Stay-at-home dads and the delight of imagination inspire this build-your-own toy set
Colin O’Dowd is a young designer and a young father. Having seen firsthand how dads' roles have evolved in recent times, the Central Saint Martins grad launched a project based on the fact there are more stay-at-home dads now than ever before. Named Stix Toys, the mission is to encourage fathers to share and teach their children in a playful way. Each Stix pack contains small accessories that, after you find a few sticks, can be made into a series of toys. The process inspires a meeting of the minds between father and child, resulting in simple, crafty fun. Stix also emphasizes the re-use of and recycling of everyday objects that might otherwise be considered waste. All explains why O'Dowd earned the runner-up award for Designer of the Year at the New Designers Show in London last year.
"The project was based on my hypothesis that many more dads are now the primary caregivers at home," O'Dowd tells CH. "So how could product design respond to this new phenomena? Initially I was only seeing the problem from the dad's perspective. But after a few weeks of research a pattern started to appear." His research proved that on average "dads were happiest when outside doing activities, they preferred to make up games, they worried about the digitization of their children, and many of them were ex creatives and missed using their creative side. It soon became apparent that I could answer these issues via the children and in effect create a more positive experience for both father and child."
Of course, O'Dowd's own children played a role in the creative process, too. “They were my unofficial product testers!" he says. "Things like working out the size of each component was very important—was it too big to handle for a five-year-old? Was the spring mechanism too stiff for a small child? Probably the most important bit off advice, which came from my son Rudi, was during the packaging design phase. He suggested that it should be packaged in a tube, so you could collect a stick and put it in the tube and make it at home if you wished. He also said that it should have a loop handle so you could carry it or hang it around your scooter handle bars." Smart kid.
O’Dowd is already working on a new series: dinosaurs and jungle animals. "We are also developing a more complex range for older children (eight to 12 years old), that will have more moving elements." Stix Toys are available online for £14.99.