When we play (or we played, that’s up to you), we are used to following instructions, opening a booklet that explains how that toy works or listening to indications, a more or less rigid path that guides us in a sequence of actions. What if all this was limiting for a child? What would happen if instead of following consequential steps, was given a final goal without caring about the route? We find out with Rigamajic, a toy without instructions that challenges different clichés related to the sphere of childhood and the toy world in general.
This construction toy appears unusual from a first glance, “a beautiful pile of scrap to assemble”, as the designer would call it; indeed the appearance is heavy and the aesthetic is more of a prototype than a finished product (even if for the fanatics of the ‘Meccano‘ it could be a stroke of lightning!). 265 pieces of boards, wheels, ropes and various connectors made mainly of birch plywood and recycled nylon. Both the wooden planks and the plastic connectors have no particular colors or finishes and this amazed us a lot, considering the positioning of the product in a market where chromatic and aesthetic research is fundamental for design…and for marketing . But going to the bottom of this choice we understand that it is part of a wider design thinking that wants to push the child to imagine, untying him/her as much as possible from constraints, starting from the aesthetic ones.
The dimensions are another not-really-encouraging aspect, we are used to constructions with relatively small or in any case manageable pieces, while with Rigamajic we find ourselves faced with large components and a toy with a strong impact on space. In a process of product analysis the question is: who said that a child cannot play with heavy pieces? or rather, why not provide children with items to build objects on a real scale? The starting point is always to provide tools to be free to invent; if these are large and heavy for a child, he/she will be forced to seek help from someone else, and if the invenction is built by two or more minds the results will certainly be more satisfying. Rigamajic, due to its characteristics, is designed for a school or museum environment, where young users have enough space and conditions to be able to create collectively and collaboratively.
A toy without instructions is complex by definition, but it’s exactly the complexity that helps to deepen and grow, from an early age; the child, building without constraints and arriving at a tangible result, reaches the awareness of having made it by him/herself. This thinking starts from the assumption that Rigamajic is not born to build real objects, but to explore new forms and solutions to real situations; citing a concrete example, the goal of the game is not to build a car, but a way to go to school. The perspective then changes and is detached from the canons to which we are accustomed to embrace a new game mode, one in which the circumstances are built to play. Therefore there are no right or wrong answers, correct paths or not, but only pure and simple imagination.
Rigamajic, a toy without instructions, is the brainchild of Cas Holman, an American designer who has been designing for children for 18 years. From play areas to toys to new educational-play systems for schools, her approach is interesting and guided by exploration and inventiveness. To deepen her work we recommend the documentary Abstract, on Netflix, which has dedicated an episode to her and to her design method.