The two products that I will discuss here, the Minkar and the Supernova, were developed as part of a product series called Galaxy and, in my opinion, each product holds a significant place in the history of playground equipment. As lead designer of this design process, I shall do my best to remain objective as I describe these two products and the concepts behind them.
As I mentioned in the opening page, it is crucial to understand the user group and in the case of the following two products, the target group is the 6- to 12-year-olds i. e. primary school age children. These children have already mastered the basics of climbing and balancing and require more complex spatial arrangements to further develop their skills.
The first product that I will describe began with an idea that came to me late one night when I was sketching ideas for the second development phase
of Galaxy. It was a simple idea of hanging a series of ropes down from a curving beam and attaching various objects to them, so that children could climb through them, rather like Tarzan swinging through the vines of the jungle. Since the product series was called Galaxy, I decided to call this play activity the Meteor Shower as the objects attached to the rope seem to float in space.
After the initial concept was drawn, a 1:10 scale model was quickly made. These models are important tools in the initial phase of design because it is much easier for the development team to discuss relevant issues when handling a model than it is when looking at a set of sketches. The sketching phase, therefore, is very short. On
the other hand, literally hundreds of models are made that go through a strict process of evaluation based on three key criteria: play value, safety, and engineering.
In the case of the Meteor Shower, few changes were required to approve its play value and its safety. The more difficult discussions related to engineering and shipping. Due to their length, the long curved beams posed a transportation problem. On this issue, a compromise was eventually reached, balancing transportability issues against the play value of having a longer beam.
Developing an engineering solution that met the wishes of the design team proved to be more difficult. The challenge was how to attach the ropes
to the beam, allowing for multiple and flexible usage, without piercing the beam’s top surface. The design required this flexible solution because the ropes needed to be attached at various angles to the beam in order to achieve optimal play value. The top surface of the beam needed to remain smooth, as it was clear that children would be climbing there and a protrusion, no matter how minimal, would disturb play patterns and compromise safety. Ultimately, the design team came up with a solution whereby the ropes where attached to the bottom of the beam as shown – a solution that met the need for play value, and most importantly in this case, for strength and safety.