Toy designers have one of the most important jobs in the world: making
children happy. Toys come in many styles, from simple handmade wooden blocks
or plastic action figures to complex and intricate robotic toys. Toy designers
design and create them all.
Designers must know how to use materials properly so that toys are safe,
durable and easy to maintain. They must have mechanical skills and love gadgets.
Designers should also be knowledgeable about children and know what a child
can do at different ages. They must also have a great imagination and be sensitive
about the effect of colors.
Most toys are produced by designers working at manufacturing companies.
But some are the products of inventors who run their own companies.
"I guess the unique thing about me as a toy designer is that I also manufacture
and sell the toys I design," says Don Olney. He started his toy company about
20 years ago in a friend's basement. Today, he employs up to 20 people and
creates almost a million small wooden toys a year.
Toy designers must keep the following in mind as they work:
- Is the idea a good one, and is it unique?
- Will it sell?
- Is it cost-effective?
- Is it safe?
- Is it legally protected by a patent or trademark?
Most toy manufacturers buy ideas from toy design firms. Some will consider
a product only after it's been tested in the market. Others won't accept outside
ideas at all.
A toy designer's best chance may be to contact small- or medium-sized manufacturers
or to hire a firm to negotiate the sale of their idea.
Some designers manufacture and distribute the invention themselves. Although
this path is more time-consuming and costly, it may lead to the personal satisfaction
of establishing a business of your own, or having a toy company purchase your
idea after you've made it successful.
Jim Deacove designs cooperative games for kids and adults. In fact, he
has his own game company. He started out with four or five designs, but manufacturing
companies weren't interested. "So, I started my own company," he remembers.
His company designs, manufactures and distributes the games. "We ship all
over the place now...and we have some in different languages. It's just grown
slowly and organically," says Deacove.
The industry's largest toy trade show, the American International Toy Fair,
is held every February in New York City. Exhibiting at trade shows like this
one is the most cost-effective way to reach a large number of toy buyers.
Toy designers must be motivated and able to face competition and rejection.
Some designers quit their permanent jobs to devote time to their venture,
as the turnaround time to get a new item on retail shelves sometimes exceeds
All toy designers face frustration at times when their designs are rejected
or when they cannot be as creative as they would like. Independent designers
are under pressure to please clients and find new ones.
Toy designers employed by manufacturing establishments or design firms
generally work regular hours in well-lit, comfortable settings. Self-employed
designers tend to work longer hours, especially when they are first trying
to establish themselves.