Looking for creative challenges outside of the toy industry to hone your skills will work to make you dig deeper to the heart of the matter and teach you to edit out the non-essentials leading to stronger impact and quicker visual reads. Since retail toy design has already embraced the digital world, be sure you strengthen computer skills alongside your conventional techniques to meet industry standards and remain commercially viable.
This celestially challenged bouncing ball we live on spins pretty fast and isn’t going to slow down any time soon. For our industry to stay viable, those within it must stay viable by constantly adapting to the ever changing challenges and digital technologies inherent in our extremely competitive global marketplace. The status quo protects it's own but eventually all things are brought to light. Great companies that were once on top can easily fall into the depths of forgotten memories—just ask Kodak. You must strive to thrive.
An amazingly talented instructor at the Art Center in L.A. would always say to his design students—“grow or go.” That was a strong statement to be sure but why not have a commitment to personal and professional growth? Why not be the best you can be? Finding new challenges will always serve to hone your skill set and make you more marketable. Trying new techniques and being open to adapting to the latest technology trends will always have positive results in any industry.
For students of design (a special shout out to the toy design students at Otis College of Art and Design), note the entire image of the art featured in this post has an overall gray middle value. Even if this were a color illustration there would be an overall middle color tone to the image. Now, all you need to do is add the darks (which make up the shadow pattern) and the lights to enhance the form. Dishes are done.
Personally, working in mediums such as charcoal, oil paints and other so-called non-commercial materials actually help grow my conventional and digital computer skills side by side. Win, lose or draw, this personal experimentation occasionally fails, but in the end always leads to something that eventually strengthens my commercial work. Give it a try and you just might fly.
Many design students show potential in their toy rendering skills but my free advise for what it's worth is to avoid focusing on a style and concentrate on nailing the tonal bands of value—strong shadow patterns, solid overall middle tones and the essential highlights to make a bold visual statement of design communication. Nail those key areas and your personal style will naturally emerge.
Remember, no amount of detail or fancy techniques, however, can add human emotion or personality to your ideation sketches. No amount of highlights can determine charm. You have to dig deep to find the heart of the matter to make your sketches not only depict a toy function but also inspire the imagination to dream big and play hard.