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News . Feature Stories . Career advice from CIA toy designers (Part 1)


December 12, 2022

Career advice from CIA toy designers (Part 1)

Home Bodies by Horrible Adorables. Image courtesy of Horrible Adorables.

By Carlo Wolff

Tim Hayes and Atticus Tsai-McCarthy routinely deal with major companies, Hayes with Franklin Sports and Hasbro, Tsai-McCarthy by working for LEGO. Jordan Perme and Christopher Lees do some third-party work, but Horrible Adorables is their very own. All are successful toy designers. No wonder these successful toy designers recommend their career.

Toy designers must know how things are made and manufactured, drawing those out in concepts, and they have to understand play patterns, says Hayes, who heads Cardboard Helicopter Product Design. Other areas to master: costs and marketability. Costs are the focus of virtually every product development meeting, he suggests.

Be flexible. “I wouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket to be a toy designer, I’d be diverse,” Hayes says. “The economy can take a crap and no one’s buying toys all of a sudden. You need to work.”

“Keep on keeping on,” Tsai-McCarthy says. “Keep developing your skills and you will get picked up. To be more specific, I’ve become aware that 3D modeling is way more vital than it was previously. So, developing such skills will make you invaluable.”

“It’s OK to approach toy design with a nontraditional degree,” Perme says. “It might even make your work more unique because you experience your creativity differently. In my case, it was from a fine arts/craft background. It’s also really important to make connections with your classmates and professors while in school and nourish those relationships.”

“For younger students, I’d advise a combination of practice and research,” Lees advises. “Look into all kinds of toys and start sketching them. Draw them as they are and draw them with your own twist. Also start learning any software you can—Illustrator, Photoshop, Maya, Blender, ZBrush or whatever is currently being used. For older students, the best path to a career is an internship with a toy company. Another good path is to begin freelance work as soon as possible.

“Even if you aren’t able to land a position with Hasbro or another large toy manufacturer, the world is full of small companies and individuals that are looking for artwork that you can provide.”

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