Design graduate Jake Frank on his family activity and bonding toy Discover Buddy

Can you talk us through Discover Buddy?

Discover Buddy is the first bonding aid and game of its type that can help boost strong relationships between busy working parents and their children.

It has been created to get children completing challenges and earning rewards together with their parents through discovery and adventure. I use the concept ‘compete, collect, capture memories and create a bond’.

Users can set out with their family or friends to take a journey of discovery by using the app to view the maps and be given clues and directions as well as get help from Discover Buddy. They can then save snapshots to capture memories, bond over new challenges, unlock new adventures, earn points and compete against others, collect and swap Buddy accessories and upload special moments to share with others.

Where did the idea come from?

The idea initially came from observing relatives and friends and seeing the emotional affects on children, when their parents are working a lot away from home. After seeing this occur on multiple occasions and looking around for some sort of solution, I realised their was nothing out there specifically and probably opened itself up to a relatively big market.

I began to research thoroughly into this area as the first part of my final year project at university. I produced a very thorough research document including primary and secondary research into the benefits of a parent child bond, and the side effects of the lack of a bond.

I looked into the current market and what might already be out there and also performed a lot of interviews and undertook observations with different parents’ and their children. After looking at all this and realising the issues and market, I came up with Discover Buddy.

Why did you decide to develop the project?

I developed this project mainly because of my passion in this area of design and realising the potential effects a poor parent-child relationship can have on both the parents and the child’s life. I became very involved in the project and grew attached to the people I worked with in developing this product with a supporting app.

What kind of reactions have you had to the concept at New Designers and elsewhere?

There was a lot of interest at New Designers exhibition that mainly came from toy designers and toy design companies who were very interested in the concept and what research I had to back up the project. They were also particularly interested in my style of concepting and ideation that is very front end and very creative, with lots of thinking outside the box.

This also attracted a lot of fellow students and teachers alike who were curious to my techniques and how I developed this style of creative design. It was also catching the eye of a lot of children that I welcomed to pick up the model and have a play with Discover Buddy and they really enjoyed the concept which was very warming to see.

Have you tested the product on focus groups, what kind of responses have you had?

Yes, the product and concept was consistently tested throughout the design process and also once finished. I did a lot of testing on my little sister and my parents which was very useful, but also a lot with one of my main primary users, Natasha who helped me out a lot, along with her six year old son during the research stages.

I have only had positive responses since completing Discover Buddy and keep getting bugged from some of my target market to release the product, asking ‘When can I buy one?’, which has been very rewarding.

What inspired you into design, do you see a future for yourself in toy design?

I have always had a passion and eye for Art and Design since a very young age. Toy design is not something that initially caught my eye, but during my final two years of university I based three of my main projects around toy design and really enjoyed the creativity and fun concepting/ideation that came with it.

I also love working with children and using them as a test base because their feedback can be very blunt and honest which is great for designers as they give their true opinion, which can help us design a product that really works. So yes toy design is very much in my interests now.

What plans have you got for the Discover Buddy brand, will you take this project further?

I am very passionate about this idea and this fun product which could help improve the lives of many children and their parents and help reform and create bonds that will have a positive impact on and on to create memories for a lifetime.

I would really love to take Discover Buddy further and work with a company to help get it out to a market, or potentially sell the product on and have some input into the future of Discover Buddy.

Would you ever look to launch a project like this on Kickstarter?

Yes, that really interests me and it is something that I am looking to do with Discover Buddy sometime in the near future. So keep your eyes peeled.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

Check Also

Success for Eolo Toys at Distoy

Eolo Toys has reported a successful Distoy show, resulting in “lots of smiles delivered and …