{ Designing for Children.  A Process - Oriented Approach } 

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            When it comes to design I personally believe one has to do the ethnography oneself, as much as possible. The points that you notice when you are physically present in front of the sample are so important. There are some things that one can jot down on paper, some expressions could be caught on camera but it takes a human presence to note the ten million things that are happening around the target at the same fraction of a second.
When one personally interacts with the target and designs for him/ her it is easier to transcend into their shoes than to view it from couple of another set of eyes! Information, how much ever carefully documented, lapses when channeled more than once.


            While it may be easier to group adults into 25 to 60 years of age or even larger sets; with children, the sets must be much smaller and has a lot or exceptions in each category.

Hence, one has to choose and design by cognitive ability. Mental schemas, image perspective, attention spans, perceptions are all important things to be considered before designing. While one may be designing for the Preoperational period of a child, it is important to keep in mind that some of the mental skills from the earlier stages may not have developed.

Not just age, but the geographic location from which the target is chosen, their medium of instruction, education boards, peers at school, parent’s education, race, if the child is multi lingual or mono lingual etc., plays a very vital role in sampling the target.

Once our target sample of audience is identified, we must spent time interacting with the kids to better understand their background, abilities in terms of education, cognition and knowledge. This paves a way to an ice breaking session with them so that they get more comfortable around us. We should also interact with their caregivers and other players in their ecosystem who have knowledge based on their day-to-day interactions. Following this, a participatory design session with the children is to be conducted and images on our topic of choice could be asked to be drawn, painted or even made by the children. We can then use design language that the kids provide us for our final design direction.

The various problems that arise for designers around this are the language constraints (not all children are fluent in English) and the pre monitions the children have when we ask them to draw or make something. Like, say a child is trained to draw a certain set of things at school and when we ask him / her to draw her favourite “toy” for example he/ she might draw what they have been trained by their drawing teacher.

One solution that we tried at a school was “dream conceptualization”. We asked the children to close their eyes and dream of playing with “the most beautiful toy in the world” and asked them to draw the same. This helped a bit but there are always hindrances when it comes to the drawing skills of the children.

Key Points to remember while Designing for Children,


            Bright colours will easily capture and hold a child’s attention for long periods of time. Although colour choice is a primary factor in designing anything, this is especially true when designing for children since colors make a big impression on children’s young minds. Colour choices and combinations that would likely be rejected or laughed at when designing a typical product, may be welcomed by children.
So, when designing products aimed at kids, use bright, vivid colours that will visually stimulate in an unforgettable way


            Kids will remember and return to a toy if their experience is a happy one. Elements can be incorporated into the design to ensure that a cheerful, positive mood is presented to the children.


            Images are powerful communication mediums with children. Images don’t just communicate to them a set of instructions but children tend to perceive them as a story. For this reason, one could employ images as part of an effective story telling methodology. Here, children could themselves become the story tellers when adults are not around. They interpret the images in their own ways and create amazing stories to themselves and some of them might even narrate it to their parents.


            One must be minimalistic in ones’ design: This applies to not just children but anyone per say. But, the simplest things can be very confusing to the child. For example, a line around the space to draw an image can constrict a child to draw within the borders and give him a feeling that he is “not supposed” to use the white space around. Children don’t want to do intense reading or research; they want to play and be entertained. Children might need “illustrative” straight forward designs at certain point and the same time some of the larger than life abstractions do the trick.


            Children are stimulated by recognizable elements that they can relate to. Because children’s experiences in life are limited, some of the things they are most familiar with are found in nature. Natural elements such as trees, water, snow, and animals could be used. In many cases, these elements are overemphasized through size or simplicity of design.

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