Shark Design is now designing sporting goods, games, toys, and baby items for a number of startups currently launching products on the shelves of Walmart, Target, Dicks Sporting Goods, and other major retailers across North America. We have to say that product development for the toy sector is a most rewarding and fun activity, perhaps because the target market wants to really enjoy interacting with the product. The experience is about much more than pure functionality.
Above all, this target market is not stifled by established ideas of what a toy or accessory should be like, and children will happily welcome a truly original design slant. For this reason, it’s very possible to disrupt the market regardless of your available funds or previous specializations. Having said that, if you want to sell your goods at Target or Walmart, product design is obviously something you will need to pay great attention to.
So what is especially different about the toy and baby items sector? Here, we break down the typical product development process for toys:
- Nurturing the Idea
A concept well described is a product half-developed. However, it’s important to move quickly in getting the design out of your imagination and in front of children. The industry often utilizes focus groups to assess products for functionality and whether they are fun to play with. You don’t need perfect mock-ups. Whether your product is Parent-Push or Child-Pull will influence how you engage with the parent.
- Moving Through the Prototyping Stages
New product development partnerships usually entail a cycle that lasts a full six months from conception to shipment. To prototype toys, the agency generally starts with a visual prototype. You can build an attention-grabbing design with powerful 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software, but it’s not necessary at this point to spend a great deal of time on the intricate details. You then move on to the functional prototype or ‘Works-like’ model (sometimes abbreviated as WL Prototype).
After this comes the tooling (LL/WL) model, where you approve the core design and begin the more involved process of developing production tooling.
- The Road to Production
Now the bugs have been ironed out of your initial design, you should be preparing quality artwork for your packaging, while also prototyping your retail box. The era of flamboyant ‘statement packaging’ is over, with sustainable toy packaging becoming more of a priority. Next is the final engineering prototype, making a small volume of items in the factory under production conditions. Pilot production is where you start ramping up the volumes and secure all relevant certification.
Are you planning a new toy, game, or sports accessory, and wondering how best to proceed? Please get in touch with Shark Design and we’ll be happy to advise.