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Why the Industry Needs a Toy Design Manifesto

An international collective has recently published a book with design guidelines for toy design. It is the first of its kind. Here, the coordinator Luca Fois talks about their mission.

A toy is used by kids but in many cases, it serves adult purposes. The best examples are perhaps teddy bears conducting surveillance on children, or toys designed in mutual colors that reflect the parents’ interior style. For many centuries, this contradiction seemed to be bearable.

Now an international collective – consisting of scientists, journalists, designers and other creatives – intends to change this by putting the childrens’ needs and rights in the center of attention. They created a book with design guidelines under the title “Design Manifesto – 96 theses to design in the best interest of the kid” which is now on sale.

iF Design spoke to the Italian creative advisor Luca Fois who coordinated this project. He considers rethinking toy design as a social innovation and calls for contributions from all over the world.

Why the Industry Needs a Toy Design Manifesto

About Luca Fois

Luca Fois is teaching at Politecnico di Milano and the Co-director of the master program Design for Kids and Toys and the higher education course in Wine & System Design at POLI.design consortium. In addition, he is the co-founder of the brand and network Zona Tortona in Milano. Luca has always been Creative Advisor and holds a background as carpenter-designer and consultant for product development.

iF: Why does the industry need a toys design manifesto?
Luca Fois: Our mission is to recognize design for kids and toys as a culture and a standard method, balancing the needs and wants of the market. You must understand that most products and services for kids are market-oriented and neither design-oriented nor user-oriented. At the same time, parents and caregivers demand more quality of toys, products and services for kids. The manifesto, our international specializing master and all the other activities we have been implementing for quite some time now aim at providing practical design tools for companies and helping parents to select good products.

The manifesto is dedicated to the young generation of designers who stand up for a sustainable design language. What lessons did the initiators learn from previous concepts of toy design?
From Old Masters, such as Bruno Munari, I learned the cultural approach, focusing on the creativity of kids, understanding the principles of their multi-skilling and their intelligence, respecting their unique personalities, and introducing the mix of education and entertainment. Young designers must know this basic knowledge, too. But creating real innovation means that they further need to research current developments while following certain guidelines. It should be the ambition to create not merely a new product but a social innovation that really improves the social and ecological environment.

What are the main accomplishments of the manifesto since it was first presented in 2017 during the Milano Design Week?
In the Design Department of Politecnico di Milano we set up a research laboratory called Creative Industries Lab in which our thoughts and actions come alive through design courses, research and events, international workshops, worldwide ambassador activities of the manifesto and advisory services for companies and institutions. We also have educated several young designers who are now working in the market and providing them new visions. In short, our activities around the manifesto are increasingly highlighting and creating value for the design for kids and toys.

Could you explain in more detail how you recognize that the value of toy design has changed in the industry?
I can see a continuous development of our vision in, for instance, Compasso d’Oro, the famous Italian industrial design award, where new products have been recently selected by whether they are kids-oriented. I also see more and more products well designed for kids in various Chinese awards and universities. Another aspect is the fair sector where the innovative area is becoming richer in good proposals. But still, it’s a long way to go when it comes to rethinking design for kids and toys. It involves a deep change related to cultural and social traditions as well as to business approaches.

What is your advice for young aspiring designers who still fight against old fashioned and strictly profit-oriented design approaches?
Today, innovation means sustainability. In my opinion, the future market is the one that is wise and conscious about the natural and social environment. Many companies have understood that there is both financial and ethical profit. Of course, earning profit is important for most companies. But we have to bear in mind that without a new holistic and systematic approach to the management of natural resources, companies may face new problems and even lose profit. So, I recommend young designers to be courageous and creative in this direction.

Why the Industry Needs a Toy Design Manifesto


96 thesis to design in the best interest of the kid, published by in riga edizione, 11 May 2020, 141 pages, ISBN: 9788893642514.

(published in October 2020)