Spreading Your Wings-Toy Design-Part 3
At this point you have an idea of the standard procedures your job will take. You also have an idea of what to include in your portfolio. So the next question is,
What other skills are necessary to be qualified to do this?
The other skills you will need will depend largely on what specific categorie of toy design you are attempting to do.
But one definitive skill you will need is the ability to understand and then communicate effectively a 3 dimensional concept. Some may think that a shortcut for this is knowing a 3D program like Maya or ZBrush. But most people hiring will forego skill in those programs for an artist who is capable of accomplishing 3d conceptualization by traditional means.
The same can be said of having physical sculpting skills. Are they a benefit to you and your employability? Definitely. Can developing those skills be beneficial to growing your 3D drawing skills? Absolutely. Feel free to logically pursue artistic aspects that you feel can enhance your skill sets. Also remember that there is a stage in development that the artwork is sent to a sculptor to create the prototype of the toy. If you are sufficiently skilled in this art form, you can apply for that type of position. But at the end of the day know that your 3D drawing skills are weighed the most heavily in terms of hireability.
The other skills I mentioned earlier in regards to an aspect of toy design depend on what aspect of toy design you want to pursue. If you have visited the toy store and perused the aisles then you know that there are a large variety of toy types available. Just as there are multiple types of Children’s Books that are geared toward age, education level and subject, the same is true of toys.
Some Toy Development Categories:
Action Figures – Spider-Man, Batman, GI Joe
Industrial – Robots, Transformers
Cars/Radio Controlled – Hot Wheels, Tonka Trucks
Construction Toys – Legos, Lincoln Logs
Dolls – Bratz, Barbie
Educational – LeapFrog, Speak and Say
Models – Airplanes, Cars, Trains
Puzzles – Rubix Cube, Mr. Potatohead
Stuffed Animals/Plushes – Build-A-Bear, Care Bears
Games – Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, Operation
The above are just “Some” of the long list of categories. But each category can call for skills that the others may not.
For example, developing Airplane Models would require a great deal of skill at rendering items in an accurate and realistic manner.
Developing a Barbie isn’t as simple as coming up with a theme. You’d need to have some knowledge of Fashion Design and Styling. You would also need to be well versed and current on fashion trends.
If you are hired on to do a Licensed Line or Character then you will need to be able to draw those characters accurately and effectively. Imagine that you are hired by My Little Pony to come up with concepts for a new line, you’ll need to have some ability to draw the already established properties in their style.
It is also helpful to have a working knowledge of current and past toy lines. This can be accomplished a few different ways. You may be aware that there are Children’s Book Conventions throughout the year. The same is true of Toys. There are also a few magazines and websites dedicated to highlighting and previewing up and coming toy lines from various companies.
There are magazines dedicated to providing news and information about the toy industry. A great starting place to find magazines that cater to the development category of toys you wish to pursue is, The Adventure Publishing Group. They have a number of magazines that cater to specific niches of the toy industry. Another great magazine that ceased publication in 2011 is ToyFare Magazine. If you are able to track down back issues they also could be helpful in educating yourself about past lines from varied companies.
There are conventions that are specifically for Toys like Toy Fair. You can find information on many of those conventions at this site, ToyShow.com and this one, TIA. You will also find that Comics and Toys go together like Peas and Carrots. Many new toy lines specific to Comics, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Anime or Horror properties are highlighted and featured prominently at most Comic Book Conventions throughout the country and throughout the year. Go to Convention Scene.com and look under Schedules to get listings of various convention types and their calendar dates.
There are a number of websites dedicated to delivering news and information from across the globe on the current state of the toy industry. A great starting point for that is the Global Toy News.
Do I have to have a degree in Toy Design?
The general consensus on this is, no. Does it hurt? Absolutely not. But like many fields within Illustration the most important thing tends to be your portfolio and work experience. If this aspect of the Children’s Market sounds like something you’d want to pursue full time and you have access to getting a degree in it specifically, then go for it! It can only be to your benefit.