The Challenges of Creating Toys: Idealism, play and commercial design.

My students hard at work in class...

I may have mentioned earlier that this year I am finally teaching a course in toy design. Since leaving the industry over five years ago, it has always been a goal to set up a class exploring play  and what toy design could really be. Quite surprisingly it has been a solid challenge, especially trying to balance the commercial business opportunity with the idealism of play for children.

The greatest challenge within the course is that I wanted to focus on “inventive thinking” rather than traditional design. The difference is subtle to any non-designers, but in fact completely turns design process upside down. Inventive thinking encourages something to emerge from a creative process, rather than seeking a solution to a problem that has been defined through design research. A toy design project is more likely to identify a category, age group, or brand, that requires expansion or updating (almost all toy lines are heavily renewed every year), where as an emergent, inventive process explores the open concept of “play” and looks for opportunities.

Are toys “problems” to be solved?

Photo Credit: brooklinemama - Trying to design a toy better than a cardboard box is an impossible task.

Read the rest of this entry »