Designing and inventing toys is like a box of chocolates

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Peter A. Wachtel, Chief Creative Kid @KidToyology is an award-winning designer, inventor, teacher, and president of Toy Association of Southern California www.coroflot.com/kidtoyology. Follow KID Toyology on Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter.

I always loved toys, and even play with my kids' toys. So when I became a toy designer and inventor, it was like eating chocolates, but sometimes you didn’t know what you were going to get.

When designing or inventing toys, be it an action figure, doll, plush toy, game, vehicle or water toy – it’s a little like the lottery. By this I mean that when you start out, you may have something particular in mind, but as the process continues new information, new technology or needs come into play making it necessary to adapt your design or invention to fit. I think the process is exciting, and you learn to adapt as you design.

You may start out in one direction or many, and then the world and your life’s experiences start to mold the toy in new directions. The toy has a life of its own, and your journey takes you down a road where you find little treasures of information along the way. Sometimes your design or invention works out even better than expected, like finding gold in the river; and sometimes you find out that your idea was nothing more than a mirage or some artifact that is worthless. Image1

Here’s one example… One day I was designing some Tonka vehicles. Almost every truck in the world has been made by Tonka – dump trucks, cement mixers, bulldozers, cranes, etc. But Tonka wanted something new, innovative and different. I thought I could create a modern vehicle, yet at its core it would still be a dump truck, cement mixer, bulldozer or crane that looked new – but not innovative.

  As luck would have it, my street was blocked one day as construction crews put in a new road. I parked my car and began the two block walk towards home. It was no big deal, and actually worked out pretty well. As I got closer to home, smelling the fresh asphalt, and seeing all the construction vehicles – a ditch witch, a steam roller and a drill truck as well as a few others it hit me – what if the new Tonka vehicle was a hybrid construction vehicle that looks cool and has multiple functions. The next day I started on the designs and ended up with a steam rolling, drilling and grinding monster of a machine. My boss loved it, it worked great, and it went into production! You may of heard of it the “Tonka Road Constructor” the No. 1 sku for Tonka that year and winner of a few awards.

It just goes to show that you may start out in one direction, but then the world and your life’s experiences start to mold the toy in new directions, and that designing and inventing toys is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are gonna get!

3 thoughts

  1. Hi Peter
    Thanks for sharing your story, success and process. Hope you have seen the valuable Toy and Game inventors Guide by Richard Levy and Ron Weingartner
    –helpful for both experienced and new inventors.
    Meanwhile keep creating and sharing and more success ahead. Play on!

  2. Not to mention that as an inventor, what you present and actually license to a toy company invariably gets changed by the licensee, sometimes in minor ways, but sometimes in ways that only the original inventor could recognize as ‘the same’ product!

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