A Play Space For Airports That Attaches To Your Luggage

Designed as a student project, the Whaletale unfolds into a comfortable, hygienic blanket for airport floors.

A long wait at an airport can be a drag, with temporary reprieves from interminable boredom offered by tacky stores and overpriced fast food. For parents with young kids in tow, the experience is even more taxing. With few amenities of home, they must keep their patience intact and their little ones entertained. To do so, most parents reject the restrictive seating in favor of the floor, where babies and toddlers can crawl around and play. The problem is that airport carpeting is neither sanitary nor comfortable. The dead-simple yet ingenious solution: The Whaletale mat, a detachable luggage accessory that folds out to create a hygienic space where a parent and two kids can lounge.

The concept is the brainchild of Daye Kim, a student at California College of Arts, who developed the project in response to an assignment on "transformation and transition." That brought her to SFO airport, to interview travelers about how they cope with being in a state of physical transition. "Though many of them gave me great insights, none of the struggles could beat the powerful stories of family travelers and what they have to go through in order to get to their destination," she tells the jury of the Core77 Design Awards, which recently gave her the student prize in its soft-goods category.

From firsthand observations and talking with families, Kim designed an easy-to-clean blanket that could attach to existing wheelie bags; when unfolded, it would provide a sanitary surface for both parent and child, as well as a feeling of discretion. The namesake whale-tail shape came from observing a mother sitting with her legs spread an angle to form a kind of fence to pen in her two children. "Taking the crucial insight to my design direction," Kim writes, "I made the mat into shape of a whale, allowing a parent to sit on the narrow side with legs stretched out, with kids to freely play sitting right in front on the wider part." The final size, she says, is roomy enough for the users without "being invasively big for others at the terminal." She chose waterproof ripstop nylon for the floor side and cozy neoprene for the top.

If that weren’t enough, there’s also a mobile app, to build a community of family travelers who can inform one another on the best locations to set up camp and, no doubt, share their airport frustrations, which even the Whaletale can’t allay.

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9 Comments

  • Ebi Evita

    Hmmm, looks very similar to a design I saw in 2006-7 made by a Notre Dame ID student. Mansour Ourasanah's design is more insightful.

  • bwj

    After using this once and folding it back up, wouldn't it no longer be hygienic?

  • Andrew Williams

    Another Design FAIL!
    It might be an interesting idea in some way but it lacks the insight... what was the problem? what is this solving? what is the value?if the designer would have spend 1 hour going out at and looking at how people travel then he would have realized why this is not innovation.
    days of designing cool useless products are over! lets think and then design!!!

  • Matt

    Another comment fail.

    "That brought him to SFO airport, to interview travelers about how they cope with being in a state of physical transition. 'Though many of them gave me great insights, none of the struggles could beat the powerful stories of family travelers and what they have to go through in order to get to their destination,' "
    He did go out and look at how people travel, even talked to them.  A little quick on the keys are we?

  • psteffek

    a.  Cool idea.
    b.  Haters gonna hate.

    Thankfully some people have the guts to ignore the naysayers and try something new.

    p.s. Yes, I have kids.

  • tcliff1

    I guarantee this designer has children, otherwise they would realize that the rest of us are going to be even more agitated in an airport when the floor is covered in big mats that we all have to navigate. Horrible idea, as a non-parent would say...

  • Erin Schulte

    Who wants to bet this designer does NOT have children? 

    No kid older than 5 months (when they can scoot around on their belly) would stay on that mat for longer than 3 seconds. It's way more fun to find discarded popcorn kernels under the chairs and chew on fellow travelers' shoes. Maybe it could be used as a changing mat. This is the kind of thing they stock at Babies R Us and you think it's a great idea before you have kids. Then after you have them you laugh at yourself and say, "That was the stupidest thing I ever bought." 

    The award really should have gone to the inventor of the much-maligned child leash. Laugh at it all you want (as Modern Family did in a totally spot-on way in the Disneyland episode), but it's something that would at least keep your kid safe from dashing off and getting lost or hurt. It's way more portable, too. 

  • Matt

    I think it would work well.  If you sit with your kids and let them rely on their own devices: then yes they will explore, investigate, wonder off, and seek out that elusive popcorn kernel.  

    The designer explains visually and literally that this is designed for parent-child interaction, where the parent engages the child in play and keeps them occupied and entertained.  Yes it is challenging to handle a kid in an airport; and tablets, phones, and ds' are all enticing to try and snuff a tantrum.  Maybe this will have a social function, entice parents to actually play with their kids... weird concept.

    And to address your leash theory, it is an effective means of short-term control, but long term it doesn't solve the fundamental problems: attention, engagement, interest, and curiosity.