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Spreading Your Wings-Toy Design-Part 1

 

A lot of Children’s Book Artists are struggling with finding work. A part of the problem we surmise at OnceUponASketch is that maybe those seeking work are limiting themselves to Children’s Books when they most probably have the beginnings of skills that encompass more fields of expertise than they realize.

One of those potential fields is Toy Design.

A few years ago, I was asked to design a toy for a local company. I was told that I needed to draw a few options and send them in to the art director. They would select the one they liked and then ask me to draw it out in a turnaround. Not sure what a turnaround is?  It’s something like this:

Image Copyright Krisha Moeller 2008

Basically you take your character as designed and draw them in a fixed position from multiple positions; front, 3/4 front, left side, 3/4 rear, back and right side (especially important if the character is not symmetrical).  Once drawn and approved these would then be passed to the sculptors in China to then use as models for the sculpting of the actual toy.

To say I was intimidated would be an understatement. But in the process I realized that what I was doing wasn’t that unfamiliar to me. Usually as Children’s Book illustrators we get the script from either the writer or editor.  From it we come up with the look and feel of every character in the book. Their height, weight, clothes, hair color, etc.  Also their toys if they have any, their rooms, cars, buildings, creatures. The list is extensive. Very much the same as what I needed to do for that particular  toy.

In fact here is an example of a character design I did before proceeding with a personal project of mine called, “Chef John’s Parade”.

I’m sure many Children’s Book Artist’s do a variation of this before they start laying out and designing their books. My primary point being that these same skills easily overlap into Toy Design and Character Design(Norman Grock will be covering Character Design later).  Both of which offer freelance opportunities from a myriad of companies other than the ones you are currently sending postcards to.

So now that you know this field is an option I’m sure you have many questions.

  • What do you need to include in your portfolio?
  • What other skills are necessary to be qualified to do this?
  • How do you find this type of work?
  • What companies do you approach?

We’ll cover some of those things in Part 2 next Wednesday and the rest in Part 3 the following Wednesday.  Also more on that toy project of mine. So come back and we’ll fill you in!

Please note. You can see all images larger by clicking on them.

 

 

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20 Comments

  1. HimoruStar

    Thank you for sharing with us and the helpful information.I can’t wait until the next parts come out.

    Reply
  2. Gerald Laird

    I could not agree more. I have worked in anything from 3D art and Design to 2D Cartooning and Illustration. Even simple animation. So have at it.

    Reply
  3. Gerald Laird

    Thanks for your posting it is very helpful.

    Reply
  4. Tony Evangelista

    I did write a children’s book called Cartoon Boy©. However, it is not published and I was not thinking of marketing toys with that book (even though some of the characters can be marketed as toys). But, years ago I did develop and wanted to market a children’s craft called Etch-Art©. It involves Plexiglas, black ink, model paint and a sharp pointed pen. The age group target market is around third grade. Is this something you would be interested in? Thanks, Tony.

    Reply
    • WilsonWJr

      Hello Tony, Thank you so much for your consideration, however, we are not a toy development company. You will need to research and find Toy companies that are open to submissions, find out their submission policies and pursue representation. FYI, there are also conventions with toy companies that you could attend and propose your ideas to the companies in attendance. Best of luck to you.

      Reply
  5. Chris Lauria

    Nice article! As a toy designer for over 20 years, it’s interesting to see another perspective of the toy industry from artists in another field of work. Although being able to draw a turnaround is only a small part of toy design. Since many toys being made are based on an existing license, I find the ability to mimic different styles, and the creative thinking to develop play features from those licenses, is crucial. Above all, understanding the manufacturing process is what separates the men from the boys. I’m looking forward to the next installments. Thanks!

    Reply
    • WilsonWJr

      Thanks so much Chris. We go more in depth in the next portion. But we try to hit the surface and not dive too deep. So much of what you know takes time and experience. I’m sure you’re a wellspring of information! I checked out your portfolio and you have some excellent work. Some of which illustrates better points in my article than the images I had available. I used one of your images for the second part of this article, with links back to your website and portfolio. I’m sending you an e-mail in regards to future possibilities. If you don’t want your artwork featured please let me know and I’ll take it down. (Then try my best to replace your images with something as good. Don’t know how much luck I’ll have though!)

      Reply
      • Chris Lauria

        Hi Wilson
        Thanks! Glad to be part of the discussion. And thank you for the kind words on my portfolio. I certainly have no issues with you using my images for toy design examples in your article. You’re right when you say much of what I know takes time and experience (as in any field). I fell into toy design by accident and have been ‘learning on the job’ ever since. If there are any particular aspects of toy design you’d like to pick my brain about, please feel free to ask. I’m looking forward to the next installments.

        Reply
        • WilsonWJr

          Thanks so much for letting us share your work! And soon your wisdom. The next portion of the article is up! I’ll be e-mailing you soon Chris! Thanks again!

          Reply
  6. Peter Brouwers

    Thanx for sharing. I’m thinking of toy-design as a new field for me to enter. Some of my work would be perfect as toys. Do you have any advice as how to engage contact with toy manufactures and securing prototype work if it’s not yet protected by copyrights.

    Reply
    • WilsonWJr

      Thanks Peter. We’ll try to cover some of your questions in a future post. However we will be gearing our articles more towards getting freelance work in those fields rather than proposing new toy lines to companies. But some of what we say I’m sure you’ll find helpful and a great starting point for you! 😉

      Reply
  7. Paul Weiner

    Wilson, it’s so true in what you say. I went to an illustration gathering last night in Boston over at Mass.College of Art. The gathering was titled “Reinventing the Illustrator”. A lot of useful information about avenues illustrators should pursue if they wish to generate illustration income.
    Paul

    Reply
    • WilsonWJr

      Thanks so much Paul! I would love to hear what other avenues your group was able to come up with! Maybe they’ll have some I have yet to think of or be informed of!

      Reply
  8. Alexandra

    thank you very much for this information, I just started looking into toy design and product dev, and as an Illustrator this information has been very useful, thank you.

    Reply
    • WilsonWJr

      You’re very welcome Alexandria! There are four more parts to this series of articles(already up) and our our first season of podcasts will be us interviewing professionals in the toy market! So be sure to come back!

      Reply
  9. PandaErica

    Gosh, don’t I know this blog is so true! Cannot wait for part 2. Those questions are definitely egging on me. Especially the what we need in the portfolio bit!

    Reply

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