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March 7, 2019 43 mins

New babies don't come with tons of injection-modeled nonsense, but it tends to wash up in their wake. But why is the infant paraphenalia and playtime juvenalia so poorly designed? Fatherly Podcast host Joshua David Stein put the question to architecture critic Alexanda Lange, author of "The Design of Childhood," Mark Riegelman, the world's most badass playground designer, and Ben Kaufman, CEO and founder of CAMP, the experiential toy store. The first Fatherly Podcast live show takes off from there!

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Mark as Played
Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hi. This is Joshua David Soon. I'm host of the
Fatherly Podcast. Today we're talking about kids design and why
it's so bad so often. Our guests are Mark Regalman
the Second The Coolest Playground, designer of the Coolest Playground,
Alexandra Laying, architecture critic and author of Design for a Childhood,
and Ben Kaufman, who's the CEO of Camp. We recorded

(00:27):
it live at Camp in Manhattan. Stay tuned. Welcome for
Fatherly Podcast. I hope you are doing this show. Okay,
Hey everyone, Mike, Hey, how's it going. Uh? Well. My

(00:49):
name is Joshua David Soon. I am the host of
the Fatherly Podcast. Today we're gonna talk about UM designed
for Kids, toys, retail, environ mental playground. UM. I think
one of the questions that we're all parents here, right, yeah, yeah,
one of the questions that we have, or I have,

(01:11):
is why is designed for children so often like crummy
and not beautiful? And I would hope to answer that
in forty five minutes or less, and also how it
can be wonderful. My guests are Mark Regelman the Second.
You can stand up and take about if you want.

(01:32):
Mark designed the Domino Sugar Park playground. Has anyone been there?
It's in Williams work. It's dope, right, dopes that work
for cool Um. And you are also in installation, your
environmental artists as well large scale public art installations. Um,
so what's gonna talk about that? Alexander Lange is the

(01:54):
author of Design of Childhood, the book that came out
in ten about everything from toy design to urban design
and playground design, and uh talked about that history. And
you're an architect, architectural and design critic. And Ben Kaufman,
whose house we're in, is the CEO of Camp and

(02:17):
CMO and BuzzFeed. And thanks for having us today, Thanks
for coming to camp. So you are late because you're
toy Fair toy for Depressed, so depressed. So I also
just came from toy Depressed. Also, you know, I have
to say that I'm into sparkly things like I'm into

(02:43):
oh yeah, oh my god, it's so have you tried,
Oh my god, it's so sensual in like a sensory
What what depressed you about Toy Fair? Uh, let's start
with the fact that there's no kids, there, no no
one playing, there's no one having fun. Everyone's behind like

(03:03):
walled boots. Yeah, like you know, I'm new to this industry.
I've never been in the toy industry before, and I
just I imagine Toy Fair being this amazing, crazy place
where everyone's just playing with toys and running around and
like people having fun. I thought it would be more
like Comic Con, you know, but it's not. It's just
a bunch of sad people. Yeah. So Toy Fair, for

(03:25):
every pro our, listeners and audience is the annual um
convention for toy manufacturers, mostly wholesale, and they're selling their
toys to retail operators. And you're right, Like I got
in a fight with the Melissa and Doug people because
they wouldn't let me in. They were like, are you retail?

(03:45):
It's like no, I'm pressed. We're like, well, we're not
allowing press. And I was like, well, I wanted to
get physical with them, but I didn't be um. But
the Yeah, it's it's in Javits, which is its huge
convention center, and most of the brews are clothes and
you have to get in there with appointments or whatever.
I kind of liked it though, because I was telling
you before the show, I love seeing um, like the

(04:09):
ghost in the machine. Like I love seeing you see
all of the trends. You see it all combined. It's like, Okay,
what's in this year slots Narwhal's unicorns sequence and then
what's so um, try not I'm not cursing, so it
takes me a while. What's so extraordinary is that you

(04:33):
have sequence sloth unicorns like now they're doing permutations inside
the things. We had a couple of products like that. Um,
you're you're hurting my heart with these descriptions. Well, I
wanted to ask you because in the book you write
about good toy bad toys. Yeah, and as it pertains

(04:53):
to design in toys, I thought maybe you could talk
a little bit about that. Yeah. I mean I feel
like I would go to toy Flair and like, you
don't need any of these toys, Like all the toys
that you need have already been made probably a hundred
years ago, and like that should be it. So yeah,
I mean one of the things that I found out
when I was researching my book is that there has
been this distinction between good toys and bad toys since

(05:15):
the early nineteenth century. And basically a good toy, um
is made out of a natural material, is undecorated and
is open ended, so kids can do with it kind
of whatever they will, and like the er good toys
wooden blocks, and a bad toy is like a Hello Kitty,
narwhale sequence stuffy maybe with um, I don't know, does

(05:38):
it sing? Because no, right it sent Do you want
by the senten pillow booth? It was, yes. So basically
like everything that you can do to this toy has
already been done to it by an adult. So like
what is there left for the child to bring to it?
Like how can they make it their own? And they can't.

(05:59):
They can just buy more of them. Well, i'm a question. Yes,
I'm so. I hear what you're saying, and I think
that that well, I want to I want to try
to support the narwhal feast thing for a moment because
I agree with a lot of what you're saying. But
I also think that there there may be opportunities where
this could be a really great toy and that a

(06:22):
child can easily identify with this kind of weird being
and have it part of a larger narrative in there
in the context of their home or play school or whatever,
and I and I think that that's it would be
a healthy relationship and would qualify that as a good
toy in the end if it could be part you know,
if it helps them with social skills or interacting with

(06:43):
other kids and they bring their kind of like weirdo
misfit toy to this, you know, to this thing where
they have the kind of standard dolls or whatever. Uh So,
while I don't like, while I probably wouldn't like esthetically
these types of toys, I think that they could be
good in the right context or with the right designer
at whatever. So I do a lot of toy reviews
for Fatherly, which is just me in a room playing

(07:05):
with toys and talking about camera. It's okay, you know,
get good benefits. Um thanks Michael cioo. UM. But I
always thought of the good toy bad toy distinction being like, yeah,
this is just an object and it's inanimate, and like, yeah,
it's fluffy and plush and ridiculous in some way, but

(07:29):
it doesn't do anything. Whereas I feel like what I've
noticed at toy Fair is you have the range of
setting aside plushies, right, you have toys that are almost
like single function toys like hot wheels, which I know
people love hot wheels. I don't love hot wheels because
you can only do the more advanced it gets, you

(07:51):
can only do one thing. You press the button, and
the hot wheels does this amazing loop de loop. But
your interaction, like your your interact can design or whatever,
it's just one press. So is it true that, like
good to bad toys about the physicality of the object
or about the use you know what I mean? Well,
I would say it's about both because a lot of times, um,

(08:15):
you know, kind of the more electronic things get, the
easier it is for them to break, and we don't
really make things to be repaired. So like part of
being a bad toy can be something that rates and
you can never use it again and then it's just
like in the landfills or if it becomes a good toy,
because hot whales is a good example. Like, there are

(08:38):
lots of kids that love cars, and it's great when
they have like a whole set of little cars, um,
and you know, like then they make the little cars
talk to each other and like there's they made, and
then they build a whole landscape for the cars to occupy.
So The problem with the hot Wheels set is like,
if there's only one way you can make the track go,

(08:58):
if there are no like add ons, I mean, like
there are there are ways that many toys can become good.
But if there really is like one way to build
the track and one button to push, and then it's
not well made, so after six months it's broken and
you just have to throw the whole thing out like
that is also a bad Well, that's a that's a
unique description too, because that is a toy that is

(09:19):
self contained. It can never kind of exist coexist with
other toys where weird Animal Beast could in very funny
ways and then make sweet love and then have a
slough as it comes. As it pertains to like playground design,
I think you created the best playground my kids have
ever gone to. It's kind of like a similar there

(09:42):
must be a similar mentality as well, that it's not
single use. Well, I mean it's single use in the
sense that kids go there to just burn off energy,
uh and like run around like crazy people. But my
approach to designing Sweetwater, for instance, was very much to
not design a playground like I wanted it to be,

(10:03):
just kind of like scary industrial relic that kids from
the beginning would be kind of kind of scared to
go in or something like I wanted it to not.
I didn't want them to understand the function right off
the bat, where most playgrounds you go in and kids
will understand the utility of every single element in the
playground before they even you know, before they engage with
it at all. Um. So it was very important for

(10:25):
me that there was a level of disconnect with the
people entering it, so they were forced to explore it
more and kind of find out those, um kind of
the different ways you can interact with it. And that's
kind of similar to here, which is I mean, yes,
it's clear that you can buy things, and I hope
everyone does find many things. But but but there is

(10:47):
this level of you know, ambiguity a little bit on
what the function of the spaces. Yeah, there's different layers
as you walk through the space, you know, you walk
into like this old time in general store and then
you have to I'm the magic door and walk through
the path and even then like there's little hidden hidden
secrets across the entire landscape. Well, like both of you

(11:10):
guys are new kind of you have your first career
sort of and then you've pivoted and or expanded and
are also working with like children and playground designing with
camp here. Oh yeah, take the bad toy. What has
been Mark? I know a little bit about your struggles,

(11:32):
but what has been the most challenging or like interesting
thing that has to do with kind of working in
the world of children and designed for children. Um, you know,
we're trying to build a shade of permanent retail stores
with these temporary themes that rotate across the country. So
right now you're in base Camp, which is a nostalgic

(11:53):
New England summer camp vibe. It may walk into a
camp in a couple of weeks that's completely different and
bright and colorful and and a whole different world. And
I think as we've come to design these experiences, it's
really interesting to try and thread the needle between things
that are fun for the kids, things that the adults
don't absolutely hate, and and and and and like as well,

(12:15):
and then the layers as as you said earlier, of
the discovery that can happen across the different uh, the
different experiences, and uh, it's a challenge to try and
hit all of those marks. Um, plus you also have
the retail just component. Yeah, but that's the opportunity I
think is is is trying to like find where these

(12:35):
circles overlap and and deliver a unique experience that the
entire family is enjoying. Yeah, and you you're the You're
the only guest who's been on two times on the podcast.
I mean me, but I'm the hut I have to
do the um you. When we first talked to you,

(12:56):
I mentioned something about having can Naby gave the rules
and regulations around like children's playground design, which you write
about in your book. Um, how best to do this?
Maybe if you could tell a little bit about the
first playgrounds are just so much like what you were
describing Sweetwater as it's like a flasi industrial open space. Yeah.

(13:19):
The first playgrounds were actually established in Boston in the
eighteen sixties, and they were just an empty lot filled
with sands, and they were called sand gardens, um. And
they were kind of built for poor kids to have
something to do in the summer in the city, and
so they were completely open ended. There was somebody called
the matron who was sort of making sure that like

(13:40):
the big kids didn't rough of the little kids. But
other than that, it was just like, go play in
the sandpiles. I know, it is amazing. And now we
see that like they're taking sandboxes out of playgrounds because
they don't want the maintenance, because they're afraid of vermin
all this stuff, and you're like, sand is like the
most essential thing for hids to be able to play

(14:00):
with it. It's really sad that they've become so reduced.
And like probably any difficulties you had in designing sort
of had to do with this set of regulations that
came in in the eighties UM that really wanted to
eliminate risk from playgrounds, but has ended up making that
very much all the same. And it's a it's a
tricky thing to balance and it's it really takes. So

(14:23):
I had the luxury of working with the safety expert
that was very interested interpreting the rule books in unique ways.
And this is a rare thing to find because there's
liability with playgrounds in America. Everyone wants to sue everyone
for everything, so you know, it's it's hard to find
someone interested in like doing something really unique and special
UM And and so it's very important to at least

(14:46):
for me when forming forming a team, finding those people
that will that are all ready to do something kind
of unique and special. Tell me about like a particular
challenge you had. I know you were talking about, um,
one of the things that I think makes a playground
wonderful surprivacy, But you were saying that creating private spaces
for children in the playground was really difficult to get

(15:08):
through the regulatory system. Well, and even even parents today
like there their biggest comment on my playground, or the
thing that they liked the least is their inability to
see their kid at every moment. And and for me,
I was doing that intentionally, which is like, kids need
some separation from their parents, and these are just small
moments of separation. But even with that, people of parents

(15:29):
are like, I want to see my kid from the
time he goes up there to you know, like and
so so that is a challenge that in and of
itself where it would follow the rule books because we
had a perforated screen. Oh sorry, by the way, because
I don't think we mentioned have you been to the
dominant haven't yet? I gotta go now it's warm around.
And but basically that the theme of the playground is

(15:50):
it's in the site of the old sugar refinery, Domino
Sugar Refinery, and it mimics in some way the refining process,
hopefully minus the colonial oppression and explication of millions of individuals.
So that part is outside of the playground. But you

(16:12):
have like silos and small houses, and it was very
much it was an attempt to just kind of reflect
the chaotic infrastructure that was on that site that is
now all gone, um, and so like makes making sure
I retained some of that historical close historical element UM.
And the it was designed in a way that it

(16:33):
was supposed to mimic the manufactur refining process of child
enters as sugarcane goes through the processes of being chopped up, rotated, filtered,
and then then exited as sugar cubes or molasses or
raw sugar. So I mean that was like the kind
of conceptual motivation UM. And then it was like laying
this all out and then and then working with the
safety X for being like okay, how is this possible?

(16:54):
And it was a lot of stupidest things where you know,
it had to be moved over three inches because this
was a head and you know, whatever in trap mentor
And there's two codebooks that you have to kind of
look at simultaneously and interpret our own way. I don't
even know what I think it's the Consumer Products Safety
Commission and then the A S TM and I can't

(17:15):
remember what that stands for. But yeah, Americans something fun
Americans with United against fun in tiers and it's I mean,
the truth is that a lot of the regulations that
came in in the eighties, like are useful, like head entrapman,
there's no reason to have bars like so far apart

(17:37):
that your kid can get their head stuck in them,
where if you move the bar over two inches and
kids cannot shut their head in like, it's fine. It's
like makes no design difference, and it's good that we
have established that for safety surfacing or safety surfacing. But
then there are a lot of other things that just
start um to kind of pile up on each other
and made like you can't have a slide that's exciting

(17:59):
granny kid over the age of five, so then older
kids don't want to go to that playground, and then
you know, it just really kind of makes these playgrounds
so tight and so similar that they aren't fun for
a ride range of kids, and they don't teach the
kind of physical skills that like a positive place they
should be to you. Yeah, we'll be back after a
word from our sponsors. How have you been experiencing children's design?

(18:35):
I mean, like now you're I know you have the
retail aspect, but like you're around toys. I'm sure a lot. Yeah,
have you Are you bullish? Are you bearish on design?
Do you think there's interesting things happening? Do you think
there's more good toys or bad toys? Or you know,
there are a lot of people making great stuff and
I think they're they're going back to some of their

(18:57):
early toys and and and and adding a new twist
to them. Um. You know, if if if, if you
look at some of the toys here, you know, my
favorite stuff is the kid Made Monitored stuff, which is
a Kraft brand, And I think I saw them at
the Toy Fan. I'm sure you did, really, Um, but

(19:19):
you know it's it's all about color and craft and
design and it's not it's not stuff that's done, it's
is that from Kid Made monitor by? Um? No, I
made this like Purlor beads, beads that I think they
have a kid for the same thing. Um. But but
but companies that are are doing things with craft, doing
things with raw materials, um, natural rubbers, etcetera. There's there's

(19:44):
really fun stuff happening. And at the same time, we
carry mass toys too, but we we kind of cast
them in in a new light where you know, you
you think of them in a new way because the
way their merchandise. What's like an example of this, Um,
A good example of that is like we have we
sell like F D N y uh, like matchbox cars
type of type stuff, but it's like next to our

(20:05):
station wagon that you climb in and you can only
find them if you like look under the seat. Um.
So there's a bit of discovery and and so on
attached to it. Yeah. And and of course like in
building the store too, there's there's slides and and all
sorts of play services where the same regulations and things
like that come into play. Yeah. I guess when I'm

(20:27):
when I'm hearing from this whole discussion is um. Actually,
I was talking at the toy fair yesterday. I was
talking to the CEO of Ravensburger, which is a that's great. Yeah,
he's from Ravensburg in Germany, which is an actual place
with this toy company UM and they're very analog, like
that's they do a lot of interaction design, but it's

(20:49):
all analog. So it's like an analog pinball machine or
amazing gravit tracks is this marble system UM And I
was kind of thinking about the fact that toys can
do more and more and more, but then that leaves
little and smaller and smaller space for the kid to

(21:10):
interact with it, you know, like technology is such that
you can have you can have a completely self sustaining
toy that can play with itself and doesn't even need
a kid, you know. And so it's about a mindful
scaling back of capacity, which goes against so much of
what we generally outside of the world of kids like

(21:31):
done for Yeah, and I think also like a lot
of the sort of simple toys like blocks, they start
to add on like, oh, not only is your kid
playing with blocks, but he's also learning to code when
he's three years old, and they three year old should
be thinking about gravity and patterns and like building something

(21:52):
that looks like their house, and like learning to code
can happen later and so I feel like there's this
kind of front loading of all this information the it's
really not necessary for kids brains to grow. On the
other hand, like as so, I work at Fatherly, right,
and I go around and I'm like, hey, show me
your newness, you know, because I have to. It's like there,

(22:12):
and I think there's like this obviously ah industry wide
pressure to always have new some novelty there, And like,
well I did like it. You know, if you go
down in the basement, so you have all the big
brands up top, like Mattel and Melissa Doug I'm never
write about it, not like she was just not nice

(22:35):
about it, um and like no, it's Doug. No, it's
some some functionary um or like play School or whatever
the big brands are. But then down in the bottom
you had the like the old school like or even
just mom and pop toy makers. It's a yes, same product.
I've had it for years and they're not trying to

(22:58):
be anything. They're not mean. That's the thing, right, is it?
Um about toys that uh, we as adults keep on
trying to evolve the category. But kids are only kids
for a little while. Everything's new to them, like the
same toy that we loved, they'll also love. But yeah,
I mean I'm the person that bought their daughter vintage

(23:21):
pressure price like a frame dollhouse and see. So yeah,
it's like it was actually a toy that I always
wanted and my parents did not buy it for me,
and so I was like defying the past. Yeah, but yeah,
and I think also, I mean people don't spend enough.
I think that to have like a lot of one
toy is really awesome. I mean like a lot of Legos,

(23:44):
a lot of Magna Tiles, a lot there's other like
um toy like called tubation. Like to have a lot
is a gift. And so I feel like when people
are trying to buy a new gift for a kid,
they can just add on to a set they already have.
And we don't talk about that enough, just like it's
great to have. What system are you in? And yeah? Right,

(24:04):
so we we have like three systems that have turned
out that my kids really love. And I'm just like Lego,
Magnetiles and actually zoob which is something I write about
in my book, which is like a nineties toy um
that lets you build sort of jointed um figures and
dinosaurs and things like that. It has a ball on
socket connection and that's actually much less expensive than Lego

(24:27):
with magnetiles, and because I definitely think about their costs
and thanks a lot, and I think zoob is an
amazing toy. Here's the news you can use before a
birthday party, asked the family what system do you use?
They get them into that good and that is actually
starts going down a pretty interesting direction because I think
one of the biggest problems for for us in terms
of the things that we get from other people, like

(24:50):
when my mom sends gifts, I'm sorry, Mom, I always
trash my mom. I don't mean to, but like there
she will send like the worst plastic light up, singing
thing you could possibly find, mostly because that's what she
has access to. It's like she goes to her nearby Cleveland, Ohio.
She's not she's not going to be able to find
a place like this, or she can kind of find

(25:12):
something that might be whatever unique or simple or German
made or all wood or whatever. So the things she
has access to, for the most part are these kind
of horrible things. And so what we've been trying to
do is train family members to be like, hey, hey, Mortain,
when you send a plastic they maybe send an all
wood thing also that doesn't have as I know, it's

(25:32):
annoying to do this thing that you're already doing and
also this really other hard thing because because I don't know,
because you need I think it's important to kind of
remind people that there are other options that might be
more difficult to find but but are out there. Yeah.
I mean that the if you could figure out a
way to have people only give you gifts of a

(25:53):
system already established within your household that is not annoying
and not like feel free to purchase legos, you know,
like because the whole etiquete about gift giving it's so
like you know, like I think all of us we
all have kids, right, yes, how old are yours? About

(26:13):
two and a half year old? Turn a half five
and seven? It's like we get a lot of gifts
and of them are crap. And like to tell someone like,
you know, it's crazy to me that registries are only
for birthdays and I'm sorry weddings and and uh and Wendy,

(26:35):
else do you have about having a kid baby registry
and uh and wedding registries? Like kids birthdays should have registers,
like kids know what they want. This might be a
little off topic, but it's not for the kids, but
for the grandparents. Like I let my kids keep and
Amazon wish list like throughout the years, like whenever they

(26:55):
asked me for something, like when it's not their birthday,
I say, put it on your wish list. Um. And
it's actually been really great because it immediately takes away
that whole discussion about like what I am or am
not going to buy them at that moment because they
feel like they'll get it eventually. And it's actually taught
them how much things cost. Because my son has been

(27:15):
really into Lego and so he started putting like a
hundred and fifty dollar Lego sets on his list and
I was like, sweetie, I think your grandparents top limit
is seventy five dollars. And he was like okay, like
he now he had the information. So he found like
the Star Wars Lego sets that were under seventy five dollars.
So I mean you can actually use these things like

(27:36):
in lots of different ways. UM. I know Amazon is
problem with but and I'm also glad that you brought
up craft kids before because especially for my daughter and
her friends, like um kids, like I would say six
to nine. Like craft kids are just huge, and those
are awesome. We had she got you know, ten craft

(27:59):
kids for birthday last year, and we were using them
in into October. It's like rainy day, let's see if
you have anything left from the birthday, and it was
like brand new, like let's do Shrinky Diggs. It was awesome.
Parents get to be involved in it and not it's
not just something you hand overly. Yes, I love to color,
so I'm very psychopa. The thing that I've noticed about

(28:21):
Toy Fair, though, is how many toys are also training
our kids to be like if you want to say
consumers or whatever, you know, like they're surprise stuff from
the well, they're just like miniature be a little miniature consumer.
Like there's a next to the there's a craft group,

(28:41):
but then there's like a all day spa adventure, you know,
and they had the little things for between your fingers
and toes and you know, a little miniature robe. And
it reminds me of that quote about that. I think,
like A Rockefeller said about education is like I don't
want thinkers, I want workers, you know, And I feel
like so many toys are like I don't want kids
who play, I want kids to consume. I think for

(29:03):
me that's also been a challenge with the toys that
I bring for my boys. It's like, I toys communicate
something one way or the other, and I want that
to communicate. As you mentioned in your book, just like
a spirit of adventure and creativity um with no agenda. Yeah,

(29:25):
And I feel like a lot of times design has
an agenda, you know. Yeah, Well, but it's interesting because
I think most designers have some story about and I
don't know if it's too about playing with Lego or
or like having a thousand drawing pads or like, like
their childhoods are filled with these open ended toys, and

(29:45):
like that is kind of what leads to a creative mind,
like helps children to be in touch with their own desires. Um.
And so it's like, we know that open ended is
better for creativity, but like the world around I mean,
as you say, is sending different mess sages. So we
really just have to be like smart as a consumer
and like smart as somebody going through the world and

(30:06):
making choices. What did you play with growing up? I
honestly don't remember playing with very much. I do remember
more like me and my dad, my mom's drawing a lot. Uh.
It was definitely more activity base would be going outside
a lot. It was. It was it was less object
based and much more experiential, uh, which I think is

(30:27):
probably the better option long term. It is just like,
or at least that's how my approach is to public space.
That's why focus on public space in general. It's like
it is it is best for kids and adults to
be outside all at the time, right like in the
space where they're kind of like fighting, arguing, tussling, talking, loving,
like all all these things. It's it's there's nothing more

(30:48):
healthy than social interaction public space in this and it's
kind of my priority to do that as much as possible.
Like you did the reading, Can you talk a little
bit about their reading math project? You did? Yeah, the
reading next Problem Reading. This project was a project that
I did in Cleveland, Ohio at the Cleveland outside the
Cleveland Public Library, and it was it was kind of
inspired by the Griffins that guard the library, and they

(31:11):
guard a lot of kind of uh, institutional buildings or
big government buildings, and Griffins are known to be fiercely
protective of their nests, and they make their nests of
pure gold. And so I made this really massive nest
in their reading garden with using over ten thousand reclaimed
barn board reclaim palid boards painted gold, and it became

(31:32):
this kind of like epicenter for interaction. So they would
have daily readings there, or adults they would have yoga
inside the nest, or there was just like always activities
and it was a small budget project, but it really
helped transform the space and transform how people saw that space.
And it was also temporary, and there's a certain level
of benefit for temporary projects because that it helps people

(31:54):
see spaces in a new way and then see what
they are like when they go back. And so that
kind of like test with materials and spaces, uh in
the public realm. I also finding me a pretty interesting
and useful approach. We'll be back after a word from
our sponsors. So I guess the question for all of

(32:27):
you guys is how having kids has changed your thoughts
on design and how you think of It's start with you,
Ben Well. I was always in the product design space,
and I had never made anything for for kids, and
I remember the first thing someone said to me after

(32:48):
we brought rock at home was how long until you're
gonna start making stuff for for kids? Because people knew
I couldn't hold myself back. I didn't didn't make a
single thing. He didn't even think about it until until
his first year birthday. First year birthday, we had nothing
in the house for him. Nothing first year birthday, everyone
started bringing in toys and we started bringing in stuff

(33:09):
into the house and uh. And it was then that
I started like like seeing all of this like stuff
that they got gifted to us, and uh, and started
to think about how I really wanted I really wanted
my kid Rocko to to experience these these these toys
when he when he did, in a space with other

(33:30):
kids and not just at home alone on the floor.
And uh, that kind of was the beginning of of
of of how camp got started. Um, and yeah, I
don't know, that's kind of the genesis. And and I
I wish I got started in this phase earlier because
I feel like there's not enough people, uh playing with

(33:52):
with with the category. Yeah, I mean I feel like
toy stories in general, they work no matter how they're
design like they function, Kids want to buy the things
that are there, and it's like, how do you so,
how do you make it more than that? How do
you make it not just functional but kind of beautiful
as well? Yeah, we we we wanted to design a

(34:14):
space where people come and buy things sometimes uh, and
are also okay coming and just playing and having it
be a community center and um and I think that's
that's what this this place represents. And sure there's a
lot of product on the wall, but I mean, my
favorite I don't know what I called my favorite thing,
but but a thing that happens very often is I'm

(34:35):
like standing on Fifth Avenue out in front of the store,
and like I hear the pep talk that the parents
give the kids before they walk into the store, and
they're like, all right, we're going in there, and we're
just we're here to play. We're not buying anything. And
you know what, it's completely fine because I know that
when they do go to their next birthday party or
when they do you know when that when that kids
having a special moment in their lives, they will come

(34:55):
back here and be it but buy something. But until then,
it's just a place where they can come have fun,
ride weird Ponies, um and uh and and and beat
himself so that pony doth move like a beaute. Yeah,
the pony cycle is one of my favorite things in
the story. It's called a pony cycle. You you pop

(35:18):
up and down and travels, and it makes first of all,
it makes a story into like this weird, magical, mythical
place where you're trying to figure out how that thing
is moving. And second, um uh, it is actually like
an innovative thing that doesn't feel like an extrapolation of
anything else on the market. How about you you that

(35:38):
bunk I think you wrote after you had I mean, yes,
you wrote it after, but you write an introduction about Yeah,
that's when you started thinking about Yeah. No, it was
definitely the same thing. Like I had a baby, but
I was already a design critic, and then it's like
you're sitting at home with your baby, like what is
all this crap? Um? I mean I also, um, like
have a lot of thoughts about like the gendering of things.

(35:59):
So I feel like my like beginning of my kind
of irritation, which generally leads to like my topics that
I write about, was really kids clothes and how gendered
they are UM. But I would say, like the biggest
sort of revelation from writing the book and the thing
I think of a lot um in relationship to having
kids is actually maintenance and like kids will wreck stuff,

(36:22):
they will just wreck it. And so thinking about making
things that will last UM, and like what materials will
really stand up to that, and then also like what
products will stand this test of time and could grow
with your kids. Like all of that UM is really
like what I took from my research, and I think
it's so important to think about. You have that, UM,

(36:42):
it's in your book. It's a quite famous design, that chair,
the trip trap chair. Yeah, I love it. It's called
the trip Trap chair. It's made by stokey Um and
you can move the foot rest and the seat up
and down as your kids grow. And I bought one
for my son and he's eleven and he's still using it.
So like it's offensive n last. And how about you

(37:03):
you have a one year old? You designed the playground
before your kid was born? Yeah she was, she was
on route but yes, so she so it'll be worn
in by the time she gets to it. So toys,
so even the stuff that my mom sends and I'm like, Mom,
this is not great, but hold on, I'm gonna I'm
gonna on trash her real fast. Like the things that

(37:25):
she sends it her like light up doing these things.
My daughter loves them right. Like's like when she's when
she's losing her mind on the on the changing table,
I go to the toy that my mom gave and
it's like it'll keep her occupied for the three minutes
it takes me to to do this, you know, calth taper. Um.
So I mean for me, it's important for my daughter
to have a range of things, like a range of materials,
range of textures, maintenance, all these things. Those logistical things

(37:48):
are good, um, but I just want her to have
a lot of experience, uh with stuff. But I think
the thing that I've been focused on more than actual
objects is just invite am it? So I'm we're currently
looking for a new daycare. Uh, and you've probably all
done this. It is like insane, and I leave these
things being like, Okay, if she goes here, she will

(38:10):
be claustrophobic, she will most likely depressed and certainly be
anxious for the rest of her life. And so it's
like those are the things that I'm trying and so
so they relate to the objects, but it's really like
these things within a larger environment. You know, how do
we make sure that she has UV light getting to
her most of the day, you know what I mean?
Like in fresh air for filing. You wish you were
in a designer sometimes you don't have to think about

(38:32):
all these things into this amazing like radio based preschool
that was an abasement, but they managed to make it
seem light. But yeah, no, I wasn't abasement. Having a
designer's mind. It's such a curse sometimes it's like it's crazy. Yeah, yeah,
the environmental thing. I mean like, yeah, it's a curse,
I think because there's actually not that much more you

(38:54):
can do about it. I mean like, if you are
a normal person trying to get daycare that's just light
filled what penthou with all wooden toys, It's like, okay, great,
that's sometimes you want to like not like what often
happens is you won't find what you're looking for and
then you make the horrible decision of start again. That's

(39:14):
your sounds like we're getting in the daycare business about that.
Just offering myself you are free just to be like, listen, okay,
bring my daughter here, right, I'll be like, listen, we'll
work this out together, like I won't even charge you
with just you know. Are you working on any more playgrounds?
I'm not right now. I've actually been doing a lot

(39:34):
of go I've been kind of jumping from school to
school talking about playground design, which has been pretty cool. UM,
but not working on playgrouds. My work in general is
very interactive for a variety of age groups. So I'm
working on a project for a public library for some
a series of small sculptures in one of their branches
that is very much geared towards kids investigating the space. UM,

(39:56):
and a couple of projects in California, all of which
are are very much about investigating public space for for
kids and adults. Why not do another I want you
to do another playground. I would like it. I wouldn't
do I would love it. And my phone is a ring.
I'm like, come on, people, it was the best playground
never made. But it'll it'll, something will pop up, But

(40:18):
I would love Are they like from the playground design worlds? Yeah? Yeah, yeah,
there are certainly there are certainly the big players that
are just designing playgrounds, you know. Yeah, very weak Baltimore.
You won't mention them. Okay, and what are you working on? Um? Well,
I'm the I'm the architecture critic for CURB. So I'm
actually really looking forward to Hudson Yards opening because that's

(40:40):
kind of like a giant adult playground and I wait
to write about it. So okay, well, guys, thank you
for hanging out on the stage and chatting. Um yeah,
I think design will get better and it's good. Now.
I don't know how to wrap this up. I like
chatting with you people. End. I was actually curious because

(41:02):
you guys are know a little bit more about the
toy toy design world. Um So before this, I was
like trying to cram to just to see like toys,
and I was just looking up toys that I like most.
When I was a kid, I was like, okay, I'll
slinking Silly Putty Link, Lincoln Logs, and all the toys
that I like most were not designed by toy designers.

(41:23):
They were designed by architects for engineers or parents or parents. Yeah,
I got control dolls. Uh. And I wonder if that
is still consistent today or if if if toy products
are very much designed by big companies in toy designers,
or if that is a disconnecting, well that Fuddler's is
like a really good example and that's how I'm talking

(41:43):
about earlier that was designed by a dude on Etsy, right,
and um, it's a it's a doll with like very
human like Keith. It's my favorite because it's just so creepy.
I love that, Like I like the same thing in
children's literature, like a little bit of like race soun
At Darkness or Tommy Younger and that has the same sense.

(42:03):
But now that was bought by spin Master and now
spin Master Manufacturers and so I to my knowledge, a
lot of toy development still happens at the individual level,
but there are such big players that they come in
and help. It's still a very strong inventor community, but
the big guys have the distribution, so it's likely like
under their under their title. But again, my favorite stuff

(42:26):
is the people that like transcended industries to create their
their lines, like the Kidnay Mono stuff is toddled and
he's a fashion designer. Um, and again that's like the best.
That's the best stuff in the store. Awesome. Okay, guys,
that's name. Thank you, Thank you guys, Thanks k Well.

(42:50):
I want to thank our guests, Mark Regelman the Second,
Alexandra Lang, Ben Kaufman of Camp. I want to thank
Camp for having us. I want to thank our producer
Anthony Roman, I also produced it. Thanks me and John
Flores for holding the microphone so nicely next to my face.
Andrew Berman, our executive producer. Uh. If you like the podcast,

(43:12):
rad to review it. If you don't, disregard this and
see you next week.

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