WHEN I WORKED FOR A TOY COMPANY...
I did things I never thought I'd do, and I loved it.
Unicorns? Check. Mermaids? Check. Puppies and kitties? Check. A dolphin Facetiming with fish? CHECK! I often sat at my desk wondering how on earth I managed to grow up to be a professional illustrator of all these things. I certainly never guessed it back when I used to run around the playfield during recess playing "unicorn" with my friends. A childhood dream come true.
As a designer at Kaliber Global, I got to see many product design through from start to finish: from the customization and design phase, after the buyer had sourced the products from factories, to sending my art files off to the factory for mass-production, to designing the packaging and branding for the product, to designing the Amazon listing graphics, and finally producing the marketing collateral. I'll outline the entire process as pertains to my Unicorn Play Tent design below.
THE UNICORN PLAY TENT
DESIGNED FOR THE USA TOYZ BRAND
I created a digital sketch on my iPad Pro to plan out the design. This was approved by the product manager and owner of the company.
I built out the vector art design to be printed on the tent in Adobe Illustrator. I used the die lines for the tent provided by the factory.
The first sample arrived from China - possibly one of the most exciting and satisfying moments of my life! Of course I had to try it out.
Then I took the sample outside on a cloudy day to check the colors in neutral natural light. I made some tweaks to the Pantone colors and die line, and sent another design file to the factory.
I used an image of the Rocket Ship Play Tent also (sold by the company) to create a composited mockup of what the unicorn tent would look like using Photoshop. This was approved, so the design was sent to the factory.
The second sample arrived, with new roof, "sky," and tassel colors. Some alignment issues were fixed, as well. This was approved and so the tent went into mass production, which was both thrilling and terrifying. What if I had made a mistake?! Of course it turned out wonderfully.
BRANDING & PACKAGING
Using the rainbow-and-cloud element from the tent design, I created a logo for the tent. I then carried this branding through to the package design.
I created this box render in Photoshop.
Note: the tent design here is the "second edition" with a redesigned roof pattern. See below.
AMAZON LISTING GRAPHICS
Using a few studio photos of the tent, I created these photo composites in Photoshop to stand in for actual lifestyle photography in the preliminary listing used for product launch.
It was time to create the listing for Amazon, which is arguably more important than the product design itself.
Using outsourced lifestyle photography and photo composites, I constructed the main listing images and Enhanced Brand Content in Adobe Illustrator.
I worked with the brand managers, copywriter and design team to hone the graphics and infuse them with keywords and visual content that hits the target market.
Meanwhile, the marketing department had sent out samples of the tent to content creators. As the images started to roll in, I added graphics to them for use on the USA Toyz Instagram feed.
We also combined this tent with a couple other products to form a "bundle," which was sold on the company's website.
Using my motion graphics skills, I created some videos in Adobe After Effects, and some with the Animoto video-making web app (to speed production in Q4).
Lo and behold, the Unicorn Tent hit #1 ranking out of ALL play tents listed on Amazon! Soon to follow was the Family's Choice Award. The combined efforts of the entire team at Kaliber had paid off.
Following the success of the Unicorn Play Tent, I was asked to create another "best selling" tent design. No small order. I researched trends in toy design, and presented a list of possible themes. We landed on a marine-life and mermaid theme.
This time, the graphics were not flat - I added heavy use of gradients and shading, as well as a much higher level of detail, to the graphics. We also incorporated a roof and floor pattern.
It was a hit!
#2: UNDER THE SEA PLAY TENT
I also had the pleasure of editing the raw footage from the outsourced lifestyle video footage commissioned by the company. I also wrote and animated the graphic captions, with the help of the copywriter, Jonah Von Spreeken. This video is used on the Amazon product listing, as well as on YouTube and for promotional purposes.
OTHER TOY DESIGNS & COLLATERAL
During my time at Kaliber Global, I got to take on quite a few toy designs, in addition to the play tents you've seen above. During a very busy buying season in 2019, I got to customize the product designs and/or package designs for many toys. You will see examples of this work in the gallery below.