Is Star Wars The Most ‘Toyetic’ Movie Franchise Of All Time…?

Is Star Wars The Most ‘Toyetic’ Movie Franchise Of All Time…?

In a word – yes!

If we look at the numbers, Star Wars is easily the biggest toyetic movie franchise of all time in terms of $sales. The original Kenner Star Wars action figures line sold over 300 million units from 1978-1985. And when you look at the fact that Star Wars has routinely been a top 5 ranked toy brand in sales terms for many/most of the years since, it’s hard to disagree with the idea of Star Wars as the most toyetic movie franchise of all time.

What is stunningly impressive though is how Star Wars has continuously stayed relevant and motivating to new generations of kids, despite the decades since the original trilogy, and despite what is generally perceived in movie terms as a disappointing second trilogy (2nd franchise in terms of when launched, not where it sits in the saga to avoid confusion!). Perhaps more tellingly, the last of the 2nd trilogy – Revenge Of The Sith came out 10 years ago back in 2005. Yes there has been some cartoon action since, but that’s not the same thing, and is certainly not enough to keep anything other than this extraordinary franchise as a top toy brand all that time.

This week, I’ve been reliving my youth by watching the original trilogy (I was obsessed with Star Wars as a kid), and what struck me after not having seen these classic films for so long is just how compelling they are. Brilliant plot/universe, great characters, funny and entertaining dialogue, quirky monsters, good versus evil, an array of vehicles, space ships, death stars and different types of pseuedo military units to goggle at, but above all the original trilogy features groundbreaking special effects which still look amazing today decades later. And when you imagine the basic equipment/techniques/technologies available back then, Star Wars truly stands out from that period of time as being way ahead of its time.

Critically for the toy business, most of those features listed add to the toy merchandise opportunities. In fact in several scenes I viewed this week my eyes literally goggled at how many toyetic features there were in the original trilogy. No wonder then that the original toys were way beyond best sellers, and no wonder that such a rich and toyetic movie franchise has continued to perform at retail year after year.

Even if we compare Star Wars with other seemingly toyetic movies we can see that Star Wars stands alone – for instance Toy Story, is in a sense as toyetic as a movie can get since it’s all about toys in a toy box, yet it has a comparatively limited character matrix, moreover the story is nowhere near as complex or as broad as the Star Wars story lines which considerably restricts the opportunities/toy potential versus the Lucas/Disney behemoth!

So yes, Star Wars is in my opinion by far and away the most toyetic movie franchise ever.

And with another movie coming out next month, two more in the 3rd trilogy on the way and spin off movies in between it seems quite possible that Star Wars can yet reach new heights, and might play a pivotal part in driving the global toy industry to record sales levels for the next 5 years or more.


by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight,  a leading Consultancy to toy, game and kids entertainment companies around the world, which helps companies find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world

China’s One Child Policy Reversal Set To Grow Global Toy Market By 4%?

China’s One Child Policy Reversal Set To Grow Global Toy Market By 4%?

The major announcement that China has officially ended it’s decades old ‘one child’ policy has to be good news for the Global toy industry. Couples will now be allowed to have two children without fear of censure or punishment.

A quick and not very in depth internet search suggests there are around 150million 0-9 year olds in China. So when we begin to look at all those families having the freedom to have a 2nd child, we can see that the potential for a huge increase in births in China, and therefore a huge increase in toy consumers is huge!

The statisticians out there will no doubt have a field day with projections of births etc., but the rules on 2nd children had already been loosened a little while back, so that 150m already included some second children so I’m not for a minute suggesting that we’re going to get an additional 150 million kids…but if we had an increase of 1 in 3 we’d get to an extra 50m kids in China.

Globally, there are something akin to 1.2 billion kids from 0-9 years of age. So an extra 50m would be an increase in the global population of toy consumers of 4%. In an industry that is forever looking at trends upwards or downwards of a few percentage points, this should be MASSIVE news for the toy industry, yet it’s hardly been mentioned by toy trade media this week bizarrely.

If each of those 50m kids had $20 USD spent on them each year on average that’s an extra $billion of sales, if it were $40 USD per child that’s a whacking great $2billion of incremental toy sales, which to put it in perspective is nearly half of Hasbro’s annual global sales!

For sure we’ve used some dubious statistical projections and extrapolations here, but all such predictions are nearly always wrong anyway regardless of method of calculation, the reality is that this is a strong upside indicator for global toy sales for the next decade or so.

Bearing in mind China is now the 2nd biggest toy market in the world and that many toy companies are ever more focused on tapping into the Chinese domestic toy market, this week’s change in policy by the Chinese government should really have set the cat among the pigeons in a good way!

P.S. While the outlook looks good for China’s domestic toy market, there is still a definite trend towards manufacturing in India and other Asian markets outside China, to read a recent article we published on this, just click here:


Announcing The Winners Of The Toy Verdict Awards 2015…

And The Winners Of The Toy Verdict Awards 2015 Are…, a leading toy review service and online portal, fully owned and operated by Kids Brand Insight today announces the results of The Toy Verdict Awards 2015.

Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight told us:

“The sheer quality of the products submitted has made our testing and judging process very difficult indeed. We take a robust approach to testing based on our having conducted hundreds of research groups/playtesting sessions for many of the biggest players in the toy business, so it’s been a very involved and intense process to get to this list of Winners and Finalists – all of whom truly merit the Award.

During the course of testing/judging, we were able to give product feedback which led to several companies tweaking products that were just about to ship to make them better/solve problems, so aside from the winners we announce today we hope to have made a further positive impact for those who worked with The Toy Verdict in 2015.”



Figures, playsets and collectibles

Joint Winners: Flipsies Sandy’s Yacht & House; Miles From Tomorrowland Stellosphere

Finalist: Doc McStuffins Pet Vet Bag Playset


Arts, crafts & science

Winner: Kinetic Sand

Finalists: Sweet Factory, My First Spa


Building/construction toys

Winner: Lego Elves Skyra’s Mysterious Sky Castle



Winner: Og On The Bog

Finalists: Timeline, Zip It, Frenzi Card Game, Pairs In Pears



Winner: Rose Petal Cottage

Finalist: In The Night Garden Explore & Learn Musical Activity Table



Winner: Petron Sureshot Crossbow

Finalist: Phlat Ball, Petron Sureshot Rifle



Winner: Tsum Tsum Olaf Bag With Frozen Fever

Finalists: Anagranimals, Zigamazoos



Winner: REV

Finalist: Real FX Racing


Tech toys

Winner: Miposaur

Finalists: Kidizoom Duo Digital Camera, Meccanoid G15 KS, My Friend Freddy Bear


Bath Toys

Winner: Gelli Baff, Slime Baff


Magic Sets

Winner: Marvin’s iMagic


Fun factor

Winner: Petron Sureshot Crossbow


Cool factor

Winner: Meccanoid G15 KS


Educational/developmental benefit

Winner: Sweet Factory

Repeat Play Value

Winner: Kidizoom Duo Digital Camera


To read online reviews for each of these products or for more information, please visit:




Kids Brand Insight Kids Brand Insight is a leading Consultancy to toy and game companies around the world. The company offers consumer research and playtesting services, as well as helping companies find the right factories and grow export sales. For more information:


ABOUT THE TOY VERDICT AWARDS is a leading toy review site, with excellent search engine rankings on most new toys tested. Products are tested using professional market research techniques, as developed in our Kids Brand Insight business. The Toy Verdict Awards offers a low cost product endorsement opportunity to toy companies. With the majority of toy and game purchases being influenced to some degree by online reviews in today’s world, our online listings help increase positive online word of mouth, while award winners will be able to add our branding and official endorsement on pack, in PR and in all other forms of marketing communications. For more information, please visit

How To Find Toy Factories Outside China

How To Find Toy Factories Outside China

There has been plenty of talk of late about rising labour costs in China. Bearing in mind the bulk of the world’s toys are manufactured in China, and that some types of toys are very heavy on labour in the manufacturing process, this has unsurprisingly set the alarm bells ringing for many toy companies. There is no doubt that the toy industry will continue to source the majority of manufacturing from China for the foreseeable future, but there is a definite trend away from China after a year in which European companies struggled to justify ordering in $USD as the €uro became so weak against it, and in a year when China’s seemingly perpetual growth cycle (primarily driven by manufacturing) appears to have faltered to a degree.

As is so often the case, there are those who have a bit of a whinge about the problem of supply chain cost pressure, and there are those who try to do something about it! So here’s some tips on how to go about doing something about it:

  1. Observe What Others Do – the saying goes that ‘pioneers take all the arrows’ i.e. those who go first walk into the unexpected hazards and dangers, so it’s not necessarily a case of trailblazing, more a case of seeing what others do, and once they’ve tested the waters, jumping on board!
  2. Ask Around – blindingly obvious, but much too easily ignored – the toy business is a comparatively small club. Your friends, colleagues and even competitors will have valuable information that they will be willing to share with you (sometimes) if you ask.
  3. Walk The Floors – to break the habit of going to the same region/country for production when viable alternatives exist elsewhere, why not consider countries you haven’t considered before? Every year at Nuremberg for the Spielwarenmesse (world’s largest toy trade show) we walk past companies who could be our solution, and we don’t consider them because our minds are closed. So this time round, why not set aside time to look at exhibitors from other countries for once?
  4. Use LinkedIn To Search – not everyone in Asian countries embraces LinkedIn like most Western business people do, but nevertheless your future suppliers will be on there somewhere, you just need to take the time to search.
  5. Focus on these countries – Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and India are the most viable alternatives to China, although to be clear there is nowhere enough capacity in these countries at reputable factories to meet global toy manufacturing demand. This situation is slowly changing, but you probably want to get in early to ensure capacity.
  6. Use Agents/Sourcing Companies – via our Consultancy company we offer a Factory finding service. We’ve worked with massive corporate companies down to one man bands to help match them with the right factories outside the traditional toy manufacturing heartland. We’ve traveled around and done significant leg work to conduct due diligence on factories in emerging countries. We’d be happy to help save you time and wasted effort by hooking you up with vetted suppliers in these countries. Of course there are plenty of other agents/sourcing companies out there you can talk to, but if you want us to help, just drop us a line via ‘Contact Us’ above, or go to



Are We Entering A New Golden Age For The Toy Industry…?

Are We Entering A New Golden Age For The Toy Industry…?

There’s always something to gripe about in the toy business. In fact if you listened to the talk in the corridors at toy fairs around the world, you’d think the industry was about to plummet around our ankles, and you’d end up thinking that each and every year if you listened to closely to some of the lovable whingebags  we all meet on the circuit!

However, there is genuinely a lot to be thankful for right now in the toy business. Yes manufacturing price inflation is an ever present challenge, retailers aren’t making things easier and strong competition is always there. But if you look at the sales trends for play related products, if you look at the kids movie slates coming out of Hollywood for at least the next 5 years, if you look at the plethora of digital brands we can tap into and if you look at the vast array of really exciting technology which keeps opening up opportunities for us there is much to be positively excited about!

The consolidation the industry has seen in the last 5 or so years has on the whole (in my view) been hugely beneficial to the toy business as a whole – for instance while for some the fact that Disney owns so many massive franchises now gives them a great degree (perhaps too much for some people) control, that actually works to the toy industry’s advantage in my opinion – because Disney really know what they are doing, and so they aren’t going to have massive franchises directly competing at the box office versus when they were competing with Marvel & Star Wars, which means shelf space can be more sensibly allocated based on staggered release dates, reducing cannibalisation & driving additional sales overall. And the more the overall category performs, the more retail shelf space we are likely to get, opening up more opportunities for other licensed and non licensed products.

I also really love the new toy companies who have entered the industry in the past few years, stuck around and are now definitely up and coming. What clears space for these up and comers is the consolidation among more established toy companies allowing for fresh approaches to sparkle up the toy aisles around the world.

The other hugely positive trend which is still in it’s infancy, but which is going to continue to revolutionise the industry is the removal of barriers to entry via crowd funding. The type of products that would usually not even make it to a retailer pitch meeting now arrive at the doors of sometimes snooty toy companies with a proven following, existing sales record and with a ready to order product versus just a concept needing fully designing and engineering. At last the toy industry has a path to being truly creative versus churning out the same old stuff – wow, we can really push the boundaries now because we can prove consumer demand before we have to secure retail support.

So yes, there are as ever many ongoing challenges and not a few threats in the toy biz, but actually there is an awful lot of positive stuff going on which makes me think we may be heading into a new golden age of the toy industry…!


by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight,  a leading Consultancy to toy, game and kids entertainment companies around the world, which helps companies find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world

5 Tips For Successful Toy Fair Events Management

5 Tips For Successful Toy Fair Events Management

With toy fair season just around the corner (sort of!), toy companies traditionally begin to move their focus from this year on to the next year around this time. Shipments (on all bar the hottest items) have mostly been delivered, any last minute product issues tend to have been resolved, and the marketing budget is committed/media bought.

Toy fair season 2016 comes with no small number of challenges this time around, as the BTHA UK toy fair finishes on Tuesday 26th January, with the Nuremberg show starting the following day on the 27th. This unusual clash of dates will leave many exhibitors with a somewhat nightmarish events management schedule.

Here’s 5 top tips to help you manage this year’s even more challenging toy fair events cycle:

1. Draw Up A Proper Event Plan – writing out a formal event plan will allow all stakeholders to know what’s going on, to pre-empt any issues and stop vital things falling through the gaps. An events plan should include timings and clear responsibilities so that somebody is both responsible and accountable for delivering all elements, whether it’s stand build, refreshments, ‘owning’ the meeting calendar or ensuring the right products arrive in the right place at the right time!

2. The Devil Is In The Detail – events are a massive collection of details. Therefore, to deliver successful events which allow your sales people to present the product range in the best light and give the best chance of maximising listings and sales, your toy fair events should be managed by detail conscious people. Pie in the sky dreamers or senior management bigwigs need not apply! From ensuring the right cables are present to ensuring graphics actually fit the space, taking the ‘it’ll be alright on the night’ approach will not deliver the right impression!

3. Presumption Is The Mother Of All Screw Ups – you can’t afford to take anything for granted with events. Don’t presume that supplier will do as they say/that they fully understand the brief, make them talk you through it. Don’t presume the sales guys will correctly update the meeting schedule straight after booking in an important meeting without a nagging kick up the behind.

4. Take A Visitors Eye View – for most companies, by the time toy fair comes around, the team are usually so immersed in the product and the process of delivering toy fair that they often lose sight of what it’s like to look at the products and the stand for the first time as an outsider. That stack of coats may be necessary, but it isn’t necessary for it to look like a jumble sale at the village hall! You may not want to sit down for meetings, but your visitors most probably will – we’ve never received as many compliments at toy fairs for products as we have for having comfortable seats – walking round toy fair stands viewing thousands of products if gruelling, so the more you can do to make your buyers visit comfortable and pleasant the better!

5. Outsource Events Management – the primary purpose of toy trade shows (for most companies) is to facilitate selling more than would have been the case without exhibiting, while managing ongoing business. One of the most effective ways to focus on selling is to out source much of the events management work. Companies don’t need to get hung up on all the small minor details themselves where they can be effectively outsourced. Why should your MD or Sales Director be spending his time before the show arguing about the height of plinths or the type of drinks available on the stand? If your team enters toy fair season exhausted due to the onerous nature of preparation, do you need to be asking whether that’s really the right way to go? Will that really help set you up to get more listings/to best manage often tricky negotiations with customers?

An effective outsourced events management solution can really pay dividends in terms of freeing up time/reducing stress and focus on the wrong things. More’s the point, specialist events management professionals can use their technical knowledge to suggest cheaper, better and more impactful ways of doing things – in fact often an outsourced events management resource pays for itself within the existing budget while delivering a better more effective show with considerably less headaches and wasted management time.

Our in house events management team have managed dozens of toy trade exhibitions, as well as working on other events with major global companies including Cocoa-Cola, JCB, The Imperial War Museum, The National Trust, Jaguar/Land Rover etc.

We’re currently looking to help toy companies who need events management help managing the next round of back to back toy fairs. To find out more about how we can help, please drop us a line via the ‘Contact Us’ page or find out more via our Toy Industry Consultancy business Kids Brand Insight:


5 Reasons Why Kids Love Minions…

5 Reasons Why Kids Love Minions…

We recently conducted a small piece of research into the hugely successful Minions movie, and why it is kids like it so much.

Our article features on the website of our Consumer research and Toy consultancy business: 

Happy reading!


by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight,  a leading Consultancy to toy, game and kids entertainment companies around the world, which helps companies find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world

Why Hasbro Selling Board Game Factories Was Inevitable…

Why Hasbro Selling Board Game Factories Was Inevitable…

Hasbro announced this week the sale of their board games factories in East Longmeadow, USA and Waterford, Ireland to Cartamundi.

Much has (already) been written about this and the reasons for it and various sources have attributed this to grand strategy along various lines. However, the number one reason why these plants were sold is because Hasbro has not been in the business of owning/running board game factories for a long time. Those manufacturing plants which could most easily and prudently be closed and production sent to China felt this effect way back e.g. exiting from the historic Kenner location in Cincinnati back in 2000-2001, or Hasbro’s other European manufacturing plants in Leeds, England and Valencia, Spain which are now effectively ancient history.

There are two reasons why Hasbro had retained East Longmeadow & Waterford for so long despite the overall strategy of focusing on development, distribution and marketing while leaving someone else to worry about the grind of production management:

1. These two factories have done a great job over time of delivering quality product at affordable cost with guaranteed capacity levels.

2. It’s very expensive to close factories down – if we look back at the closure of the Cincinnati location, reported costs of closure were between $70m-$170m! That’s a big chunk of money to take a hit on in any year.

(See this link for reference of costs of that closure)

So it’s not that Hasbro have suddenly changed direction/set in place a grand strategy that hasn’t been seen before or observed by outside analysts, rather this is the culmination of an exit strategy from manufacturing that started in their Toy business way back in time.

In hindsight, Cartamundi are one of only a very few candidates who could have taken these two sites on having the size to manage/finance the transaction and ongoing business, as well as being strategically committed to board game manufacturing. Additionally, as stated by Hasbro’s releases, the two companies do have a history of working together and have a similiar ethical approach to doing business.

On a personal note, I’m delighted that these two gods of the board game industry are going to be taken forward in the right way. If you were to look at how many classic games these two factories have manufactured over time, the numbers would be staggering. I’m going to guesstimate that it could be in the billions of copies of much loved games that have come from these plants. Viva East Longmeadow & Waterford games manufacturing!

P.S. If you’d like to be notified of new articles published on this site, please just fill in your details on the right hand side of this page and we’ll notify you when future articles are published…

by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight,  a leading Consultancy to toy, game and kids entertainment companies around the world, which helps companies find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world


5 Ways Mattel Can Return To Growth

5 Ways Mattel Can Return To Growth

Much has been written about Mattel’s recent performance. With key brand Barbie apparently struggling and sales down, alongside changes in management these are comparatively turbulent times for Mattel.

The challenge in the toy industry is that it takes time to bring through new initiatives and developments, but I’m certain there are several thousand people beavering away on reversing the trend in Mattel’s case.

Here’s some thoughts on how Mattel can return to growth:

1. Reinvigorate And Reinvest In Icon Brands, Especially Barbie – clearly Barbie needs a boost when we look at recent sales trends, but we couldn’t accuse Mattel of inaction in this area. Between various entertainment content releases and new product initiatives there is plenty going on. When we consider that Frozen was so strong last year it would be unrealistic to expect Barbie to sail through such strong competitive winds with no impact. As Frozen frenzy calms down throughout this year and beyond, I’d expect Frozen to establish itself as an evergreen brands at lower levels of demand, opening up a clear bounce back opportunity for Barbie. As long as the product stream and entertainment content keeps on coming this would seem to be more or less a given based on the longevity of the Barbie brand and Mattel’s distribution strength.

2. Grow Recent Acquisitions – Mattel’s comparatively recent purchase of both the HIT Entertainment brand portfolio (including the Thomas and Friends powerhouse) and MEGA Brands is yet to pay full dividends. I see considerable growth potential ahead as Mattel does what they do so well in building and growing brands globally. I read a recent article in the UK’s excellent toy trade mag Toy News in which members of Mattel’s management highlighted the comparative lack of infrastructure MEGA Brands had in Europe versus Mattel. Click here to read that story: Aside from the benefit to Mattel of selling MEGA Bloks via their hugely strong sales teams in North America and the UK, there is clear incremental opportunity to significantly grow distribution and therefore sales in Europe and further beyond. When we look at the fact that Europe as a whole has a roughly comparable market size to North America, it’s clear to see the upside. I see 3-5 years of growth ahead on the recently acquired brands.

3. New Product & Category Launches – this growth path may seem like the most obvious i.e. need more sales, why not just launch new products into categories not currently exploited. The challenge is that established competitors make this difficult. Global giants like Mattel (and Hasbro and others) don’t tend to do so well as the under dogs in a category/with a product because there structure works well for areas of strength (i.e. less trade margin, high TV/ad spend, full distribution with POS marketing investment). Where they have to negotiate support from a comparative position of weakness things get a little trickier, and as we work in a hit or miss business, our analysis suggests that you need to be willing to launch 3 or 4 new brands which fail to establish one which sticks. While Mattel have done that fantastically well in recent years with Monster High (arguably the best new brand launch of the decade in my view), many more fail than work, and based on where Mattel are right now, I’m not sure it’s a good bet to keep taking that punt versus the other growth options listed here!

4. New Acqusitions – while rebuilding Mattel’s core brands, especially Barbie is the single most critical priority to protect the foundations of Mattel’s business, the biggest upside potential appears to come from further acquisitions. Historically, this is THE way Mattel and Hasbro have grown. And there are some clearly attractive targets out there. Moreover, Mattel’s positive cash position and ongoing net cash generation provides the means to fund growth driving acquisitions. I’m not going to speculate on potential targets here, but there are clearly some companies of sufficient size owning either potentially incremental brands or significant market position in categories Mattel are not so strong in.

5. New Entertainment Driven Opportunities – Monster High was driven by entertainment content. In fact, as I understand it, TV networks are so over loaded with kids TV content that it would have been difficult/expensive/imprudent to get the show on TV. As such Mattel launched via YouTube, and the rest is history – Monster High is a massive global brand launched in a category in which Mattel already have the No. 1 brand. There are clearly other opportunities for Mattel here – between their own IP and 3rd party IP, Mattel could well benefit from looking towards a closer relationship with Hollywood and building a greater strength in terms of TV distribution as have their rivals Hasbro. Finally on this point, the Batman V Superman movie launches early next year, and with super hero movie franchises proven to drive substantial toy sales Mattel should feel the benefit in terms of a boost to 2016 revenues.


Disclaimer/admission: I own a small amount of Mattel shares bought recently as my amateur eye sees a turnaround play based on the above thoughts. Anyone who takes the views of one person too seriously with regards to investments, especially someone as unskilled & unqualified in the investment world as myself is setting themselves up for trouble!

P.S. In case you haven’t heard yet, we recently launched our own Toy Review service – The Toy Verdict. We are also happy to announce that entry to The Toy Verdict Awards 2015 is now open, for more details or to enter, just click here.

by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight,  a leading Consultancy to toy, game and kids entertainment companies around the world, which helps companies find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world. 

Why Toy Design is Special and What You Can Learn From It.

Traditional toy design covers a broad spectrum from infant and baby products, low price collectables, detailed action figures and dolls, construction systems, board & card games, electronic gadgets, outdoor sports – the list goes on and on and on…

From a purely design for manufacture point of view it covers all the bases of normal consumer goods design. However, there is something else that is absent from many normal consumer products. A magic that bubbles up from the inception of the first sketch and shines brightly as the idea evolves through models, testing and into prototypes and business meetings. It is the magic of Playfulness and Storytelling.

I’ve developed dozens of ‘normal’ consumer products before I started in the toy business. A designer’s role on those products is very much seen as someone who can embody the brand character in a three dimensional form. Taking into account all the challenges of mass producing ANY product. Making sure the product stacks up and stands out against the competition and has good user appeal. The reality though for most product designers is that it is an iterative development from a previous product.

Toys however don’t always follow those same rules. The very banner of ‘TOY’ can mean anything that excites, creates or builds on a story or nurtures your imagination. As a designer this is a VERY engaging area to work in. What is more exciting that designing products that stretch a child’s imagination or inspire them with play memories that will carry on into adulthood? Many of my most vivid and happy memories as a child were when I was playing.

Building a huge Lego space port across a six foot trench that were the footings for an extension to my house. Finally beating my beat friend on his TCR racing set, stamping my gran repeatedly on the forehead with an ink pen in a game she was never going to win, at least not by my rules. Going six people across on two skateboards down a 1:6 hill without ANY kind of padding whatsoever (that didn’t go as we had planned)!

Working in toys lets you keep that creative ‘what if’ side alive. That constant ‘dreaming’ to find new ways to play, new ways to let kids unlock their imagination creates what I call Play Thinking. It is a way to take even mundane items and give them a sense of fun and hopefully in turn make then a little more memorable.

UI / UX is something you may not normally associate with toys and tabletop games. However it has ALWAYS been at the heart of their design, the terminology however has not. The best toys have great physical UI. They can be understood by young children who cannot read and just want it to work. Toys with digital components need Designing UX for tabletop games that have mostly been about multi-player. However, players like to change and bend the rules and so the designer has to work with this, in order to design a great experience without the benefits of guided play & patches.

Here are my top three tips to use Play Thinking in your next project

1. Does it have emotional appeal? The best toys hit you there first. They immediately put a smile on your face. No different from when you see a great product or cool service you want to engage with as a adult.

2. Does it have a reason to be? What is the story behind the project and does it capture people’s imagination? This is equally important when you are trying to sell the idea internally.

3. Does it match your consumer need? The best toys understand their market. Kids change fast in ability and taste and toy designers have to pay close attention to that. Sure, it has to be cool but it also has to be age appropriate. In a age where the average population is ageing, this is very relevant.

Why not use toy design in your next warm up session? A 15 minute ‘design your dream toy’ is a good way to shake out the everyday and start thinking more laterally even if it is a precursor to planning your next I.T budget!

Richard Heayes is founder of Heayes Design, a design and invention consultancy
with a playful spirit, helping the Play business innovate.
As a Designer & Design Director at Hasbro for over eighteen years Richard led creative
product development on dozens of brands from Monopoly, Scrabble, MB, Trivial Pursuit,
PlayDoh to name a few. He brings an insight and passion for blending design vision
with business insight to create breakthrough products that deliver.