This month we launched our imagination box – a multi-sensory resource pack, filled with everything you need to complete nine activities. It’s been specially designed for children and young people from neurodivergent backgrounds. However, we didn’t make it by ourselves. We worked with designer and maker Andrew Sleigh to bring the imagination box to life. So, we decided to catch up with him to find out just how he did it!
Andrew – who are you and what do you do?
Hi! I’m a maker and designer based in Brighton, and I run a prototyping space for product designers in an innovation hub called Plus X.
What was the idea behind the imagination box?
The iOi already had all these great fun maker experiences that you’d trialled in a face-to-face setting. For me, this was about trying to bring the Imagination experience into people’s homes.
That meant trying to create a ‘box of delights’, that was full of inspiring materials and creative adventures, that would encourage people to have a go at something new.
How did you first think about the box? How did you start?
We were thinking about what additional support people would need to enjoy these activities at home. When you have a workshop leader in the room, it’s easy to reassure people who don’t know where to get started, or steer someone back on track, or just answer questions or suggest what they could do next. When everything’s in the box, you need to try to lay out a path in front of the person who opens it.
So, we started by thinking about what happens when the box lands on your doorstep. What do you first see when you open it up? We tried to map out every stage in the experience of the people using it, including all the ways in which they might do something unexpected.
How did you arrive at the final design?
I did lots of sketches and made rough cardboard models, and we looked at those, and kind of poked at them amongst the team to figure out how they might go wrong. Then we progressively made more and more developed prototypes until we were confident we had something that would work for the recipients but was also something we could manufacture.
What is your favourite part of the box?
Well, I do like smarties. Aside from those, I thought the cards showing what’s in the box, and also what you have to go find yourself as a treasure hunt in your home were a fun solution to a basic constraint. It didn’t make sense to include everything needed for every activity; it would be too costly in the long run and would generate a lot of waste. So, we left some things out and turned finding those things into part of the game. I enjoy those kinds of creative solutions that turn a constraint into something that makes the product better.
The imagination box was created thanks to funding from John Lyons Foundation. You can find out more about our previous work here.