Now this is a little delayed, but on Thursday I ventured up to London to Kensington Olympia for a fun filled day of talks and toys. In the line up of events we had talks, a tour of Golden Bear’s invite-only stall and free time around Toy Fair 2014.
The day started off with a bang as two of my friends and myself met our tutors at the entrance and wandered into the vast room that was, quite literally, bubbling with excitement. At 11.15am, we were one of four Universities that were lucky enough to meet and sit through three fantastic talks. After being welcomed by John Stewart – Founder Partner of the Toy Fair, Worlds Apart and BTHA Council Member – the first talk was by Max Ford – MD, NPD Partnership Ltd – on ‘How to Sell an Idea’ where he quite bluntly put forward the facts of design, specifically toys, and how our ideas are going to hit the market. This was smoothly followed by David Fry’s – UK & European Patent Attorney, Agile IP – talk on ‘Protecting Investment Through IP’. Now this was something that I sat through vigorously taking notes in as, I must admit, I am quite ignorant in this area and as my final year project takes shape, it seems more and more relevant to take IP seriously and realise that this may be the paving stones to a future in this line of work! Lastly, slightly geeky, but equally as charming James Austin-Smith – R&D Concept Manager, Worlds Apart – gave us a few hints and tips through his engaging, funny and subtly childish Prezi presentation on the ‘WobbleDeck: Balancing Design and the User’. That final talk had us all enthralled as we whispered to one another how awesome it would be to work in the Toy and Game Industry. As the talks were closed by Majen Immink – BTHA Senior Communications Manager – we were unleashed to roam the rows and rows of stalls.
Now, I could write and write about each individual stall, but I think, for both our sakes, I will give a brief account of the Golden Bear tour and some top-notch packaging.
Golden Bear was opened to a select few and we managed to get in for an exclusive tour. We were taken around various products they were launching including a Beano: Dennis the Menace collection, showing us that sometimes your target demographic has the best ideas, JCB, a small pep talk on using your national country for characters rather than importing the american accent for authenticity, and a Mr. Tumble collection, an intriguing area on inclusive design for both children with and without disabilities. Now, the tour was interesting and there were some definite hints and tips, yet I can’t help but remember the gent’s comment that manufacturing in China is what ‘almost all toy companies do’ so thats what Golden Bear do. In terms of feasibility, China’s prices are on the rise due to ethics on the uprise (GO ETHICS!) and not only would the UK benefit from manufacturing more locally economically, but it would also decrease the company’s overall carbon footprint. The argument posed was that there will be a real gap in the British manufacturing knowledge, but let’s face it, the real problem is the Brits and their pride! Even if this gap may be very real, it would only take the more informed, i.e. the Chinese, to reeducate the Brits in manufacturing processes and techniques. Rant over. Moving on.
There were a series of beautifully crafted toys, clever ideas and classic games rebooted, but what caught my eye the most was some of the packaging we stumbled upon. Just Rocks is a product by a start-up company that produces completely sustainable products created by natural substances. This particular one was, essentially, rock crayons that were specially developed for schools, particularly for students with special needs (possibly where their dexterity is not as good), but those pebble look-a-like crayons were so comfortable to draw with that I would’ve bought a pack. The final touch? The beautifully crafted box mirrored the natural side of the company thoroughly. It reminded me of boxes of volcanic rock collections you could buy in Italy which perfectly conveys the shape of the crayons. Just beautiful.
The second company’s packaging I fell in love with was Seedling’s. Simple, natural-looking, unfortunately not sustainable, but overall just gorgeous. These toys encourage creativity through basic wood-based toys.
Lastly, this was probably my favourite product on show, was a ‘Build Your Own Den’ kit by pl-ug. The concept was to get kids to build their own dens at home with their own stuff, but to ease the experience. So the den kit provides a series of pieces to help construct the den such as suction cups, hooks etc. They interlock and are completely child-friendly. The packaging to accompany this, again, was beautifully simple. Happy child + Simple Graphics + The Perfect Typeface = Stunning Packaging. This company nailed it.
It was refreshing to see how much wood was being reintroduced into toys and I thoroughly enjoyed Toy Fair 2014. Not only was it more acceptable for me to get overly excited about toys, but I definitely took away some useful tips for the future! So I’ll leave you with a few photos that I hope might give you the feel of this incredible day.