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Toy Product Design


Immunology-inspired multiplayer game with velcro organs, antibodies, and bacteria

Demonstrating Infection's gameplay in our final Playsentation.

I created Infection with Team Hedgehog 🦔 through an intensive exploration of play and product design in MIT's Toy Product Design class (2.00B).

Fun fact: we actually started off with a completely different project idea at the beginning of our design process. It was during playtesting and iteration that the idea for Infection emerged, and our project became what it is today.


In Infection, there are two teams — red and blue. All players wear skeleton vests and start with four organs: one heart, two lungs, and one stomach.

Each player carries bacteria to throw at other players. When the bacteria strike another player's organ, the organ falls off their vest! To defend themselves, players must use their antibodies to block incoming bacteria.

A player is eliminated when all four of their organs (or their heart) have been knocked off their vest. A team wins when all the other team's players have been eliminated from the game.

Final: team Final: bacteria

Final: organs Final: vest

Illustrated diagrams of Infection's components.


The first step in our design process was to think of as many toy design ideas as possible. As we learned, the key to successful brainstorming is to keep a continuous stream of ideas going. The 2.00B course staff kept us on our toes with numerous ideation challenges in class.

Ideation: pin one Ideation: pin three

Ideation: pin two

Ideation challenges in 2.00B lecture.

We documented each of our ideas with a one-page sketch. Here are two refined illustrations I made for a modular light-up train named "Light Rail" and a puzzle game titled "Impossible Structures."

Ideation: sketch one Ideation: sketch two

Initial concept sketches for toy designs.

In lab, we pitched our sketches to our teams, pinned them to a board, and then categorized and discussed them. Some factors we used to evaluate our ideas included:

Poster Pitches

We narrowed our team's initial sketches down to our top three ideas. Then, we created large, interactive posters to pitch them to the entire class.

Ideation: posters one Ideation: posters two

Ideation: posters three

Crafting and presenting posters for our top three toy ideas.

Using feedback from both instructors and kids, we selected the two most promising ideas (Impossible Structures and Light Rail) to move into the next phase: sketch models.

Sketch Models

Building sketch models is a useful way to quickly test a product idea. For each of Impossible Structures and Light Rail, we created a looks like model to show how the toy would look to scale, and a plays like model to explore potential interactions.

Model: making one

Model: making two Model: making three

top: Impossible Structures, bottom: Light Rail

Impossible Structures

Plays Like: Impossible Structures enables kids to build seemingly gravity-defying sculptures. To achieve this effect, we cut large foam blocks using hot wire and covered them with strips of Velcro.

Looks Like: We envisioned the final toy to be constructed from wood, so our looks like model took the form of small wooden blocks with magnets embedded inside.

Light Rail

Plays Like: Light Rail is a modular train that lights up in different combinations depending on how its cars are connected. Our plays like model consisted of spray-painted foam blocks with LED strips on top.

Looks Like: Our looks like model took the form of foam board pieces cut and glued together to form a modern lightrail.

Model: feedback one

Model: feedback two Model: feedback three Model: feedback four

Model: feedback five

Getting feedback at the 2.00B Sketch Model Expo.

Some feedback we received from mentors and instructors included:


To get more feedback, we brought our sketch models to the MIT Museum, where we could playtest with our target audience: real kids.

The first thing we noticed was that kids immediately gravitated toward the Impossible Structures Velcro blocks. What's that weird looking sculpture? I wanna check that out.

The next thing we noticed took us by surprise: rather than piecing blocks together by hand, kids liked to stand back and throw blocks at the sculpture to add to it. They were amused by how the block would stick and stay where it hit the sculpture. We started a game in which kids took turns throwing blocks at the sculpture to see who would be the one to knock it down, and the kids loved it.

At the end of the day, we learned that kids really like throwing things. And many also liked throwing things at each other.

Playtest: one Playtest: two

Playtest: three

Playtesting our sketch models with real kids.

It seemed that Impossible Structures was winning, not for the appeal of building with blocks, but for throwing them. How could we take the Velcro blocks of Impossible Structures in a new direction?

It was then that the idea for Infection was born.

At the end of the day, we learned that kids really like throwing things. And many also liked throwing things at each other.


It was quite late into the semester to switch ideas, but our team had full faith in our new game and its appeal to kids. We dove into the next stage of the process: prototyping.

Organs and Antibodies: We traced organ and antibody shapes onto foam blocks, cut them on a hot wire, and sanded them. Later, we spray painted them and covered them in Velcro strips.

Bacteria: We ordered red Veltex online, cut bacteria shapes, inserted stuffing, and sewed the pieces together. We added parachute cord for the flagella.

Vests: We cut torso-sized pieces of neoprene and stitched on a ribcage pattern cut from Veltex.

Prototype: one

Prototype: two Prototype: three Prototype: four

Prototype: five

Building our final Infection prototypes.

We tested our new prototypes and came up with gameplay rules by playing multiple rounds of Infection outside of the lab. (Peak MIT homework.)

We adjusted the organs' attachment to the vests until they were attached tightly enough to not fall off accidentally while a player was running, and also loosely enough such that an incoming bacterium could cleanly knock the organ off. After some finishing touches, our final prototype was ready to playsent!

Final: toy

Our final Infection prototype.

What I Learned

2.00B was one of my favorite classes at MIT. I got my first look into the product design process, witnessed the value of playtesting first-hand, and gained experience with fabrication techniques, all while having lots of fun along the way. The class had a very playful and supportive environment, and it inspired me to learn more about product design.

Final: stage Final: backstage

left: Final Playsentation skit, right: Backstage during Playsentations

Final: class

Team Hedgehog celebrates winning a class estimathon.
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