3 Myths I had about Designing for Toys.

Hi everyone! A little introduction before we begin -- I’m Patricia Yu, a product designer from Carnegie Mellon University, and I’m very interested in designing for interactions that bridge the worlds of physical products and modern digital technologies. You can see why I was extremely happy......

Hi everyone! A little introduction before we begin -- I’m Patricia Yu, a product designer from Carnegie Mellon University, and I’m very interested in designing for interactions that bridge the worlds of physical products and modern digital technologies. You can see why I was extremely happy when I got the chance to work at Hasbro and thus being able to take part in delivering magical play experiences.

After some weeks of working closely with my manager and talking to others across disciplines, it has come to where I am now, in the midst of my internship, a perfect place where I’m gaining a good amount of insight into the product development process. I’ve come to realize some of my previous impressions on what the title, “product designer” entails is very different from reality.

Let me take you through my 3 major findings…

Myth 1: The appearance and interaction of a toy is created by Industrial Designers
As someone that studied product/industrial design in my undergraduate degree, I imagined that a product designer would be creating the concepts of a toy product by sketching it out and prototyping it. After that, manufacturing and engineers would take over to help turn this product into reality.

But that was completely untrue and simplified. In reality, there are so many different designers with unique areas of expertise. With talking to and learning from different people here at Hasbro such as packaging designers, industrial designers, designers working in specific brands and types of games, marketers, engineers, and more, the larger picture became clearer to me where my skills as a product designer and other people’s skills comes in.

A product designer is more about creating the story behind a product than designing its form. It’s another way of giving the best experience as possible to a user through closely examining what the target audience wants and enjoys, then using this information to design a play pattern that will produce long term engagement and value.

And an added bonus lesson for me from this myth, is that only with all these different types of designers and specialists working together can a product be successfully delivered. I got to truly appreciate the role of product designers for how much skill they need to bring people working together, such as knowing how to encourage others to want to do work or delegating parts of a project to others without micromanaging.

Myth 2: All projects take about the same amount of time to complete
Before I even started working at Hasbro, my manger left me with a big wonderment on what exactly I would be working on. She explained to me that work really depends on the time and it is quite random. At first, I was slightly confused by how that might be the case as you can imagine as an undergraduate in a planned semester schedule all year, but now I get it. – projects at Hasbro are “like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”. It depends on the season and directions of thoughts of that time that determines what project people would be focusing on.

I guess I got lucky by being able to experience a project that just began when I started my internship and follow through most of its entire journey. The product is currently being planned to be revealed next year in 2021, so everyone working on this toy with lightning speed. But of course, not all projects are like this one. Each project depending on its brand and situation will have its own pace and timeline, which was a big contrast to the planned-out time frames for projects in college.

From this, being flexible became something extra important. Because each project is so different from the next, one has to pivot and work accordingly to these circumstances.

Myth 3: Engaging interactions will surely bring successful project launches
Has anyone at an earlier stage of their career thought like this before? “If I give my best effort and create this amazing product, then the product will be a success in the market!” How this thought has changed! It’s not that I’m disillusioned by reality, but rather gained real life experience in the workforce on how consumer products work. This widened my perspective on what is determined as success. Unlike college and getting feedback for your work, in the real world, even if it had fulfilled the criteria of being a valuable interactive product, its final success is sometimes dependent on unforeseeable factors. For example, it was just not the right time, there were other products on the market that took away its attention, the sales team did not share the same value for a project…

It can be heartbreaking seeing the results of a project after so much hard work, and even more difficult when you have to call it the time to kill the project all together, but in the end, it’s important to remember that this is what agile design thinking is. I have to emphasize the significance of flexibility again, because in order to be a great product designer working in consumer products, you must always keep an open and forward thinking mind.

And these were the 3 main myths I demystified during my time at Hasbro. I hope you got to learn a little bit about my journey or was able to allow you to reflect on your own experiences.

Patricia Yu

Carnegie Mellon University

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