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Expert interview with Design Director at LEGO Licencing®

Sine Klitgaard Møller is a design director at Lego Licensing and has worked for the LEGO group since 1995. She has vast experience in doing research with families. The LEGO company is insight driven, meaning they base new product development on research findings rather than relying on assumptions and churning out new merchandise without much thought. This is why LEGO is still at the forefront of the children’s toy industry, being nominated the most powerful global brand earlier this year.

We had the pleasure of working with Sine during a project for LEGO® wear the children’s wear brand that goes the extra mile for families by understanding and supporting their lives. She has kindly given us some time to answer a few questions.

 

AT LEGO YOU DO A LOT OF RESEARCH, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TALK TO PEOPLE?

“You can have an idea of what you think things are like, but you don’t know for sure if that is the case. When talking to parents they will tell you their ideal picture of what they would like their lives to be like, not necessarily what their lives are actually like. For example, mums often tell us they are trying to stimulate their child creatively and would like toys that help them do so. But when digging a bit deeper it becomes clear that it is not only about creativity but also about trying to get the child to play on its own for a few minutes so mum can get on with other things for a while.”

WE FIND THAT THE CHILDREN’S INDUSTRY IS PARTICULARLY PRONE TO PREJUDICE, EVERYONE KNOWS A CHILD AND OFTEN FEEL THEY HAVE A GOOD GRASP OF THEIR PREFERENCES. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT?

“Doing research is not about proving what you have in your head. At LEGO Licensing staff are encouraged not to say “my kids like… or my cousin’s children like …” it’s simply not credible. You would never trust a medical scientist who says: – my kids like this medicine and they didn’t get sick”

CAN YOU GIVE US AN INSIGHT YOU GOT FROM RESEARCHING WITH KIDS THAT YOU WOULDN’T HAVE FOUND OUT OTHERWISE?

“One of the big take outs from the LEGO® Wear research that we wouldn’t have found without research was that LEGO wear needs to be easy, not fashionable or trendy. We also learnt fathers take on dressing children & what they want from children’s clothing. That meant we can tailor advertising to include dads and show things from a dad’s perspective, i.e. how to match clothes, and how easily it washes etc. That is a totally new ‘hook’ we can use.”

AT WHAT STAGE OF A PROJECT DO YOU DO RESEARCH?

“We do research at all stages of a project. In the beginning to define the brief, and then we have play tests every week where kids are invited into LEGO to try toys that are in development. We also do packaging tests in the final stages of a project, and sometimes even after a project is done to evaluate the outcome.”

HOW DO YOU FIND KIDS TO WORK WITH?

“We use consultancies who can find us children with the right criteria, such as age and gender. We are also in touch with a few kindergardens where we have a sign-up system for those interested in taking part in research with parents approval.”

KIDS ARE UNPREDICTABLE, HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE YOU GET THEM TO FEED BACK ON WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO?

“Although keeping an open mind you need to be super clear on what you want to get out of the research. And then you need need simple straightforward questions. When doing group tests you have to be aware of group dynamics and peer pressure. For example in a shopping scenario where kids are asked something along the lines of: ‘If you have £10 what would you buy?’, if someone picks a thing someone else also likes they may not realise it can be picked again despite there just being one sample piece of clothing.”

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE RESEARCH AFTER A PROJECT?

We transfer the knowledge from research between other projects. We have a common share and we constantly re-visit research.

CAN YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF A RESEARCH FINDING THAT HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY TRANSLATED INTO A PRODUCT?

“LEGO Friends — LEGO bricks made specifically for girls — is a good example. It started with many years heavy research before we launched the products. We were under the assumption that girls don’t like to build, but they do, they just think they can’t do it –– the company’s tag line is ‘creating the builders of tomorrow’ –– if we want to support children to become the builders of tomorrow, and we are going to have female engineers we had better get girls building.”

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A big Thank You to Sine for talking to us!

11th November 2015
Category : Design, Experts, Insights
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Design That Stimulates – Central Saint Martin’s Graduate Show 2015

Sometimes, indulging in too much of a good thing can be wonderful. On rare occasions it might even be good for you. For anyone with an insatiable curiosity, a graduate show – with its abundance of eye-catching creations and thought provoking concepts – is an example of one such satisfactorily opulent occasion.

The second half of the Central Saint Martins’ annual graduate show, dedicated to showcasing design, graphics, and material exploration, took place this June and, as Studio INTO’s Joanna Brassett has this year had the enviable task of tutoring some of the final year product design students, I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the opening night.

Joanna had supervised a selection of the students personal and client projects., among them a group project done in collaboration with McCain, entitled ‘The future of the potato (it’s not a chip!)’. This humorous brief produced some ingenious products, including a wearable snack targeting ‘scooter-set’ school children and a new take on edible energy boosting gels, also made primarily from potatoes. Reassuringly however, I don’t think the chip element of Friday fish dinners will be jeopardised any time soon.

 

Graduation exhibitions, as environments of excessive creativity, are not only a place for inspirational indulgence, but also present a great opportunity to spot emergent socio-cultural themes. Although we find ourselves in a time where once easily identifiable trends have been replaced by a steady bombardment of short lived micro movements – whose main objective increasingly seems to be to demonstrate of their novelty rather than their relevance – there were a few poignant trends that transpired the show that I’m sure we will be seeing more of in the future.

Although we have yet to see any truly ‘Jetson-esque’ gadgets being mass produced, I am sure no one will have managed to avoid the ubiquitous hype of how smart wearable technology is soon supposed to be transforming everyday life. It was perhaps rather expected then that one of the most notable themes addressed at the show was intelligent objects and Big Data. Most evident at the product and graphic part of the show, many student explored the potential benefits from harnessing big data, and the new moral philosophy that could develop as products get smarter. Ideas ranged from concepts that I would be thrilled to see on next year’s Christmas list, to speculative products I hope remain dystopian predictions. One of the more optimistic student was Kehan Yu: “Connected products can be seen not only as tools but also as devices which can give active responses. An intelligent sensing computer would understand its users’ behaviours and serve them similarly to a servant aiming to reduce its master’s burden. A personal Internet of Things could create an efficient and sustainable future.”

Another prominent, less anticipated theme, saw projects focus on alternate health care and the process of death. These students had highlighted varied issues such as the ageing global population, our obsession with cleanliness and a changing religious landscape as factors affecting our current mental and physical health. There were apps for self-medication, a dispenser that would expose you to bacteria as you slept, paraphernalia for modern burial rites and digital services for remembering the lives of deceased family and friends. One exhibiting student, Simon Drake said “Memories of people, places and events in our lives are inescapable. So it follows that the many objects we come in contact with represent an attachment formed with people, places and/or events. Over a lifetime this can become a rich collection of ephemera that reflects our individual and/ or collective journeys.”

 

Since my own graduation I have noticed a growing general sentiment that despite today being a time of stuffification, design continues to blindly add to the ‘object overload’, increasingly disconnecting itself from both the industry and changing social values. As editor in chief, Robert Thiemann, said in the June/July Issue of ‘Frame’: “What bothers me is that an industry so deeply engaged in innovation – literally from day one – pays so little attention to broad social shifts and technological advances.” But, having seen what this years’ students have produced I can, with renewed confidence, beg to differ.

Whilst it might be true that most of the projects on display will not in their present form make it into our everyday lives, the overwhelming evidence of student’s awareness of real social issues and exploration of new materials would lead me to believe that at least some of them will not go on to just make ‘new stuff’ for the sake of it.

Let’s hope that the inspiring optimism and enthusiasm present during the opening night of their show remains with the graduates once they leave the university-incubator, and that they remember that as designers –thinkers, makers, doers – they should dare to apply themselves to bigger things. By tackling social and technological change with an inquisitive, provocative and entertaining mind set, I would like to believe we will see the new graduates go on to make big waves in the services and systems of the real world.

Then again, being a Central Saint Martins alumni, I was perhaps always going to be biased.

 

 

Nathalie Jerming – Havill

5th August 2015

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Interview with the Global Consumer Insights Director at McDonalds

Jennifer Pembroke Johnson is the Global Consumer Insights Director at McDonalds based in Chicago, Illinois U.S.A. With over 15 years of qualitative and quantitative consumer research experience on both the client and supplier side she knows a thing or two about doing research with children. We are very grateful to Jennifer for taking the time to talk to us and share some experiences, hints and tips.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TALK TO KIDS?

“We may get different information if we only rely on the parents. It’s good to speak with both parents and children as you can see where opinions differ and overlap.”

“We often see kids and parents together but we also do kids ‘hang-outs’ to check concepts and flush out what they find most exciting, and fine tune those ideas before we put them into quantitative research.”

DO YOU DO RESEARCH IN-HOUSE OR GET EXTERNAL EXPERTS TO HELP YOU?

“We are very involved in our kids research and think there are some great firms out there that specialise in how to talk to kids. Just because you might have a research methodology that is appropriate for parents it’s not sure it would work well with children.”

“Kids attention span is shorter so the conversation must move on much quicker, and that requires someone with a special ear to help understand what the kid thinks and help them project their opinions.”

HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT RESEARCHING WITH KIDS?

“We do both home visits and focus groups. We like to organise friendship groups or meet ups with a few kids at a time. I think it is important as it has a positive effect on how people talk and play off one another instead of just having a one-to-one conversation. The results are so different. I find the same if we get a couple of mums together. It often makes the outcome feel more authentic.”

“I tend not to put boys and girls together because they are so different especially at certain ages. Recently when doing some kids triads (friendship groups) we had 8-9 year olds, the age when kids would be emerging out of Happy Meals, and we wanted to understand their interests in general. While sports is definitely a theme for both boys and girls most other leisure time activities were miles apart. Boys were into Minecraft and hardcore play like LEGO or that type of games, and girls we into dancing, singing and swimming. With the exception of Harry Potter even the books they read are different.  It was really good to be able to compare and see differences and similarities.”

KIDS ARE UNPREDICTABLE, HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE YOU GET THEM TO FEED BACK ON WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO?

“I think some of it is in the screening of the kids. We ask them questions, like describe a favourite character from a book for example, if they are really struggling to articulate that it’s a red flag. I also find that if you ask a kid to bring along a friend they tend to be more relaxed instead of being with a bunch of strangers. They are able to share a bit more freely. Also, their friend catch them out if they are making things up – “you don’t do that!” When they are with people who know them they can’t just tell you things that they think you would like to hear, and therefore it tends to be more authentic.”

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU KEEPING AN EYE ON?

“One of the trends I think is really relevant for our brand is that kids are the mini-me of their parents. As a kid I didn’t go out for sushi with my mum and I didn’t go to a salon to have a manicure. Fine dining was for super special occasions. Today you can’t go into a restaurant or a salon without finding a 4 year old in there sharing the experience with his/her parents.

In focus groups you hear kids talk about their favorite food and places to go, and it’s about using chop sticks, and Asian food and Indian food… Kids just have a lot more exposure now and their parents are taking them along versus hiring a babysitter and leaving them at home. It’s a new market and the brand needs to develop with that mini-me trend.

As an example of that, when we were in London earlier this year we went to a place called Leon, and they don’t have special kids meals. Their kids offering was a smaller portion (half portion) of the grown up’s dish. So kids can pick and adult taste in a smaller size.”

WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF DOING RESEARCH WITH KIDS?

“You have to be a little patient. And you must have a very clear understanding of the research question”

“The best kids research is done by people who don’t stick to one single methodology but instead really craft a methodology to suit a particular project. You must be sensitive to kids need and demands and ensure the kids understand the question.”

“A good research partner has tools in their tool box that helps the child answer the question without it sounding artificial or projected.”

“Keep it simple – they are kids.”

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE RESEARCH AFTER A PROJECT?

“The best research lives on. The best researchers can summarise the big ideas into small and easily accessible snippets of information.”

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A massive Thank You to Jennifer for talking to us!

3rd July 2015
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Look who’s talking

“ While a large proportion of pensioner households have a low income, ironically the retired account for the majority of wealthy Britons. The over 50’s own 80 per cent of the private wealth of the UK. ”

We’re pleased to share that CWB magazine has written a review of the seminar we offered at the Bubble Show earlier this spring, where we were invited as expert speakers of the children’s industry.

Our seminar focused on the opportunities for innovation in the children’s industry that are emerging as the role of grandparents changes. Did you know that 63% of UK grandparents now look after their grandchildren on a weekly basis?

If you couldn’t make it to Bubble then find out more about our insights into the changing role of grandparents on page 29 of the March/April 2015 Issue of CWB.

7th May 2015
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