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Julia Liao

Capstone Book Parsons School of Design Spring 2016

Reader Manual



Introduction to minimaker, and my personal inspiration for the project.

11 Point of Entry

Observation of gender stereotypes, gender-specific products, and proposal of the solution.

17 Research: Children, Play and Gender

Psychological research on when and how children begin to develop the concept of their own gender identity, and how their concept of gender impacts children's decision making. As well as research on color psychology, gendered marketing, motor skills and children’s play habits.

37 Market Research

Taking a deeper look into existing pretend toys in the market: the masculine, the feminine, and the neutral. Collecting inspiration from existing designer children's products.

45 Expert Engagement

Talking and collecting information with experts for various fields and parents with young children.

57 Design Development

Sketches, Models, mechanisms and color/material/finishes of different design iterations.

73 minimaker

User testing and finalized design of minimaker.

93 The Bigger Picture

All aspects that involve the making of minimaker: social, economical, and environmental considerations.

107 Credits 109 Sources



is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.


As a child, I remember enjoying toys and games that enabled me to make my own things, such as science kits, arts and crafts, playdough, baking, and bookmaking. As a girl, I hardly had any hands-on experiences with tools, was never exposed to power tools, and had no knowledge of making-related machines until I became a college student. Today, tools and machinery are part of my everyday life as a product design student at Parsons. Today, woodworking and other kinds of shop fabrication are still very stereotypically perceived as a masculine activity. 85-90% of industrial designers are men. Why are there significantly less women makers? Is the gender disparity caused by society’s gender ideology? All products that surround us on the earth go through a making process, but as consumers and users, we often do not know how products are made. Part of the reason why I enjoy making is because I gain a better understanding of how that materials that are given to us from the earth transform into the objects that help us, inspire us, and make us happy. I personally find making things to be fun because I enjoy seeing the ideas in my head come to life in a physical, tactile form. I wish for all children and people, no matter what gender, to experience the process of making.



minimaker is a hand powered toy table-saw that comes with accessories and modular wood blocks. It allows young children of all genders, from ages 3 and up, to gain exposure to the concept of using power tools in woodworking through fun and play. minimaker enables children to emulate adult behavior, and catches the interest of children to familiarize themselves with woodworking, building and making.



minimaker is fun to play with and should not lose children's interest over time.

minimaker aims to be a mid to high end designer toy made of quality materials.

modular blocks allow children to come up with endless iterations their own structures.


minimaker teaches children how raw materials is transformed into objects, and building complex structures with basic shapes.

minimaker is safe for children of appointed age group, but also aims to develop respect for "dangerous" equipment.

minimaker and its starter accessories come as a set and packed into a compact container easy for organization and storage.

minimaker appeal sand catches the interest of children of all genders.

minimaker is as timeless as a real tablesaw and is not be a fad product.

playing with minimaker creates an experience that is similar to using a real tablesaw in terms of procedures and action.

Confidence Reducing the fear that is associated with certain intimidating activities.

Respect & Mindfulness minimaker aims to help children achieve a balance between confidence and mindfulness through play.

Performing the necessary safety procedures and techniques in order to learn proper shop use.



point of entry


Gender Stereotypes are caused by Gender ideology. Gender Ideology are ideas that are formed by our society about what kind of roles a person of a certain gender should play. Playing with certain toys are some of the earliest encounters of gender ideology in our lives.

Male Dominated Industries

99.5% Firefighting and Prevention Workers 99.7% Installers and Repairers 98.8% Automotive Service technician/mechanics 97.4% Construction Managers and Workers


Female Dominated Industries

94.8% Cosmetology 94.1% Childcare Workers 90.6% Registered Nurse 90.6% Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners


Design Opportunity I surveyed 10 adults (18+) and 10 Children (under 18) to write down words that they associated with the words

Masculine and Feminine, while keeping the words "toys" and "children" in mind. These were the most repeated words that came up:

Labor Intensive Beauty






Gardening Babies


Cars Guns

Tea Party






Fixing Things Dirty

Stuffed Animals


Overall characteristics of gendered toys Competitive, Aggressive and involving feelings of thrill and danger

Nuturing, domestic work and making one's appearance more aesthetically pleasing

Mission Statement: To design a pretend toy that is usually associated with a specific gender, and making it fun and appealing to all genders. 14

Gender Categorization Many toy companies and toy retail stores still categorize their products by gender.




children, play and gender


Gendered Marketing

Pink = Girls Blue = Boys

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Girls' preference for pink is learned, not natural. Research shows suggests that all babies actually prefer blue. (According to Jo Paoletti, author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America, the association of boys with blue and girls with pink dates to the 1940s.)

In the 1970, nearly 70% of toys had no gender-specific labels at all.

In a study of a group of boys and girls between the ages of 7 months and 5 years, each child was tasked with choosing between two similar objects in two colorways of pink and blue. It was around the age of two that girls began to select the pink toy more often than the blue one; at two and a half years old, the preference for pink became even more pronounced. Boys developed an rejection to the pink toy along the same timeline. (Vanessa LoBue and Judy DeLoache 2011)


By the mid 1990s, gendered advertising had returned to 1950s-levels, and it continued to grow in the 2000s. The increase of gender labeled products was because marketers realized they could convince parents of boys and girls to buy two versions of the same product. Prenatal testing , which became available in the 1970s, was a big reason for the change. Expectant parents learned the sex of their unborn baby and then went shopping for “girl” or “boy” merchandise. (“The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” ) The pink fad spread from sleepers and crib sheets to bigticket items such as strollers, car seats and riding toys. Affluent parents could conceivably decorate for baby No. 1, a girl, and start all over when the next child was a boy.

Pretend Play

Emulating Adult Behavior Numerous psychologists have studied pretend in child's play and how it affects child development. These are some of the benefits that derive from pretend play.

Imagination + Creativity

Social and Emotional Skills


When your child pretends to be different characters, he has the experience of "walking in someone else's shoes," which helps teach the important moral development skill of empathy.

Children also builds self-esteem when he or she discovers they he or she can do just about anything just by pretending.

Children learn about their likes and dislikes, their interests, and their abilities through role playing and work to make sense out of what they have observed.


Children emulating adult's behavior is seen to be amusing and entertaining to adults. This encourages adults to be present during their child's play time.

When children engage in pretend play, he or she is actively experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. They learn how to take turns, share responsibility, and creatively problem-solve.

It is normal for young children to see the world from their own egocentric point of view, but through maturation and cooperative play, your child will begin to understand the feelings of others.

Problem Solving

Children learn how to problem solve within a specific behavior by observing how parents and other adults do things. Emulating through play is a technique for children to"self-learn."


Color Psychology Pink The color pink represents and promotes

Love - both unconditional love and romantic love. Compassion - Empathy and understanding. Nurturing - Pink is both the giving and the receiving of love,

understanding and respect. Hope - Pink inspires the possibility of a positive outcome. Calming - Pink calms our emotional energies. Non-threatening - Pink lacks any aggression or anger. Affectionate - Pink offers warmth and tenderness to friends and family. Caring - Sensitivity and tender loving care relate to pink’s feminine and intuitive energies. Immature - Pink is the color of the sweet and young.

The representations and effects of the color pink denotes feminine qualities and passiveness.

“Seo Woo and Her Pink Things�, 2007


“Jeeyoo and Her Pink Things”, 2007

“Dayuen and Her Pink Things”, 2007

All Photographs are from “The Pink and Blue Project” by JeongMee Yoon/ Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Jenkins Johnson Gallery


Blue The color blue represents and promotes:

Stability - associated with depth, expertise and stability. Dark

blue especially is a preferred color for corporate America. Security - symbolizes security and confidence from knowledge and power Wisdom - associated with knowledge, intelligence wisdom and power. Responsible - reliable because it exhibits inner security and confidence. Honesty - Blue is the color of truth. Authority - The darker the color blue, the more authority it has. Trust - blue is associated with sincerity and stability, trust and loyaltywhich are the core elements to trust. Peace - Blue is a calming color to both mind and body, promoting relaxation. Conservative: The color blue is a safe colour - the most universally liked colour of all. Predictable: Blue is not impulsive or spontaneous, blue needs to analyze and think things through, and to work to a plan. Orderly: Blue needs to have direction & order- untidiness and unpredictability overwhelms it. Blue likes familiarity and rigidness. It doesn’t like change and will stubbornly do things its own way, even if there is a better way.

The representations and effects of the color blue denotes masculine qualities and assertiveness.


“Cole and His Blue Things�, 2006

“Kihun and His Blue Things”, 2006

“Jake and His Blue Things”, 2007 All Photographs are from “The Pink and Blue Project” by JeongMee Yoon/ Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Jenkins Johnson Gallery


History of the Gendered Distribution of the Color of Pink and Blue From Jo B. Paoletti, a historian at the University of Maryland and author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From the Boys in America

Pink and blue, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I. For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago. Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers. Although we are not quite sure why the colors have reversed, Paoletti argues that the rule we use today may reflect the influence of French fashion. Traditional French culture paired pink with girls and blue with boys (while Belgian and Catholic German culture used the opposite), and because France set the fashion in the 20th century, their tradition held sway. There have been some studies that suggest that women just “naturally” like pink better, and that blue is a color that men prefer innately, although there is little evidence for this.


(Bottom) In 1925. Characters in The Great Gatsby speculate about Gatsby’s past: “An Oxford man! ... Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit.” (Top) This was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1884 at 2.5 years old. During that time, this outfit was considered gender neutral.

Interview with Experts 1. What are are some of the earliest ways children can be affected by their gender stereotypes?

Ashleigh Collins Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education and Kindergarten/First Grade teacher at The Marymount School, NYC Ashleigh has received a Master's in Elementary Curriculum and Instruction at the University of NevadaLas Vegas and recently completed a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education at NYU. She has previous working experiece in conducted early childhood education, youth development, and after school program evaluation research with a Washington, D.C.-based, independent research organization, Child Trends. Ashleigh has a lot of teaching experience at many places such as Teach for America in Las Vegas, Nevada, National Institute of Health-funded longitudinal research program, NYU, Brooklyn College, Teach for America corps at the Los Angeles and Phoenix Institutes, and is now teaching kindergarten and first grade in the Marymount School.

AC: It is difficult to parse out exactly what influences children's early gender stereotypes. But we do know that parents treat children of different genders differently. Everything from outfitting their bedroom in certain colors, stuffed animals, toys, and themes to expecting their boys to be tough and resilient in the face of challenges/falls and their girls to be delicate and in need of protection. There is also the belief that the gap between girls and boys in STEM may have to do with gender-related parental expectations and parental beliefs about the interests of girls and boys (i.e., boys want to build, play with Legos, and in turn they develop the problem-solving skills that girls may not develop if parents are pushing dolls and other "cutesy" toys their way). 2. At what age do children start to like imitating/emulating adult behavior, and why do they like to do it? AC: Children imitate behavior because they are stretching what they are capable of doing independently by trying out/problem-solving something observed by an adult or more capable child. 3. At what age do children start to think that pretend play is boring/ pointless, and would like to move on to do the actual thing? AC: Around 7 and 8 years old, during Piaget's concrete developmental stage, children seem to be more into checking out the real thing. You will see that start to happen when they are 6 or if they have older siblings, but usually it's around that 7 and 8 year old range.


4. At the age range of 3 - 5 years old, what are some products or activities that are most appealing/exciting to children? AC: They usually like moving--running, skipping, hopping (once they've mastered that), dancing, etc. They are into make-believe (i.e., dressing up, playing "house," dramatic play). They like to use their hands to build things with blocks or Legos (the older they are and the better with their fine motor skills the smaller the building pieces can become) or play with different textures (i.e., you'll often find a sand and water table in preschool or kindergarten classrooms for this reason). 5. Would you consider toys and children's products to be somewhat influential to imposing idea of gender stereotypes on children? What are some of the specifics that have the most influence? AC: Color and "cute factor" has seemed to attract our young girls to certain toys in the classroom. For example, we have a new Legos set that includes turquoise, purple, and pink legos among others, and when the school year began, you heard some girls excitedly sitting down as they commented on the girl. They also play with Bee-Bots in the science lab, and they seem to love programming them because they are small and cute looking. In kindergarten and preschool for that matter, you will find kids copying other kids as a way of demonstrating that they like what the other is doing. So in that vein perhaps in some degree peers could/can influence children's toy preferences.


“We do know that parents treat children of different genders differently. Everything from outfitting their bedroom in certain colors, stuffed animals, toys, and themes to expecting their boys to be tough and resilient in the face of challenges/ falls and their girls to be delicate and in need of protection.�

6. Is there a defined term/area of study that shows that pretend play might be detrimental to children because they do not understand the consequences of the actions that they are imitating? AC: It might be interesting to check out the philosophy behind Montessori education, because they believe that children should be left to investigate their world independently. Traditionally, they exposed children, at young ages, to the "real thing," including glass cups, bowls, real silverware, etc. Supporters believe children's exposure to these real world items allows them to problem solve and independently "master" their use. But there are dissenters who argue to this question’s point that you are putting young children, who can drop glass dishes/ cups and harm themselves with silverware. There is also a lot of research on how video game pretend play can be detrimental to children because of their exposure to violence and/or their disconnection between the real and virtual worlds. 7. Childhood today is very different from childhood in previous generations. What are some of the things that we as adults might not be aware of about children today in terms of the way they learn through playing? AC: Many are concerned about children's significant dependence on technology. Some argue that technology has allowed children to receive instant gratification in a way that is causing them to have little patience for attending to tasks that require more concentrated thinking. In short, the face-paced lifestyle facilitated by technology is shorten children's attention spans and resulting in teachers, for example, to think creatively to garner and maintain children's attention.

“In kindergarten and preschool, you will find kids copying other kids as a way of demonstrating that they like what the other is doing. So perhaps in some degree peers could/can influence children’s toy preferences.”


Age Range Toys are important tools that support physical and cognitive growth. In order to offer stimulating and appealing toys, we must take into consideration the development, interests, and social influences at various ages and stages of child growth for safe product use. In this diagram, I have mapped out the age range in relation to the fuctionalities of toy products as well as gender development in order to determine my target age group.

7 Months

Infants can begin to tell the difference between male and female voices.

12 Months

Infants can begin to tell the difference between male and female faces.

2 Years

Begin to use gender stereotypes in their play. Begin to become attracted to gendered toys. Parents also may treat their children differently based on gender.

Target Age Group

2-3 Years

Begin to develop "Gender Identity". Begin to label themselves and others as male or female.

3-4 Years

Begin to use gender typing. Putting things in categories. Starts associating certain traits and products as "male" and "female".

Development Age/Years

Toys 6-9 Months

rubber or plastic keys and rings, plush and stuffed toys and dolls, textured geometric shapes, squeeze toys


1 9-12 Months

musical and chiming toys, plastic, paperboard and cloth books, push/pull toys, nesting/ stacking toys

2 12-18 Months

Shape sorters water toys, small vehicle toys, trains without tracks, simple role- playing toys (i.e toy phones, kitchen/ cooking sets, push lawnpowers, brooms)

18-24 Months

toys for sand and water, puzzles with insert frames, rocking and ride on toys, stacking and simple interlocking blocks, baby dolls with simple accessories

3 2-3 years

Strollers and baby buggies for dolls, shopping carts, outdoor play houses and slides, 4-12 piece puzzles with insert frames

3-4 Years

Tricycles, bicycles, doll houses with furniture, doll clothing, doctor kits, soap bubbles, action figures, card and board games without strategies, computer toys, small vehicles with realistic detail, trains with tracks, costumes and dress up accessories

4-6 years

Begin to understand and use "gender scripts." Putting events or activities in groups related to gender. Ex. a person putting on make-up has to be a female. That child may also think that only males lift weights, so everyone lifting weights must be a male.

4 4-5 Years


15-20 piece puzzles, building/construction sets with interlocking systems, colouring books, arts and craft, waterguns, remote controlled vehicles and vehicles with moving/ electronic features, sports and recreational toys

6-7 years

Most children understand and believe that a person's gender is constant. They know it will not change throughout life. Most children this age also know that a man is still a man, even if he dresses like a woman.

6 5-6 Years

Sports equipment toys, scooters, mechanical/ electrical powered vehicles/machines, spelling and math games, puppet theaters, painting and craft sets

7 7-8 Years

Strategic Board and card games, electronic and computer games, jump ropes, flying discs, magic kits, construction kits, clay and crafts for modeling, sewing /bead/ needle crafts


Motor and Cognitive Skills 3 Years Pretend Children at this age are entering the time of peak Skills pretend play, and like to use replica objects as the actors in themes they sequence. A doll, for example, might be prepared to attend a birthday party with her doll friends, and they will drive in a car, eat food, and play chase or dance at the party.

Drama and pretend play becomes more complex by introducing inventions of complex and dramatic make-believe scenarios. They can build upon each other's play themes, create and coordinate several roles in an elaborate scenario, and better understand story lines.

Real vs. Realistic props (like a realistic toy telephone) enhance Fantasy pretend play at this age, but these children also start to use objects that are unlike the real item as a representation, so they might use a shoe as a pillow. They show greater interest in structured games.

Many of these children still have difficulty understanding the differences between fantasy and reality. For example, children of this age may believe that monsters are real. They enjoy stepping into roles of power, like a parent, doctor, policeman, lion, or superhero, which helps them to better understand these roles, to make them less scary, or to fulfill wishes and express a broad range of emotions.



4 - 5 Years

Television characters, especially gentle, cartoonish characters are important at this age because children use these characters as safe playmates.

Gentle television characters begin to lose their popularity as superheroes and other more actionoriented characters begin to replace them. Toys that are based on popular programs let children share roles with other viewers of the same program to create a ready made play script.

3 Years

4 - 5 Years

Motor Skills

Children progress considerably in their gross-motor skills. They now have the fine-motor skills to take on the challenge of more complex construction play, piecing together smaller puzzle pieces, cutting, pasting, and other art activities.

As their cognitive and fine-motor skills improve, they begin to desire objects with more realistic detail, yet they still are not very concerned about mirroring reality.

Making Skills

Children at this age are still interested in different ways of manipulating a given art medium and learning about its properties, rather than creating a finished product. They start using lines to represent boundaries; and this fosters the ability to draw simple drawings.

They are much more able to cut with scissors, paste, trace, draw, color, and string beads than 3-year-olds. They also have enough dexterity and coordination to start using a computer keyboard.


Gender preferences also become more evident. Girls typically choose dolls, household props, dress-up activities, and art materials, while boys tend to play more with blocks and small vehicle toys, and will engage in more aggressive or rough-and-tumble play.


Ergonomics Average Hand Size of 4 year old (Life Scale)

This is the mean average measurements of a hand of a 4 year old. Typically a child’s hand grows 0.3-0.5 inches larger within 2 years. So from ages 3-5, this diagram shows the average hand size of my users.

in 1.6



Hand Mapping

Henry Dreyfuss Human Factors: The Measure of Toddlers 3 years

4 years

5 years


Handle Grasp: 0.5 in - 0.75 in thickness Weight of Pieces of toys: 6-10 ounces


Toy Studies When studying and analyzing toys, it is important to define the primary emphasis and characteristics of the toy in order to determine an appropriate age group and the purpose of the toy.

Primary Characteristics of Toys

Size/Shape of Parts

Number of Parts

Realism of Detail

Interlocking/Loose Parts




Motor Skills

(dimension/scale and roundness)

(Maintaining appeal with consumers over generations)

Cause & Effect

(Toys that respond to actions through lights, sounds, movement or change in property.)

(Control of the hands and fingers, hand/eye coordination)

Sensory Elements

(lights, sounds, texture, smell, taste)

Robotic/Smart Features

(Toys powered by remote control or computer chips)


(market specifically for academic gain)


Toy Studies Pretend Play with Tools and Props

Tools and props for pretend and role-play start to appeal to children about 12 months old. This is about the time when they figure out that many objects can be used to imitate adults and older peers. By age 3, children are performing simple dramatic scenes and stories. Many of the simpler toys in this subcategory may also be found in the Early Exploratory/Practice Play category, where children of younger ages use such toys.

Primary Emphasis:

3 Years

4-5 Years

Size of Toys & Parts

Size fits pincer or full hand grip (handle 0.5 in thick) Weighs no more that 6-8 ounces if need to pick up

Size fits pincer or full hand grip (handle 0.75 in thick) Weighs no more than 10 ounces if need to pick up

Shape of Parts

Will not easily break or pull apart into small pieces Somewhat thick, round edges (no sharp edges)


Number of Parts

2-10 pieces


Interlocking/Loose Parts Simple interlocking loose parts



Easily Cleaned, Mostly Plastic


Motor Skills Required

Moderate degree of fine-motor dexerity & control

Moderate degree of dexerity, strength, and grossmotor skills


Rich, vibrant colors Realistic (Ex. black, white, beige, grey)


Cause and Effect

Moderate level of complexity in cause and effect fuctionality (pushing, produces sounds, lights, actions)

Moderate to high level of complexity in cause and effect fuctionality

Level of Realism/Detail

Moderate level of realistic detail

Moderate to highly realistic level of detail and function

Greater ability to pretend, more increasingly complex symbolic transformations, low to moderate problemsolving abilities, some partner or group interactions

Develop richer symbolic meanings, moderate problem solving abilities, extensive partner or group interactions

Relevant Play/Behavior


Toy Studies Blocks

Construction play contributes to learning, development, and increases the competency of the child. Construction play can be characterized by the lack of a single organizational format; the materials largely determine the organization of the play. True construction play generally begins in early childhood around 2 years of age and continues into adulthood. Younger children advance from simply handling objects and materials to actively using them for constructing or building with a preconceived plan in mind. They begin to manipulate objects with the intention of creating something, such as towers or houses. Most block sets are appropriate for children 19 months and older, with the materials differing most notably in size and weight.

Primary Emphasis:

3 Years

4-5 Years

Basic unit block = 3.5 in square x 1.5 in thickness Other blocks in set tend to be multiples or fractions of basic units

Variety in size, length and blocks

Unit, double and quadruple units Wedges, triangles, cylinders, half rounds, simple geometric forms

Most specialized forms (arcs)

Number of Parts

60-80 pieces

80-100 pieces


Hard or soft wood


Motor Skills Required

Fine-motor skills needed to handle heavier blocks


No color (blocks only varnished)


Level of Realism/Detail

No color or complex structures


Relevant play/Behavior

More advanced construction than 2 year olds Even more progressed structures Analyze component parts of what they want to build Dramatic story lines added to constructions. Visualize parts in relationship to the others Loose parts combined with blocks Work through problems of size, volume, space & weight

Size of Toys & Parts

Shape of Parts

Arm and Body Coordination



market research


Precedents Pretend Toys






Toys that Challenge Gender Stereotypes

Goldie Blox

Toys, games and entertainment for girls, designed to develop early interest in engineering and confidence in problemsolving.

Blink Blink

Project kits that teach girls basic circuit theory, design thinking, and engineering logic as they light up the world around them with interactive art, crafts, and wearables.

WPS Barber Shop Salon Hairstyle Play Set Kit

Set of nine hairstyling tools that gives boy to role as a barber. Encourages boys to play with pretend beauty tools.


Precedents Building Blocks


Precedents Mechanical Toys


Inspiration Designer Toys


Toy Fair NY 2016 Research and observation of a variety of the most recent chidrens toys in the market that relate to pretend play, making and building. Exhibited toys are open to the trade for the upcoming year.


expert engagement


Survey for Parents taken from a survey of 20 parents with children ages 3-6. Percentage is rounded up to the nearest whole number.

Analyzing Toys How do you store toys at home?

Reasons why toys at home get damaged 79% Dropped or thrown

??? 63%



Water Contact

80% Plastic Bins/ Storage Boxes


What happens to toys when its not fun anymore? 60%



Designated Play Area 40% 15%

Donate to Charity Conclusion:

Donate to friend

Keep for other child

Throw away because damaged


95% would NOT discard a toy if still in good condition.


20% On the Shelf

Many of which required stackability for storing

Analyzing Children Kids vs Adults

Who gets to make purchase decisions?



of kids like to play with Moving Analog Toys

80% of the

time its a mutual decision. Generally, Kids have more influence.

like to play with others rather than by themselves

25% 2 - 12 months

How long does your child on average stay interested in a toy?



> 1 year

1-2 Months

< 2 Weeks



2-4 Weeks


Analyzing Parents Would you buy a toy as a gift for another personâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; s child?

What Infuences a toy purchase?

95% said YES


85 % said Price


53 % said Material


53 % said Longevity of interest

Average Price Point spent on a set of toys

$30- $80


If there are two versions of the same toy one being gendered and the other being more neutral...


would buy


Why Gendered? Would you buy a replacement for a missing/broken toy piece or buy a new toy?


45% Buy New

My kids like the gendered one more. Seems to be more appropriate for them.

55% Replace

Never really thought about it.

Comments from Parents “The best toys are good at presenting learning “Durability is my priority.”

concepts as play.”

“I would consider buying any toy as long as it is not super

noisy to disturb me and isn’t

messy to dirty up my home.”

“It is important that it is safe,

interesting, good replay value, and not annoying to parents.” “I generally like toys that have good

price for good play value, as well as something that is educational.”

“Don’t make it too

big and disruptive. Make it have replay value and durable.” “ I would be interested in a toy that helps kids develop their

logical thinking ability.” 49

Case Study BlinkBlink

is a series of Creative Circuit Kits that provide all the necessary tools for kids to make their own arts, crafts, and fashion projects with technology, specifically focusing on girls & their beautifully inspired and uninhibited creativity. By providing an inviting avenue to explore technology, BlinkBlink teaches girls basic circuit theory, design thinking, and engineering logic as they light up the world around them with interactive art, crafts, and wearables.


1. What inspired you to create a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) toy for girls? NM: As creative technologists, my co-founder Joselyn and I always wished there were more women in the field of technology. We met an assortment of women that were engineering incredibly beautiful art and fashion pieces with nontraditional technology and electronic materials. Instead of wires and breadboards, they were using “eTextiles” such as conductive thread,conductive fabrics and sewable electronics. Their pieces were stunning and required a great deal of technical engineering. Joselyn and I both had the same thought: We wish we had come across this type of creative technology when we were younger! We pictured all the ways we would have enjoyed adding lights and electronics to our DIY arts, crafts and fashion projects.

Nicole Messier

Co-Founder and CEO of BlinkBlink An aerospace engineer turned crafty circuit extraordinaire, Nicole Messier set out to design an experience for young girls to explore making and crafting with technology and art. During her studies as an MFA Design & Technology candidate at Parsons School of Design, she fell in love with all things code, wearable tech, and creative circuits and knew this could be a way to get girls excited about STEM. Nicole is also an avid educator; she is faculty at Parsons School for Design and has taught numerous creative circuit and code workshops across the country.

2. What are some of the things you’ve learned through product user testing with kids? NM: We all have a workflow. Ours often syncs with our design process. When you’re co-designing with your users, you’ll have to jump ship from your process sometimes. During a BlinkBlink workshop, we intended to explore paper circuits; however, our workshop plans were thrown out the window when girls started creating sculptures with the paper circuit materials. We were blown away — what they were creating was way more imaginative than our plan, so we decided to just go with it. When user testing, be open to spontaneous exploration. You and your users may come up with your best ideas together. Co-designing your product is the best way to get to know your user and build a product that is designed to truly meet their needs. Working with your users, in an intentional and empathetic way is rewarding for you, your team, and your users as well. 51

5. Is there a reason why BlinkBlink is designed to target young girls and not for all genders? NM: When you’re designing something for girls, everyone has an opinion on what not to do. “Don’t make it too girly.” “Don’t make it pink.” “Girls like X.” We always listen to feedback, but we don’t always agree. When you’re designing a product, you receive a lot of opinions from people you interact with. Often, they aren’t coming from your end user. Learn how to know what’s good advice and what is not — our rule of thumb is to typically stick to what our users say they want or what we observe. If we didn’t know how to sort the useful feedback from the not-useful, our brand and product would have suffered; the blink blink color identity would be safe (read: boring), and our branding would not be the fun, spunky and crafty aesthetic that girls have helped us create. This is especially important when it invites girls to occupy a space that is potentially intimidating because it is already largely occupied by men. There are a ton of electronic toys on the market. They don’t say that they’re designed for boys, but they typically have imagery that is catered for boys, that represents boys on the packaging. No products — especially children’s toys — should not be gendered, but until male is no longer the implicit default, there need to be other, more welcoming avenues for girls to explore the world of technology. By co-designing with the girls, I am inviting girls to the table. I know first hand that I lacked role models at school. While this is neither the sole nor the first product designed specifically to get girls into STEM, there should be a lot of toys, a lot of avenues for girls to explore technology.


“They don’t say that they’re designed for boys, but typically have imagery that is catered towards boys, that represents boys on the packaging.”

Toy Safety Regulations Resources:

Other General Requirements relevent to minimaker:

US Consumer Product Safety Commision (CPSC) Toy Industry Association Inc. EU- Mandated Harmonised Standards on the Safety of Toys Possible Concerns:

● Choking Hazard All the parts of minimaker are larger than 1.5 x 1.5, enough for prevention of choking.

● Risk of Injury minimaker’s blade will stop spinning when touched, RPM is 45, which not enough force to send objects flying.

● Laceration Hazard All parts of minimaker have rounded edges. Form of blade is designed with no undercuts, therefore will not be able to catch onto things or chip off.

● Strangulation Hazard minimaker’s pull string is 7 inches, which falls under the length requirements for prevention of stangulation.

Folding and Sliding mechanisms: 1. must have one main locking device. Toy shall not collapse nor shall the locking device fail or disengage 3. Should have a clearance of 12mm or more between moving parts which constitute a scissor- like action Hinges: 1. Toys having two parts joined by means of one or more hinges and wih a space between the assembled edges alon the hinge line, shall be so constructed that this spcace with the parts in any position shall also allow a 12mm diameter rod to be inserted iif it allows a 5mm diameter rod to be inserted Springs: 1. Spiral spring shall not be accessible of the gap between two consecutive spirals is greater than 3mm in any position of use. Projectile Toys with Stored Energy: 1. Maximum kinetic energy of projectiles shall not exceed 0.08 J for rigid projectiles without resilient impact surface, 2. for projectiles in the form of arrows whose maximum kinetic energy exceeds 0.08J, their impact surface shall be protected by a resilient material (ex. rubber). the maximum kinetic energy per unit area of the resilient impact surface shall not exceed 0.16 J/cm2 Cords: 1. The length of cord should not exceed 8 inches. 2. Cords connected to a self retraction mechanism and cords shall have an average crosssectional diameter of 1.5 mm or more when measured. Wind toys: 1, The A-weighted time-averaged emmision sound pressure level shall not exceed 85 dB - 110 dB .


Mechanism and Engineering Kinetic Powered Mechanical toys:

Trigger → Wound a Spring → Store Energy → Power the Toy Step 1: Trigger

Step 2: Wound a Spring / Store Energy

Mechanisms for converting motion:

Hand powered toys usually uses spring or elastic bands to store energy.

Hank Crank - ususally connect to gears, springs, and cams. A lever attached to a rotating shaft, a simple wheel and axel machine. Wind Up Key - Similar to a hand crank, except the trigger is directly connected to the rotating shaft. Pulling String - a pullback windup type spring drive unit. After pulling the string, a driving spiral spring is charged Various motions of the toy are thereafter actuated by the energy charged in the driving spiral spring.

A spring is an energy storing device, since a spring has the ability to do work. Springs can store elastic energy, so if we push or jump on it, it will return to its original state. Types of Springs: Compression Springs - springs that keep things open/can be pressed down Example: retractable pens Spiral Spring (Constant force spring) spring that constantly want to return to their rolled up state, and will provide a consistent pull force in that direction. Example: tape measures. Spring’s Stiffness - force it takes to to squish a spring Stiffness (k) = force (f) / Squish distance (x) Energy (E) = 1/2 x stiffness (k) x distance


Applied energy

Spring contracts to store energy

Step 3: Power the Toy A steel coil is wound up with a key and then released. A balance wheel is used to control the speed of release and ensure that the rate of relaxation is uniform. This results in a consistent release of energy. Cogwheels are used to convert the energy into movement.

Disassembly Exterior Casing:

Moving Parts

PET Plastic Ribs Bosses Lip and Groove


Some wind up toys use friction to make them move. A central wheel (the friction wheel) is wound up by pushing the rear wheels of the toy backwards or forwards against a flat surface. When the toy is placed on the ground the friction wheel provides momentum to the other wheels to move the toy.

Interior Casing Gears Wind



design development




Design Inspiration








Collaborative Critique + Discussions


Sketch Models



Previous Iteration


Color Palette minimaker's color palette incorporates basic colors on natural textures of wood. The colors of minimaker, blocks, and accessories helps children indicate how to use things properly by color coordination and recognition of different zones.

Table + Blades Birch Wood Grey and Yellow Details Red details to signify alert/ danger zones

Green/Miter Gauge

Blue/Fence + Pushstick

Orange/ V-Block

Purple/ Sled


Form Studies Fence


Miter Gauge



Hardware Research Possible hardware mechanisms that are considered: Touch Latch

Turn Lock

Piano Hinge

Toggle Latch

Window Lock

Pull to Open Latch

Butler Hinge

Ball End Spring Loaded Bullet Catch

Solid Surface Snaps

Fabric Hinge

Seat Belt Latch

Used in cupboards and drawers Invisible, opens and closed by tapping

Used in utility boxes that opens on one side Secure Closure but might require finer motor skills

Used in furniture (flip open tables) Usually Left Exposed

Barrel Hinge

Used in smaller boxes like wedding ring box Very Small

A turning mechanism that only turns 90° and will release when the turn aligns with the hole

Twist to loosen and tighten

spring-loaded to apply pressure against the strike to keep door closed. Good for 2 door designs

Used for books, but also on certain boxes, ipad cases, and furniture. Seamless.

Long Hinge full range of motion of 270°

Used in suitcases and cases

Similar to fabric snaps but the male half is tapped or screwed into hard surfaces

A latch that clicks when fastened, and released with a button.


Materials Birch Wood The exterior shell of tablesaw is made of wood. Wood toys last longer than their plastic counterparts and therefore prolongs the life of the toy. The wood shell also reduces the amount of plastic that is used in most children's toys, and elevates the quality of the product. The wood exterior also retains the realistic characteristics of a real tablesaw, which has a wooden tabletop. Wood toys are less conventional than plastic toys, and gives children the opportunity to learn materials and textures by touching and exploring.

Polystyrene (PS) The interior casing that houses the mechanical conponents are made of polystyrene. Polystyrene is cheap to produce and easy to injection mold. The interior casing is not frequently opened and closed, therefore it is not necessary to use high quality plastics. The interior casing is injection molded plastic because it is the most practical way of making a two part case that fits within each other through a lip and groove, and can be opened and closed securely with screws.

Thermoplastic Polyurathane (TPU) The saw blade is made of Thermoplastic Polyurathane. TPU is a flexible plastic that is more rigid and cheaper to produce than silicone. This ensures that the blade is not dangerous for children when spinning.


Ash Wood The building blocks are made of Ash Wood. Ash grows locally in the Eastern US. It is light-colored The wood is generally straightgrained with a coarse uniform texture. Ash machines well, is good in nailing, screwing and gluing, and can be stained to a very good finish. It dries fairly easily with minimal degrade, and there is little movement in performance. Ash has very good overall strength properties relative to its weight. It has excellent shock resistance and is widespread and readily available for purchase.

Acrylic Latex Paint The painted details on the blocks are painted with Acrylic Latex paint. Despite the name, there is no actual latex in the paint. It is typically used for painting interior walls. This water based paint absorbs well with wood and is durable. It is less harmful than oil based paints.

Polypropylene (PP) The accessories and moving parts of tablesaw are made of polypropylene. These parts are made of polypropylene because of its high quality feel and its high impact resistance. Polyproplene is also a somewhat flexible rigid material. This prevents breaking and chipping of the parts that are more likely to be abused. Prevention from breaking also prevents broken parts from potentially becoming a choking hazard. Due to the all-around rounded design of the toy parts, Injection molded plastic would also be the most practical and economical for manufacturing. Co-injection moulding allows part with different colors to be produced in one process.





minimaker Final Design

Flexible “Blade”

Grooves Birch Wood Exterior

Rotating Latch

Handle As Support Pull String Trigger Dovetail Groove


Touch latch Storage Cabinet

handle lays flat for easy stacking




User Testing The goals for the first iteration of user testing was to test out the ergonomics of the toys in relation to the toddler's hands, assessing their motor skills, their preferences in patterns and colors.

User: Logan Age: 3.5 Years Gender: Female Familiarization with tablesaws/woodworking: None

Logan liked the magnetic blocks but when disassembled, she had trouble putting it back together because she didnt know which side was magnetized.

Logan was not sure how to play with the tablesaw because she has never seen one and is not familiar to it, and neither were her parents.


Logan had a hard time to push blocks through saw and split the blocks because she lacked fine motor skills. She also did not have enough strength to push the sled properly.

Logan liked the solid colored blocks most, followed by the framed. She was not attracted to the hatched probably due to its complexity.

Logan could not pick up the handle for folding table, even after a few demonstrations. Notes on improvements after user testing: •The handle of the tablesaw needs to be less complex the the child to hold. •There needs to be an indication of which magnets match up to which side. •tablesaw wheel must not have too much friction, or else children do not have enough strength to push the blocks through. •Reconsideration of target age range. 79

How it Works

When pulling the trigger to its longest state, the blade will spin long enough (11 seconds) to make one â&#x20AC;&#x153;cut.â&#x20AC;? This design is to emulate the repetitive action of using a tablesaw.

There is a gear attached to the spring steel mechanism, and another gear attached to the center of the blade. When lid is open, the springs will push up the blade so that the two gears will align on top of each other, enabling the blade to spin along with the mechanism. The gear of the blade is smaller than the gear attached to the spring steel, in order to generate more rotations per minute in one pull.


Section View The blade of minimaker is spring loaded. It recesses into the body when closed and pops up when opened. Gears click in place when opened, and a spring steel powers the gears to rotate.

Blade Opening Pull String Spring Steel


Blade and Spring Mount


5 Inch, 1.4 inch compressed

Closed View


User Scenario 3.




minimaker aims to provide children with an engaging play experience, while still being compact and non-disruptive for parents and others.





Through simple motions, minimaker lets children build anything of their choice by using simple geometric shapes. It can also be incorporated with other toys.



Modular Blocks Tablesaw Accessories are essential for cutting a specific type of shape. minimaker is color coded according to which accessory is appropriate for what type of shape is being cut. More detailed information are provided inside the minimaker manual.

Angled Cut

Rip Cut

(Along Wood Grain)

The Blocks are magnetic, and contains hidden magnets at the the increment of 1 inch. Each block has a positive magnet of one side, and a negative magnet of the other.

Cylindrical Cut

1/8 inch chamfer on both sides

Cross Cut

(Against Wood Grain)

Blade Width: 1/4 inch Registration Mark for cutting


Dimensions Design Control Drawings 3.00 4.00



























Fillet 0.25





25 1. 0.50 1.25

0.2 2.50


TOP 5.50 2.00

0.25 1.00

0.50 0.30






0 0.5

0.125 Radius all around


0 1.5

0.125 radius all around




R0 .80



1.88 3.33




.2 5





0.125 radius all around

5.00 5.00





0.50 3.00












Dia. 0.5



0 0.5

0.5 0





Instruction Booklet The mimimaker manual is an instruction booklet included with minimaker, that has guidelines for how to properly use a tablesaw, the accessories, and sample making projects.


Selected Content safety first!



open minimaker




wear safety goggles

do not touch the danger zone

us +p

use a pushstick

Twist the latch downward to open Before using minimaker, always minimaker, and twist the latch put on the safety goggles first! upward to close it.

Beware and do not touch the area that is red. The red color means that the area is dangerous.

ta rec

When using a fence, or when your hand is getting too close to the danger zone, use a pushstick to push your block through the blade. es

Step 2: Pull the handle

Step 3: Cut


Step 4: Make ge au rg

Pull the green handle and let go to start the blade.

Using the accessory, cut the blocks on the colored edge.



li cy



Choose an appropriate accessory that is the same color as the blocks you want to cut.



b cu

how to play Step 1: Choose Accessoryy





Use your cut blocks to build something!



d we



the bigger picture




Process Tree minimaker + blocks


Forest Ash Tree

Oil and Natural Gas Extraction

Resaw into Lumber


Resaw and Plane Lumber


Cut to dimension/stock Supply PP Preform Cut/turn to shape

Cut miter joints

Manufacture tooling cavity

Chamfer Edges



Assemble wood casing


Drill holes and Place Magnets Close hole with wooden pin

Attach Mechanical casing

Dwelling (Pressurize)

Sand and finish

Attach “Blade”

Cooled and Released from Mold

Extrude cast 1/32” Acrylic Make Die Die Cut Acrylic

Assemble Lens Assemble Hinges

Assemble latch/handle/ closures and hinges Paint Wax Package Shipped 95

Cost Analysis

Overall Breakdown (PER PIECE for batch production of 2000 quantities) Manufacturing Item Material Amount Mat. Cost Process

Overall (Not including Labor)


Birch Wood, Paint

4 ft by 1 in


Resaw, Milling, Paint




4.16 in3


Injection Mould



Injection Mould



Plastic Casing PS





7 pieces


Spring Steel, PS, PE, String


Inj. Mould, Assembled



3.73 in3

Injection Mould




9.75 in3

Injection Mould


Miter Gauge


Injection Mould




12.95 in3

Injection Mould


Push Stick


2.66 in3

Injection Mould



PP, Acrylic

3.1 in3




Ash Wood, Paint

2 x 2 x 11 in

Resaw, Milling, Paint



Ash Wood, Paint

1 x 4 x 6 in

Resaw, Milling, Paint



Ash Wood, Paint

2 ø x 12 in

Resaw, Turning, Paint



Ash Wood, Paint

1.25 ø x 12 in

Resaw, Turning, Paint


2.2 x 2.2 x 7in

Resaw, Turning, Paint




Block/Wedge Ash Wood, Paint




Magnet 1/4”

10 per stock



1.2 in3



$7.53 Yes


Inj. Mould, Die Cut






Injection Mould



Hard Wood Cost Comparsion

Price Quote Documentation



Average Net profit of a small manfacturing wood product business

Average Median Salary for fabricator/woodworker


$15.48 an hour

Material Cost

Start Up Tooling Cost

Labor Cost

$61.25 $74.73 (With Blocks)

(Without Blocks)

$30 per minimaker


Market Price (per minimaker set) Price of Production




(15% profit margin)


Final Estimate Market Price




Target Market Market Target Price Point: $90-220


Network Diagram Printing

Motor Skills Testing

Market Research


Safety Testing

Die Cut


Parents Desirability

Developmental Psychologists

Toy Designers


Packaging Friends




Child Education Experts

Electrical Engineer Injection Molding




Mechanical Assembly




Proper use of accessories


Wood Color Coordination

Product Girls Ages 3-5





Boys Ages 3-5


Life Cycle Analysis

1. Raw Material

●Ash Wood ●Birch Wood ●Polystyrene ●Polypropelene ●Thermoplastic

Elastomer ●Neodymium Magnets ●Zinc ●Acrylic Latex ●Paint ●Chipboard ●Paper


2. Manufacture

●Resaw and Mill ●Injection Mould ●Print ●Pre Fabricated (Cold heading, Thread rolling, hardened, coiled, etc)

3. Assembly




fastened ●Packaged



●Deliver to vendors ●Sell to online


5. Use

●Played at home, playdates, schools, etc

6. Maintanence

●Replace missing parts ●Purchase more block options

7. Discard/ Repurpose

1. Donated or given 2. Recycle ●PP Accessories ●Wooden Blocks 3. Discarded in Landfill ●Exterior and Interior Casing

Triple Bottom Line

P is for

minimaker is made of quality materials that is long lasting, therefore prolonging the products lifespan and reducing waste. It is also a classic toy that could be passed down to other children of all genders.

minimaker is a non-gendered toy. It aims to encourage children of all genders to be able to be a pretend maker and to not feel intimidated by woodworking. It aims to eliminate certain gender stereotypes, and aims to help any child practice recognition, motor skills, mindfulness, safety, and respect towards machines and tools.

minimaker is a hand powered, analog toy that does not run on electricity, therefore reduces energy and electronic waste. minimaker is also partically made of sustainably sourced wood, which minimized the use of synthetically produced materials.




is more than just a childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s toy. It is a tool to help children of all genders discover the endless possibilities of physical making.




Capstone Advisor: Robert Kirkbride Prototyping Advisor: Mike Verbos Digital/ Media Advisor: Robert Ziegler Other Contributors: Ken Stevens Nicole Messier Dave Marin Ashleigh Collins Samir Nandwani Sherry Cui



Sources Intro: Gender Dominated Industries 1. US Department of Labor, " Leading Occupations for Women," Web records ( 2. Catalyst "Top 10 Most Male-Dominated US Occupations", Web Records ( Research: Gendered Marketing 1. The New York Times, "How gender-specific toys can negatively impact a child's development." ( Research: Color Psychology 1. Raetta Parker, The Meaning of Colors, access/content/user/rreagan/Filemanager_Public_Files/meaningofcolors. html, Web 2. Color Meanings, http://www.empower-yourself-with-color-psychology. com/color-blue.html Research: Pretend Play 1. Scolastic Parents, "The Importance of Pretend Play", Web Article ( importance-pretend-play) 2. Bright Horizons Family Solutions, "The Importance of Pretend Play in Child Development", Web Article ( dpuf)

Research: Toy Studies 1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) , “AGE DETERMINATION GUIDELINES: Relating Children’s Ages To Toy Characteristics and Play Behavior”, James A. Therrell, Timothy P Smith. 2002. Research: Ergonomics 1. Computer Mouse Patent information, Web Article Expert Engagement: Mechanism and Engineering 1. Dustyn Roberts, Making Things Move: DIY Mechanisms for Inventors, Hobbyists and Artists, The McGrawHill Companies, Print, 2011 Expert Engagement: Case Study 1. “Blink Blink: Creative Circuits Designed by Girls, for Girls”, http://, Web, 2015 2. “How to Co-Design Products With Your Users”, http://women2. com/2015/07/10/co-design-with-users/#5ZRXZYhT8ImzVPBH.99, Web, 2015 Expert Engagement: Toy Safety Regulations 1. United States Consumer Product Safety Commision, , Web 2.

Research: Age Range 1. Provider-Parent partnerships at Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, "Ages and Statges" ( 2. UL, "Toy Age Grading", Print, 2016


Capstone Project by

Julia Liao

Parsons School of Design

minimaker: research, design and development  

This book documents my entire process for my BFA Product Design senior thesis project at Parsons School of Design.

minimaker: research, design and development  

This book documents my entire process for my BFA Product Design senior thesis project at Parsons School of Design.