Tiles - The Task

The project involved designing a toy for 4-8 year old children. It was a collaborative task between user experience and industrial designers. We undertook in depth research to understand the psyche of children and parents to identify their problems and expectation.Finally, we designed a toy which can be used by parents as a method of teaching and informing their children.

The Problem

Making a toy for kids is challenging. Consulting parents could be one solution, but that solution is from the parent's point of view. The baseline should start from what kids want, and go ahead to what parents approve. This problem is hard to tackle, but thats what we wanted to do.

We selected

We identified that we need to understand more about what kids want. Our stop was Toy store which would possibly give us a better grasp and insight of what we would need to do so we selected…



    We visited ToyRUs to identify what kids like. After talking with a few parents and kids we identified a few key things.
  • The toy needs to be less digital and smart device oriented.
  • It needs to be tactile.
  • It should nurture education.
  • It would be an advantage if the play time is longer.

Fly on the walls

Contextual inquiry

We wanted to try a different approach. Instead of a scripted interview, we asked impromptu questions to make it more casual. We wanted to keep it authentic and original. Approaching parents and kids and starting a conversation without making it formal was quite easy. We got a lot of interesting insights.

Mother's Persona


Education-oriented mom

"I prefer to buy toys which are fun but has educational value."

I am not really worried about the cost, I want to buy toys which are educational. I would also like a toy which has varieties of usage. My child should enjoy and learn at the same time they play.


  • Make the kids feel contended.
  • Providing an aid to learn new things.
  • Due to hectic work life, prefers a toy which can become kids’ companion.

Pain points

  • She wants toys that her kids can touch and see.
  • Doesn't like toys which have too many small part because they get lost.
  • Doesn't like slimy toys.

Lifestyle and values

  • Parents are not worried about cost.
  • Parents want to buy toys which have educational value


  • Comfortable with new technology, but do not want their kids to be exposed them for longer duration.

Kid's Persona


Hyperactive Luke

“I like all the toys, but I like scrabble more."

I like to play with toys I can use to build stuff. I prefer educational toys too, but I would like them to be fun. It would increase the value of it in my life.


  • Play with friends.
  • Relaxation.
  • Sense of accomplishment.

Pain points

  • He prefers not to play alone.
  • He wants a toy which is tactile but digital.

Lifestyle and values

  • Parents want tactile toys.
  • Parents want to buy toys which have educational value


  • He likes to interact with digital products such as tablets and playstation.
  • New devices and toys to explore.
  • Likes talkback feature.

Round robin technique

We decided to design an education toy for the kids. We then wanted to focus on specific families and understand their needs and wants. We approached three different families interviewed them in the process of designing the toy.

Round robin

Radar technique

Once we identified that we had to focus on making a toy for kids, we wanted to make sure it has to have educational importance. We then wanted to focus on specific families and understand their needs and wants for which we asked three different families and identified what we will need to focus on while creating the toy.

Stangota Whidden Bruhns

Rose thorn bud

After speaking with these families, we further narrowed down the 5 ideas. We did a quick "rose thorn bud" to eliminate ideas and find the one most appropriate. Each idea was unique in style and was fulfilling the needs identified by us.


The chosen one

After a lot of scrutinizing and research, we finally identified which toy out of 5 we would like to concentrate on. We named it Tiles.
An Arduino powered LED brick which displays alphabets, numbers and may be in future kids can even play as a classic arcade game.
To start with, kids have to create small words such as bus, egg, duck etc. The tiles will have those words displayed. After that, the kids have to arrange them to form a word to which the tiles will react with a smiley and pronounce it. However if wrong, the tiles will form a frowny face and ask the kid to try again. Another function of those tiles is to help kids with math problems. The tiles will be displayed with numbers and the kid has to form arithmetic equations to solve the problem.



We started to test and fidget with an Arduino kit and the led matrix to come up with a simple alphabet and numeric display. The process was surprisingly hassle free and we got it up and running in no time. We then tried and created a few 3D printed cases to see if the board and the LED brick fit in. After a few iterations, we came up with a final tile in which we could fix the Arduino board and the brick.



We integrated a single brick instead of four for prototyping purpose. It was a nice mold in which the Arduino and the LED brick fit in perfectly. We added a pixie glass over it to make it more authentic.


Connection with parents

Now that the toy was created and in a working condition, it was time to verify if the parents would allow their kids to play with it. Apart from that, to add another layer of supervision we thought of an idea which we tried implementing, we came up with a flashcard solution. We added a QR code on these cards which has images of the objects the kids need to spell. Once the QR code is scanned the system will identify what word it is, and automatically assign each tile with an alphabet. The kid then has to arrange it to form a word.


User testing

Once we had everything ready, it was time to actually test it with kids and parents. We headed out to a family with 3 kids. Penny is 6, Peterson is 8 and Patt is 12. We handed their mother a card which could scan the code (At this point in time there was no communication between the scanned word and the tiles we 'Ozed it'; Wizard of OZ technique). Once the code was scanned we displayed the letter on our tile and took 2 wooden tiles to complete the word.
Parents loved the new form of teaching. Scanning cards or manually choosing a word gives them the freedom to teach their kids the way they want.
Kids like the way they snap. It has magnets on two sides. Once the word is complete the tiles express; a way of celebration.