The pervasiveness of single use plastic for toy production has created the cultural consciousness that most things are disposable. The moment you’ve deposited something in the trash you are no longer responsible for it and for some, it no longer exists. A material’s lifespan, origin, and sensory experience can be positive factors in its inclusion for a design. I chose to study organic materials and how they can be used for toys and aspects of play. As a case study, I created a felt vehicle toy system that rethinks the way we use organic materials for toy applications. I then tested these kits at a few stages in their process, with children and adults, to gauge the interest and the different play styles possible with them. The outcome was that one hundred percent Merino wool felt, the main material of my product, normally used as a soft, thin, and flexible material, can be a unique building material to create the form of a vehicle. The utilization of fibers in a relatively rigid form opens new options for materials uses. There is room for innovation in the use of organic soft materials, like felt, but also exploration of the emotional relationships with a product or toy itself based on a comforting sensory experience, and the factors that keep a toy out of the landfill.
Industrial Design (MFA)
Department, Program, or Center
School of Design (CAD)
McLoughlin, Mary Keenan, "“A Heart Felt Toy System”: How Can Materials, Structured, and Unstructured Play, Impact Toy Innovation, and Design" (2022). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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