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Spreading Your Wings-Breaking in to Toy Design-Part 5

Past Articles:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Toy design and artwork by Claude Bonnaud

This final article will call to attention something a commenter named Jim Bousman brought up in comments on previous articles. Jim is well established within the toy and gaming industry and knows a great deal about what it takes to get hired within the market.   So what was the additional skill that he looks for when hiring toy designers that we didn’t mention? More on that in a sec.

The reason we didn’t mention the item brought up by Jim it is that our research showed us that the specific skill mentioned wasn’t needed for an entry level position. So while this skill isn’t “needed,” it can be the thing that differentiates you from others who may be applying for the same position. Any additional skill you can wrangle and add to your resume can only help in guaranteeing that you are the one chosen for the job.

 

Toy design and artwork by Claude Bonnaud

This specific skill is having some knowledge of toy engineering. How do toys work? How are they constructed and put together? How are they made?  Knowing these kind of things will go a long ways in helping you make effective, functional and innovative designs. I’ll quote Jim’s wisdom here, “A designer does not need to be an engineer to know how things work, but knowing how things work improves their ability to create better products, challenge manufacturers to do a better job, and exploit their processes. ”  All of those things also contribute to making you an invaluable asset to any toy company you may work for.  This is great currency for job security and hireability.

Artwork copyright Terry Dodson

So how do you get this information?  I’ll quote our commenter here as well, “Some design schools specializing in 3D design will offer limited insight into manufacturing processes and other practical applications. Beyond that there is a wealth of information available for self-study. The net is a great place to start. Beyond that on-site visits to manufacturing facilities are extremely useful. Much depends on the product category you are interested in. When it comes to toy design, since most toy are molded plastic, study and/or visit a plastic molder. When it comes to board games or puzzles, visit a printer. Areas like plush toy design or toy electronics are very specialized and will require a bit more research to find a source of knowledge.

Perhaps the best source of hands-on knowledge would come from an internship with either a manufacturer, toy design house, or toy inventor group. These jobs pay little or nothing but the practical knowledge is invaluable and it can be a great door opener to better things.”

Thank you Jim Bousman, for your wise and thoughtful contributions to the substance of our series of articles.

Toy design and artwork by Claude Bonnaud

In closing, the Illustration industry is vast! I guarantee you there is work available for you out there that you haven’t considered or been aware of. The various amount of work that is potentially available to you is myriad. Unfortunately more often than not we artists tend to focus on the more easily discerned and popular options. These articles and this website are meant to show you how your skills can and do travel into other areas.

So take your time, research all your options and approach them as though they are your primary interest. What may sound like a fun idea at first upon investigation may seem too daunting a field to undertake and pursue. But if you are passionate about it and feel that it is something worth the work and time investment on your part then by all means pursue it with all your heart. Go the extra mile.

We have decided to dedicate our first season of podcasts to the world of toy design. We’ll be interviewing professionals within the industry and picking their brains for further insight and wisdom into this market! So stay tuned for even more information and personal experiences in the future!

Let us know if you have any questions!

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8 Comments

  1. Adam Hartlaub

    This is totally awesome! I have been yearning to get into the Toy Industry for quite a while now, yet I feel like it’s such a hard industry to work you way into! I currently freelance illustration, and do more graphic design oriented work than anything, but toys would be so awesome to get into. As much as I’ve tried to network with Toy Industry people, it’s probably been one of the most difficult industries to get in contact with. I hope you will interview some really great people from the Toy industry on here, and hopefully ones that will allow themselves to be contacted by email so we can all get in touch with them and try to get our feet into where we need to be!

    Thank you!!

    Reply
    • WilsonWJr

      Glad you enjoyed the article Adam. I would definitely check out the other articles. They give a lot of direction on how and what to do to start getting your feet wet! Keep us informed on how things progress for ya bud!! 😉

      Reply
  2. Wilson Williams – Breaking Into Toy Design Part 5 | Illustration and Art News for Illustrators and Artists

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  4. Claude Bonnaud

    Thanks Wilson for a very accurate and interesting article. Thanks also for choosing to illustrate it with some of my designs. I will pass around your link as I think your Blog is overall excellent.
    Cheers
    Claude

    Reply
    • WilsonWJr

      Not a problem Claude. Thanks so much for doing such great work. I hope that we’ll be able to pick your brain for more information and wisdom in regards to toy design and illustration. Thanks again!

      Reply
  5. Chris Lauria

    Hello Wilson!

    Great article!
    Thank you for sharing.

    I think I mentioned understanding the manufacturing process back in Part 1, but I didn’t elaborate. What Jim says is absolutely right. As a toy designer, you don’t need to be an engineer, but you should understand how toys are made.

    A good way to do this is to take some toys apart and see whats going on inside. How were they molded? How were they assembled? How do the features work? Very often you’ll find the mechanisms are simple but clever. Knowing the different types of mechanisms will help you design better toys with cost effective features – an element that product managers & toy companies love!

    You don’t need to be an electronic engineer, but you should get to know what can be done with simple lights, sounds, and motors and how you can incorporate them into your designs. Try to stay up to date on new technologies and think about how they could be incorporated into a toy.

    You should also think a little like a marketing guy – What is the selling point!? What is the “wow factor” that will make this toy stand out? Try to think of a central feature and build around that. The big companies run a lot of TV, and the rule of thumb for a TV driver item is to have a magical feature that shows well in a commercial.

    One of the absolute best ways to know toys is to PLAY with toys! If you have kids, or nieces & nephews, get on the floor and play with them!! Find out how they play with their toys. What are they drawn to. Watch the difference between girls & boys playing with the same toy. Get an idea of which toys they return to, and which ones are the “one trick ponies”.

    Make visits to the toys stores and check out the latest toys. Take note of how they are packaged and marketed. Careful observation will tell you what is selling and what is not. Toys in the clearance bin have run their course and are dying. If you see an end-cap that has been picked clean, chances are it is a hot item. An aisle packed with similar toys will reveal that a category is popular. Try to look past a license and see what the guts of a popular toys is. Is there more to it than just the license plastered on its face?

    While expanding your skill set is always important, it’s probably impossible to conquer every toy category out of the gate. Find the categories that you feel the most comfortable with and master those first. Then you can expand into the other categories. I worked almost exclusively on boys action toys for the first 10 years of my career. Not too long ago, I got asked to design some girls preschool items (like a foreign language to me then) but I gave it a try and the client was thrilled. I have since moved into other categories as well.

    Like any profession, finding work in the toy industry requires skill, knowledge, professionalism, and networking. Try to learn the lingo so you are speaking the same language, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • WilsonWJr

      Hey Chris!

      Thanks so much for your additional input and wisdom!! Don’t give up all that wisdom now man! Save it for the interview!! LOL!!

      Thanks again you’re awesome!

      -Wilson W, Jr.

      Reply

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