At New Designers this year I was awarded the LEGO Award for Playful Creativity – a huge honour that I did not see coming, and am enormously grateful for.

The outcome of my thesis project is MAKA: a make-your-own magnetic fidget toy for children with autism. Designed to empower by letting children create their own toys, the wooden beads snap together with a satisfying clack. The toys encourage fidgeting, taking advantage of its developmental and educational benefits.

Designed to engage but not to over-stimulate, MAKA allows our brains to sustain focus for longer, aiding concentration and easing stress. If there is too much information incoming, focusing on a familiar task can help to filter out the sensory noise.

Last month I exhibited the project at New Designers with the Sussex Product Design team in the Business Design Centre, London. The reception was overwhelmingly positive – it was great to talk to so many people and receive so much positive feedback and advice. The first day was open to awards judges, press and VIPs and the project won the LEGO award for Playful Creativity!

“We really, really liked Toby's project, MAKA. He showed a clear understanding of a research-driven design process and executed it brilliantly. Also, it's just fun.”

James NorwoodSenior Concept Manager, Creative Play Lab, LEGO

Senior designers at toy giant LEGO were impressed by the quality, depth and communication of research that took place, praising how well the human-centered design process was carried out.

It was a huge honour to receive this prize. This is the first year LEGO have sponsored an award at New Designers and there are 3000 design graduates exhibiting, so to be chosen is a massive deal. It comes with a £1000 cash prize to go towards the project’s development and (more excitingly) contacts within the LEGO design team.

A large number of parents, teachers, therapists and schools I have spoken to have expressed an interest in buying some of the toys, so I’m currently looking into producing an initial small run through a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter.

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Until next time,

Fidget for Good.