HAPPY ACCIDENTS IN TOY DESIGN


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6a0133ec87bd6d970b013486307854970c-200wiRuth Synowic is a Senior Creative Director at The Marketing Store who has created, designed and directed toy and game development for retail, premium, and specialty gift markets.  Ruth has led the design and development of over 200 Happy Meal toy programs for McDonald’s North America, Latin America, Europe, and Global promotions. Her singular life’s focus, to work for the benefit of children, has led her to a career in the Toy Industry which has spanned over 20 years.

Serendipity, luck, and coincidence – whatever you call it, it’s something that is bound to happen during the creative process.  Personally, I don’t believe in accidents or luck so for me to term innovative, yet sometimes unexpected, solutions a fluke seems misrepresentative.   Aren’t innovative, break-through ideas the result of focus, dedication, and the insatiable desire to find the most creative solutions?  Whether ideas seem to appear “out of nowhere” or they are the result of much concentrated thought and effort, one can confidently surmise that innovative ideas are the expected outcome of
6a0133ec87bd6d970b01348630796a970c-320wi cumulative knowledge, experience, and personal interpretation.

Several years ago my team was tasked with developing a segment of business on which we had never worked.  The Client wanted more innovation and value than had been given on previous programs.  They had just ended a long-term relationship with a Licensor and wanted something completely fresh that would serve as a six-month, interim solution.  We had a shortened timeline, a team that was unfamiliar with the business, and were no longer applying a long-standing licensed property.

During our brainstorms, we explored several product ideas that would work within the parameters of our Client’s brief. We had been asked to use the company’s iconic character as our licensed imagery on the product.  We were creating preschool product so I asked my team to design a younger, three-year-old version of the character, even though that version didn’t exist.  Everyone quickly sketched his version of the character, but we weren’t quite satisfied after our first pass.  One of the team members took a second try and that was it, we had our new character!
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Shortly after the character was created, I met with the Account rep and Engineer on the program to show them the drawings.  They were surprised with the direction we had taken.  Their understanding was that we should use the adult version of the character.  We had interpreted the brief a completely different way and designed a character that was more appropriate for our audience.  Both of them were very excited and a little nervous about this new approach but agreed that it really brought the product to life.

I met with several members of senior management and shared the idea with them.  They loved it too and suggested we show it to our Client as soon as possible, before the formal presentation.  We proceeded and shared the concept with our Client.  The Client loved it too; so much, that within two weeks time it went all the way to the Global CMO and was completely approved!

This was no small accomplishment for my team, or for the company.  Not only had we taken a world renowned character and created a completely new version and for a business segment it’d never appeared in, but we had created it and had it approved within an amazing two weeks time.

Was this luck or just a misinterpretation?  Or, was this innovation brought to life by inspired interpretation?  We saw the same problem everyone else saw and interpreted it in a completely new, fresh, and creative  way.  We found a unique way that ultimately exceeded the Client’s expectations.

The solution we provided was to be a six-month interim program, but it has now been several years and multiple SKU’s later.  This new character was also introduced at the company’s international convention and received applause from hundreds of business owners.

Countless creative discoveries have been made while pursuing solutions for other problems.  Some notable toys are the outcome of other pursuits.  Silly Putty was the result of James Wright’s attempt to create a rubber substitute during World War II.  The Slinky was invented by Richard James, a U.S. Navy engineer, when he accidently knocked a torsion spring off his work table and noticed it had a unique motion.  And, in the 1950’s, Joseph and Noah McVicker were experimenting with substances for wallpaper cleaner and ended up creating the popular play substance, Play Doh.

Whether your innovative ideas are the result of much focus and dedication, or they seem to appear out of nowhere, your experience, knowledge, inspiration, and interpretation will no doubt play a large part in these discoveries. Write us and tell us about some of your happy discoveries while trying to solve other problems.

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