Research and Education Partnership Boosts Product Design and Child Car Safety in 16 Countries

Lisa E. Boyes

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of child death in Canada. With the correct use of child restraints, 75 percent of such deaths and serious injuries are preventable. Since September 2005, Ontario’s new booster seat law requires children between 40 and 80 lbs and up to eight years old to use a booster seat in vehicles.

In sync with the new law, Magna Aftermarket Inc. approached George Brown College’s School of Design students and Director Luigi Ferrara to conduct contract research on Magna’s functional-prototype booster seat and devise educational programs to encourage its use. Working with the University of Windsor, the School of Design developed research instruments to test children’s and families’ reactions to Magna’s prototype. Auto 21 supported the contract research.

Booster seat non-compliance had been previously documented. Based on University of Windsor data, the School of Design considered not only design/engineering, but also education/outreach; the caregiver-child dynamic; and the range of products and design features available. In the school’s studio lab, students and professionals developed preliminary redesigns that were tested and modified in Magna’s engineering facility.

The results were:

  • The School of Design’s key recommendations incorporated the child’s ability to personalize the seat while ensuring that it can be installed in a self-evident way using design details; using appealing fabrics and packaging; and launching the Magna product through child endorsement.
  • The school’s designs were central to the success of the final product, along with its recommendations and extended design activities: gaming design students developed three mini booster seat animated characters for the Magna Aftermarket website, which were later incorporated into an online game, “Booster Buddies,” equipped with trackers to monitor children’s ease in using the seat.
  • The booster seat campaign, now extended through Ontario public schools and the police education program, references the Magna Aftermarket site and uses support print materials developed by the School of Design’s graphic students.

The Magna booster seat is now sold in 16 countries, and the George Brown design plans remain relevant to the Magna product line.