Whether it’s monsters lurking under the bed or the scariness of a darkened room, bedtime is fraught for many kids (and their fried parents). Designers Lisa Gerkens, Hanna Markgren, Emmi Pouta, and Heini Salovuori have a compelling solution: LeeLuus, cuddly stuffed animal–shaped night lights that are designed to help soothe children to sleep with their comforting glow. But these are no ordinary night lights—the product was co-designed with children and incorporates touch-sensitive interactivity.
Illuminated from within, the stuffed animals dim and brighten thanks to a conductive linen cover—removable and machine-washable—that senses changes in the surrounding electrical field. Kids hug the animal to turn it on and pet it to lower the light. And they don’t have to get out of bed to turn it on and off.
The designers made their first prototypes in 2013 based on interviews with families whose children had a hard time falling asleep. They sought a decorative product that would fit into their homes nicely. After releasing the initial concept—which resembled plush balloons—to less-than-stellar enthusiasm, they learned that they hadn’t incorporated enough user feedback, went back to the drawing board, and spoke with more families. In all, the designers talked to over 100 parents and children. The aha moments came from those focus groups and workshops. As the designers explain on their blog:
Most of the early sketches revolved around night-animals and “friendly monsters”. Both ideas came from families we were working with. The night-animals (animals who are active in the night time) were something the kids seem to feel was natural, they saw them as a cute friend that kept you calm at night. The “friendly monsters” idea was based on having a monster that was on your side, that could help you fight or befriend the monsters you were afraid of.
After arriving at the core idea, they worked to develop the night light’s silhouette. The designers stitched together a simple 3-D form and wrapped them with masking tape, which served as a removable drawing surface to test different patterns for the lights’ “friendly monster” personification. Then, the designers invited families to co-create their own characters and pick which ones were the most successful. In the end, a cat, hedgehog, and owl passed with flying colors. Further refining the concept, the designers referenced the illustrations of Tove Jansson, a Finnish novelist, and Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese filmmaker behind Spirited Away, to inform the creatures’ final look.
“We wanted to create an experience that felt like magic to kids,” Markgren says in LeeLuu’s Indiegogo campaign video. Pricing starts at about $79 and shipping is expected in December 2016.