CES 2008: Barbie Girls and Barbie iDesign

As a child, I loved Barbie, but lately I have felt betrayed by Mattel. When I walked up to the Barbie Girls booth at CES this year, this betrayal was seething right on the surface:

“Oh, you’re a blogger. Are you going to write about this?” She pointed at the Barbie Girls MP3 Players. I had seen them in the store.

“No, because they’re lame.”

She didn’t miss a beat. “Well, those might be lame, but this isn’t.” She held up the Barbie iDesign box and lead me over to the computer running it.

I immediately fell in love with Barbie all over again.

Fashion Plate Redeux

Barbie iDesign is the kind of toy that I would have LOVED as a kid. In fact, I had a toy that was very similar as a child called Fashion Plates. It was a coloring fashion toy that used plates to create outfits. I created a million outfits with that game and Barbie iDesign is a totally awesome update to that toy.


The Barbie iDesign is a computer program that runs on Windows and comes with a barcode scanner (called the Style Swiper and conveniently colored in Barbie pink). The Style Swiper reads the fashion plates that are included with the toy. Each plate represents a doll, a background, or a piece of clothing.

You scan in the doll and she shows up on the screen. Then you take a different plate to scan in her outfit and it shows up on the doll. Pants, skirts, tops and footwear are all different kinds of plates that you can choose from. You get a total of 60 cards with the Barbie iDesign, but there are a total of 200 available for separate purchase to augment your collection.

Once you’ve chosen a few outfits and dolls, you can have them walk down the catwalk in an Uncanny Valley extravaganza!

The strange little girl that I was would have systematically created every possible outfit and showcased it on the catwalk. Boots with swimming suits? YES… I must create each and every combination and walk it down the red carpet! I can even feel the adult in me wanting to play this game just so I can create every outfit. Quick, what is 60 factorial?! How many permutations are there?!

The additional card packs add even more permutations and are organized by style of dress. For the younger girls in your family, there is a princess pack with enough frilly dresses and crowns to please.

The fun doesn’t end with the fashion show, though. There were other games to play with the cards. You can play them against a friend or you can fight the clock alone. They were mostly games in which you were frantically searching through the cards trying to find the correct one to scan to get a good score. They didn’t look like they were intellectually taxing. Just fun.

The pieces of the iDesign looked pretty sturdy. I tried scraping off the barcode on the side of the cards to see if they were easily damaged, but they are printed well, so you won’t have to worry about your little girl breaking her toy. The worst you have to worry about is losing the cards.


The most exciting idea I had was hacking this game. Trying out different bar codes to see what they create in the game was the first idea I had when I saw the iDesign. The easiest hack you can do is to photocopy the bar codes on the back of your friend’s cards so you don’t have to buy the additional packs. The only negative to that is that there is a lot of real world play that you do with the cards and since they are transparent, a picture of them isn’t good enough.

There is some hacking fun to be had with this game and I can’t wait to see what the girls of today do with their iDesign toys.

Complete 180

I walked up to the Barbie Girls booth feeling betrayed by Mattel and Barbie and walked away wishing I knew a little girl who I could buy iDesign for. I guess I’ll just have to buy it for myself…

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