Design for Children

“Hi, My name is Betsy, and I’m a design snob.”
Moms (in unison): “Welcome, Betsy.”

Well, thanks for the warm reception! You know, I haven’t always been this way. I owe it all to five intense years spent in architecture studio, which was more of a Zoolander-style brainwashing exercise than anything else. Let’s just say that it taught me to appreciate really, really ridiculously good-looking objects.

This was great, until I became pregnant and created a baby registry. I’m pretty sure my mom had to bite her tongue repeatedly because I either a) wanted every single cute, pointless thing, or b) couldn’t bring myself to add the practical, yet super tacky objects to the list. I had visions of turning into Veruca Salt and demanding a Golden Goose for my registry!

Then I remembered Vitruvius! Vitruvius was a classical Roman architect who created a number of design theories and writings which are still referenced today. (Google “Leonardo DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man”, and you’ll find countless pop culture interpretations)  Today though, I want to share with you The Vitruvian Principles.

  1. Firmness
  2. Commodity
  3. Delight

Before I lose you, let’s phrase it a little differently:

  1. Permanence
  2. Purpose
  3. Beauty

So how does this relate to you as a mom, or more importantly, your kiddo’s growing stash of toys and other schtuff? Let’s dig a little deeper into these principles…

  1. Permanence/Firmness
    • This is the quality and materiality of something.  For example, I am drawn to wooden toys because I can feel the quality in the weight and texture of the wood. More so than any flimsy plastic toy, an object made with quality materials is not going to shatter when my son decides to practice his fastball and pitch the toy onto the sidewalk.
  2. Purpose/Commodity
    • I don’t get too hung up on this one. If I buy a product, I expect it to work. Otherwise, it’s defective and not worth discussing. Though I’ve definitely fallen for the “OMG it’s so fluffy, let’s buy it” product, only to realize that it doesn’t even serve the intended function. Read your Amazon Reviews. Thas’all.
  3. Beauty/Delight
    • This is the trait that makes you either swoon with delight or roll your eyes with disgust. Certain qualities can make an object especially beautiful – with the right color, proportion, pattern or shape – an everyday object can become a work of art. This is where I typically geek out and buy one in every color because apparently I love rainbows.
Wooden Toys

My father made these toys for me when I was a baby. I love that I get to share these with my son.

Each of these three qualities has value in creating a product. With all three powers combined, you’ve got something magical. This is the heirloom toy, or the gear that you rave about to your friends. These products create the moments where you catch yourself with a goofy smile while changing your kid’s diaper because the pattern is “oh so adorable” and you know that poop isn’t going to leak out of the super absorptive, high quality construction of the diaper. Anybody? No, just me?

With these three principles in tow, congratulations, you can now scrutinize every single object that you put in your shopping cart and be a design snob like me!  

Of course in the end, sometimes an empty milk jug and a paper towel roll is all my son really wants to play with… and that’s OK, too.  I’ll teach him about the Vitruvian Man when he turns four.


Mmm…diapers in every color of the rainbow. Don’t pretend like this doesn’t give you a weird mom-smile.

Check out these links to find some unique products and brands which I feel Vitruvius would give two proportionate thumbs up:

And of course there’s always the usual suspects:

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4 Responses to Design for Children

  1. Heather Miller September 2, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

    Wow, Betsy! Sounds like you’ve been a busy lady! Can’t wait to read more! Take care!

    • Betsy Kersten September 5, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

      Hi Heather! Yes, you know the life of a mama can be busy sometimes! Hope all is going well for you. Thanks for reading – I will be writing once a month for the next several months so stay tuned!

  2. Mike spencer September 3, 2016 at 8:39 am #

    When I read your post…I don’t know for sure why, but I hear Burna’s voice. Hope to meet you on one of your trips thru golden sun and I still think Jim looks like Eric Beal on NCIS. Really enjoyed your post Betsy, especially the rainbow diaper drawer. We still have a wooden dog pull toy with a clacker in it that our kids and our grandkids would pull around the kitchen and make everyone crazy and I look forward to some day watching great grandkids do the same. The weight, feel and endurance and absolute pure joy for each child have made it a keeper.

    • Betsy Kersten September 5, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

      Hi Mike! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post – isn’t it wonderful how those good quality toys can be handed down from generation to generation? I love it. So great to hear that you have some of those in your collection as well! Hope all is well and I agree, it would be great to meet you someday hopefully soon!