product design & human-centered design
A collaboration with Melih Yazici and liza tawadrous
My Role in this project: research and observation, interviews, presentations, prototype making, design criteria, finalization.
Vibillow is a tool toy designed for kids with special needs. It is essentially a neck pillow. It provides vibration around the jawline and weight around the shoulders in order to stimulate and calm the kids who need proprioceptive stimulation.
This Project was created in Collaboration between Beverley School and the Industrial Design program at OCAD U With support of
Co-design and the Research & Innovation office of OCAD U. Many thanks to all the collaborators: Beverley school TDSB : Alana Grossman - Principal, Danjela Malobabic Vice Principal, Beverley Instructors, Ben Cottreau classroom #202, and occupational & speech therapists, big thanks to the Beverley children, parents & guardians. Co-Design: Connie Chisholm & Kirsten White
Vibillow was chosen to be exhibited at OCAD University in 2018 for Toronto Design Festival.
After the festival, it was sent back to a school for kids with special needs to be used by the kids.
understanding special needs
In order to begin this project, we interviewed a caregiver in order to understand the realities behind the lives of kids with special needs. Click here, to read the full interview.
This interview was the beginning of our understanding that each case is completely different. Each kid has a unique disability and unique stimulation needs.
The most fruitful part of our project was when we first went to visit Beverley School. We had the opportunity to make observations to find a design opportunity.
Click here to find detailed recordings of my observations. The Pupil 3 in this paper, later became our main focus, so we later call the kid Pupil 1 in our project.
The main idea of this paper is that every interaction that I have observed, have repetition and stimulation in common. All the interactions that I have observed showed me that most kids behave repetitively and each has their own unique way of getting stimulation, but they all need it at all times if not very frequently.
"I have noticed that Pupil 1 had something in her hand since class time has started. I have noticed this buzzing sound that was coming from whatever she was holding in her hand. When I have asked her assistant, she told me that, that was her favourite toy. It was a purple ball, that was vibrating and it did not look soft. She was pressing it against her ear for the whole time it was vibrating very heavily."
How can we satisfy Pupil One’s needs for specific sensory stimulations by designing a special toy tool?
Kids with special needs
Vibillow aims to satisfy Pupil 1's needs for proprioceptive stimulation in a comfortable and efficient way. It aims to benefit the kid by providing the needed stimulation and the assistant by calming the kid.
Vibillow will relieve Pupil 1's frustrations and potentially allow to be calmer and enjoy class time and activities in a more efficient way and
What is proprioceptive stimulation?
Proprioception is usually associated with the sense of knowing where you are in a space. For example, closing your eyes and touching your nose, is an exemplary test of proprioception, finding where your nose is, knowing and being aware of the relation between your body and space.
When we have interviewed an occupational therapist who worked at the school who knew Pupil 1, we have described our observations to her. The OT told us she needed proprioceptive stimulation, and for her, that specifically meant, vibration around the jawline (we initially thought she needed auditory stimulation) and weight around her shoulder joints.
interview with ben
Our interview with Pupil 1's teacher was incredibly valuable as the one with the occupational therapist. Both feedbacks, made us do major and vital changes in our product.
Ben told us that transitioning between activities was especially hard for Pupil 1 and told us that he could really use something to calm her down during that time. When we went with our last prototype ( pink pillow ), he told us that she would really enjoy the material and the colour of pink. He really liked the idea of a shoulder pillow as it could be easily used while transitioning. He also told us that most kids in his class use weighted products such as blankets.
From user testing to all the feedback that we have received, we made our final and detailed decisions.
The big pink shoulder pillow provides weight around the shoulder joints. The size is designed to fit kids between the ages of 8-14. The material is soft, easily washable and visually stimulating. Inside, there is a changeable weight system, this fabric is also easily washable. There are pockets sewn in order for the weights to stay stable. We have used beans as weights for safety and for easier adjustments of weights.
The little grey pockets are placed with matching velcro on top of the pink shoulder pillow. Inside these little grey pockets, there are vibrators that are sewn into the grey pockets in order to make their placement stable, they are covered in fabric to ensure safety and placement. Overall there is toy stuffing inside the pockets to make it softer.
We later removed all the heads of the zippers to make it safer for the kids.
This product could be easily adjustable in size, the intensity of vibration, colours puffiness, and weight system.
Vibillow is a unique and thoughtful design because there are no other products on the market that offers these specific stimulative needs at the same time.
It is a free hand customizable tool toy that is very easy to use that could be used in various scenarios
It could even more customizable by adding other stimulative features depending on the user.
Bill of materials
When we sent our final product to the school for final user testing, the feedback that we have received was the most rewarding of all.
Pupil 1 LOVED our product and did not want to give it back. On top of her, 4 other kids also used and enjoyed our product.
From this project, I have learned that by focusing on one individual, you can apply your knowledge to a larger demographic that different users have varying needs, and what works for one might not necessarily work for another and how to interpret and understand indirect feedback through observing the user.
I grew immensely in this project. How I felt when I learned that she loved our product was beyond words. We did not assume that we made a difference in someone's life, we have seen that we actually did it.
Design is such a powerful tool to change humanity