30 September 2019
“In the truest sense, I’m an inventor but that often conjures up an image of a Robin Williams’ Flubber meets Doc from Back to the Future.”
Fi Murray is the Founder and Creative Director of Making Things. Having spent over a decade working in the world of ‘play’, Fi has taken to market hundreds of concepts for companies like Crayola, Disney, Hasbro, BBC and YouTube to name just a few. As a valued and inspiring Trend Bible customer we asked Fi to share her experiences of working with trends within the toy and entertainment industry.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your role at ‘Making Things’?
I run Making Things Studio, an invention and innovation agency creating IP, products and experiences for kids and families based down in sunny Southsea, UK.
Being an inventor in today’s world and within the kid’s industry means you’re a jack of all trades – an innovator, designer, brand creator, problem solver, storyteller and pitcher. In essence, my job is being a professional dreamer. I make things up and then turn them into real things. It could be a toy; it could be a TV show, or it could be a book.
Describe your journey into the world of ‘Play’?
My first ‘real’ design job was designing mega outdoor play spaces on my university placement year for a company called Eibe Play. It was super fun and the play spaces they created were genuinely some of the very best in the world. After university, I started my first true design job as a Junior Product Designer for Vivid Toy Group and Crayola. I couldn’t believe my luck that this company produced products and brands that I loved as a kid. I then became Global Principal Creative at Vivid/Crayola; a creative strategic role reporting at board and investor level unifying design, innovation, licensing, marketing and creative direction to conceive profitable play experiences and new IP.
I wanted to tell a story with my creations and I wanted desperately to innovate – via ideas I could bring seemingly hidden white spaces to life and create opportunities that had the ability to disrupt. In addition to forming Making Things Studio and putting the focus on creating story-led play experiences, I have recently started Making Things Up (aka the fib-factory!) this is the story-telling arm to Making Things Studio dedicated to the conception and creation of original stories for little humans. The rights to my creations are then licensed to global publishers, production studios and entertainment companies.
What inspires you? Where do you find inspiration?
Everything! I’ve learnt over the years that whilst maintaining a constant flow of inspiration it needs to be eclectic and random for the magic to happen. You need your subconscious constantly full so that when the time comes to strategically innovate you are armed with stimulus. When those eureka moments happen, all of the stimuli start to intertwine and evolve into ideas.
In terms of types of inspiration, I split it into digital and physical inspiration. The digital comes from thousands of sources from the internet I’ve curated over the years all synced up in my Feedly. Physical comes from new experiences for me – a total and complete switch off from digital. These could be events, store visits, reading books, workshops, trade shows, Trend Bible publications, research papers, activities, travelling and other humans – meetings, chats, learning and those serendipity conversations all breed creativity for me.
How do you currently use trends to spark inspiration and build innovation strategies for your clients in the ‘play’ industry?
Sometimes I’m the client and sometimes I’m working on a specific brief or project which has a client or brand associated to it. It’s imperative I understand where the consumer mindset is at present and where they are likely to be in the future. The trend books from Trend Bible are a creative way of understanding consumers. I don’t have the time to track through hundreds of data points and market analytics, I like visual things empowering my ideas.
In the toy world you’re often concepting 2+ years in advance so understanding the future landscape of kids is incredibly important for success. I use the trend books from Trend Bible to educate myself on understanding consumers and provide the rationale for some of my creations (to create commercial opportunities) and as an idea-generating tool. It could be a piece of material, a picture, a character theme, an emotive quote that will spread across fashion, a new tech trend that I could turn into an invention – it really could be anything. I’ve had inventions spark in my mind from hearing a noise, from watching a GIF, to turning a pun into a physical product so I love scouring the Trend Bible pages for idea fuel.
How important are trend insights for the variety of teams you collaborate with? What impact have you seen?
I’ve personally seen the impact during pitching. It grounds your creations – it removes your own personal perception of the relatability of the concept and therefore increases the commercial confidence across the table in a concept. If I’m working on younger concepts within the infant and toddler categories, trends become even more important due to the parental purchase – these could be their purchasing behaviours, fashion themes, lifestyles and their environmental attitudes.
In particular, when creating IP and story-led content, it’s critical that you’re going to be creating a brand that will align with where children and their parents’ mindsets are likely to be. If the theme is going to be shared across other industries it can help to bolster the popularity and increase brand awareness via collaborations and additional touch points.
Having had years of experience in the industry, what tip would you give to continuously stay ahead?
Designing for the future is tough, it’s often a guessing game making it risky – you don’t know what will stick so if you can have some tools that help you at the very least estimate if it’s going to be ticking the right boxes then you’re off to a great start.
We’ll be presenting at Brand Licensing Europe 2019 this week on ‘Why Trends Matter for Licensing’. For a free ticket and information on show times click here.
Looking for idea fuel to spark your imagination or validate a commercial decision? Our trend publications place the future of life at home in your hands. Visit the shop for more information.
Trend Bible have helped an experienced marketing team to think about our brand, the market and the future in a completely different way. The results have been positive and tangible. Their input is challenging, fresh but critically also practical.
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