Toy Fair 2009: Not so joyful

18 February 2009

I managed to score a pass to sneak a peak at this year’s New York Toy Fair today. (Thanks, Rikki!) If anything’s going to be joyful, you’d expect it to be toys. So why wasn’t the experience joyful?

First off, I met some sad, sad exhibitors today. It seems like smaller independent toy manufacturers are really hurting these days. Even after I fessed up that I was a designer and not a buyer, I still had plenty of people who wanted to talk. So that made me feel a little sad. Then of course the Toy Fair is at the Javitz Center. Trekking out there in the freezing rain is enough to make a grouch out of anyone. And thirdly I did not manage to score a free sample of the amazing edible play dough, which I clearly needed.

But mostly, the reason Toy Fair wasn’t joyful was that there’s just too much. I don’t know how kids think anymore with all the chaos of today’s toys. Don’t get me wrong—I did see some incredibly interesting and well-designed toys. A lot of the advances in robotics and the science kits just look so much cooler than they did when I was a kid, and a lot of manufacturers are trying to weave in green messages which I think is just great. A few companies are trying to strip out the clutter and make simple things with great sensory appeal and tactile value, like these plush balls I found so irresistible (though I can’t seem to remember the manufacturer’s name) but mostly it’s just a big, loud, overwhelming landscape.

I spoke for a little while with a guy at a booth displaying no-spill bubbles. I asked him why bubbles were joyful. He thought for a second and said, “I think because they’re just so simple.” There may be something to that, and may explain why I left Toy Fair intrigued and stimulated, but not joyful.

I LEGO N.Y.

4 February 2009

I have been thinking a lot lately about how much i love this city. So of course I loved Christoph Niemann’s LEGO homage to the big apple.

Barbie world

29 December 2008

I learned a ton about Barbie while I was researching a presentation on Mattel a couple months back. For example, did you know that since 1959, Mattel has produced nearly one billion tiny outfits for Barbie? Barbie fashion is especially interesting, because it drives the very shrewd Barbie business model, which creates a nearly endless stream of revenue for Mattel. You may only buy one Barbie your whole life, but the tiny incremental expenses of the many situational accessories will outstrip the doll’s cost several times over.

This is my favorite image of the founders of Mattel, Ruth and Elliot Handler, with their creation.