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How do I become a toy designer/product design engineer? Where do I start?

About a year back, I was totally confused about my career path, but after some awesome advice, I realized toy design is my true calling. I've been lucky to work on campus, watching and learning from senior design students, which really sparked my imagination and helped me figure out what I love (and don't love) to do. I'm not the type to stick to one job forever. I believe in evolving, keeping things fresh and fun. Right now, my heart is set on being a product design engineer, but with a twist - I want to design toys! I love the idea of making kids smile the old-fashioned way, without relying on iPads, and helping them learn while they play. My dream? To be the one who designs a toy and then watches it go from a sketch to being manufactured and sold in stores. I also want to do something meaningful, like designing educational toys for charities, and something like what Mark Rober does with Crunchlabs. It's all about sparking a kid's imagination and making a difference. Now, I’m reaching out for some help in figuring out the next steps. I don’t need a detailed plan, but some guidance and structure would be great, as I’m feeling a bit scattered and unsure where to start or how to move forward in finding a good plan to get to where I want to be. I know my destination, the field I want to focus on, but not the job position to apply for, nor my path.

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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Sio !

I am so happy to hear that you will be looking at a career in one of the most fun and fabulous fields - the toy industry ! You actually can start the beginnings now, but I highly advise staying in college and obtaining that degree which will be valuable to you in this field. You seem very motivated, creative and thoughtful about your goals.

One thing you didn't mention is that you didn't mention if you would be able to relocate, but if not, you could travel for some of the things involved in this work. The center of the toy industry is in New York City. I don't seem to see that they hold Toy Fairs (Shows) in your region but that could be something that you can look further into on line. I worked in this field for a year in an administrative capacity and I can tell you that it is worth it all. Toy Fair is the best chance to meet and greet, network, see what others are doing and eventually present your toys for companies to buy ! You will meet some influential people there.

When you have finished a prototype of your toy(s) I highly advise that you obtain a patent and or copyright on the items. This is a huge must. I have left the link to the Patent Office for you to research how do go about it. This is a vital step in protecting your original work.

Now, you could start out working in a home office for this and Houston does not require a general business license but I would double check with the city of Houston's Planning and Development Department just to double check on particulars. I have left a link to their website for you below. Since you will be the creator of the product, you will want to protect yourself and cover all bases.

When your product is completely in prototype and you have your sketches and any written documents you've done for the product, it's time to find a manufacturer. This would be a good thing to find out about from one of the professors at your college who may have connections. I have left a Yellow Pages list of manufacturers in or near Houston for you. So this is really something you can start on your own, however, I do have one more suggestion.

Apply to jobs in the toy industry - any position. I began as a temp administrative assistant and that led into being Director of Sales Representatives. I worked right in the heart of New York City for this, so just being there exposed me to how the industry was run and you'll learn a lot being in any position at a toy company. It is really the type of work that you will enjoy wholeheartedly and always look forward to going to work. Go on Indeed and Linked in, register and start applying for full time work after you graduate college. It will be important for you to be around the industry in any capacity.

I believe that you will realize your dream as you have a clear plan already to reach your goal and you are already taking the important steps - education and a degree being a great first step for a good foundation. I wish you all the best !

Michelle recommends the following next steps:

TOY FAIR INFORMATION FROM LAST YEAR https://toyfair.vporoom.com/
THE UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE https://www.uspto.gov/
HOUSTON BUSINESS LICENSES INFORMATION https://www.cityapplications.com/business-licenses/TX-Texas/biz-Houston.html
TOY MANUFACTURERS IN YOUR LOCAL AREA https://www.yellowpages.com/houston-tx/toy-manufacturing-companies
EMPLOYMENT WEBSITES www.indeed.com AND www.linkedin.com
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Ahmad’s Answer

To become a successful toy designer or product design engineer, it is essential to pursue an education in design, engineering or industrial design. Undergraduate programs that focus on toy design, product design, or related fields are highly recommended. Courses in computer-aided design (CAD), prototyping, materials science, and manufacturing processes are beneficial for students interested in this field.

Internships or co-op opportunities during the course of study can provide valuable practical experience and industry connections. It is crucial to build a robust portfolio that showcases your creative concepts, design processes, and technical skills, highlighting your ability to ideate, sketch, use design software, and bring your ideas to life through prototypes or mock-ups.

Networking within the industry, attending design conferences or workshops, and staying up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in toy manufacturing and design can help you gain insights and connections. Entry-level positions or apprenticeships in design firms, toy companies, or manufacturing companies can be valuable stepping stones to kick-start your career in toy design or product engineering.

In conclusion, to pursue a career as a toy designer or product design engineer, it is essential to have a relevant education, practical experience, and a strong portfolio. With dedication, hard work, and a commitment to staying up-to-date with the latest industry trends and technologies, you can build a successful career in this field.
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Mickael’s Answer

Hi Sio,

Michelle's answer is great. I would recommend you go to a local toys workshop or industry, possibly find an internship there to find what you need. I see a lot of things needed to be a toy designer but that's only what I would imagine.
You could start asking questions to one of these persons:
https://www.facebook.com/dustyattictoyshow/
https://www.toyassociation.org/toyfairdallas or https://dev.toyassociation.org/ta/events/fall/toys/events/toy-fair-dallas-home.aspx
or maybe
https://toycons.com/event/19210/north-dallas-toy-show-2023
I am sure there are many more.

Since you want the old way toys, I think melting or carpentry might be needed, but not for the design ... Hope someone here would be in the toy industry and help, or simply e-mail one of these to start getting contacts.

Good luck!
All the best,
Mickael
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hello Sio!

Embarking on a Career as a Toy Designer/Product Design Engineer

Embarking on a career in toy design and product engineering can be an exhilarating and rewarding journey. As a toy designer or product design engineer, you get the chance to craft innovative, captivating, and educational toys that not only delight children but also aid in their growth. If you have a passion for toy design and yearn to make a significant difference, here is a straightforward guide to kick-start your journey.

Acquiring Education and Training:

To step into the role of a toy designer or product design engineer, a solid grounding in design, engineering, and related disciplines is crucial. Consider pursuing a degree in industrial design, mechanical engineering, or a similar field. Some educational institutions also provide specialized courses in toy design or product design, which can be advantageous in equipping you for a career in this sector.

Accumulating Experience:

Upon completing your education, aim for internships or entry-level roles in toy or product design firms. This will offer you practical experience in the field and assist in honing the required skills. Collaborating with seasoned professionals will also grant you invaluable insights into the design procedure and industry trends.

Building a Portfolio:

Construct a portfolio that displays your finest work, encompassing sketches, 3D models, and prototypes. Your portfolio should reflect your creativity, technical prowess, and comprehension of materials and manufacturing procedures. A robust portfolio is vital for securing job prospects and demonstrating your competencies to potential clients or employers.

Networking:

Participate in industry events, conferences, and trade shows to connect with other professionals in the toy and product design sectors. Forming relationships with industry authorities can lead to job prospects, partnerships, and mentorship.

Keeping Abreast of Trends and Technologies:

The toy and product design sectors are continuously evolving, with new technologies and trends surfacing. Stay updated about advancements in materials, manufacturing procedures, and design software to stay competitive in the job market.

Choosing a Specialization:

As you accumulate experience, you might decide to specialize in a particular area of toy or product design, such as electronic toys, educational toys, or sustainable materials. This specialization can help you distinguish yourself in the competitive job market and pave the way for new career growth opportunities.

Considering Entrepreneurship:

If you're enthusiastic about launching your own toy or product design firm, entrepreneurship could be a viable option. This route demands commitment, risk-taking, and robust business acumen. However, it can also provide the liberty to craft your own designs and make a substantial impact on the industry.

Recommended Reference Titles:

“Toys and Games: Design and Development” by Mark Richards and John Hyatt (Available on Amazon) - This book offers a comprehensive guide to designing toys and games, discussing topics such as ergonomics, safety, and material selection.

“Designing Toys: A Practical Guide to the Art and Business of Toy Design” by Susan L. B. Parker (Available on Amazon) - This book provides insights into the toy design process, including product development, manufacturing, and marketing strategies.

“The Toy and Game Inventor’s Handbook: A Guide to Creating and Marketing Your Own Games and Toys” by Charles Law (Available on Amazon) - This book offers a step-by-step guide to inventing and marketing toys and games, with practical advice for entrepreneurs and aspiring designers.

Please take a moment to read my autobiography titled "About James Constantine". It provides a list of foods that supply all the necessary nutrients for the brain to enhance academic performance, allowing you to study and work with double the efficiency in half the time.

May God Bless You!
James.
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Karin’s Answer

Hi Sio,

I love it when someone has a clear vision where they want to be and takes steps to get there.

Toy design is a very interdisciplinary profession that marries art and creativity with engineering plus a dollop of craftiness, computer skills and entrepreneurship. Some colleges offer a specialized Toy Design degree. That might be a good idea because you'd have all the different disciplines in one place, but there are certainly other paths such as an engineering degree or a design degree.

If you want to pick up individual skills, UX/UI would teach you some usefull design principles, CAD would be usefull for computer design, and any practical skills to work with different materials (woodworking, tailoring etc).

You probably have more hands-on toys in mind, but if you have ideas, good old card games and board games are fairly easy to manufacture and could add to your portfolio.

Some resource links:

https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/how-to-become-toy-designer

https://www.fitnyc.edu/academics/academic-divisions/art-and-design/toy-design/index.php

https://www.otis.edu/bachelor-fine-arts-toy-design

Good luck!

KP
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