Designing Child Safety: The Art of Developing Safe Products
Child safety is a paramount concern for any responsible parent or caregiver. In today's ever-evolving world, where innovative toys and products for children flood the market, ensuring the safety of these items is more critical than ever before. In this blog post, inspired by a webinar hosted by Women in Toys, Licensing, and Entertainment (WiT), we’ll dive deep into the world of product safety. Our aim is to unravel the insights shared by experts Nancy Coles, the Executive Director of Kids in Danger (KID), and Shehnaz Safiuddin, Owner of Snap Kick Marketing and a Member of the Board of Directors for Kids in Danger (KID), regarding the importance of developing products with safety as the top priority.
The Safety Mindset
Imagine this scenario: You're a product designer, filled with enthusiasm and creativity, working on a brand new children's toy. You're envisioning the joy and happiness it will bring to kids all over the world. However, in the midst of your creative process, there's something that should always be at the forefront of your mind—safety.
The journey to designing safe children's products is multifaceted and nuanced. It's not just about adhering to regulations and standards — it's about understanding real-world usage, anticipating potential risks, and ensuring that your product doesn't just meet safety requirements, but actually promotes a safe and enjoyable experience for kids and their caregivers.
The Reality of Child Product Safety
Each year, thousands of children are injured, and hundreds lose their lives due to incidents involving infant and children's products. The most tragic aspect of this reality is that many of these incidents are entirely preventable.
Child safety should be a non-negotiable aspect of any product development process, especially when designing for children. It's not just about checking boxes on safety standards — it's about considering how products will be used in the real world and making design choices that prioritize safety.
The Design Safety Hierarchy: A Blueprint for Safety
To design safe products, it's crucial to adopt what is known as the "Design Safety Hierarchy." This hierarchy lays out a clear path for eliminating hazards and ensuring safety. The hierarchy consists of four critical steps:
Step 1: Eliminate Hazards. The most effective way to ensure safety is to eliminate hazards from the product entirely. If a part of your design poses a risk, it should be reimagined or removed. For example, changing small parts into non-small parts to prevent choking hazards.
Step 2: Guard Against Injury. If eliminating hazards isn't possible, consider creating safeguards that prevent injury. An example of this is redesigning a stroller's hinge to eliminate pinch points, ensuring a child's fingers can't get caught.
Step 3: Use Restraint Devices. Sometimes, products require the use of restraint devices like seatbelts or harnesses. These should be designed to be effective and easy to use, but always remember that user behavior can vary, so they're not foolproof.
Step 4: Warnings. Warnings are the last line of defense. While they're the least effective way to ensure safety, they're still vital. Warnings should be clear, concise, and tested to ensure they convey the intended message to consumers.
The Role of Real-World Use
Understanding how consumers use products in the real world is essential. Parents and caregivers rely heavily on intuition when using children's products. They expect that if a product is on the market, it must be safe for their child's age and needs.
However, this reliance on intuition can lead to misunderstandings and misuse of products. Parents may not always follow instructions precisely, and children often use toys in ways that seem intuitive to them but might be risky.
The Shared Toy Box Concept
Consider the "shared toy box" scenario. While products are designed for specific age groups, the reality is that many households have children of different ages. This means that toys intended for older children might find their way into the hands of younger siblings. Designing products with this in mind, by eliminating small parts, for example, can reduce potential hazards.
Market Research: Understanding Your Audience
Market research is a valuable tool for understanding your audience and their needs. It helps designers and marketers gain insights into how consumers will interact with a product and what safety considerations are necessary.
While some may assume that market research is costly, there are budget-friendly ways to conduct research effectively.
Safety-Centric Marketing: A Comprehensive Approach
Safety-centric marketing means embedding safety considerations into every facet of product promotion and communication. Every touchpoint— packaging, advertising, social media, in-store displays, instruction sheets, PR — should emphasize safe use and age-appropriate practices.
Visual Communication Matters
Visual cues are powerful tools for conveying safety. When designing packaging or marketing materials, it's crucial to include images that show the product in a safe context. Age-appropriate models and environments, like children wearing helmets while using bicycles, send a clear message about safe use.
Influencers and Social Media
In the age of social media and influencers, maintaining safety-centric messaging can be a challenge. Influencers often create their content, and it's vital to educate them about the safety aspects of a product. Collaboration between product design, marketing, and influencers can ensure that safety is prioritized in their content.
Designing child-safe products is not merely a legal requirement — it's a moral obligation. The responsibility lies not only with the designers but with everyone involved in the product's journey, from engineers and marketers to influencers and consumers.
Embracing a safety-first mindset from the outset of product development can prevent injuries, save lives, and build trust with consumers. In the end, the more we all work together to eliminate child product hazards, the safer this world will be for our children. It's a mission that should inspire every product designer and marketer, reminding them that their work can make a profound difference in the lives of children and families worldwide.