No Child’s play

Last week I went shopping with my two daughters, aged 9 and 7, for some very basic back-to-school stuff. I needed a bag and a water bottle for the children going to Class II and Class V.

How hard can that be, I thought naively. I can evaluate design and choose the best available product that I can afford!


I was stumped by the variety of badly designed products that have flooded the market for children’s products. I asked the fellow at the counter, for a bag for Class II. ” I want one with no cartoon characters.’ my younger one quipped. This stumped the guy behind the counter. ‘ Oh, we have Barbie bags for girls and Ben10 bags for boys, ” he quipped, ‘ but not plain ones!” I was aghast at the stereotyping. I asked my daughter why she did not like any of them. ” They are all the same. I don’t have a bag I can recognise easily in the class. And I do not like Barbie,” she said. Her actual choice of words for Barbie was more caustic actually.

Do designers even stop to think what a child might want in a bag?

Is my child an odd-one-out or are the manufacturers lost the plot? Why should a child be saddled with characters, that she does not relate to? Why do we, as a society create stereotypes?

The water-bottle buying was worse.

” This one is for small kids.”

” This one’s drinking straw comes off.”

” The lid falls off in this.”

” The lid is difficult to open in the bus.”

” This one gets hot during games practice.”

” This one is cheap plastic and smells.”

“This plastic is not easily recycled!”

The last comment came after she overturned the bottle to read the signs. While I was happy that I have aware children, I realised that the makers of bottles have clearly not understood their customers.

Designing children’s products is no child’s play. Designers miss the point, when they do not understand their target audience.

My kids can vouch for that.



  1. Bala, the reason why stuff is so poorly made is that it is not meant to last more then a year (including the cartoon characters)….so that every year one has to go bag and bottle shopping….Why not just buy something that lasts 5 or may be 7 years? I remember In my school days too there were heros and characters…not printed but could be stickered to bags…… but I guess that isnt part of the obsolescence plan isnt it?


  2. Though I share your apathy and respect your daughters thought.I have few observations while working with Corporates which could answer the poor state of design.To day my biggest hurdle while freelancing,is typical middle class mindset of employee of company.My own subordinates some how got in to this profession/trade because of me have started preaching design.I strongly feel there is no future of design as shared with senior most professors at IIT.Mostly our designers do not have any say in management ,are working at improper hierarchy,mostly doing simply purchasing activities.One needs to find break through.
    Any way I could locate some better bottles,at Rajouri which are insulated ones with holding clip at top and while my daughter uses laptop bag of acer.


  3. The urge to create good products is lost in the process of making mass profit. Thats where the problem is. Conversely, the market sees ‘goodness’ in products only from the standpoint of earning a ‘premium’ a.k.a. ‘extra profit’. So, whatever is affordable is not good; and whatever is good is not affordable! I wonder when we will come out of this conundrum…


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