This year, Kids II hosted its first-ever toy design program and contest in collaboration with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Industrial Design Department. With guidance from the Kids II design team and SCAD professor Jesus Rojas, 11 students participated in the 10-week interactive project to develop new toy concepts for the company's Bright Starts brand. Four students earned top honors and all participants received course credit for their work as well as material for their portfolios.
Winner Garrett Miller received a $4,000 scholarship award for his Color N' Croak & Caterpillar Teether. Zarni Ko earned the $2,500 second place award for his hippo, Sang Hyuk Lee earned the $1,250 third place award for his Crack & Roll toy and Shane Bloomberg was awarded a $400 honorable mention prize for his Push & Play innovation.
Miller's winning invention was a frog that helps the child explore and recognize different colors and textures as well as a caterpillar with a bendable body intended for the development of motor skills and different textured legs for stimulating curiosity in exploration. He is a native of Seattle who will earn his bachelor of arts in industrial design degree by spring 2010. He plans to use the Kids II prize to help fund his final year of study at SCAD.
From Idea to Innovation
This design program and contest is the brainchild of Jose Gamboa, a Kids II designer and SCAD graduate who was previously an industrial design professor. He worked closely with two other Kids II designers, Charles Mitchell and Brad Reese, to determine toy criteria, objectives and safety requirements and they collectively shepherded the process from start to finish.
"It was important for students to get a meaningful real world experience by helping them understand the whole process of taking a product from idea to reality. They learned about everything from mock-ups, engineering and safety to testing and marketing," said Gamboa, a native of Costa Rica who earned his masters of fine arts in industrial design from SCAD in 2005. "This exercise will help students transition from theory to practice as they prepare for the workforce."
According to Gamboa, this project is also an ideal opportunity for the company to get creative, fresh suggestions from students who are unfamiliar with obstacles inherent to toy design, manufacturing and retail. "As a result, we get some very original and imaginative concepts we can expand on," he said.
Additionally, Kids II can leverage this program to recruit well-trained potential employees and freelancers. As a matter of fact, the company currently employs five SCAD graduates in full-time positions and two interns.
The goal for each participant was to create a toy or family of toys that aids the cognitive, emotional and physical development of children birth to 12 months or 12-36 months.
First, the students researched and analyzed concepts based on an initial presentation from Kids II and their own research. Then, they provided 2D and 3D conceptualizations of their inventions. All concepts demonstrated an understanding of manufacturing processes, assembly and functionality of the toy. Ultimately, a toy prototype was submitted as part of a final presentation that included an overview outlining how the product fits in the retail environment.
Kids II President Ryan Gunnigle believes this project will positively influence the students' industrial design and toy development perspectives. He said, "Our designers played a critical role brainstorming, reviewing and encouraging creative approaches to the product archetypes. Hopefully, this design education collaboration has strengthened the students' understanding of the real-world process and bolstered their choice to pursue a design career."
Kids II is one of the world's fastest growing infant products companies with more than 100 products in its Bright Stars brand suite. The company, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, has the second largest design staff in the Southeast U.S.