are there any toy designers here in CA?

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  1. #1
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    are there any toy designers here in CA?

    designer toys, mainstream kids toys, figures, toys for adults, etc.

    mind telling me how the job is like?
    what are the necessary skills 1 should have?

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  3. #2
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    *waves*

    What is the most important part of toy design, at least for the 2D designers is that you have a strong sense of 3 dimensions in your drawings. Remember, the things you are drawing will become tangible objects (that will hopefully not suffocate or impale small children)! One of my biggest roles as a toy designer was to do turn around sheets of new figures and accessories, and those drawings NEED to be clear as hell, because 9 times out of 10 they will be sent overseas to be sculpted - and a language barrier often exists between you and the sculptors. The sculptors are often too skilled for their own good - sometimes if there is a small mistake on your drawings, it'll show up in clay too.

    The skills you should have depends what kind of toys you will be working on. People who design toys specialize in many levels of expertise - those who work on Barbies have strong fashion design skills, those who create toys for very small kids know how to use big, friendly shapes effectively in their designs, people who design Transformers can do mechs like no other, folks who design things like radio controlled toys or video players have industrial/vehicle design backgrounds and then there's the putzes like me with the illustration background who do mostly character based work for new or existing brands.

    Though sometimes a company will use a concept artist for the earliest drawings of a new toy just to get a feel of the character, style or general design, they send the approved drawings to another artist who can draw 3 to 4 view turnarounds for the sculptors. You're far more valuable if you can create those initial designs AND have a sense of volume and consistency in your drawings that can carry over to the sculpting stage.

    I hope this helps you a bit, feel free to ask anything else if I was unclear. I know a couple other guys from Hasbro are on this site and I believe Cheeks has done some work for Transformers, so you might want to poke him too.

    Oh! I am also pulling some toy design work together for my new site, send me a PM if you want to see what I've prepared so far and I'll upload it

    Last edited by Steph Laberis; November 15th, 2006 at 12:37 PM.
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    Wow. That's incredibly valuable information, Steph Toy design, particularily for McFarlane, is something that I would like to do at some point. Incidently, I believe there's a McFarlane designer who signs on here on occasion with his 'Dragons' designs.

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    My hat's off to all the toy designers! No asspats here. Just the simple fact that it's a bitch of a way to make a living. So many things to worry about, so many limitations, so many variables, and you still have to make it attractive to BOTH kid AND parent who buys the damn thing. By comparison, dealing with tool catalog layout with a semi-retarded industrial purchasing agent and a blind art director is a piece of cake...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilaekae
    My hat's off to all the toy designers! No asspats here. Just the simple fact that it's a bitch of a way to make a living. So many things to worry about, so many limitations, so many variables, and you still have to make it attractive to BOTH kid AND parent who buys the damn thing.
    I dunno, I really enjoyed it... well, most of it. Some of the brainstorming sessions were a blast and there's something really awesome about seeing your idea go from brain fart to the shelves of your local Target. I developed one (small!) part of the My Little Pony line this year and got to do some prototype sculpting - I love when I have the oppurtunity to take a single idea across so many mediums. Plus, when you buy and play with toys on a regular basis anyway, it becomes less like work and more like extended playtime.

    But like any other design job, it's when marketing gets their hand in it that things start to go downhill Heh, I kid. Mostly. That and the mold limitations, reduced budget, not meeting price points, vendor difficulties, competition with the electronics market, bad years on Wall Street, competing for shelf space, stupid children who eat everything they touch and VPs who can kill an entire line with just a wave of the hand...

    And you are dead-on about making it attractive to both the parent and child... there's just no pleasing both sometimes.

    Last edited by Steph Laberis; November 15th, 2006 at 01:02 PM.
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    Toy designers seems like a fun job to work as - I mean playing with the toys.

    I have a question... Do they look for a college degree, or do they look at portiflio?

    I want to be a toy designer (one day....?)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynn Yang
    I have a question... Do they look for a college degree, or do they look at portiflio?
    A little of both. I had no formal toy design training when I took the job, only Illustration - thankfully toy design IS a form of illustration. I think in the end the strength of your portfolio is all that ever matters, but there's no denying that a college can help you in other areas, such as networking.

    For example, the company visited my school to interview industrial design students... so had I not gone to the school, I would have missed the oppurtunity.

    Another leg up is how well you know the brands and what's out there. For example:

    I snuck into the interview in the first place (they were looking for ID students, not illustrators) and it had ended with the usual polite smile and "don't call us, we'll call you" air to it. I was about to walk out and accept that I had been passed up, when I turned around and said "Hey, how is the new Pony line doing?" The interviewers brightened up and we ended up talking for another 20 minutes as I told them my opinions on the new line, what I liked about the old line and some ideas that I thought were cool for future toys.

    The interview did a 180 and they asked me to send more sketches to them, showing my thought process, handling of 3D shapes and breakdowns to how some toys might work. They wanted to see clarity and follow-through to my ideas. Even though 99% of the stuff in my portfolio wasn't toy-centric, it showed them that I had the drawing skills which I could adapt to their needs. It worked out in the end.

    So really, it's a number of things. Just be sure to be articulate, have your best work presentable and do a little research.

    Last edited by Steph Laberis; November 15th, 2006 at 04:29 PM.
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    i am very interested in doing toy design, specifically robots, transforming or not

    would any skills in sculpting help?
    not that i can... i even screw up gundam model kits, but i've been meaning to find some time to pick up some scratch building skills, hoping i might 1 day be able to build my own toys.

    my interest lies more in the transformers and zoids lines of toys. but basically, pretty robots

    whatever you've mentioned have been very helpful, thanks a lot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ah.heng
    would any skills in sculpting help?
    Absolutely! You can go in a couple directions for toy design if you have a grasp on sculpting - you can specialize in it and become a full-time sculptor, or you can stay sharp with sculpting and let it bleed into your drawing skills as a designer. Generally, full-time sculptors have less creative control (if any) over what they create, but the designers of course have more control.

    Like I said, it's good to be a jack of all trades - if you can come up with an idea, sketch it out in a few solid angles AND do a mock-up sculpt, more power to ya.

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    People always tell me I should do toy design. I think it'd be great fun. Everythime I see one of those fishing game with lil' fishes that pop up and down and open their mouths I want to buy one cuz it looks so damn cute. Designing stuff like that would be the shit. Little figures that move around and.. move and stuff... yeah. No clue how to get into that biz though.

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    heng -- i know a guy who is in charge of design projects at a medium sized design toy maker here in tokyo. i will meet him again this sunday. i've been to his office for a meeting and it was really nice. a lot of guys overthere did industrial design. they didn't work in 3d (was outsourced) but of course lots of design sketching, presentation drawing and model making (1:1). i can ask if you can come with me sometime (but you might not want to leave?)

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  13. #12
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    Hey Steph – this information you are sharing about the toys industry is really wonderful! If you have the time, you should write up a thread about it over in the Employment Discussion subforum, so that it won’t be lost in the Lounge’s churn. That forum has the potential to become a great reference library for folks researching future careers.

    Cheers!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seedling
    Hey Steph – this information you are sharing about the toys industry is really wonderful! If you have the time, you should write up a thread about it over in the Employment Discussion subforum, so that it won’t be lost in the Lounge’s churn. That forum has the potential to become a great reference library for folks researching future careers.

    Cheers!
    Oh shoot, I didn't even think of that! It's so ironic, I'm doing a phone interview tonight with a student who wants to know about this very subject - it'll give me a better idea of what to write about for the Employment Discussion. Thanks hon!

    Prom: Do you know much about Urban Vinyl? Though urban vinyl toys aren't too complex (usually posable figures more than something elaborate like Transformers) I don't know personally how to get into the "scene" but it looks to be a great way for someone without formal toy training to get into the adult toy market (No, not those adult toys. Though the world might need a Scorpion Squad dild- ANYWAY!)

    One of the poster children for Urban Vinyl is Kid Robot. I know of a few toymaker groups on Myspace as well, composed of artists like you or me who might wanna turn their stuff into neato, limited-run toys, but I haven't had any time to look into it much.

    And for the record:



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    There was a thread called 'info on making vinyl toys?' on CGtalk sometime ago that might be of interest.
    I wrote a small reply with what I knew about urban vinyl and there are a lot of usefull links: check it out

    One thing that might get you noticed in the urban vinyl scene is to customize platform toys, there are quite a few artists who had their toy customs produced which eventually lead to the production of their own characters into toys.
    There are a lot of DIY (Do It Yourself) platform toys out there like Munny and DIY Teddy Troops which are meant for artists to use as a canvas for their designs.
    It happens that some designs that are 'fresh' enough will be used for a new series of that particular platform toy like the fairly well known Dunny produced by Kidrobot (there used to be a page with every Dunny ever produced but I can't find it right now).
    Of course if you want your design to be produced there's a lot of networking involved, you could get your work noticed on the many urban
    vinyl forums out there or contact producers like Kidrobot directly.
    Here's a link to some rad Munny customs BTW: >click<

    You could also participate in design contests, every once in a while a contest is up where you need to download a template of a particular platform toy and send in your designs, usually the grand winners will have their designs produced.
    Check out www.vinylpulse.com to keep you updated on events like this and about what's happening in the scene (there's a 'Trexi' design contest up right now).

    To have your own characters produced into designer toys often is a huge pain from what I heard.
    Because it isn't mass production, usually very limited even, it takes a whole lot of money and effort to actually get it produced, pretty much impossible if you're on your own.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ah.heng
    designer toys, mainstream kids toys, figures, toys for adults, etc.

    mind telling me how the job is like?
    what are the necessary skills 1 should have?
    I currently work as a product designer for a company that has various toy lines, although my main specialty for this particular company is seasonal product design (Halloween costumes, decor, animatronics; Christmas decor, toys, and various other Holiday stuff); the catch-all category is "Everyday" which basically means "365 days". heh. Anyways, I pretty much work on everything that comes through the art request log that's assigned to me.

    My own background is in Communication Arts with a minor in Marketing; I specialized in editorial illustration when I was at University - I have a BFA from that, and went back to school a few years ago to study 3D animation and design and got a 2nd degree. My professional experiences before I got into product design a couple of years ago includes traditional portrait and caricature art, children's textbook illustration, multimedia design and animation, software UI design, web design, graphic design and packaging...a little bit of all kinds of creative.

    However, like Steph Laberis previously mentioned, the value you can provide as a toy designer is in concepting an idea, whether your idea or the buyers or the project manager who handles that particular line; and giving it dimension and reality, even if that's only on paper.

    Myself, I do occasionally work with our artists over in China as most of the product sampling and manufacturing is done over there, as it is with many other companies because of production costs here in the US. However, I do occasionally coordinate with artists and sculptors over here in the US, although that's mainly trickled through my art director and product managers. I'm a junior product designer after all.

    If it helps, here's a previous snip from a job posting that listed some of the requirements and responsibilities that they were looking for in a product designer for toys:

    ------------------------------------------------
    - Degree or comparable portfolio of work preferred.
    - Ability to create artwork by hand that can be made tangible through 3-dimensional products
    - Thorough working knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, and Illustrator
    - Ability to work in a multi-cultural environment with team-oriented interpersonal skills
    - Effective written and verbal communication skills

    - Create concept sketches, detail drawings, and full color product illustrations
    - Collaborate with sales, product managers and marketing people to coordinate the look of a product line
    - Modify and refine designs to meet customer specs, production limitations and or changes in design trends
    - Research and understand current market trends, materials, and production methods
    ------------------------------------------------

    Hope that helps!

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  17. #16
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    Whoah Tatiana, way helpful! I have to ask - are you at Radica (sp?) My old boss at Hasbro was came from there about 2 years ago.

    I'm going to start that toy thread in the employment discussion forum (As Michelle so kindly suggested!), make sure you contribute too!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steph Laberis
    Whoah Tatiana, way helpful! I have to ask - are you at Radica (sp?) My old boss at Hasbro was came from there about 2 years ago.
    Do you mean Radica Games? No, sorry, I'm not familiar with the company. I'm over at Gemmy. The products that I've worked on when I first started about two years ago are just now starting to show up at the retail level. There's actually about a 2 to 3 year advance development cycle...or that's to say, what we concept today won't show up in stores for 2 to 3 years. Lot's of NDA's on stuff I work on. Just like in software development.

    I'll be happy to contribute to the thread you mentioned, too. I just happened to catch up a bit on my reading this evening and found that discussion.

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    Steph> I'm not really into figures, I like cute stuff that moves around by itself, like rollercoasters with figures that slide around, or the Pac-Man Magnet game which I never got as a kid. I think it was on my x-mas wish list for like 10 x-mas'es. My only memory of it is seeing it in a toy catalog some 20+ years ago, but now I found this page!!!!11 OMG OMG

    Videogames with real figures moving around is really the shit. Imagine combining the magnet game with the Penguin rollercoaster and the fish pond and maybe Hungry Hippo and ScrewBall Scramble etc...

    Last edited by Prometheus|ANJ; November 21st, 2006 at 09:08 AM.
    Jamen jag tror att han skäms, och har gömt sig. Vårt universum det är en av dom otaliga spermasatser som Herren i sin självhärliga ensamhet har runkat fram för å besudla intet.
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