Creating a furry, interactive friend that helps children feel calm.
Through calming Purrble, children become more aware of their feelings and learn how to calm themselves. As kids soothe Purrble by petting its back, Purrble’s vibrational heartbeat slows, and the toy responds with purrs that signal calm.
Since 2020, Purrble has helped over 20,000 children find calm.
Committee for Children
(07.2017 – 08.2020)
Awards & Press
Founded in 1979, Committee for Children (CFC) is a leading global nonprofit focused on social-emotional learning (SEL). Before contacting Sproutel, CFC funded research to explore the connection between fidgeting and self-soothing, leading to the creation of early low-fidelity prototypes. After testing their prototypes in field studies and publishing positive early outcomes, CFC asked Sproutel to commercialize their research.
My Design Approach
As a design leader, I led the design practice focused on applying inclusive design principles and translating academic research findings from the client.
Design & User Experience
When leading the team through the design and product development process, I guided the team to strive for an approachable product design with discrete interactions. I created a design vision where the user experience for children can extend to people of all ages.
I created buy-in from researchers, clients, and the team by facilitating co-design sessions and workshops. I provided clear context with visual narrative and user research data when communicating project milestones.
I created a strategy and execution plan for the team to deliver high-quality designs on schedule. I built buffers in the timeline and budget to allow more time for creative prototyping, material sourcing, and user testing. I continuously iterated ways to create a more efficient workflow by incorporating learnings and feedback from the team.
Simplifying the Interaction Design
To create a viable product from the research prototypes, we simplified the user interaction and designed a character for Purrble. I led the character design, concept development, and plush development during this process. I facilitated design sessions with the client and conducted user testing with parents, teachers, and children.
The left two models are the original research prototypes. The right-most model is the final product, Purrble.
I designed a cute, compelling character that children can relate to. Here is an early sketch exploring Purrble’s visuals and personality.
I created a pattern and sourced fabric to create the initial looks-like prototype of Purrble (left photo). I later worked with a plush expert to create final patterns (right photo).
To understand the product viability, we conducted market research by facilitating focus groups and interviews with school teachers and parents. We also attended ASTRA, a specialty toy conference, to showcase our pre-launch product and gauge initial purchase interests.
How might we help children feel calm and center their emotions in times of distress?
It took us 25 months to create Purrble. For the final product, I led design direction, brand and visual design, character and story design, and development of sound effects.
Purrble is a high-tech robot and soft-to-touch plush that responds to children’s touch and fidgeting. As kids soothe their companion, Purrble’s vibrational heartbeat slows down and it responds with purrs that signal calmness.
Character and Story
I created a backstory to help children bond with the character and understand why Purrble needs calming.
One of the backstories was that Purrbles are easily-startled, anxious creatures that have lived on Earth for centuries. Purrbles need kind and caring children to adopt and care for them.
Brand, Logo, and Visual Design
I emphasized Purrble’s key characteristics of purring when deciding the name and creating the logo. I incorporated Purrble’s backstory when creating the visual design for the packaging.
Since launching in the fall of 2020, over 20,000 children are finding calm with Purrble. As of May 2022, Purrble is sold at $50 and rated 4.6 stars (out of 1,363 ratings) on Amazon.
Both children and adults love Purrble. Through the commercialization of their research, CFC’s work in leading social-emotional learning reached families across the nation.
“This little guy is adorable and a great distraction for the kiddo when she’s upset or nervous- wonderful addition for an airplane trip. My husband and I even enjoy holding him. The little heartbeat is calming and grounding, and the challenge of slowing it down distracts them from whatever else is going on. Highly recommend for kids!” – Parent
“After just a few hours, our four-year-old was giving him kisses and soothing him. He is soft and makes sweet little sounds. His heartbeat and purr on the low setting are perfect for snuggling up and focus on to ease anxiety.” – Parent
“I’m absolutely obsessed with Purrble! I do not have children but I suffer from bad anxiety and depression. Purrble has been so helpful to distract me from my panic attacks and stay centered and control my breathing. I wish they made bigger ones! I HIGHLY recommend this item to anyone of any age to help with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.” – Adult