Learning about University of Northampton's role in the Toy Industry
What I Learnt
The organiser Vicki Thomas, has a particular interest in toy design and was delighted to share her enthusiasm for Northampton’s contributions to the toy industry with us. Thomas also told us about the university’s knowledge transfer partnership, through which students and lecturers have made many contributions to toys and play; from designing the layout of local playgrounds, to supporting Sue Ryder in the re-design of its doll’s house range.
On a tour of the department, we found some third year undergraduates very busy working on their final projects. The students took some time out to explain what they had designed and made, and it was clear to see how much thought and development had gone into each product.
One student explained how she had been to the London Toy Fair and seen Cloud B’s night lights, inspiring her to create a dawn simulator for children which uses light to wake children up gently. Another showed us her lightweight, multi-functional storage piece - it can be used as a chair/table, stacked to make shelves, and comes with a built-in blackboard. I discussed with them the sort of research they might do with their products, such as testing the usability of the light controller, or exploring interactive surfaces to add to the storage unit for further play value.
(Pictured Left to Right: Kai Hawaleschka from DKL, Roger Brown formerly at Mettoy, Vicki Thomas at University of Northampton, Anna Taylor at Fundamentally Children, Will Abigail at Toymaster and students from the University of Northampton)
My fellow visitors, Roger Brown (previously of Mettoy) and Will Abigail (Toymaster), offered the students valuable information about the toy industry, including costing and selling in the independent sector. Kai Hawaleschka (DKL) showed an interest in working with the university, allowing students to gain a fantastic real-world glimpse into the toy industry. It was a truly positive experience to see members of the toy industry getting involved with future product designers.
With support like this, we can give students from universities all over the country a solid foundation of knowledge in what is a very unique and enjoyable sector to work in. As a fairly recent graduate myself, I have real respect for companies willing to give fresh faces a chance to learn and develop. My visit to the University of Northampton really highlighted how new minds can come up with some great and novel ideas - isn’t that what the toy industry wants?