Hasbro Toy Design
Product / Experience Design Internship
Donut of Learning)
May - August 2020
Crafted magical experiences that fuse physical and digital play to create new ways to engage kids of all ages in immersive brand-focused experiences.
Collaborated in cross-functional teams to develop an exciting product concept for a 25 million dollar toy opportunity.
Designed and pitched novel gameplay concepts for valued franchise brands including Peppa Pig and NERF.
Storyboarding & Sketching
Protected by NDA,
to see full work...
Working at Hasbro was such as unique experience as it opened my eyes to the breadth of work a product designer. By aiding in the development process of emerging and buzz-item toys, I experienced the full system of people and components that come together in making a product come onto the shelf.
The best part was the flexibility and variety of work that took place at the company. I joined brainstorm session for a range of franchise brands such as Littlest Pet Shop, PlayDoh, Furreal, Transformers, GI Joe, and DnD, and these included physical toys, animatronics, digital apps, integrated phygital play and more!
Highlights of My Work
Project 1 - New Interactive Toy Series for 2022
Project 2 - Peppa Pig Buzz Item
Project 3 - NERF
New Toy Series for 2022
Even though there were always many things going on, the main project that I focused on during these 12 weeks was developing and packaging the play design for a 25 million dollar new toy series opportunity. I was very lucky this summer that this project was only in its initial phases when I just started, so I was able to contribute from the start and be a part of its growth to a greenlit item for this hot new, must-have toy for 2022.
Initial brainstorming for this project was to analyze the current trending entertainment for our target audience and the proven successful play experiences for phygital toys to create a relevant product for this age. Then piecing together these aspects with new exciting interactions, and easy-to-understand story, and memorable branding.
The great part of being on an integrated play team is developing both interactive content-driven products and connected mobile software (apps/games). I worked closely with engineers, software engineers, designers, musicians, animators, illustrators, marketers, and researchers.
Snapshot of the work I did:
• I wrote the sizzle script and slogan for this toy series
• Guided animators and illustrators on the layout for the promotional video
• Wrote design documents to software engineers to build a digital prototype for the toy
• Designed the physical gameplay of the toy and conveyed this through frame animations
• Explored sound effects for gameplay by remixing clips of beats from a variety of resources
• Focused down on the types of interactions to include in this toy to make the message most concise for our consumers
• Oversaw and managed the mechanism/hardware we needed to use to maximize the play experience but also have a minimum cost
Snapshots of brainstorming for project proposal
Snapshots of some work for new toy series project
By participating in team meetings that included all necessary departments such as design, marketing, finance, engineering, and more, and having 1-on-1 chats with individuals across Hasbro, I was able to learn more than the work of a product designer. This included understanding the design thinking/processes for different designers as well as different roles/positions, learning the strategies that people use to organize a team such as using Agile Methodology, business strategy for product development, finance lingo, and self-growth practices such as the Donut of Learning.
Other learnings through coffee chats with diverse people throughout the company (Image: Donut of learning reflection)
Peppa Pig Buzz Item
Towards the mid half of the internship, I was able to apply the knowledge that I learned from working with my manager on the new toy series, to work independently on opportunities later on. One of them was developing a concept deck for the 2022 Peppa Pig buzz item toy.
It didn’t start off with being given the opportunity to pitch for a major 2022 item. It began with just my fascination with storytelling and empowering younger children to self-direct their own narratives. I wanted craft a unique play that integrated a freeform and self-explorative play experience with a creative use of tangible traditional toys, modern technology, apps, and smart devices.
I explored connected play with digital screens, Alexa, etc. and discussed my ideas with engineers and other designers to continuously iterate on these ideas. I learned to balance the types of technology and resources used with price and brand as well as which types of play is best suited for a target audience age.
I realized that there were such great brand opportunities open because of the recent acquisition of eOne (a Canadian multinational entertainment company) at Hasbro, therefore, I wanted to connect the concept of storytelling with one of my favorite childhood shows, Peppa Pig! Especially since Peppa Pig embodies the essence of young storytelling -- everyday life journeys for ages 2 to 4, and humor and relatability that’s fitting for the whole family to enjoy.
The idea gained attention and I was able to pitch it to other designers and finally an executive marketing team and gain valuable feedback. I wasn’t able to carry on this project until its end as my internship came to an end, but I was able to leave with final thoughts on revised concepts for further directions on where the toy series could expand.
Some idea explorations before the Peppa Pig toy final idea
Snapshots of final ideas
NERF Summer Challenge
Hasbro hosted a competition to gather new concepts for their Super Soaker Nerf Blasters amongst the company. I was immediately interested in this challenge seeing how valuable the Peppa Pages project was.
I began with pinpointing the NERF brand’s values including:
• All-inclusive play
• Family outdoor bonding
• Feeling awesome
I wanted to especially emphasize the last value of "feeling awesome": the NERF brand products continue to gain popularity because it changes its appearance and engages its audience to come back for more products because of its "cool" branding and how this can make a user feel.
For this reason, rather than imagining what one new blaster could look like, the concept I developed emphasized how can we add to the experience of an already well-established product line to create a whole new playing field.
I think that this experience allowed me to think critically on what is the best approach to create a new type of play experience for a target audience. It is easy to be constrained by pre-existing ideas, and this project helped me think beyond this to explore all the possibilities of products you can design to create a memorable experience.
Snapshots from presentation
My Major Takeaways
I shadowed my manager throughout the summer at the SPARK Labs (the team working on innovation and technology within toy design) as a product designer.
Even though I came in with a specific idea of what the work would be like, during the 12 weeks that I worked here, I realized I had a very different interpretation. These are the major things that changed my perception of what it takes to be a product designer and now I can take this knowledge and apply it to my future work.
#1: What is my role as a designer in the product development process?
On the grand scale of things, I learned that the consumer is actually quite far away from the designers. In school, it can often seem like you are designing products that would be delivered to manufacturing to go straight to a consumer, but as part of a major corporate company, I have come to realize the specific role I have amongst this giant turning mechanism.
Communicating the essence of the toy
As you can see, there’s a long way to go until something that I designed would reach a consumer. This thus brings me to the first lesson I learned — it’s so important to communicate to others what the product does. This may sound like common sense, but is something I needed make a distinction from the projects that I had done in school. As a design student, many of our projects revolved around the idea of exploration and outside thinking on what a product could behave and appear to be, and this as you can imagine, the products that result from this are forms that are usually not as commonly seen. Thus, for a product like that to be in popular retails stores such as Walmart or Target, the consumers there would not have the time and need to discover what this product is. If they don’t understand it at a glance, the product may not be sold. That is the difference between designing in a corporate goods company versus a smaller product design company for specialized goods.
Not only is communication through interaction and appearance of the toy important, but also how you communicate the message of this toy to others in the company to support you in producing it. Successful products are the ones that have convinced the whole company that it’s a fantastic product. Then would the sales department push harder to convince the retailers to buy this product to place on their shelves, and finally reach consumers.
Essential first conversations with others
This makes the conversations and brainstorming sessions for the beginning stages of product development extremely important. Having designated meetings with people of very different design specializations and experiences, to just throw out their wildest ideas was something new and so worthwhile.
These initial conversations aren’t limited to only designers, but across disciplines. Working alongside my manager, we talked to engineers, researchers, and marketers along every step of the way to develop a toy. They informed us of which directions to move forward. Especially with their experience at Hasbro and knowing what products become successful, they gave us insights specific to this type of product that I may not have been able to get easily with just research. I want to bring more of this type of diversified brainstorming into the future work that I do.
#2: Three key things you should know as a product/experience designer
I gained experienced as a Product Designer in this industry. First of all, this role has always been a complicated one. Some people think UI/UX when talking about product design, Carnegie Mellon University emphasizes its industrial design aspects… So what is it actually?
Product designers and how a product looks
A Product Designer can have many roles, and one of them includes being an experience designer where we create the story behind a product rather than design its form. It’s another way of giving the best experience as possible to a user through closely examining what the target audience wants and enjoys, then using this information to design a play pattern that will produce long term engagement and value.
This experienced allowed me to improve on my presentation skills and methods of working in cross-disciplinary environments in addition to the technical skills Product Designer skills that we gained through school.
Talking to my manager everyday was very helpful in reflecting on these interactions with people and examining the reasons how design directions were pursued, how a person articulates a conversation and what impacts your ways of communication could hold.
Every project has a unique timeline
Even before I started my internship, my manager explained to me that work really depends on the time and it quite unexpected. It really can be described as, projects at fast-paced consumer goods companies is “like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”. It depends on the season, current trends, and directions of thoughts from executives of that time that determines what project you work on.
Each project depending on its brand and situation will have its own pace and timeline, which was a big contrast to the planned out time frames for projects in college. From this, being flexible became essential. Because each project was so different from the next, one has to pivot and work accordingly to these circumstances.
Engaging interaction ≠ Success
Has anyone at an earlier stage of their career thought like this before? “If my team and I give our ultimate effort and create an amazing product, it will be a success in the market!” This has definitely changed in my view. It’s not that I’m disillusioned by reality, but rather gained real experience on how consumer products work. It widened my perspective on what is determined as success. Even if a design had fulfilled the criteria of being a valuable interactive product, its final success is sometimes dependent unforeseeable factors. For example, it was just not the right time, there were other products on the market that took away its attention, the sales team did not share the same value for a project…
It can be heartbreaking seeing negative results after so much hard work, and even more difficult when you have to call it the time to kill the project all together, but in the end, it’s important to remember that this is what agile design thinking is. I have to emphasize the significance of flexibility again, because in order to be a great product designer working in consumer products, I must always keep an open and forward thinking mind.
With the personal projects I pitched at Hasbro, I took this to action. While constructing my pitches, I had to keep in mind that even with great intentions, a project may not succeed in the market because of a multitude of reasons, and that this was not an ultimate reflection of my abilities. I would take those kind of projects as a learning opportunity and apply them to my next projects.
#3: The special case of working remotely
COVID-19 has significantly impacted every aspect of our lives and that also includes internships. I was extremely grateful that Hasbro transitioned to remote work and that has created positives and negative.
Positives of being remote: Intimacy in communication
One of my favorite parts of this internship was having 1-on-1 meetings with different people working in Hasbro. I think talking to them was one of the best ways to learn a lot in a short period of time. These meetings ranged from meeting with people from engineering to marketing, and executive to senior positions. Their experiences at Hasbro, past careers, memorable lessons or mistakes they made were not only interesting talking about but gave me much time to reflect on.
Downs of being remote: Observation & research
Being remote definitely took away the ease of being able to roam around the company and see what is everyone working on. It also becomes more difficult to participate in consumer research such as observational research at the FunLab (place for observational research for children playing with products) or being able to actually play with a prototype.