Students Design 22 Playful Wooden Toys For Kids

Though it seems counterintuitive, limitations can be the best thing to happen to the creative process. Narrowing down parameters–think form, function, color, size–often brings focus to an otherwise overwhelming chaos of opportunities around what to do and where to begin.

The Rochester Institute of Technology established the Metaproject Initiative to give students a chance to get to know the properties of a particular material, in the context of a particular project. For the third installment of the series, the task was a playful take on industrial design: To create a “universal toy” out of wood that would be a good fit for the fun-loving, home accessories experts over at Areaware. (Cubebot is one of their best-sellers, so it was a perfect match).

Twenty-two seniors took part in the two-quarter course, during which time they had to come up with a “thoughtful, poetic” curio but also direct and deliver press-quality pics (itself an art) and write-ups. There was an added incentive for students to create awesomeness in their designs: Areaware displayed each piece at last week’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair, in New York, and tapped three selections for commercialization while also putting a handful more in line for future development.

One of the most striking things about viewing the results is how wonderfully simple the concept of “toy” can be. Wood on its own has such a warm, honest feel, but there’s something refreshing about stopping to imagine spending some time with each of these items: Using your hands in new ways; figuring out the various brain teasers and balance tactics; and slowing down to arrange, then rearrange, the various component parts. There are maps and stamps, cars, monsters, and music boxes, each with a twist on tradition. Check out the slide show for the winners, the runner-ups, and the other inspired entries.JK