Unit Archive‎ > ‎

3D Paper Model: Toddler Toy

The design of toys for young children appears deceptively simple.  In fact, there is a wide variety of factors that must be considered in the development of toys, from educational value to safety considerations.  Designers go through a number of stages in the design and creation of toys.  These days, what may begin as simple paper sketch, is further developed using various 3D modeling software, then as a series of paper prototypes on the way to becoming a complete product, ready for mass-production.

Imagine that you are working for a toy company that is planning to expand its range of products into the toddler age range (2-4 years old).  You are to present a concept design and paper model of a product to fit into this new line of toys. 

Situation Specific:
You are to develop a toy concept through to a paper prototype, including a presentation where you will justify the viability of your design in terms of both profitability and appropriateness for the target audience.  It must be safe for children (no sharp edges or toxic materials.) The finished product should be no larger than 15cm x 10cm x 10cm.

Researching and Analysing:
During this phase, we will try to develop a deeper understanding of our target market, analyse a range of existing products and brainstorm ideas for a product of our own.  By the end of this phase, we should have a clear idea what we plan to make, who we plan to make it for and why we feel that this project is worthwhile.

What's out there?
In this section, you will explore the range of existing products in this category.  You will present what you have found in the form of a concept map.  You will write reviews of 3 products that you have found.  These reviews will include some details about why you feel these products are appropriate for the given target audience.

After researching the current market, you will do some brainstorming about what sort of product you would like to develop.  At this point, any idea should be considered a possibility.  We will narrow the list down later.  Try to come up with 10-15 ideas.


Now that we have had some time to reflect on our list, we are ready to narrow ourselves down to the 3 or 4 best ideas that we would like to develop further.  Consider your target audience, costs of manufacture and your own current skill set when choosing what you would like to work on.  For each idea, write what you will make, who it is aimed at and why you feel it is a good choice.  In the next step, we will discuss each idea with our classmates (using Edward DeBono's 6 Thinking Hats as a discussion guide) to help us make our final choice. 

Final Choice and Justification:
Here, you will explain which idea you decided to go with and why you chose that idea over the others.

Design Brief:
You will write a short design brief that explains:
  • What you plan to make;
  • Who you plan to make it for;
  • Why you feel that this is an appropriate toy that is likely to succeed in the marketplace;

This may seem like you are writing the same thing over again, but the idea is not only that you make your explanation more concise at each step, but that you may have modified/improved your idea over the previous few steps of the process.

Guiding Questions:

In this section, you will write a list of questions that will help you plan out your project. The sorts of questions that you will enter here are questions that you would need to answer before you could begin designing and creating.  The answers to these questions will become the list of design specifications that will guide you from here on out. 


In the Designing phase, you will explore and develop a few variations on your project idea and then gather feedback to help you decide which elements will make it to your final Design.  Then, you will present and justify your final design idea.

Design Specifications

Your Design Specifications will outline the requirements for the project.  They will be used to evaluate your final project.  Begin your list by answering your Guiding Questions from the previous phase of the Design Cycle.  Be sure to have another look at the project guidelines.

Variations on a theme

In this section, you will present sketches of 3 or 4 variations of your idea.  You may end up choosing one of these or you may combine elements of each.  What is important is that you are exploring different possibilities.  For each idea, write a brief description that explains what makes this a good design.  Then, you will gather some feedback on each of your ideas to help you choose your final design.  

Final Choice and Justification

Present your final Design idea, including a clear justification as to why you chose this design over the others.  If your final design is made up of elements from several other designs, make reference to each design element in your justification.

Realizing the Solution:

There are 4 main elements to this phase of your project.  You will build a 3D model of your project.  You will construct a 3D paper prototype from your model.  You will present a step-by-step process journal of the work you did.  You will give a 1-minute 'elevator pitch' to present your idea to the group.

You will use Google SketchUp to create a 3D model of your project.  Once complete, you will upload your model to the Google Warehouse to share with the community.  This will allow you to embed your 3D model into your project page.

Paper Prototype
Using the 'unfold' plugin that we installed on Google SketchUp, you will create a net from your model which can be printed on paper or card-stock and folded up again as a proper 3-dimensional model of your product.

Process Journal
If you have done a good job investigating, designing and planning in the previous two phases of your project, this part should be fairly easy.  With any luck, everything will fall into place.  Of course, things don't always go according to plan.  In your process journal, you will document what you did at each step as though you were writing out a set of instructions (think about the projects that we looked at on the Instructables and Makezinewebsites.)  Include any suggestions you have for your readers and be sure to describe and fully justify any changes you made from your original plan from the Designing phase.

Elevator Pitch
You will give a 1-minute presentation to the group where you will explain your idea and justify why our 'company' should go ahead and develop this product for the market.  Your pitch should examine the idea in the context of the appropriate target market.

In this phase, you will summarize and analyze the feedback that you received from classmates, members of your target audience and experts that you consulted along the way.  You will make specific reference back to your Design Specifications to evaluate how effectively your product addresses the specifications in the original plan.  You will discuss 'next steps' for your project, explaining what you would do to improve it if it's development were to continue.  Be sure to justify your ideas with clear arguments based on your research and feedback.  Finally, you will reflect on the quality of your own work through the phases of the Design Cycle.  You will explain where you performed well and where you could have performed better.  You will suggest a specific plan of action for how you will improve the quality of your work in the future.