Thule Sapling Design Awards
A child carrier backpack opens up a whole new world of opportunity for active outdoor adventures with your child - freedom to enjoy the best short walks and longer hikes NZ has to offer.
Thule has recently relaunched the Sapling after a complete redesign in collaboration with Modyn, a Dutch product design agency with a passion for mobility. We are proud to announce that it has been awarded with 2 major global design awards - a Red Dot & an iF Design Award. The consumer feedback and expert panels seem to agree that the new Thule Sapling is one of the best baby carriers on the market!
The Red Dot Design Award is one of the world’s largest design competitions. The Red Dot Label has become established internationally as one of the most sought-after marks of quality for good design.
The iF DESIGN AWARD is one of the world’s most important seals of quality. Organized from Germany since 1953, the award spans multiple disciplines and has more than 5,500 entries from around 59 nations every year.
A look inside the design process.....
When Thule approached MODYN, the Sapling had already been on the market for some time. But, Thule wanted to redesign the Sapling to have a more universal appeal — softening the rugged lines that were designed for adventurous caretakers who spend time in the outdoors. MODYN was challenged to not only look at the market and see where the Sapling could find its place as an everyday child carrier, but redesign the Sapling to be more versatile, friendly, and stylish with a unisex appeal.
The juvenile market at the time was becoming much more versatile — it was all about being more mobile with your child. So, we wanted to expand the use cases of the Sapling beyond the mountains, making the carrier an easy, convenient and more fashionable choice for parents to use in the city or for a stroll in the park.
To accomplish this, we decided to lean into a more urban feel for the Sapling. That meant not only cleaning up the lines and creating a new design language, but giving the child carrier more functionality, like storage, detachable bags and making it lighter. We even did a consumer study interviewing parents about the pain points of a backpack child carrier so we could design solutions to make it easier to use.
One concern parents had with this carrier was their child’s circulation, so we designed the Sapling with ergonomics that provided plenty of lower leg support. Fully ventilated panels for the ErgoRide seat and back panel keep everyone cool, and a fold-out sunshade with UPF 50 protects the child from the elements. But a major focus of the design was also flexibility, allowing parents to easily add specially designed accessories, wash the seat, and put the child through the top or side of the ErgoRide seat.
Alongside digital sketches and 3D CAD renderings, MODYN designed a fully functional prototype of the Sapling for Thule. This prototype was used as the baseline for production, and we helped the brand with everything from detailing to choosing materials that were most efficient but kept costs down. Thule has a large, capable engineering team, but we stayed on standby throughout production to provide support and help execute tough design decisions as they worked out the process.
Today the Thule Sapling is one of the most versatile child backpack carriers on the market, not only for innovations like easy-to-attach accessories and dual access to the ErgoRide child seat, but for its universally appealing aesthetic. With clean lines and refined finishings, the Sapling is totally functional for a day of hiking but never looks out of place in a museum or running errands in the city. Conducting consumer surveys and closely studying the market allowed us to design a product that provided the versatility parents need, while also anticipating what features will make the Sapling easy and convenient to use.