Reflections and new beginnings

Next Wednesday marks 12 months from the day that I won the LEGO award for Playful Creativity at New Designers. The year since has been an incredible journey filled with fun, learning, and many late nights. Hearing from so many children, teachers and parents has been inspiring and makes it all pay off. I’ve been proud to watch MAKA grow.

Later this year I’ll be starting an exciting new journey: moving to Northern Sweden to study Interaction Design at Umeå Institute of Design. The programme is 2 years long, plus I’ll be taking a year out for internships. That’s a slightly daunting total of 3 years.

The remote city of Umeå is home to one of the best design schools in the world. Perhaps due to its long nights and icy climate, students at UID seem to spend most of their waking hours in the studio. The programme’s focus is on people, on understanding human behaviour and actively involving users in the design process. Super cool.

For half of the year out I’ll be interning in LEGO’s Creative Play Lab in Billund, a prospect I am beyond excited about. They can’t say what I’ll be working on (top secret, of course), but it will involve developing new ways to play with LEGO. I plan on returning with my weight in bricks.

Whilst I am looking forward to this new chapter, it does mean that MAKA and Fidget for Good will be going on the back-burner. The choice is a difficult one; fidgeting is in the spotlight at the moment and MAKA is ready to make a huge impact.

I’d like to thank everyone who has helped and supported me on this journey. The generosity of so many has been humbling. MAKA has grown far bigger than I could have imagined, a feat that I couldn’t have achieved alone. It’s been great.

Until next time,

Fidget for Good

LEGO Award win at New Designers

At New Designers this year I was awarded the LEGO Award for Playful Creativity – a huge honour that I’m 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 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.

Until next time,

Fidget for Good.