A little over a month ago I had a new idea. I was getting tired of just working with wood and steel cables nonstop, so I decided to start a side project. This new project wouldn't involve any sort of furniture and had pretty much nothing to do with my other work. Instead, this idea centered around creating a small, simple product for kids. I've always liked toys and games and ever since my niece was born almost three years ago, I've often found myself thinking about what sort of kids' products I could create myself. The growth charts that I currently sell through my website began as a birthday present for my niece and, similarly, this current project began with me considering what sort of things she might like.
The product I settled on creating is a series of interchangeable, interactive light switch covers for kids. The original prototype for the light switch cover was made of laser-cut wood that I later painted. The design was comprised of a base plate that screwed into the wall (just like a normal light switch cover), two "sliders" featuring a monkey and a lion and a cover showing grass and a tree. The idea was that when a switch was off, a monkey would hang down from the tree and, to turn the switch on, the lion would pop up out of the grass and flip the switch while the monkey would retreat into the tree. At this point I wasn't quite sure how the sliders would be activated but I figured I would deal with that later.
After the wood prototype, I switched materials to acrylic. I was thinking ahead to the manufacturing process and trying to streamline the design as much as possible. Since acrylic comes in different colors, using it would mean there would be no need to paint the base plate or the cover. However, I still had to hand draw the monkey and lion faces. At this point I was just using colored sharpie, but I knew that would have to change down the line.
Having made the first acrylic prototype, I started playing around with different ways to activate the sliders and thus flip the switch on and of. At first I tried using a string and pulley system, but the result was much too messy looking. I eventually settled on the idea of introducing two new animals at the edge of the cover that, when pushed up or down, would activate the animals inside the cover.
When I first started playing around with the light switch cover idea, I didn't consider going beyond the original jungle design. Once I came up with the idea of using magnets to secure the cover to the base plate, however, that all changed. I quickly realized that, with the magnet system, you could have a series of easily interchangeable covers showing different scenes. It would be very easy pop one cover off, take the sliders out, put some new ones in and snap the new cover on. With this exciting new idea, I set about designing some new covers and sliders.
At this point, I knew I wouldn't want to draw the designs on each and every slider forever, but I liked the hand-drawn look. I decided to draw out a design for each slider on paper and then import it into the computer and generate stickers that could be placed directly on the sliders, thus keeping the hand-drawn quality while speeding the production process.
With the new covers and sliders designed and the stickers figured out, I set about producing some much more refined prototypes in both one and two switch versions. There is still a little work to do (mostly perfecting the stickers for professional printing), but things are quickly nearing the end. Soon all that will be left will be to get the covers out to the public!
I'm hoping to launch a Kickstarter for the covers in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned! Until then, I have a couple final tweaks to make and, most importantly, I have to come up with a catchy name!