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Joey Lopez: What's my Visual Design Process? tBR Person of the Week

Hello, toy people! My name is Joey Lopez, and I’m a design manager at Educational Insights. This medium-sized toy company has some deep history, the kind you have to respect as well as live up to—and I feel it is my duty to do all I can to help keep this brand’s standards wildly high.

My design process starts with gathering information, inspiration, a little market research, but mostly—a lot of visuals. I think about what’s out there, what was done 100 years ago that isn’t around anymore, what I WISH the toys I had as a kid COULD do but didn’t. Oh yeah, and how to keep it under budget—but that isn’t always the end of an idea.

So, a budget isn’t always a hindrance. Sometimes that small budget means it’s time to get crafty within the means of what you have—that’s how I went about ideating our reversible packaging for the Bolt Buddies line. We looked at the bigger plastic playsets at higher price points, how we could do this more economically, both for the environment and while still being accessible to little builders. We considered including recyclable cardboard playset pieces, but that meant more waste and the package would still be tossed. Recently we experimented with custom die-cuts for inner parts of our packaging—the flaps and pack-out pieces, like in our Artie 3000™ packaging, where there are little Easter eggs and flaps that have some important messaging. So, we thought, let’s do extensions of the cardboard—and then we realized, there’s a whole other side of the cardboard we’ve ignored. Let’s make the playset—the inside of the packaging! Testing the waters and pushing those limits brought on small victories—and little details that only some people will enjoy—that didn’t cost much more in manufacturing costs.

Next, I figure out HOW to design that inside-out playset dieline with ramps and buildings. Cue the montage—I brainstorm! Get all the bad ideas out of my head and onto paper, or pixels. It’s not just a box to a child’s imagination; it could be a pirate ship, or a building, or a rocket launch tower. By looking at existing fold-up packaging and attempting to create fun structures that kids can use with the main toy, we folded up dozens of shapes over several brainstorm sessions. Our goal was to make something the child would want to keep, extending the life of the packaging. For the Rocket’s packaging, the playset follows a rocket launch storyline, starting with the control center, then progressing to the launch tower, and finally landing on the moon! We wanted those ideas to become reality, so we could play to our team’s strengths. Our wonderful illustrators and designers and I came up with solutions like investing in new software to design dielines and visualize our packaging in 3-D.

That innovation led us to push our limits again with our Circuit Explorer line of toys (for which Liesl Kadile and I have been nominated TAGIE Art and Visuals of the Year—vote for us!). With these electronic building block toy sets, we wanted it to feel accessible and top-shelf, but at a below premium price. I took our CAD and created step-by-step visuals, building up the toy in rendered form, no schematics, no line art. It took some late nights and building out a render farm with 10-year-old computers that our amazing IT staff helped set up and maintain. Taking the time to figure it out had the added benefit of new capabilities for our next projects (Bolt Buddies series 2 coming soon!).

We start with the premise that this box, this instruction guide, this toy, this experience could stay with a child for the rest of their life. We aim to respect that and make it a happy memory.

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