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MIT student blogger Michael C. '16

Everyone at MIT should take this class. by Michael C. '16

How often do you get to design toys in class?

A Journey Into Toy Design - The Beginning

What do you want to do in life?  For some people, the answer to that question comes easy.  They’re the ones who’ve been coding since they were out of the womb, who were building robots before they learned how to walk.  But for others, it’s not so black-and-white.  If you ask them what course they’ll in, they’ll hedge a little; they might say “6, or 2, or maybe 1” (that’s EECS, MechE, and CivilE, for you non-MIT readers).

I’m in the latter group.  I came to MIT intending to major in something Bio: Course 6-7, or 7, or maybe 20.  I had loved AP Biology in high school, gotten some lab experience at UC Davis trying to develop a fungal-resistant Cavendish banana strain, enjoyed 7.012, and snagged a nice UROP at Langer Lab, the largest biomedical engineering lab in the world.

And after first semester, I realized I was…comfortable.  Too comfortable, maybe.  My life seemed mapped out for me: follow the degree requirements for whatever bio major I ended up declaring, go to grad school, get a job at a biotech company, get married with 2.3 children and get a house without a white picket fence because white picket fences are ugly.

(okay, maybe I didn’t really map my life out that far ahead)

But all the same, I had a lil’ mid-(semester)-life crisis where I asked myself why I wanted to major in bio: was it just because it was all I had lab experience in and would be the easier route, or was it really was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life?

…Then I fell asleep, because it was 4am and I had been psetting for hours.

When I woke up, I decided that the best way to find out what I really wanted to do was to take 5 classes and my 10 hour/week UROP second semester to get as much experience as possible in the fields I was considering (and also to give my advisor a minor heart attack).  One of these classes is 2.00B, Course 2’s introductory class to toy product design.  Product design has always interested me – whenever Apple came out with a new product, my favorite part was the product design videos they released with Jony Ive pronouncing “aluminium” soothingly in the background.  I luckily was able to lottery into this overenrolled class.

And over the past few weeks, I’ve decided that Course 2 is, in the words of Kirsten, super legit. But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on bio.  I’m interested in interdisciplinary work – so 2A-20 (a flexible MechE with a bioengineering track) is also an option.

Anyways, wow, this was a really long intro to a post about Toy Product Design.  So let’s dive into what we’ve been doing in the first few weeks.

Most first lectures tend to be fairly dull.  Pass out handouts, remind everyone when midterms and finals are, assign psets.

Not so in 2.00B.  Our first lecture, we engaged in a little…graphic design.  And by that, I mean our instructor said: “I want you all to design a logo for 2.00B.  With fingerpaint.  With someone else’s finger.”

Here was my masterpiece:

that's supposed to be a yoyo, not a Chrome logo.

But toy design isn’t all fun and games.  Or is it?  Our first homework assignment was to write our thoughts about product design.  In the form of a limerick.

Mine was:

I’d say that design is an art,

That it’s not just a factory part,

If you try to design

When you’re rushing for time,

You’ll make something that’s not worth a fart.

The best part was that my limerick was selected as one of the highlights, and we all got to hear our instructor say “fart.”  Har har.  No, my humour hasn’t progressed very far beyond grade school.

2.00B is a project-based course, where students are split up into groups of 5 and given a budget of ~$700 to produce a product at the end of the semester.  During the past few weeks, we’ve been engaging in ideating, a fancy word for “trying to think of a good way to spend $700.”  Our top ideas are super secret, of course, but here’s the result of one of our earlier ideating sessions:

yes, I've been Sherlocked. Blame my friend Erica.

Can we all take a moment to appreciate the cheekbones on my Sherlock drawing?

Even if you have a great product idea, though, you have to know how to communicate it effectively.  For this, we went old-school: pencil/marker and paper.   This also gave me a great excuse to finally go out and buy a Moleskine notebook, satisfying the hipster in me:

so hipster, it vignettes and warmifies my photos

Check out this adorable sticker that my friend got me:

yeah that's enough Sherlock for one post.

Yeah, I’m cool.

For those times when pen-and-paper won’t do it, computers are your friend.  I’ve recently discovered the joys of Illustrator (by “recently”, I mean “10 hours ago”), which is why I was up at 3am this morning mocking up a logo for my project team.  It’s also why this post is prettified.  Don’t expect this every time.

Typography on a Retina display is just delicious.

That’s it for today!  I’ll definitely be writing more blog posts in the future about Toy Product Design, because that class is just too cool.  If you want more up-to-date info on 2.00B, check out their Twitter account (page? handle? feed?).  I’m told there’s a picture of me being very excited about vinyl cutting a sticker.

Oh yeah, and if you were wondering about the curve in the Team Camel logo I made – it’s supposed to be an abstract representation of the humps on a camel.  Which reminds me, our team song is totally “My Humps.”