When I chatted with Big Monster Toys president Donald Rosenwinkel last year, he told me that the reason for the firm's quirky office (train sets motoring around the office, a giant monster greeting people at the door) was that it encouraged designers to think like a child.
“To create toys, you have to think like a kid,” says Rosenwinkel. “I don’t think you can do this working in a sterile, cubicle kind of space. You’ve got to be willing to get down on the floor and play a game or push a train around. We want people to come in here and think it’s some kind of wonderland."
This notion has been taken one step further by Dominic Wilcox's INVENTORS! project.
The campaign saw Wilcox, a creator himself, return to his home town of Sunderland to ask over 450 children across the city and in nearby South Tyneside to draw their own invention ideas. He then asked local makers and manufacturers to make a selection of them into real things.
A large vacant shop was hired on Sunderland’s busy Fawcett Street and transformed into an INVENTORS! exhibition of the creations that ran throughout January. The finished creations included an umbrella for ladybirds, a scooter big enough for an entire family and, my personal favourite, disco headphones.
It also resembled IKEA's move last year to launch a new collection of soft toys designed for children, by children.
The new range was designed by kids from across the globe as part of a Soft Toys Drawing Competition that tasked children to ‘let their imaginations run wild.’ As part of the charity campaign, proceeds from sales of the specially designed range of soft toys were donated to UNICEF and Save the Children.
From thousands of entries, ten lucky winners were picked to be given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of having their drawing recreated as part of a limited edition range to be sold wordwide. Among the winners, the plush toys included a stinky skunk, a tiger, a scary dinosaur, a blue one-eyed blob and a mysterious creature with grip-friendly ears.
We're big fans of campaigns like this, and while it's nice to see the industry's big kids pushing the industry forward day-to-day, these projects show it can't hurt for actual youngsters to get involved once in a while.
Elsewhere, this week The Huffington Post published the delightfully morbid listicle: the top 20 inventors killed by their own inventions.
Those (un)fortunate enough to grace the list include the inventor of the coat parachute (didn't catch on), the man behind a rocket-propelled car fueled by booze (BANG!) and the creator of The Five Punishments (best look that one up yourselves).
So, despite all the trials and tribulations involved in designing games and creating toys, we should perhaps be thankful that there's very little chance that testing out your new play-set concept will result in any fatalities. And if it does, well, then take that as a sign that it's time to go back to the drawing board.