Design: Baby, we have designs on you
In the post-pram age, it's hard to know what accessories to buy to make life with a small child that little bit easier. Six top women designers wax lyrical about the products which they found made child-rearing a positive pleasure.
Saturday 13 March 1999
Johnson Banks Design
"The Anywayup Cup from V & A Marketing Ltd is a great invention. It automatically seals between sips, so no leaks or spills even when shaken or dropped. It has won several awards, including being named by the Design Council as a Millennium Product. Another inspired idea which I have recently discovered is the Dishwasher Basket. It takes life's little necessities such as teats, lids, etc and houses them in a basket preventing loss, clogged filters or glued-up heating elements. I would also like to nominate Tiptronic Transmission. Automatic cars are handy when a crisis develops in the back seat such as a dropped rattle, biscuit, box of raisins, etc. With tiptronic transmission you can just switch from manual to automatic and back again while driving along and allow yourself the luxury of a spare hand whenever you need it, while still feeling like a racing driver. Another favourite is Betty Crocker's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix. All you need in addition to the packet is some water, vegetable oil and a medium egg. They are divine and our two-year-old son Joe (in the photo with me) is already an expert. Whitworths Low Fat Cookies are somewhat less calorific, but still really good and you only need to add water."
"I can think of a well- designed product which is currently keeping my 13-year-old son Luke very happy. It is the iMac. Luke has five "e-mail pals" from America, South Africa, Malaysia and Singapore. His generation is so fear-free of technology, and although I don't let him stay on it for long he is gaining instant knowledge of how other kids his age live their very different lives all around the world. The immediacy of the medium means that he can swap interests and develop an understanding of technology and communication which was impossible in my day."
Managing Director, Coexistence
Having consulted her daughter, Rachel Bull, Mary named three invaluable additions to their lives: Zanotta's Scangai Clothes Stand can be used as a fun alternative to a wardrobe and the Sacco bean bag, also by Zanotta, is a safe and attractive piece of furniture for children's bedrooms. Seven- year-old Rachel also nominated Baleri Italia's Tato, Tatino and Tatone floor cushions (egg-shaped, ball-shaped and flat, respectively), which have seen her through her stylish childhood.
Designer, Pure Contemporary Design
Orianna thinks that the most perfectly designed product for small children is the "Eat Me, Drink Me" range of tableware, available from Urban Outfitters. At the bottom of these transparent, perspex utensils is printed the perfect incentive for young children to finish their meals, and Orianna's adult friends all seem to love them, too.
Designer, Dragon International
"Lego has always been my favourite (I loved it when I was a child) for the following reasons: it is brilliant for imaginative and creative play; easy to store; a very acceptable reasonably-priced present, cleverly targeted with different levels of complexity for a range of ages from five to teens (Duplo fits the younger age group); appeals to both boys and girls, and keeps (most) children occupied for hours. I have also just discovered Yoplait Frubes, Fruit Fromage Frais in tubes, introduced by Yoplait to the UK from France a few years ago, which provide real dairy goodness in a portable, convenient and fun format. They are a perfect balance of child appeal and mum reassurance, a good solution for the lunch box and easily stored in the fridge (and freezable too).
The Renault Twingo [sadly not yet available in the UK], although not specifically designed with children in mind, is wonderful as a car for a mum because: it is convenient to park, comfortable to sit in and has wide doors for getting the kids/shopping/luggage in and out easily; it looks stylish and intrinsically French, with a sense of humour and great attention to detail; it is also very economical to run and feels safe and reliable to drive about in.
Finally, I mustn't forget the Spot the Dog story books. The Spot character is friendly and loveable with a touch of mischief. They offer a great balance of simplicity, charm and fun - a pleasure to read and easy for children and adults to enjoy. The "flaps" offer a surprise element which used to make my children chuckle over and over again!"
Designer @ Dinny Hall
"I have to say that the best-designed products for babies are at Baby Gap. I was in there all the time for clothes for my son Lorcan. The socks, the hats, everything is cool and not overpriced. As for pushchairs, the fantastic Pegasus, all-terrain, 3-wheeler buggy is great, but I was never prepared to spend pounds 400 on one!"
Clockwise from bottom left: Zanotta Scangai Clothes Stand, available from Coexistence, London N1 (0171-354 8817); The Anywayup Cup is designed by V&A Marketing Ltd (01222 575600). For details of other Millennium Products contact the Design Council on 0171- 420 5200; The iMac is available in strawberry, blueberry, grape, tangerine and lime. Customer enquiry line 0870 6006010; similar Baby Gap cardigans are available in the BabyLuxe range. Call 0800 427789 for stockists; the Pegasus Landrover Pushchair costs pounds 392 including accessories. Call 01822 618077 for
details or see www.allterrain.co.uk. The Mothercare Manhattan 3-wheeler pushchair retails at pounds 199, customer enquiries 01923 210210; Sacco bean bags by Zanotta are available from Coexistence as before. Not pictured: Frubes were designed by an all-female team and are currently available from supermarkets; the Eat Me, Drink Me range of tableware is available from Urban Outfitters, London W11 (call 0171-761 1001)
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