SLAPS TOYS 
DESIGN RESEARCH PROJECT

In early 2015 Ed & Giulia decided to collaborate on a project that looked for an answer to a simple question. 

How can we engage people in open, honest conversations about sex, fetishism and desire? 

This short, rapid design research project resulted in a set of sex themed construction toys, three exhibitions, two conferences, £120,000 of research funding, and the birth of SLAPS Studio in Glasgow. 

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BACKGROUND

As single young people working as interns at a design research institute, we were becoming fascinated by the changing attitudes towards internet dating, and the mainstreaming of dating apps, in particular Tinder. Most of all, we were interested in the 'experience' of internet dating, and an emerging 'openness' in conversation. Dating had suddenly become much easier, and faster, and we wanted to find out how people were experiencing this change in social behaviour.

THE CHALLENGE 

Early on in the project we were confronted by an obstacle. When we started interviewing people casually, they were not so open to talking about sex, fetishism or desire. We could conduct interviews anonymously, but we wanted to dig a bit deeper, and find a way to instigate a conversation between a group of people. Our area of expertise was in designing tools for engaging people in research. So we set ourselves a challenge to design a tool to allow people to have open conversations about sex. 

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THE OUTCOME

The outcome of the project was a series of plastic construction toys that we named SLAPS. They were designed to be both suggestive and ambiguous in form. Allowing our research participants to build scenarios, and provide an inroad to conversation. The tools worked best in situations were the participants were not expecting to be 'engaged' in research. Such as exhibitions, and conference events where the decorative interactive construction toys would attract attention form passers by, often followed by giggles and laughter. The project progressed into a second iteration of design development, where we developed the toys to be sold commercially. Bringing the SLAPS fuelled dialogue around sex, fetishism and desire into homes, and offices internationally. 

OUR APPROACH

We worked with a group of research participants to co-design a tool that could be used to engage conversation. We started out by making drawings in sketchbooks that could be used to visually communicate topics that might be embarrassing, or uncomfortable for people to talk about. From this we developed a simple visual language, and began prototyping different ways in which people could use this language to communicate with each other. The tool quickly became 3D, and we introduced a constructive element, that allowed participants to 'build' their conversation. 

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