Most Influential Projects 2020

46 Creatable World


For listening to kids asking for a more inclusive way to play

For decades, Mattel was synonymous with Barbie—the blond-haired, blue-eyed dolls with a wardrobe heavy on glittery gowns. While the company had added diversity to the franchise, Mattel pivoted in a totally new direction with the September 2019 introduction of Creatable World. The intentionally gender-neutral doll kits were specifically designed to let kids play however they want.

The line set the toy world abuzz not just as a cultural vanguard, but for Mattel’s user-centric design and development.

“This doll was driven by consumer insights and addresses what is missing in the marketplace according to kids,” says Monica Dreger, Mattel’s vice president of global consumer insights, Los Angeles, California, USA.

Before developing the kits, Dreger’s team spent 18 months interviewing 250 families across the United States to identify unmet needs and collaboratively brainstorm product ideas to fill the gaps. 

“We found that most children feel limited by gender stereotypes to some degree, and they want toys that allow them to have fun and explore without labeling,” Dreger says. “We recognized an opportunity to develop a doll free of labels.”

Those insights inspired the team to flesh out a gender-neutral doll line, working in consultation with physicians and gender experts, including Dr. Cara Natterson, pediatrician; culture and branding expert Jess Weiner; and Rob Smith, founder of The Phluid Project, a gender-free brand that caters to the LGBTQ+ community.

Dreger says nearly every aspect of the doll line was tested with families, including product design, messaging, packaging and marketing.

After listening to all that feedback, the team unveiled the new line of six doll kits in a variety of skin tones. Each kit includes one doll with two hairstyles (long and short, in a variety of textures), along with an extensive gender-neutral wardrobe featuring everything from a sparkly tutu to camo pants.

“A collection like this knocks down every barrier to play,” says Natterson. “It has a social impact, a culture impact and a parent-child dynamic impact.”

Weiner says gathering and incorporating feedback to develop the dolls is “a game-changer for the industry because it challenges at its very nature the binary principles we’ve been taught to accept—that these toys are for boys, and these are for girls.”

Related Sponsors and Organizations

  • Dr. Cara Natterson
  • Jess Weiner
  • Mattel
  • Rob Smith
  • The Phluid Project