Year: Fall 2018
Duration: 4 weeks
Client: Radio Flyer
Project Type: Group - 4 Team Members
Role: User Research, Concept Design
Tools: Adobe: Photoshop
Brief: "We [Radio Flyer] are seeking new ways to bring smiles to kids of all ages. With our staple product, the Little Red Wagon, we are looking for ways to evolve the experience for users and reimagine outdoor, imaginative play for the twenty-first century."​​​​​​​
In the fall of 2018, Radio Flyer served as our corporate partner with our Product Design senior class for the "Corporate Project". After extensive brainstorming session, our group felt it would be valuable for Radio Flyer to consider low income families in an effort to reimagine more inclusive, outdoor imaginative play for the twenty-first century.  
We began our research by spending time getting to know parents in this low-income bracket. Among the parents we interviewed, we met a single father with a six-year-old daughter, who in addition to being a father, he works multiple jobs to ensure he can make ends meet. We met a couple who are both chefs at Stanford, and work from 7 am to 7 pm to provide for their family. 
Lastly, we met a single mother with a six-year-old son. She describes herself as resilient and caring -- and it's abundantly clear in the way she describes her role as a mother. Together, she and her son have endured a number of hardships -- homelessness, her son's father's drug addiction, and the long wait for access to affordable housing. Regardless of the setbacks they face, she is incredibly intentional about how she raises her son. As she sits across from us, she thinks aloud about how she's communicating her faith to her son, the dances he's learning on Youtube, and whether or not she can pay his enrollment fee for soccer. She opens up about the tradeoffs she has to make: 
"I'd say because I'm not making as much money right now, I'm also not able to put him in as a many activities, which kind of sucks. But I think what's most valuable is that I'm most present with him and that's more important than anything else."
As a single mother, her story highlights the sacrifices and hardships that parents of low-income families endure. She made it clear to us that being a good parent is invaluable to her, so she is willing to take lower paying jobs in order to maximize her time with him. The lower-income leads her to have to make sacrifices in regards to what she can provide for her son. However, not only is she transparent with us, she's transparent with her son:
"We talk a lot about paying rent, why we can't buy certain things because our money has to be budgeted."
In fact, when the city raised her rent, took the opportunity to teach her son about resiliency by bringing him to the housing commission meeting to fight the rent hike. Over and over, we heard similar stories from parents about having direct conversations with their kids about tough subjects, including personal finance, substance abuse, and racial prejudice. Listening to these stories led us to our first finding.
Parents don't hide hardships from their kids. Instead, they actively want their kids to be exposed to it.​​​​​​​
As a mother and resident in East Palo Alto, she takes pride in being a part of and "growing with" a community born from the "beauty of the struggle." She invests her time volunteering in community nonprofits, working at her local church, and working for the education foundation that raises money for schools. However, when it comes to her son's education, she is willing to go to great lengths to provide him with the best opportunities. Reflecting on his first year in school, she told us that "Kindergarten was a difficult time for us." Every single day, she drove 200 miles to South San Jose in order to send him to a different school, "just to ensure he got a quality education." Fortunately, he got into a special program that allows Latino children to attend schools in the surrounding areas. She affirmed that even though the new school is close, it is "one hundred times better" than the schools in her area. This conversation led us to our next finding, as we recognized a stark dichotomy in her behavior.
Parents are active and dedicated members of their community, but go out of their way to send their children elsewhere for education and play opportunities.
Why is it that parents are so proud and involved in their community, but are willing to go out of their way for their children's education and play opportunities? 
Our group wanted to understand this dichotomy. We decided to look at the reasons why parents were remaining in their community for some activities, yet moving outside for others. We noticed that parents typically engaged their kids within their community in instances where they personally could lead by example, but sought outside engagement when it was an area they haven't personally experienced. This analysis led to our first insight.
Parents expose their kids to environments outside of their community in order to supplement for experiences they have never gone through. They remain inside of the community to expose their kids to values from the hardships they've experienced in their life.
Even though parents looked outside of their communities to supplement for certain experiences, their gratitude for the support offered within their communities was immense. Even though she has been through many hardships, being a single mom "isn't as hard because [she] has a great support system." The community she was referring to here are her neighborhoods and brother who help raise her son. Other parents told us about the ways they rely on family members for help when it comes to looking after their children. One parents said that she defined her success as a parent as being able to hear directly from her daughter, as opposed to her usual updates from her daughter's grandma. Furthermore, she mentioned that when children are raised by multiple caregivers, some of the child's interests may be left unsurfaced for the parent. ​​​​​​​Every parent that we spoke with acknowledged the community's role in being their support system. From these conversations emerged a third finding:
Kids are raised by a community. They split their time between multiple homes, environments, and parenting figures.​​​​​​​
From the families we spoke with, each of the kids were looked after by family members or neighbors. One of the parents we spoke with touched on a key point, mentioning that when children are raised by multiple caregivers, some of the child's interests may be left unsurfaced for the parent. From this conversation, we gained our second insight.

Parents have to make decisions with limited information, so they rely on interactions with their children and experiences from their own upbringings as heuristics. ​​​​​​​
We realized that our framework was more nuanced than actions take insight and outside of the community. Existing actions were taken based on children's interests that parents have already unsurfaced. However, there were whole groups of potential interests and areas of growth on which parents had yet to take action. The new areas of growth and potential interests manifest themselves as an additional portion of the T-Chart turning into the 2x2 on the right.​​​​​​​
This framework revealed a course of action: how might we surfaced activities so that they move from the bottom (unsurfaced) to the top (surfaced) -- triggering parents to take action on a child's developing interests? From these insights, we developed a network of needs:
From these needs, we realized that when parents are learning about their child's interests, it is like they are walking along the beach looking for treasure: they only see what is on the surface. We needed a solution that was like a metal detector: alerting parents to the treasures that lie below the surface of the sand. In other words, we want to move the bottom portion of unsurfaced interests up into the surfaced region. This metaphor combined with our needs led us to our design principles: 
1. Expose kids to different activities in order to broaden their horizons and deepen their interests. 
2. Supplement a parent's knowledge to fit the interests of their kids. 
3. Surface a kid's interests so that a parents can better provide resources. 
4. Facilitate communication between parent and child so they they can better understand each other's experiences and interests. ​​​​​​​
Introducing Radio Flyer Be RAD: A system of interchangeable kits that allows kids to be “Rooted And Discovering” when engaging with different Radio Flyer toys. The Be RAD system provides users with two parts: a wagon base and an interest kit. 
Within each kit is a wagon body snap on, activity guides for parents, a collectable miniature, and a poster. This opportunity would be part of the new Radio Flyer trade-in program, offering children and parents an affordable way to rotate toys and explore their interests. 
Once a child decides he or she wants a new toy, they simply need to make the request online and select a new kit that interests the child. This joint selection would foster collaboration between the parent and child. Following the selection, the parent would package and ship the previous snap-on wagon body back to Radio Flyer in the originally provided box, making them responsible only for a flat trade-in fee. This system provides Radio Flyer with a recurring revenue model rather than solely hardware sales.
The child would keep their wagon and the collectable items as a means of remembering the kits with which he or she has played. Additionally, the provided snap-ons and collectibles can facilitate the expansion of kits beyond just those for wagons for Radio Flyer. Snap-on accessories could be added to tricycles and scooters. This would also allow for the expansion of trade-ins to include the physical base toy. 
If the family chooses to not return the kit, then the full price of the kit they received would be deducted from their credit card. This trade-in program is both important for ensuring accessibility to Radio Flyer toys for low-income families, as well as ensuring that children get to continue exploring new interests. 
Refurbished wagon bodies are then sent to other individuals in the BeRAD system. This trade-in program allows RadioFlyer to be a sustainable and accessible option for a broader range of incomes, as well as allowing for the product to grow as a child’s interests grow and change.
The Be RAD program offers numerous future directions for Radio Flyer. Among them are opportunities to partner with an endless number of organizations and continue to expand the Radio Flyer brand. Interest kits can be designed by partner organizations to offer deeper educational value to both the child and the parent. 
For example, if Radio Flyer were to partner with NASA, the snap-on accessories could resemble a space shuttle. By selecting the NASA kit, parents could uncover their child's budding interest in space. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Through partnership with organizations, interactive kits and trade-in programs can help Radio Flyer redefine outdoor imaginative play for low-income families in the twenty-first century. Low-income families are often forgotten in the manufacturing and marketing of toys. Radio Flyer has an opportunity to help itself and low-income families with the Radio Flyer Be RAD system.