What do you do in the Industry?
I have been working in the toy industry for more than 30 years on everything from action figures and dolls, playsets, collectibles, radio control, Matchbox and Hot Wheels vehicles, arts and crafts, and electronic learning toys. I have worked on products for most current major toy companies and others that unfortunately no longer exist as the industry has consolidated over the years.
I’m currently the Director of Design, Innovation and Inventor Relations, at Crayola and am responsible for the design team and working with cross-functional teams to create innovative products, and review and manage submissions from outside inventors. I’m also part of the extended Licensing team, reviewing product concept submissions and production samples so they align with work Crayola is doing internally. My team also manages the digital products that Crayola creates, such as Digi-Tools, Color Alive Coloring Books, Color Alive Easy Animation, Virtual Design Pro-Fashion and our latest release, Create and Play, a subscription-based creativity app.
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
If I had to choose one contribution, it would be my work on helping to move CAD in the toy industry forward when it was still in its infant stages. When I first began working in the toy industry out of college, I worked at a premiere model-making shop, creating control drawings from sketches by toy company designers.
I worked through the styling, assembly and mechanisms to create drawings, which were then given to the model shop to create models, samples, and acetate patterns on set-up blocks (for those people that remember these). Back then this was all done with pencil and paper. It was a nightmare with all the changes. My “forward-thinking” manager purchased AutoCad, and I started learning it on my lunch breaks and after work. I was one of the first designers to begin using CAD in developing toy products and later 3D modeling and CNC programming to create models for toys and collectibles.
I used the program with a digitizing tablet with freehand sketches and brought them into AutoCad to create freeform images versus mechanical shapes that others were doing in the program. It was still old school drafting but more accurate and quicker to make changes, and the companies we were doing the work for - took notice. Their engineering groups primarily only used CAD during this time. One of the first toy product lines I was doing these drawings for was Thunder Cats for LJN Toys.
This led to visits from these companies to see how the work was being completed. My favorite visit was from the Franklin Mint (maker of collectibles). Their designers tried to do a Porsche 911 and failed due to the model’s curvilinear shapes. After I showed them how we did it, they wanted me to develop the next 14 car models they had scheduled. Later, the Franklin Mint Museum featured one of my drawings in a video presentation -- the engineer working on the drawing looked very professional, not like a kid in jeans, who actually created it.
This all seems like no big deal now with all the software available, but back then times were different. You had to create assemblies of multiple complicated parts in your head and with the Franklin Mint cars – develop hundreds of parts and mechanisms with no interference checking by the software. To give you an example of how primitive 3D software was at that time, the test we used to review software was to fillet all the sides of a cube – and no program did it easily.
What is your favorite toy or game as a child?
Zeroid Commander Action Set by Ideal. I loved playing with it and the adventures we went on together were awesome. It was powered and seemed magic with what it could do. As an adult I came across a partial set of this toy at an antique market and looked at it much differently – I looked at it from a designer’s perspective and how it was made, rather than how it made me feel as a child. I prefer to remember it from a child’s perspective. However, as I am writing this, I think I will be looking for a complete set again.
As an adult, some of my favorite toys were the Hasbro G.I. Joe toys of the 90’s - a model kit and a toy all in one. The vehicles came in a box on a spru sheet and you had to assemble it and add the labels. These types of toys helped me learn how to put things together in a simple and easy way. The engineering of the molding and the snap together assemblies were outstanding.
Do you have any special talents?
Taking things apart and finding better cost effective ways to put them back together, creating breadboard models and mechanisms. I prefer to play with and explore things rather than running to the drawing board and doing a sketch. It does not matter what the size is, from a small toy to gutting a house -- it is all the same.
The Toy and Game industry clearly has ……………………
Changed. When I began my career in the toy industry, there were so many toy companies, companies use to Fax turnover packages to the Orient, and product development being mostly done in the US. People went with their gut and took risks on how successful an item would be versus rounds and rounds of consumer testing. The excitement and activity of the old toy fair building with its elaborative product presentations, videos, and demos, is much different than having the show in a large venue like the Javits Center.
Favorite movie of all time?
Blade Runner, original cut in the theater when it first came out.
What advice can you give inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
Crayola is all about inspiring creative experiences and encouraging self-expression by kids and adults. Every day we looking for new and unique ways to provide the tools that will help them do this. We are looking for unique and ownable concepts that fit the Crayola brand. There are a lot of creative people and companies who have great ideas that we would like to see if they fit with the Crayola brand.