The Kids Are Alright

coverThe latest issue of BRUTUS takes a look at all things children, going as far as including a supplement entitled BRUTUS BAMBINI. They cover pretty much anything that revolves around the world of kids, from toys and clothing, to environment and literature. I was especially struck by the bold use of design in all of these supposed kiddie things. Sure, BRUTUS itself examines things from a design perspective, but it does seem to suggest that raising a child doesn’t mean that you need to crass yourself up with what we now see as the trappings of such an activity — one foot in a Toy’R’Us, and the other in a bedroom filled with things trying oh-so-hard to be adorable. I was quite attracted to the various products being featured, including the richly illustrated children’s books they chose to focus on. Being a kid never looked so enticing!

But this got me wondering: where exactly do a child’s personal tastes/wants fit into all of this? If it’s me who is being wowed by the stylish items on display in that issue of BRUTUS, is it because the makers/creators of said products are aiming their wares at me? Would kids be attracted to these things, as much as I wish they would? I don’t remember having a strong sense of design when I was busy playing with my G.I. Joe figures, creating Captain Harlock type battle ships out of Legos, or playing guns in the yard. Clothing was a non-issue.

I teach English to children, aged 2 (yes, believe it) to 12. I spend a lot of time with young kids, and I have a good idea of what they’re into, and what doesn’t really seem to cross their mind. They want what’s cool (for them), what everyone is playing with/talking about. Does a design-friendly environment really make much sense to them? I don’t really think so. Can I teach them to care? Well, honestly, is there a point to it, outside of satisfying my personal desire to spread my love of beautifully thought-out concepts and objects?

I’m currently working on packaging and promotional items for a new toy — not designing the stuff, but mostly working as an agent on the project. The object in question, although being a toy, has a certain sense of style, and could be considered to be design-friendly (something that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tokyo select shop). Talking with the client about what he saw as being his target market, he described the typical consumer as a person who appreciates good design, and would buy it for his children, or for the children of others as a present. He doesn’t feel that a child would necessarily be attracted to it in a toy shop — they’re too busy looking for the latest video games or action figures.

To be continued…