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The Toy Book

1. Design Edge is known for conveying a sense of humor in many of its designs for ads, packaging and products. Why did you decide to choose this route? What does this tone convey that other, more straight-laced, designers may not?

Whether it’s dry, tongue-in-cheek, or kitsch, humor is an important facet of toys. As a designer, I want to always convey the message to the consumer that toys are fun.

A well-constructed print ad campaign can do wonders for a company. You can keep the trade looking for what’s next by tossing in a bit of humor. One example would be the continually running series created for Endless Games. The campaign has run the gamut, jumping from cute to demented and everything in between. The campaign is now so much a part of the company’s image that their buyers actually call them to find out when the next ad is coming out.

We try to create a piece of art, with our packaging, that you’ll feel guilty for throwing in the trash. More and more people are saving packaging and some people never even open them. A package today should look great in a retailer’s window and on a collector’s shelf. 
If the package conveys a message of fun and humor, then that mission is complete.

When designing or inventing items there is only one question to be answered: “Would I buy this for myself or someone I know?” The answer should always be “yes.”

Design Edge has invented more than 30 items that we have successfully licensed to companies throughout the industry. We try and keep them humorous. One of our items, Tattoo Graphics(Toymax), has been cited on Late Night with David Letterman. Recently, one of my teen music idols, Pantera, ordered a truckload of a very dark-humor board game I came up with called GOTH, a game of horror trivia. It will be released this month, but they read about it in a music magazine and called McNutty Games, a division of Endless Games, to make an early, special-request order.

2. What sort of working relationship do you have with your clients? Are you generally given carte blanche? In what ways does this influence the end product? 

All clients are different. When dealing with a large company, for the most part they have a set way in which they like things done. Recently, lot of small and mid-size companies have been giving us free range. They’ve seen what we’ve been doing with action figures and board games and they want the same end results for their products.

The reality is you only have a second to catch someone’s eye. Overloading a package with a lot of information only confuses the consumer. A confused consumer ignores the product and walks on by to the competition.

3. How does your background in fine arts influence your designs? How is this reflected in the toys you design?

Growing up, both of my parents were artists. We were frequently visiting museums and galleries. Before I went into toys I was showing my art on the New York City gallery circuit. By the time I was 20 I had a full write-up review in The New York Times. Fine art is truly my inspiration for design. Fine art is the way I was raised and I’m sure it is reflected in my designs.

4. Does inventing products influence other areas of your business?

Inventing products definitely influences all areas of our business. When we work directly with a manufacturer we start to understand their product mix. By designing their packaging and products we learn the nuances that make a company click. When we license one of our inventions we often design the final product and package.

5. What should a successful ad or package contain? What are some keys to making your designs stand out from the pack? How do you try to make Design Edge, as a design company, stand out from its competition?

A package should act as a mini billboard. It should be short and sweet. If a company takes a “me-too” approach with its packaging because a certain style works for the competition, they will not accomplish anything except camouflaging their own product line.

Each product should be judged on its own merit. It should be thought out, with all aspects of its personality taken into consideration. Not all packages need to be literal and not all need to be abstract. Packages are like people, and if everyone is dressed the same, that’s boring. You have to dress sharp 
to stand out in the crowd.

At Design Edge we are continually searching for new ideas and innovations. A lot of things need to be considered such as construction, materials, and illustration. We assess the demographic and then twist it up. Design isn’t just about color and layout, it is an overall view. It should say just enough to keep the consumer’s interest.

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