Turtle Mail wasn’t always the adorable toy it is today. We started with storyboards for concepts that merged virtual world and real world play. Our ideas ranged from interactive blocks and room decor to apps that monitored and rewarded playtime activities. We learned a lot in the process of sharing our ideas with families, and we ended up with two big insights: parents were very exhausted with screen-based play since their children naturally gravitated to it, and families enjoyed activities that brought them closer together and created shared memories.

photos of turtle mail prototypes

That’s when we conceived of Turtle Mail – a toy that uses connectivity to its advantage in drawing kids to real world play and interactions. One of our early designs had Turtle Mail as an industrial-style piece wall fixture… we snapped to our senses real quick and started prototyping models of Turtle Mail in a more kid-friendly form. We ultimately decided to design it to look like a merger of a Turtle and an old-school mailbox. We left its ornamentation simple so that kids will be able to decorate and modify their Turtle Mail to fit their ideas about its personality. We also experimented with movement, light, and noise to indicate a delivery. While adding mechanics proved too expensive, we’re still considering the addition of light and noise as a notice that mail’s waiting.

We explored a variety of material during our prototyping. We thought that plastic would be the winner for production; however, we prototyped in wood because it was easy to work with early on, and kids and parents loved it! The combination of technology with the more traditional feel of a wooden toy perfected the Turtle Mail experience as one of excitement, imagination, and nostalgia.