Nick Hayes - My Experiences in the Toy Design program at Otis
I was 30 years old, married with one kid, and had just about finished six years in the Army when I realized what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to design tabletop games. I had spent my entire childhood surrounded with games, playing and designing them. By my mid-twenties I had forgotten about my passion for games, but it was coming back in a big way. After years of doing what was necessary to get by, it was high time to start doing what I wanted. Time to get that dream job.
So I began to research what it would take to become a toy or game designer. I eventually learned about Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, one of only two schools that offers a bachelor’s degree in Toy Design (the other is the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC). As soon as Uncle Sam let me loose, I moved the wife and kid to LA and registered for classes. That was four years ago. My time at Otis just ended this year and I’d like to tell you about the experience.
The Toy Design program at Otis is absolutely fantastic. Over the last four years I designed action figures, vehicles, plush, preschool toys, board games, and fashion dolls. I learned model making, package design, marketing, juvenile anatomy, child psychology, and game theory. I spent countless hours every semester developing my drawing skills. I learned 3D modeling. I improved my speaking and presentation skills by regularly presenting toy concepts to classmates and faculty. I was surrounded by like-minded, enthusiastic, and extremely talented people who kept me going when the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon and I still hadn't finished rendering my last few drawings.
But the experience was much more than just what I did. The curriculum and faculty made up the rest of it. Every single Otis Toy Design faculty member, from the part-time lecturers to the chair of the department, is either currently working in the toy industry or a toy industry veteran. Some of them are true veterans, designers who made the toys I played with as a child (and believe me, it was awesome getting to meet and learn from these guys). This means that every class is borne from first-hand knowledge of the day-to-day business at places like Mattel, Hasbro and others. This isn't theory, this is the real deal. And I wouldn't have known that if the Toy Design department hadn't bent over backwards to make sure every student in my class had an internship at a major toy company. I took an internship at Spin Master right after my sophomore year, and that experience more than any other made me realize that toy design is probably the best career out there. I would even go as far as to call it the bee’s knees.
So where am I now? I finally got that college degree (and two more kids). But best of all, I just accepted an offer as a game designer at Spin Master. That’s right, I landed my dream job. And I can tell you right now, I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for those stellar four years at Otis.