Smart Sketcher

The Challenge:

Flycatcher developed a multifaceted product that taught kids to draw, sketch, and write numbers, letters, and words using a Bluetooth-connected device. The challenge was to emphasize the fun aspect to the kids, the learning aspect to the parents, and the wow! factor which enabled users to download any photo from a smart device and turn it into a sketch. I was involved in every aspect of the brand development including names, content, collateral, advertising, website, and product extensions.

The Solution:

The first product was named Smart Sketcher Projector, conveying the “smart” connected aspect of the toy, and clearly stating the ability to teach kids to sketch. The packaging and collateral were simplified to create a 3-step process for drawing and writing. I enlisted an educational consultant to ensure that the letter writing process utilized correct keystrokes. Content was developed to be consistent with national curriculum standards so it could be used in schools as well as at home. While the kids had no hesitation about playing with the sketching and downloading aspects of the toy, we tweaked the writing and spelling mode to morph the letters into pictures, rewarding users for completing a word. Product extensions added color, frames, and specialized topics for drawing. In its first year launch, Smart Sketcher Projector won numerous awards and honors including a TOTY Rookie Toy of the Year finalist, Best in Show at CE Week, and Toy of the Year at the Spanish Toy Fair.

Hape International

The Challenge:

Hape is a company known for making educational wooden toys. However, although their products are well received and beautifully made, their innovative techniques and gender-and-culture-neutral designs are barely recognized. In order to differentiate themselves in the competitive toy market, their commitments to children, learning, and environmental responsibility had to be highlighted. Furthermore, their three distinct lines of toys needed to be incorporated under one corporate brand.

The Solution:

Rethinking Play became the mantra for this company that already recycles, reduces and reuses. A new mission statement that clearly defined Hape’s goals was released in a corporate brochure, press material, and brand catalogs, sending the message B2B. Beginning with the largest toy line (Educo), all of the packaging copy was rewritten, getting the same message into the hands of the consumers. Copy templates were created so that all future material would be consistent. An Eco-toys brochure further enhanced the ecology aspect of Hape. The long-term plan is to revamp each line to create a unified look and language.

Hot Toys

The Challenge:

My annual “Hot Toys” list was released every October in Nick Jr. Family Magazine. The challenge was to whittle down all the toys that I had played with to a dozen that I thought would top every kid’s list. Unlike the “Best Toys” in November, these winners didn’t have to teach anything, enhance skills, or follow any curriculum. They just had to be fun!

The Solution:

Playing hard and fast with the toys. Knowing that half of what kids want is what they see on TV; the second half is what other (especially older) kids have. Tuning into the latest tech. Trusting my gut. And talking to my own kids. Year after year, my picks were (mostly) right on target. 2005 (pictured) was the year of Game Boy Micro.

Best Toys

The Challenge:

The annual roundup of Nick Jr.’s picks for the best toys of the year began at Toy Fair every February, and continued until November when the list was (finally) published. In the process, testers played with and evaluated over 500 toys, looking for quality, value, skills taught, age appropriateness, and fun. The feature was always one of the most popular stories of the year, drawing both new readers and advertisers. The perennial challenge was to give it a unique spin, differentiating it from other magazines and topping our own story from the previous year.

The Solution:

Editorial and visual excitement shifted the focus year to year. In 2006 (pictured), the focus was on all kinds—and prices—of gifts that tapped into kids’ current passions, ranging from animals to art to music and building. Recognizing that parents no longer limit their shopping sprees to the mass market toy aisles, we found unique items in museums, clothing stores, and on-line. In 2005, we showed parents how to extend the fun (and skill-building) of play by focusing on their child’s one “must-have” toy. Shooting on location made it seem more like a lifestyle story than a toy catalog. In 2004, we gave parents the 411 on streamlined shopping—with tips, Websites, best days and the best ways to buy. We even included a convenient shopping list.