Designing good toys requires asking many questions: What do we want the play experience to be like? Will kids want to play with Bo & Yana for a long time? Is it easy for kids to use, or will they get frustrated and give up? How does the product help us meet our goals of delivering fun and education?
We start with the product design ideation process.
First we look at similar products already on the market. What features have made them succeed or fail? Why do kids like them? We often order lots of toys and products. We play with them for a bit, partially to get a sense of the play experience, but let’s be honest, mostly for the fun of it.
The next step is to take them apart! Parents, if you want your kids to learn about how things are made, have them take things apart. It’s amazing what you can learn about mechanisms, manufacturing, and design from taking toys apart.
After dissecting the toys to see how they work and function internally, we look for toys that imitate what we want to do in the most efficient way. For example, if we wanted to make a dancing robot, we would pick up another dancing toy, do some surgery, and analyze the mechanisms that make the robot dance.
Once we have decided on the right implementation, we iterate through the prototyping process. Things rarely work well on the first design. A good approach to designing a complex product, assembly, or mechanism is to break it down into fundamental modules that can be independently tested. This modular process of testing is very common in programming as well and is known as unit testing.
We like to start the design process by failing fast. By having the savvy and the tools that allow you to fail quickly, you can debug and improve the design until it is ready for the next step: designing for manufacture.