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What It’s Like To Be A Toy Designer

What It’s Like To Be A Toy Designer

Get a behind-the-scenes look at what being a toy designer is really like with fascinating insights from our super-skilled Bigjigs Toys Product Designers, Glen, Richard and Stewart.

Meet Our Product Design Team

All of our toys are lovingly designed in the UK by three talented Product Designers. Discover how they got into their toy design careers, what skills you need to become a designer, what a typical working day looks like and more with our toy designer Q&A.

Glen Coleman has been making toys since he was a child, but professionally, he’s been designing toys for almost 10 years. Glen started at Bigjigs Toys in 2019 and his role involves sketching design ideas for new toys, developing existing toys, creating tech files, and everything in between.

Richard Ward studied illustration at University College Falmouth and had been working in the illustration industry for two years, before joining Bigjigs Toys in 2022. Now, he is responsible for the design of some innovative new products, including a range of silicone toys launching this spring/summer.

Stewart Betts has a degree in product design and has worked in this creative field ever since he graduated from the University of Derby in 2005. Stewart is a father of two, and has been a member of the Bigjigs Toys family since 2018.

What made you want to become a toy designer?

Glen: I have a passion for toys and toy collecting. As a child, I would always be making and designing playsets or vehicles for my toys in paper and card. I also had a fascination with how products have been manufactured. If they had a mechanical feature I would take them apart to see how they work.

Swan Tunnel sketches

Richard: I came from an illustration background, so I was looking for a job where I could use my illustration skills.

Stewart: I’ve always wanted to become a product designer. My grandfather owned a toolmaking factory, which was always churning out moulds for large toy manufacturers and I can remember all of these toys being around and seeing the place where they were being made.

What skills do you need to be a toy designer?

Glen: An endless playful imagination is key. The technical and communication skills you will need as a designer can be learnt at school, higher education or indeed within the role itself. You never really stop learning. But, what can not be taught is the ability to dream up new ideas. Your imagination and creativity are always essential within the creative industries.

Richard: In my opinion, creativity and problem-solving are the most important skills to already have and everything else can be learnt.

Under The Sea Floor Puzzle sketch

Stewart: I have a degree in product design and experience in this field, working on all sorts of different products. These skills in design are transferrable, but it also helps that I have children of my own to be the biggest critics of what I do!

What does a typical working day involve for you?

Glen: In the morning we communicate with the factories to catch up with items that are either being sampled or in production to make sure everything is running to schedule. Then we continue working on our assigned tasks. This may include anything from sketching ideas for new toys and developing existing ideas, to creating tech files for designs that are ready to go to the factories.

Richard: A combination of sketching, prototyping and CAD (computer-aided design).

Stewart: I design toys from the ground up (although not in one day!), which can include sketching, 3D CAD, research, and so on.

Silicone watering can sketch

What do you love about being a toy designer?

Glen: For me, problem-solving is the most enjoyable part. Coming up with a cool design is only a small part of the process. The initial idea will change several times throughout the design process as we try to make the toy adhere to a number of constraints, from safety to durability. For me, it’s always fascinating to see how the initial sketch has evolved into its final form once all these factors have been resolved.

Richard: I love the freedom it gives you to come up with imaginative new designs.

Stewart: You basically get to work with toys all day and call it a job. It’s also a good feeling to know that some of my creations will bring smiles to children when they receive them.

What’s your favourite product you’ve designed for Bigjigs Toys?

Glen: The GWR Saddle Engine.

Richard: The Under The Sea Floor Puzzle, as I love snorkelling.

Stewart: I enjoyed designing the silicone toys, which are different to Bigjigs Toys' core ranges, and more challenging.

Boys playing with silicone buckets

What has been your proudest moment in your design career so far?

Glen: Seeing my ideas on the shop shelves, hopefully inspiring the next generation of budding toy designers.

Richard: There are too many to choose from, but probably a moment where I've come up with an idea for something and it has worked.

Stewart: Just being able to see the things I design readily available on major retailers' shelves makes me proud.

What advice would you give those at the start of their product design careers?

Glen: Have fun and enjoy it (if you’re not, this may not be the career for you).

Richard: Make sure you have an ergonomic work set up!

Stewart: Start with mastering the basics of design, including sketching and modelling, to give you the tools to be creative.

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