6 October 2015
There was a time when the concept of creativity was only associated with the arts, but as the need for cultivating a brand personality grows, the requirement for creative thinking has transitioned into everyday business. Following our recent blog post, exploring how thinking like a child can impact innovation, we talk to toy inventor, Paddy Otley to find out how he manages to stay inspired.
Could you start by telling us a little about yourself and your design background?
Hello. I’m a toy designer and inventor; currently working for a small invention studio called Fuse London Ltd. I studied Design for Industry at Northumbria University, and whilst there got my first taste of the toy industry with my internship for the Early Learning Centre in Hong Kong, working on products ranging from a crayon box to a cyborg gorilla action figure. I was hooked! After graduating I worked for three years at Hasbro, where I was primarily developing new board games. Games are a great design challenge; you have to create a compelling play experience that transcends its simple, low-cost components.
Now, as a toy inventor, I have the freedom to do whatever I like! I spend most of my time in the workshop creating tiny, hopefully innovative, analogue mechanisms. It’s a lot of fun, and very rewarding when/if ideas sell… I’m fortunate enough to have placed a number of inventions, e.g. for Star Wars (Hasbro), Hot Wheels (Mattel) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Playmates).
How do you get your inspiration for the toys you invent/design?
Most of my inventions stem from seeing something in a completely unrelated field… I find a lot of inspiration in museums. You never know what thoughts an ornate Victorian mechanical sugar tong or a Japanese netsuke carving might trigger!
When coming up with new products and concepts, do you feel thinking like a child helps innovation?
I find that most inventors or designers, certainly the successful ones, have childlike qualities! I don’t think it’s a case of treating it like a process to apply, you need to have an innate sense of fun and a passion for play… basically the secret is to never grow up. As Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka says, “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.” Words to live by!
It is said that many companies struggle to innovate, why do you think this is?
Innovation = Risk. It’s not a case of companies struggling to innovate, they just have to decide if they are willing to take that risk or not.
As a creative it is important to stay inspired, does your working environment help you to do this?
A fun environment helps. I believe if you are comfortable and relaxed you are more likely to come up with fun ideas. Everyone has their own way of getting into that mindset. Do whatever feels right. In our studio we play great music and drink copious amounts of tea! It’s also important to get out of the office now and again. We are encouraged to go to art exhibitions, museums, toy shops… anything that helps us be creative.
Finally, is there any advice you would give to aspiring toy inventors?
Well I’m still learning the ropes – perhaps I always will be! I think the best advice is to remember what we are working on… yes it’s a hugely commercial business and so there are serious financial factors to consider, but at its heart we are working on toys. Focus on making your products as exciting and captivating as possible. In my opinion if it’s not fun, it’s not good.
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