I used to think that a career in film or advertising would be a great way to make a living, with each day presenting a new creative challenge. That was before I discovered just how much fun toy designers were having developing toys and games. Talk about a job that brings out the child in you. Engineering tomorrow's toys can be a blast if you love to invent and build gadgets for kids.
Of course, as with most rewarding jobs that give you lots of creative freedom, the competition can be pretty fierce. The truth is, using your engineering skills to pursue a career with a toy manufacturer takes a bit of work. It's not exactly something most EE or ME majors get into. But for those who do, companies can pretty much choose from the best of the best. That means you’ll need excellent school grades, interesting and really creative school projects, and an ability to sell new concepts with flair and enthusiasm.
If you’ve got what it takes academically and creatively, and designing toys is in your blood, a good place to start your career is the toy-company hub in Northern California. Start by arranging some “informational interviews” to gain insight into the toy industry. Learn to present the creative designs and projects you built in school. If you have a “pitchbook” of concepts, bring those along. Your persistence should eventually pay off in a job offer.
Once you land a job as an engineer, you'll be paid to play with new toys and product designs. You'll be assigned to make sure that the company's newest toys do what they are designed to do.
As is often the case, a toy's electronics may be engineered overseas, which means you'll spend the bulk of your hours in project management, rather than design work. That said, you'll still need to tap into your EE or ME background, and be “up to speed” on materials, particularly plastics. This would include material characteristics, failure analyses and molding, as well as the various processes used in making metal parts. Driving your decisions will be production costs and safety. Today's toys are designed for very specific age groups, each heavily regulated by many safety guidelines.
The key to landing a job in the field of toy design is to learn as much as you can about the toy industry. One way to do that is by joining industry groups or subscribing to trade journals.
The bottom line: It’ll take some work if you want to make a living playing with toys, but for those with a child-like creative mind, the rewards are far more than salary and perks.