Monday, February 8, 2010

What a Designer can Bring a Child and What a Child can Bring a Designer

By Connie Harryman, Applied Concepts Creativity
Guest Blogger IIR USA
LIVE Front End of Innovation Europe 2010

Speaker: Bas Roelofs: Former Director of Marketing & (New Business) Development BERG TOYS and Director of RCT

Topic: What a Designer Can Bring a Child & What a Child Can Bring a Designer

Bas Roelofs has several observations about the toy market. Children are neglected in the toy industry. There is a new regional initiative, by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs to increase innovation power and competitive advantage.

Berg Toys was founded over 50 years ago, and the company began in an old farmhouse. The 2004 market demand was flattening due to saturation. His challenge was to transform the company from a technically oriented to a market oriented viewpoint. He needed to change the corporate culture which had a slogan, “Act normal, you are being sufficiently silly.”

This kills creativity. By 2008 the company had been transformed. Now the mindset was, “Let’s Play Outside!” They created a tool kit for kids to make their own soapbox racers. This positioned the company in the minds of the international audience. They also made John Deere toys which appealed to the U.S. market.

The owner is now a multimillionaire. However, Bas has two key observations:

1.) Today’s toy market is rotten, the child is neglected.
2.) Designers can make a difference.

Toy awards are given on the basic principle of which toy has the highest turnover. Retailers decide which toy will have highest turnover. We are feeding our kids toy junk. Shareholder value is best served by turnover of materials, so kids buy more toys. Read the book, “Consumer Kids.”

Alternative toys will never see daylight because they do not have high turnover. They are designed with an adult viewpoint. We have the layered customer that includes: child, parent, shopkeeper, teachers, governments, and others. The focus needs to be on the child. There are commercial offers versus alternative offers.

This is what a designer can learn from a child.

1.) Be a child, child!
2.) Go on! Get some bruises
3.) Materials matter
4.) You can’t always get what you want
5.) Be bored

This is what a child can learn from a designer

1.) Be bored (stop being busy)
2.) Stay amazed
3.) F… the rules!
4.) Play!
5.) Stay extreme and wild!

Today’s toy market leaves room for improvement. The child can be better served.

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