What do you do in the industry?
I am an industrial designer, architect and educator. I have been a professor at OTIS College of Art and Design since 2002 and have authored 15 online courses for lynda.com / LinkedIn Learning. I have also designed dozens of games, toys and electronics for Mattel, Hasbro and Educational insights, among many others.
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
For Learning Resources / Educational Insights, I developed an entire line of STEM toys, three of which were nominated for Toy of the Year. Now, for the first time, I’m introducing and launching my own design and brand from the ground up. It is a multiplayer 3D strategy game – and system – called Gridopolis.
What are you working on now?
Three years ago, I began developing a multiplayer 3D strategy game called Gridopolis. After years of testing, I pitched it to established manufacturers. Every company passed on my idea.
I then decided to produce it myself, and on July 23, we will be launching Gridopolis on Kickstarter. It has something for everyone: families, gamer geeks, and even educators due to its many STEM learning applications. As I’ve created this from scratch, I would appreciate your support for the game when it launches. Feel free to sign up at www.gridopolis.fun. Your life will change in magical ways.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
STEM games and toys are clearly on the rise, of which we are proud to play a part. Within the STEM fields is an emerging category we’ve dubbed ‘STEM without screens.’ When I talk to parents and educators, they often lament about how many of their children’s favorite learning toys have screens, not to mention the distraction caused by phones and tablets. I developed Gridopolis to bring the social component back to STEM learning. Plus, we’re now seeing a generational shift — we’re trending away from screen time to what has been described as a ‘hunger for interaction.’
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
The first thing I would say to inventors is to encourage them to not be afraid of innovation. This sounds obvious. However, Gridopolis was originally passed over by multiple manufacturers. It felt as if the idea was being punished for being “too innovative,” which is likely because we were in a category that never existed before. It was both frustrating and fascinating; the same people who asked for innovation were not sure what to do with something so new and different!
However, when I got my product in front of the right people – those for whom I built the game – they loved it! That proved to me that you can persist with something that’s new and different and that isn’t constrained by a narrowly defined or pre-existing category.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
I want to solve for the last digit in pi. But seriously, I do want to help this ‘fear of innovation’ problem. To many corporate enterprises, innovation sounds cool and is mostly a fun thing to say. But when it comes down to it, they rarely do it.
For example, I once had a company say to me that it was ‘too risky’ to be the first to release a product I designed. When a similar product emerged months later, we evaluated it and determined that our design was still superior. This was a good thing; the other entity had validated the market, but left it wide open for something better. However, the client felt that it wasn’t good timing – because someone else already did it.
If you didn’t want to be first, and you don’t want to be second … then you don’t really want to do it. At all.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
My favorite toy as a child was first and foremost Legos. I have fond memories of sitting in my room as an 8-year-old building and creating for hours upon hours. My other favorite memories involved playing board games during gatherings with friends and relatives. My grandfather loved board games and I remember playing games like Checkers, Careers, and Trouble every time they visited.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
My favorite software to use is Rhino, used for 3D modeling, rendering, prototyping, and manufacturing. I have used Rhino to create dozens of projects over the years and it has made a big difference in my career.
First, it enabled me to affordably design, develop and pitch new ideas. Second, my experience and expertise with Rhino positioned me to fulfill my goal to teach. I have been a professor at OTIS College of Art and Design since 2002 and have authored 15 online courses for lynda.com / LinkedIn Learning.
Also, the Weather app is very important in my life. It saves me from having to look out the window.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
When my energy and creativity begin to wane, I have discovered that a change in location will provide a nice mental reboot. In fact, my name and drink order are known at multiple Coffee Beans across the Los Angeles area.
Do you have any pets?