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Dominic Yard - From Polly Pocket to Sea Monster Pirate Sets

What do you do in the industry?

I’m an Independent Inventor originally from the UK but now based in Los Angeles, California.

What is your claim to fame in the industry?

Golden Glove award at the Hasbro Inventor Summit 2018 Wiffle Ball Game!

I’ve also created items for Tech Deck, Thomas & Friends, Mickey Mouse, Polly Pocket & Hot Wheels.

Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?

Completely by chance! I studied product design at University, then moved to London in 2008. I was searching for any sort of design job to get my career started when I saw a position available to work on Polly Pocket. I was 24 and designing girls toys for a living had not been on my radar! I applied, completed a trial project, and got the job! Straight away I realised how awesome the opportunity was! I was building models, figuring out mechanisms, having serious discussions about whether it would be better for unicorns or dolphins to pop out of a play set. It was the best start ever and I haven’t looked back!

Big thanks to Kevin Gillon for taking a chance on an inexperienced designer and hiring me! I’m a firm believer in serendipity.

What are you working on now?

I try to work on all sorts of different areas from boys to wheels to girls to games. Right now I’m doing a lot of stuff around games.

What advice can you give to new inventors who are presenting a toy or game idea?

Make a cool and snappy video to bring your concept to life. Keep it short and sweet, 30 seconds to a minute long, max. It’s critical that the picture quality is clear and your set is well-lit, but you don’t need to invest in a ton of equipment. Natural light and an iPhone are all you need.

What does your typical day look like?

I feel the most creative in the morning, so I like to start the day brainstorming new concepts. I move onto model building throughout the day and around late afternoon, when I’m starting to feel restless I’ll usually head out for some exercise, a bike ride, or a run before sunset (LA is great for that!). I like to take care of my admin and email tasks later in the evening when my energy and creativity have quieted down.

When I’m up against a big deadline, however, it’s complete chaos and I’m working 24-7, almost literally. 3D printing all through the night, editing presentation videos on planes right up until the meeting. That’s one of the trade-offs when you’re a one-man band!

What’s your workspace setup like?

When you’re a solo inventor, it’s really crucial to keep your overhead as low as possible, which is why I’ve opted for a live/work setup. I have a small workbench with mainly hand tools and a 3D printer. I’m very proud of the scale of some of the models I’ve built with limited resources. 2019 is the year I want to cure my cabin fever though, and I’m planning on transitioning from a home office into a larger, separate studio.

What are the most nerve racking to most rewarding parts of your job?

Being three days out from a deadline staring at a collection of half-built, untested models on the bench, wondering if they were even going to work!

To putting the finishing touches on the concept video, and the model’s working perfectly! I find pitching the ideas is one of the best parts of the job. It’s super cool to see all the real-time reactions when I share my videos in a meeting.

I also love checking out all the unboxing and toy reviews on YouTube. It’s so surreal to see kids playing and getting stoked on the toys you’ve developed once they finally make it to market.

What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?

The bottleneck around model building can still be a challenge. I’ve come up with more concepts than I actually have the time to build, which can be frustrating. The model is king, because a company will always want you to prove out any mechanism you pitch. It’s also the most time-consuming stage of inventing. I’m always trying to find ways to enhance my building capabilities. My 3D printer and outsourcing some CAD design has been a great help.

What was your favorite toy or game as a child?

LEGO was always my number 1, followed closely by Micro Machines, Matchbox, and Britains Farm Tractors.

My granddad was an incredible wood worker, and he’d build lots of garages, barns, and farm sets to go with all of my vehicles. As a kid, I would never mix scales though! A Micro Machine and a Matchbox would never be played with together. Not sure what that says about me. Maybe that I’m very particular!

How do you recharge or take a break? What are your hobbies?

Lots of outdoor activities. Mountain biking, snowboarding, surfing, camping. I find myself taking road trips and exploring as much as I can.

Summer or Winter?

I’ve been living in California for the last two years, and one of my favorite things is that I can experience both seasons in the same day. I can wake up with the sun and palm trees of Los Angeles, drive across the Mojave desert, then head up to the Sierra Nevada mountains. I can go snowboarding in Mammoth and then drive back home and be minutes from the ocean. This is extremely novel and exciting for an Englishman!

Who inspires you?

My greatest source of inspiration is simply the other inventors and people within the industry that I’ve met. I’m amazed at how varied and interesting the stories are behind how people got started, or what their breakout success was... or even how many years of making no money and getting everything rejected it took them to get where they are now!

Being a part of the toy industry and inventor community has...

Given me a great opportunity to meet and become friends with a ton of creative, collaborative, and fascinating people. There is a great social side and I’ve been very fortunate to travel to so many cool places and meet a great bunch of friends along the way!

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