Online Poker", Newsweek, August 15,
2005, pp. 40-1
This shows that even other games are being swallowed up by technology. This
is just one example
It is very easy to say people should get up and get active and get outside and
boost their health, but realistically people are not doing this, people are lazy and
especially in our climate people are less likely to get outside and get active.
-On average, Americans spend about 90 percent or more of their time
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Due to this realisation I looked at indoor activities and saw a gap in the market.
There a lot of indoor activities for children to do on a wet day. But there is a
serious lack of creative, innovative construction kits designed with an adult user
in mind. They would give the users a well deserved break from staring at
screens and give their hands and brains a workout.
Lego is Danish company which is primarily known for their brick based
construction sets, they also have
"People" (minifigures) and a whole range of vehicles and tools that can be used
to create custom Lego worlds.
One of my favourite things about Lego is the interchange ability of every piece
and sheer number of possibilities; I think that is the key to Lego’s magic.
How much is Lego considering the Adult fans vs. the children when
When we design sets, we take both children and adults into consideration.
Children are our primary audience, especially as it relates to the core play
theme sets; however, much of what appeals to children in today’s Lego sets
have strong appeal among adult fans as well. With Lego Star Wars, adults are
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equally considered. In designing any set, it’s about the balance between the
building experience and the play experience.
More recently Lego has really become intertwined with the movie industry with
allot of harry potter and star wars themed sets, and surprisingly do little for their
adult followers around the globe.
This seems strange when there are 50 AFOL's (Adult fans of Lego) groups with
40,000 registered members.
- Lego Company Profile 2009
Overall Lego is a great and successful product and has a massive following,
but really doesn’t seem to ever have really catered to an older audience where
there is still allot of interest in construction sets and the creativity, innovation
and construction involved.
The Rubik's Cube is a 3-D mechanical puzzle invented in 1974 by Hungarian
sculptor and professor of architecture Ernő Rubik. As of January 2009, 350
million cubes have sold worldwide making it the world's top-selling puzzle
game. It is widely considered to be the world's best-selling toy.
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A pivot mechanism enables each face to turn independently, thus mixing up the
colours. For the puzzle to be solved, each face must be a solid colour. Similar
puzzles have now been produced with various numbers of stickers, not all of
them by Rubik. The original 3×3×3 version celebrated its twenty-fifth
anniversary in 2005.
Studies have shown that engaging in mental activity through games and
puzzles can help keep the mind sharp in old age. Just as regular physical
exercise helps the body, regular mental exercise has benefits for the mind.
Completing puzzles, soduku, crosswords, and board games have been shown
to be beneficial to the maintenance of short-term memory, eye-hand co-
ordination and general concentration.
In a five-year study involving more than 400 participants over 75 years of age, it
was found that activities that involve thought, such as reading, writing and board
games, were more likely to ward off dementia. Of the physical activities trialed,
only dancing was of any use in keeping our minds fit.
The NeoCube is a very cool product see the video below!
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Composed of 216 individual high-energy rare-earth magnets, the NeoCube
allows you to create and recreate a near infinitive number of shapes and
patterns and has billions of solutions.
A highly distinguishing feature of the NeoCube is your nearly absolute control
over it. Other puzzles and building sets force you to use preformed two or three-
dimensional shapes, restricting and limiting the outcome.
-Each individual sphere is essentially a point.
-Several spheres arranged in a string essentially form a line.
-Lines can be manipulated to form two-dimensional shapes or polygons.
-Points, lines, or polygons can form three-dimensional shapes or
The makers also claim that it is a stress relief tool and a creativity and
construction puzzle which gives you a mental workout.
Focus Groups preparation
Conducting a focus group will be a big benefit to the research project, the
results to steer the project in the correct direction. A “playtime session” will be
recorded and the subjects asked questions before during and after the focus
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The reasons for doing a focus group is to find out how the physiology of play
develops as we age, for children it is an encouraged activity but for adults it is
almost frowned upon as society tells us that playtime is over.
Psychologists have divided play into 7 categories
• Object play (kicking a ball)
• bonding play (common interest between two players e.g. cycling)
• social play (group play – cops and robbers)
• body play (Physical activities – swimming)
• Imaginative play (Whatever you want it to be!)
• narrative play (Story telling)
• creative play (construction set, puzzle, painting etc)
“In our species the evolutionary development of neoteny, which involves the
retention of juvenile physical characteristics in mature individuals, has also
prolonged the play impulse well into adulthood. This means that exploratory
behaviours, driven by curiosity for the novel and pursuit of the effective, do not
disappear with childhood or youth but persist, especially in the play-like
endeavours of art and science”.
-Desmond Morris, Surrealist painter
This quote shows that there really is a kid in all of us we just have to bring it out
more often and hopefully it will bring out desirable qualities of children in adults
– Inquisitiveness, imagination and creativity.
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Not only this but playing is about having fun and enjoying oneself, forgetting
about the troubles and stress of everyday life. The health benefits are clearly
A 2008 Swedish study of more than 300,000 male and female golfers
suggested that simply playing golf could add about five years to a person's life.
-Farahmand B et al. Golf: A game of life and death. Scandinavian
Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2008.
The Physology of play
For many people play is a childish, immature and a socially unacceptable way
for adults to behave, but play is a vital part of all our lives. Play allows us to
completely lose ourselves in the moment and forget the stresses of our
everyday lives. People who preserve their sense of fun are better equipped to
solve problems, think creatively and manage stress
Far from a worrisome sign of immaturity or irresponsibility, the urge to play is a
vital and healthy one--and not one limited to children.
-Beyond Love and Work: Why Adults Need to Play (Scribner, 1999)
Lenore Terr, M.D.
To make something fun is not that simple, In order for something to be
enjoyable, experts agree that freedom of choice and the perception of control
are critical factors. Take a little child who is playing in the mud. He is doing it
because he is enjoying himself and for no other reason.
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The proper level of stimulation is also key to enjoyment. If something is too easy
or difficult to complete then the fun is lost, and the user will loose intrest in the
toy/game. It has to challenge the user but not alientate them with tasks or steps
which are difficult, a perfect example of this is the ribix cube, although a lot of
these products were sold, the vast majority of people who buy it can not solve
the puzzle, but the way the cubes move in the grids is very simple and to play
with it does not take a great deal of mental power.
Forecasting and trend analysis
With advancing technologies and new material being discovered every year,
there are more options that ever and finding the right solution is all about
picking out what is important to the user.
Trends come in many forms, one trend which has a particular interest to me is
the maker movement in North America, this is a trend among twenty
something’s as they relearn the skills and craftsmanship to make home made
products. This is in contrast with the Global trend of consumerism and convince.
That has swept west in the recent past. Why are people going back to the
knitting, sewing, carpentry and DIY in general. It can be traced back to the open
software where people built upon others work to produce a better product; it has
also been aided by how to websites and videos that are in abundance across
Another trend that has caught on in recent years is the green trend, where
ecological issues are an important image for a products success, a perfect
example of this is GM, by failing to produce smaller more efficient cars they lead
themselves into financial ruin, luckily for them both the U.S and Canadian
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governments bought them out of bankruptcy, but if they do not stray from the
American ideology “Bigger is better” then they will not be able to compete with
the European or Asian automakers.
Multiculturalism is now a big trend in the western world more and more people
are moving around the world and working and living in foreign countries. A
perfect example of this is Britain’s national dish. Traditionally Fish ‘n’ Chips or
Yorkshire pudding, it has been overwhelmed by chicken curry, With 8,000 curry
houses in England, employing 70,000 people. This shows how cultures can be
fused and the appreciation of other cultures that open minded people display.
Casual games" like puzzles and card games are the big draws for adults, who
play for the social interaction and to relieve stress. But video games are
gaining more and more popularity among the old generations.
The average video game player is 30, and 19 percent are 50 or older, up from
9 percent in 1999. And online, women over 40 rule, spending more hours
playing games than even geeky teenage boys do, according to research firm
Digital Marketing Services
Companies are even designing equipment for older joints. KY Enterprises
offers joystick devices that can be used by a player's arm, foot, or mouth. This
allows players with reduced mobility to interact with games.
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This is a sign of what pastimes people are choosing, preferring the virtual to the
real world. This shows that adults are willing to disregard their social standing
and play. But why does it have to be confined to video games?
Apple, HDTV, movies, gamer, single, condo life, graphic designer, photography,
digital slr, travel, gadgets, iphone apps, facebook, twitter, LA, the strokes, the
killers, torrents, youtube, instructables.com, how to’s, DIY, ikea, golf, skiing,
green, priuis, bullfrog energy, moped, alessi, designer sunglasses, disposable
income, atheist, black everything, optimist, liberal, legislative, global, educated,
how things work?, socialising
Current trends are running inline with the environmental trends which have
resulted in a hole new industry with green orientated products, the recent
recession has also attributed to this new culture with swap shops and second
hand items now seen as an economical and environmental alternative to the
consumer trends which have caused both the recession and the high levels of
pollutants in our atmosphere.
A style has been evolved out of these trends in which consumers are looking for
something that shows the positive (or less negative) effect they are having on
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the world around them, a perfect example is the amount of famous people who
buy the Toyota Priuis, it is not a car you would automatically associate with the
rich and famous but by driving the Priuis the owner is creating an image for
themselves as being green as it is trendy.
But saying this consumer’s will not just buy a product because it is “green” it still
has to be as good if not better than the competitors if it want to compete. It sill
has to be desirable and aesthetically pleasing.
A style which is attractive to adult consumers is also a mixture of forms,
materials and finishes.
• Organic and geometric
• Warm and cold materials (wood vs. metal)
Research findings and discussion
• Adults up to now ignored in the games market
• Large numbers of adults seeking out playtime, stress relief, R&R
• Constructive sets designed for children, but with adult users
• On-line gaming growing in popularity with 30+
• DIY, crafts, arts and skills re-emerging and relearned
• Consumers turning backs on consumerism
• Fusion of cultures in the West, people are open to new ideas
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• Puzzles and board games is the main source of play for adults
• Bigger is not always better
• Internet is the new social playground
• “Green” will attract consumers, (its cool to be green)
• Recession – less disposable income
• Breaking social standings big task (children play, adults work)
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Once the focus group and observations have
been carried a solution to how to ease people into the idea of play should be