Tal Schrieber - Inspired by the New Generation of Inventors
(Tal Schrieber - Inventor Relations, Spin Master Israel
and Program Manager, Toy Invention, Shenkar College)
What do you do in the industry?
After more than 20 years as an active toy inventor, I’ve made a change. I’m still active in toy invention, but switched “sides”. Today, I work in Spin Master as part of the company’s Inventor Relations and work with Israeli toy inventors.
At the same time, I’m teaching the next generation of toy inventors in Shenkar College (a leading Israeli college in the fields of art, design, and technology). I run a unique one-year professional training program in toy invention. Participants of the Toy Invention Program in Shenkar are creative people with inventive skills and a passion for toys and games. Currently, we are teaching the 5th program and the 6th year is on the way. I’m happy to say that a lot of the graduates have become real toy addicts… In the last 4 years, 80 inventors have graduated from the toy invention program.
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
There are a number of my products in the market of which I’m very proud. However, I believe that my biggest success is my involvement in the creation of the community of inventors in Israel. A community of active, professional and very successful toy inventors.
In recent years, the Israeli Inventors community has become very meaningful for Spin Master – a company that believes in innovation and that always understood that inventors are an important asset for the company’s success.
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I got into this industry by sheer chance. When I first started, I didn’t even know that there’s a profession like this. In 1993, I returned to Israel after a few years in Europe. I was a graphic designer who wanted a change. By a quirk of fate, I was looking for magnets and found a small magnet factory. When I saw all the magnets I had an idea for a toy. One thing led to another, and rather quickly I developed my first 3 products – all of which had a magnet. The first – Magic Shape – is sold until today; the second – Neti Magneti – a book game with a magnetic doll. The trick is that the doll only attaches to certain areas in the book; the third – Magnetivity – an innovative soft toy for toddlers. Two years later, I heard about Ora Coster and Theora Design. When I met her, and learned that you can actually “work” in toy design, I knew then and there that this was my calling in life. In 1995, I traveled to my first Toy Fair – I was mesmerized by the experience and from that moment and on there was no turning back.
What are you working on now?
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what I’m currently working on. But, if you interview me next year, I’m sure that the entire interview will be on this special project.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
As a rule of thumb, I’m comfortable with change and innovation. I believe in moderation and that there’s a place in the market for everything. I trust that the real toy experts - children - know what’s best…
What I will say is that the amount of poop in the last New York TF was somewhat over the top. and I wonder what’s the next trend…
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
I usually tell inventors to do whatever they want and to think less about what the company wants.
If companies knew what they wanted – they wouldn’t have needed inventors at all.
A simple and clear concept is an essential component of a good toy. Next, make your message short and precise and find a way to transfer the new toy experience in a focused way that will make your presentation exciting. Don’t spend time on information that steered you to the invention. Starting your presentation with “researches say….” is a big turnoff.
And the most import thing, present to me first and only later to other companies. Simply because in Spin Master we don’t just talk, we do the work…
What does your typical day look like?
I’m so lucky, because I don’t have a typical day. Every day is different for me. I meet many amazing people, both veteran and new inventors. I see concepts and mentor their development. I get to see innovative technologies and in the end, I get paid for doing it. It’s great fun.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Without a doubt, to see the success of the graduates of Toy Invention program. I think that sometimes I’m more excited than them when I visit TFs and see their concepts as fully developed products.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
One of the first things I did after I completed my mandatory military service in Israel was salmon fishing in Alaska. I’ve learned that the fish business reeks 😊 and that I must do only what I love.
What and/or who inspires you?
I’m inspired by the new generation of inventors. I can honestly say that even though I’m teaching them, in the end, I learn more from them. It’s a privilege and great pleasure to be around them.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
I remember mostly the street games that we played. In Israel, the weather is good year-round and almost every afternoon we would meet in the playground near my house and play for hours – ball games, jump rope, hopscotch and more...
I also loved to take apart old watches – I had a huge collection of cogwheels and watch parts. When I was 10, I got a special set of screwdrivers as a birthday gift. Everyone in my family knew that all the broken watches must be passed on to me.
My least favorite game was Five Rocks (Israeli version of Jacks), because I was really bad at it and it was very frustrating for me. That’s why, as an inventor, I always make sure that even the clumsiest kid will be able to play with the toys that I invent.
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I grew up in Israel, which is a very small country, in a Kibbutz, which is even smaller and more closed community. There’s a saying in Hebrew that a person is the reflection of his birthplace. The Israeli climate, food, and culture have certainly influenced who I am today. They call us Sabres (Hebrew for prickly pears) for a reason, we are thorny and hard on the outside, but sweet and soft on the inside…
What do you read every day, and why?
I’m an avid reader of the weather forecast. Particularly in the winter. Israel has an annual average of 20 days of rain, and therefore, a severe shortage of water. Every drop of rain is celebrated and the level of water in the Sea of Galilee – our biggest reservoir of drinking water – is measured daily. So, I check the level of water in the Sea of Galilee everyday – it’s a kind of an obsession.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
I love my IWatch – a completely unnecessary product that I simply adore – it tells me how many hours I slept; how many steps I took, how many stairs I climbed. This way, every time someone tells me I must do sport, I have my IWatch on my side…
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
My father-in-law passed away and we are sitting Shiva (Jewish mourning ritual). Some people who came to visit us, mistook me for the 78 years old widow.
Are you named after anyone?
No. The meaning of my Hebrew name, Tal, is morning dew and it is both a girl and a boy’s name.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I make a living out of being a child. So, I don’t see the point in growing up.