INDD Student Wins National Playground Design Contest

Morgan Slone Playground Design Contest Winner

Morgan Slone’s favorite playground will always be the one at the James T. Anderson Boys and Girls Club in Marietta, Georgia. Slone, a senior industrial design student, designed the mushroom-themed playground and built it in Minecraft when she was home working in Lexington, Kentucky, over the summer, never imagining that her design would one day come to life.

In August, Slone’s design was selected from approximately 650 submissions as the winner of Build for Better, a national contest sponsored by Kellogg’s, Minecraft, and Kaboom!, an American non-profit organization that helps communities build playgrounds for children. As a result, Slone’s Minecraft design was recently built by Kaboom! and will be enjoyed by many children for years to come.

“My goal was to make it as inclusive as possible,” Slone said. “That’s one thing I like in design is inclusion and accessibility. The playground still has risky play but also enough accessible stuff intertwined so that all kids can play together. I felt like it was important to have spaces where all kids can play together.” For example, one wall features several basketball hoops hung at different heights so lots of kids with varying skillsets and abilities can play.

The playground design is Slone’s first, although she’s been playing Minecraft for more than a decade. “It’s one of my favorite destress activities. I’m able to be creative in it and build whatever I want without any pressure.” So when she noticed an ad for the contest on the back of a cereal box this summer, Slone immediately went to work, sketching her ideas and deciding on a color scheme before building out the playground in Minecraft. Once she was happy with her design, she screenshot it and used Adobe Illustrator to add text, explaining all the playground’s many features, before submitting it to the contest.

“I wanted whoever was judging the contest to be able to get the full picture. That is something that is really taught to us in Auburn’s Industrial Design program: your design needs to look good but it also needs to communicate what the design is and what it does, even if you’re not there to explain it,” she said.

Slone said she had actually forgotten about the contest and was shocked when she was notified she had won. Since August, she has participated in a design day put on by Kaboom! at the James T. Anderson Boys and Girls Club in Marietta. “I got to talk to the kids about our love for Minecraft and show them pictures of what I had designed. They were so excited and super impressed. A lot of them like Minecraft so it really resonated with them.”

In November, Slone attended a special dinner with executives from Kellogg’s and then attended the ribbon cutting ceremony with her parents at the playground the next day. In addition to the excitement that came from winning the contest and a new highlight to her résumé, Slone also received several treats from Kellogg’s including many boxes of Poptarts, Frosted Mini Wheats, Frosted Flakes, Minecraft cereal and Cheez-Its among other things the company sent to her apartment.

She said the entire experience has been a lot of fun and has combined her love of Minecraft with her passion for creating accessible products. She said she’s also learned a few things along the way.

“One takeaway from this experience for me is that you can still create interesting things in an unconventional form. You don’t have to use the latest, greatest technology to build something cool or something that works well,” she said. “And, playing Minecraft for 10 years has paid off!”