The Art of Toy Design: Crafting Meaningful Play for Children Worldwide

Suhasini Paul Designs Toys that Spark Imagination and Go Beyond Borders.
The Art of Toy Design: Crafting Meaningful Play for Children Worldwide

Suhasini Paul's story is one of nurtured creativity and a passion for making a difference in children's lives. Growing up in an environment that celebrated imagination, Suhasini built her own toys and found joy in crafting experiences for others. This passion led her to become a renowned toy designer, creating playthings that resonate with children around the world.

In our conversation, she delves into the inspirations drawn from her childhood, the thoughtful approach she takes to design toys that are both engaging and educational, and the strategies she employs to ensure her creations resonate across different cultures.

Kizoo Skating
Kizoo Skating
Kizoo Skating
Kizoo Skating
Q

Hi Suhasini, your journey into toy design is fascinating. What drew you to specialise in toys and children's products, and how has your background influenced your approach to toy design?

A

As a child, I used to create my own toys and games. I remember crafting a personalized hexagonal carom board to accommodate more than 5 of my friends.

I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandmother who taught me different stitching techniques, paper folding, and chalk sculpting. We used to do a lot of creative activities together. My mom used to give me all the raw materials I needed from the junk and encouraged me in my playtime activities. My dad is a creative person himself and used to design a lot of stuff using makeshift methods in his free time. We also enjoyed fun activities like painting his vehicle at home or making his own number plate. I used to participate in these activities with him.

Monster Roller
Monster Roller
Octo shape Sorting Toy
Octo shape Sorting Toy

I discovered my passion for creative activities at a young age. At 19, I founded a company called 'Dreamz Decorations'. Alongside my studies, I was responsible for designing attractive window displays and organizing children's birthday parties during my free time. This experience led me to realize the potential in the toy industry and my desire to make a difference for children.

In 2002, the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, introduced a new discipline - Toy Design and Development. I enrolled in 2003 and completed my post-graduation in toy design.

I grew up in an environment where creativity was not just encouraged but celebrated, and this inspired me to become a toy designer. My childhood memories serve as a rich source of inspiration, empathy, and creativity for me. They provide insight into the essence of play, an empathetic understanding of children's perspectives, fuel for imaginative concepts, inspiration for sensory experiences, and reminders of inclusivity and diversity. Drawing from these experiences, I design toys that resonate with children on a personal level and enrich their play experiences.

My Snaily
My SnailyGeometric Puzzle
Q

Toys often hold sentimental value and play a significant role in shaping childhood memories. How do you approach designing toys that are not only fun and engaging but also meaningful and memorable?

A

It’s true that toys hold sentimental value and play a significant role in shaping childhood memories by embodying emotional connections, symbolising play experiences, marking milestones, fostering family connections and inspiring imagination and exploration.

I truly believe in creating toys that are not only fun and engaging but also meaningful and memorable, which makes children's lives enriching and fosters varied play experiences. While designing toys that are both entertaining and impactful, I prefer taking a thoughtful approach that considers various aspects of children's development and experiences.

Firstly, it's of utmost importance to understand children, and recognise their interests, cognitive abilities and cultural backgrounds, it helps me design toys better according to their needs.

Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark
Baby Walker
Baby Walker

I try to incorporate educational elements into the design to ensure that playtime becomes a valuable learning experience. I feel toys should inspire imagination and creativity, offering open-ended play opportunities that encourage exploration and storytelling.

My overall approach is to create emotional connections through characters, narratives and cooperative play which fosters empathy and joy.

Lastly, I firmly believe in prioritising quality and durability which ensures toys can withstand the test of time, thus becoming cherished mementoes of childhood.

Monster Cups
Monster CupsStacking & Nesting Toy
Monster Rattle
Monster Rattle
Q

Your work in toy design has garnered attention not only in India but also globally. How do you approach designing toys that appeal to children from various cultural backgrounds?

A

Designing toys that resonate with children from diverse cultural backgrounds requires a thoughtful and inclusive approach. I start my design process by researching and understanding the cultural backgrounds, traditions and values of the target audience. This helps me gain insights into their preferences, thus ensuring that my designs are culturally relevant.

I design toys which represent a diverse range of cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds by including characters, themes and narratives that reflect the diversity of children's experiences and identities. Also, I keep myself abreast of global market insights.

My design process includes understanding global trends, consumer preferences and also about what are emerging markets in the toy industry. Apart from these, I am also aware of various regulatory Compliances, toy safety standards, regulations and compliance requirements in different countries and regions. I ensure that my designs meet all applicable safety and quality standards to build trust with consumers worldwide.

Wooden Doll House
Wooden Doll House
Hospital Doll House
Hospital Doll House
Q

Working with renowned brands worldwide, such as Disney and Kinder Joy, is impressive. What strategies do you employ to establish and nurture these partnerships?

A

I believe in fostering trust and transparency in my professional relationship with my client by maintaining open and honest communication, honouring commitments and delivering on promises. I establish clear expectations, timelines and responsibilities to ensure mutual understanding.

I prefer nurturing long-term relationships with international partners through regular communication, collaboration on shared goals and mutual support. It works for me to stay engaged, responsive and proactive in addressing challenges, exploring new opportunities and celebrating successes together.

Kinder Joy Surprise Toys
Kinder Joy Surprise Toys
Q

With your expertise sought after globally, how do you stay updated with trends and preferences in the global toy market? How do you balance cultural nuances and universal appeal in your designs?

A

To stay updated with global toy market trends, I have to regularly conduct market research, attend industry events and utilise online resources. I need to collaborate with industry partners, gather customer feedback, and analyse competitor strategies.

To balance cultural nuances and universal appeal in designs, I do conduct thorough cultural research, incorporate diverse representations, find out current toy trends and focus on universal themes.

Table Tennis Bat Set
Table Tennis Bat SetDisney Sports Toy
Catapult
CatapultDisney Sports Toy

Staying updated with current toy trends is crucial for me while designing toys that resonate with contemporary audiences. By monitoring market trends, I can identify popular themes, styles and features that appeal to children worldwide. This knowledge helps me to make informed design decisions and ensures that the toys remain relevant and engaging.

Diversity and inclusion are vital in toy design. Incorporating diverse representation in characters, themes and narratives, ensures that children from various cultural backgrounds see themselves reflected in the toys they play with. This fosters a sense of belonging and helps me create a more inclusive play experience for children.

Cricket
CricketDisney Sports Toy
Q

Toys have the power to spark imagination and creativity in children. How do you incorporate elements of learning and creativity into your toy designs, ensuring they go beyond mere entertainment?

A

Incorporating elements of learning and creativity into toy designs transforms them into valuable tools for children's development. Firstly, establish clear educational objectives for my designs, focusing on key learning goals such as cognitive development, problem-solving skills or social-emotional learning. I do integrate interactive features that promote hands-on exploration and experimentation, engaging children's senses and encouraging active participation.

My designs challenge children with problem-solving puzzles and activities that stimulate critical thinking and cognitive skills. Infusing my designs with STEM or STEAM concepts to foster curiosity, creativity and innovation, inspiring a love for learning, works for me. While designing I keep in mind to encourage open-ended play possibilities that empower children to unleash their imagination and express themselves creatively.

I prefer utilising narrative and storytelling elements to enhance engagement and language development, allowing children to immerse themselves in imaginative play scenarios.

I design toys to provide sensory stimulation through a variety of textures, colours, and sounds, supporting children's sensory development and awareness thus ensuring that my toys go beyond mere entertainment.

Q

Trust is essential in client relationships, especially when working remotely across different time zones. How do you build and maintain trust with international clients throughout the design process?

A

Building trust is very subjective. All clients are different, not one strategy applies to all. It depends on the kind of project that we are doing together. Of course, previous works and success stories help to build trust.

Stitch Me Monster
Stitch Me MonsterSewing Activity Game
Q

What advice would you give to aspiring toy designers looking to make their mark in the industry, especially in today's competitive landscape?

A

Find your niche and develop a unique perspective or design style that sets you apart from others in the industry. Having a distinct voice will help you stand out.

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