Nikolaj Blinkenberg Willadsen started his company Blinkenbike about 18 months ago and he has taken customer involvement in the design process a step further. He has used two nephews and two young nieces to test-ride the bikes at each stage and he took prototypes to the Trafiklegepladsen in Fælledparken … thats the Traffic School with child-size roads and round-a-bouts and small-scale traffic lights in the main park in the north part of the city where children in Copenhagen are taught to ride bikes on a safe simulation of the public roads …. and left them and walked away to watch from a distance how toddlers played with his bikes.
The results are pretty amazing. Children, watching the bikes being put together, engage with the whole process very quickly and at a much younger age than I would have anticipated … I think Nikolaj said that his nephew was just 14 months old.
There are very clever ideas here like the round, square and triangular slots in the cover to the ‘tool box’ on the cross bar which links to the standard shape-recognition toys nearly all young children have seen but that quickly develops to the next stage with a nut and spanner arrangement and a robust screw driver that is used for a wooden bolt with a wood screw thread that adjusts the height of the saddle. If you think about that, it is a very complex mental image, to try to work out how and why a screw thread works and it’s something that is hidden as you turn the top … many adults I know still struggle with remembering which way you turn a bolt or screw to tighten it or slacken it.
Again, as with the shelves from Wood Junkie, there are various accessories to customise the design and, that important word again, ‘engage’ the user.