Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Not Your Father's Lego

According to NPD, 2014 retail sales of construction toys were $1.85 billion dollars with a significantportion coming from long popular Lego sets. Construction toys as a category in 2014 were up 13% over the previous year. With digital play increasing over use of traditional toys and games, it is encouraging to see that basic construction toys are steadfastly popular with kiddos where they cause imagination and hands on skills to build dimensional physical objects.

The creators of Boxly, a new construction toy using oversized corrugated panels, did considerable market research on existing construction toys before they decided to invent a product far from Lego but nonetheless a plaything that fits into the same industry category. For the three Stanford University design engineering students, their product originated as part of a class assignment rather than as a random idea for a commercial venture.  It was their decision to create a toy that would meet children's inquisitiveness and imagination in simple self-directed creative play. The playful band of three designers said on their website, " We believe creative play has the power to develop confidence and independence through hands on exploration." website

Boxly is a collection of single ply corrugated panels which uses uniquely designed connectors duringplay. The creators knew they had a viable construction toy after viewing hours of successful and engaging fun play by their ultimate consumers-- young children. When product prototypes were put into the hands of kids, there was no "adult assembly required"; the kids did the assembly and played and played and played all by themselves.
To produce Boxly for a broader audience, the design team turned to a funding effort on Kickstarter. Says Sasha Spivak, one of the three designers, "We are ecstatic to exceed our funding goal during the thirty day campaign on Kickstarter. Raising $31,425 confirmed that there are backers who share our vision for our new construction toy". The designers are now transitioning to producers and marketers of Boxly as they fulfill commitments to KS backers as well as fill new orders coming from the online store on their website. Looking at their pictures on that website, you see a team of three creators who will bring energy and enthusiasm to their efforts to carve out a place for Boxly in the construction toy market. Welcome to the toy industry, Boxly creators!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Changing With the Times

In the mid-1990s, ThinkUp was a recognized source in Hasbro Games' search for new opportunities. It was often scheduled into "show times" during sweeps to see toy inventor ideas in NYC. ThinkUp was and remains a creative, Philly-area studio with all the development skills to represent new ideas in illustrations, CAD designs, and looks-like/works-like playable models.

Jerry Cummings, the chief thinker at ThinkUp, knows the 100 to 1 odds against getting a mass-market toy or game idea licensed. As a talented artist, designer and inventor, he takes on the annual speculative challenge of creating toy and game ideas, ever hopeful his next creation will become an industry mega-hit.

ThinkUp has maintained the best of its design talents from pre-digital days and added new skills for today's world: the creation of "pitch" videos.  Video captures product features consumers see and can measure a potential marketing licensee's interest and commitment before model making. Even with 3-D printing, making a fully functional replica of an idea is time consuming--and expensive.  http://thinkup1.com/how-we-do-it/

ThinkUp has expanded beyond licensing proprietary toy and game concepts into other consumer product categories as well. And the studio will digitize product concepts for other inventors, create marketers' promo videos, or even take pixel magic into playful animations with unique characters. A ThinkUp venture called My Pixel Kids uses those animation skills in a YouTube series of classic nursery rhymes. Five Little Monkeys

Says, Cummings of ThinkUp's transition and expansion from its early days of b-boards and model making," We work very closely with clients to minimize false starts or late stage rejection of concepts. Speculating exclusively on what might be the next hot toy or game in our studio only to have it rejected in a marketer's selection process just didn't seem to make full use of our creativity. We still love our own proprietary toy or game ideas, but we are not averse to helping another inventor or marketer create a success. We take delight in using our skills in any successful effort and not just limiting ourselves to a ThinkUp idea to get all the glory--and rewards".