I have always loved building things.
When I was a kid I loved LEGO and Playmobil. They offered me a way of creating my own universe I could escape to and be in total control.
With Playpress, I set out to create a toy that could give that same kind of universe building experience but would be very affordable and environmental. I want someone to be able to create a whole city, just using their pocket money.
I focused on creating a modular system that could be used to create anything. It had to be high quality yet made by a cheap process – something where the start up costs would be low and we could get a product quickly to market and adapt it very quickly.
The first prototypes were all cut crudely by hand and were basically just simple cubes and rough figures. It was then that Peter – one of my many brothers started to help out – and together we refined the designs and defined a clear vision for the product.
There are plenty of slot together models on the market. What I believe we are doing that is different is using the same process but creating a range that is designed to be played with, not left on a mantelpiece; a design led toy where pieces can be built in any way and the sets are all compatible with each other.
Working with 2D shapes offers some fun challenges when creating a 3D World. Making a wheel turn or a door open with cardboard is the kind of engineering challenge I relish.
From very early on, we knew we wanted the toy to be as ethical as possible. For us that meant: recyclable, locally manufactured and totally gender-neutral. We wanted it to have the lowest possible carbon footprint, and it was those decisions that shape the product in its final form.
Everything that we thought would be easy has actually been hard. The learning curve is very steep coming from a digital design background. Finding a manufacturer willing to work on the project was really tough. We went through many physical prototypes at quite a large cost without ever seeing any results.
We always knew it was possible to make and in hindsight we were quite naive in our negotiations. I would do things very differently now, but it’s been an excellent learning experience.
The product is now in its final stages. We have completed lots of successful prototype runs and have had it in the hands of our real target audience, children. The reactions have been very positive, and we’re convinced we’ve built something people will enjoy.
I studied design and art at college and university. I wasn’t able to finish my degree course at Goldsmiths and kind of fell into a job at an insurance company. It’s a nice job but is pretty far away from what I really love doing and doesn’t do anything to feed my creative drive.
I use my time when I’m not at work to work on the creative projects. I love working late into the night cutting out cardboard or rendering a new Playpress design for a supermarket or research lab.
After some thought about funding, we decided to try our luck on Kickstarter. We thought it would be an excellent items test for the project and at the very least we would get some feedback from the wider public.
Our most popular reward so far has been a house set that also includes a unique pair of Playpress people designed in the backer’s image.
We decided that personalisation would be a key focus for our Kickstarter project around the time of another one of my brothers marriage. For his wedding favours, we made a Playpress version of everyone at the wedding, including the children. They were so well received that we knew we had to make it a focus.
Reaction has been great so far. The project was featured by Kickstarter as the lead project in the ‘design’ category and was also a Staff Pick. Our Twitter account (twitter.com/playpresstoys)( has gained a small but loyal following, and we’ve had some fun making Playpress versions of some famous celebrities.
After the Kickstarter campaign, we’re going to keep on creating new sets and new ideas and see where we can take it. I’m looking forward to the challenge!
If you are a toy inventor or designer and you’d like to share your story, email us at Blangsworthy@newbaymedia.com.