Designing E-textiles Toys

Designing E-textiles Toys

Barbro Sholz (Stühmer Scholz Design, Hamburg), Paula Veske (CMST Centre for Microsystems Technology, Ghent University)


E-textiles operate at the intersection of art, technology, and material science. They are soft and approachable materials for toys for children and allow a new aesthetic appearance offering an alternative understanding of technology (1,2).
Designing with e-textile materials means creating aesthetics with a composite of permanent and temporary expression of material (3). Textiles as soft and memorable materials provide a great potential of acceptance in toys especially for younger children (1,4) . As an example of e-textiles toys, we present Ttorch-project, a light toy adopting the principles of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) designed from e-textiles and textile industry leftovers. The Ttorch-project is an example of the opportunities using e-textiles as STEAM toys. It consists of 3 parts: an interactive blanket, an interactive animal character and a battery pouch. All parts are created by laminating the electronics in between layers of traditional textile.
Using TPU sealing between textile layers creates an aesthetic of functional playfulness, but still allows the object to remain a soft textile. With this method, the texture of every layer is visible on the shell. The effect was used to create a design that makes the hidden electronics visible and the circuit understandable.

This paper gives a short overview of design language with e-textiles and aesthetics of STEAM and interactive educational toys. The process of the toy’s design will be in the focus in which technical and aesthetic parameters mutually depend on another. The results include how design decisions have been taken and how the target group has influenced the outcome. User studies were conducted throughout all iterative stages. Usability of the toy and simplicity of content was crucial as it was intended to be used by the young target group of 4-8-year-old children who cannot read yet. The feedback from this user group was documented and the observations obtained were continually included in the design process.
The discussion highlights the great potential of designing STEAM toys with e-textiles. E-textiles by their characteristics already incorporate principles of STEAM, as technology, (textile) engineering and artistic approaches are included. Another feature of those materials is that they communicate technology in a different manner than hard electronics does.

1. Honauer M, Moorthy P, Hornecker E. Interactive Soft Toys for Infants and Toddlers – Design Recommendations for Age-appropriate Play. CHI Play 2019 – Proc Annu Symp Comput Interact Play. 2019;265–76.
2. Bergström J, Clark B, Frigo A, Mazé R, Redström J, Vallgårda A. Becoming materials: Material forms and forms of practice. Digit Creat. 2010;21(3):155–72.
3. Vallgårda A, Winther M, Mørch N, Vizer EE. Temporal form in interaction design. Int J Des. 2015;
4. Redström M, Redström J, Mazé R. IT + Textiles 1. Helsinki: Edita Publishing Oy; 2010. 1–144 p.


Keywords: E-Textiles Education STEAM Materialdesign