Tuesday, February 16, 2016

JENGA! - Jenga Max and Jenga Boom

The game Jenga has become a perennial favorite over the years. At this point there have been a number of spin-offs,  even an oversized patio/yard version.
Some years back Hasbro Games called on me to help them explore a new tabletop version of Jenga that used an entirely new method of block stacking.  And instead of the tower ultimately collapsing from tipping, it relied on a magnetic hub that dropped when the imbalance went beyond its limit.

The play-pattern and basic design had been resolved by the time I was tapped, my task was in exploring the design of the base and top hub.  Aside from aesthetics, I needed to consider storage of the blocks as well as different ways they might hang off the top hub.  We also needed to have a logo or two in there.   

Here are the initial sketches exploring the base, center hub and outer ring of Jenga Max.
I started by generating a universal view of the set in play, then just swapping out a number of different designs for the rest. It saved some time while still providing scale and context;

I deliberately separated those parts in layers to allow for switching out bases and tops.
One combination they chose went on to receive a round of color studies;

They ultimately went with a more subtle color palate, the final look leaning toward an older audience;


Jenga BOOM came a few years later, this time the design process focusing less on style and overall presentation and more on basic mechanics.  In this case, they wanted something at the base of a regular Jenga tower that was on a timing mechanism.  The play would be heightened by a time limit on each move, almost like the game Perfection.  If you don't finish your move in time and reset the mechanism, then BOOM; the tower 'explodes'.  Somehow.
That's where I came in.
I was asked to explore a range of possibilities from ones that resembled a cluster of standard Jenga blocks, to more obvious ones abandoning any attempt to disguise the mechanism.  The main thing to solve was that it needed to be simple, work every time, and look really cool when it blew.

Simple rough sketches, but that's all that was needed; 

They liked the TNT concept but it was small and hidden in the core of the tower.

Ultimately they came up with a combination of some of the above elements to produce Jenga BOOM!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Wheelies: Radiator Springs Playset

I've always loved working with the folks at Fisher-Price, both FP Brands in NYC and their home base, still located in East Aurora.  I've been fortunate enough to work with a number of their designers on scores of toys over the past 20+ years, and in the process cultivating some long professional relationships.
So much so, that I've seen a few retire after they've dedicated their entire adult life to creating great play, and it's always a bittersweet farewell.
One of the last projects I worked on with one such designer there was the Radiator Springs playset for Pixar's CARS.  This was one of a number of licensed sets in Fisher-Price's 'Wheelies' line.  It was a textbook case of fun and one of the key reasons I love doing what I do.

The parameters were pretty straightforward;  come up with a compact version of the town of Radiator Springs that offered some fun gravity-driven track play, something simple, self-contained, and cost-effective.
Here are the initial sketches exploring what this set could be;

There was enough going on with B and C to have another pass at each, fleshing out the play and design a little more;

The 2nd pass at C really defined the set enough to go to final line-art and rendering for presentation;

This was another one of those rarities where the final toy really came close to my hand in the project.

.. I still miss working with this guy,  I always enjoyed his wry wit.  I hope his well-earned retired life is full of fun and relaxation.  Hats off to ya, Larry!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

from the flat file archives: plush baby monsters

Some random hairy little fellows inspired by the troll dolls of yesteryear.  Hope you like:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mickey's Clubhouse: Motorhome Camper

The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse toys have been in the Fisher-Price catalog for years now, and I always enjoy working on items for their line.  I posted the train set for Mickey I designed a while back.   ..And there's been a lot more in the line, most of it making it to the toy stores I'm glad to say.

Among many toys I got to work on was this camper motorhome play set for Mickey and friends.
I recall at the time there were a number of other concepts being pitched internally and to Disney, this was part of a batch.  As a result there weren't a lot of iterations going in, they just knew they wanted a motorhome that expanded into a fun play environment.
I went with a retro body style, working with the shows' motif but inspired by reference I found from old Disney cartoons and my affection for old teardrop campers from the 1940s.
The rest was taking these basics and blowing it out into something theme appropriate, play interactive, and very 'Mickey'.  The vertical climbing wall roof feature was the only stretch, conceptually,  I had also considered a rooftop deck.

.. anyway, here are the concept drawings as pitched;

I didn't find out the ultimate fate of this particular concept for a few years,  it being among several that were developed further internally using my work as a springboard of sorts.  I almost forgot about it until I came across the renderings in my files and Googled for it.

Here is how Mickey's Camper looked when it came out.
It's clear the size and features went through some minor changes, but the exterior is virtually identical to my design.
..I do like the added pull out awning;

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Playskool's Cool Crew vacuum

Some years back I had the pleasure of working on Hasbro's 'Yard Crew' and 'Cool Crew' toys.  These anthropomorphized role-play tools were a successful line for Playskool, and I had a lot of fun coming up with ways to style common objects like flashlights, leaf blowers, and lawnmowers into animated characters.

One of the many items in the line was a vacuum cleaner.  At that point there was nothing defined so I explored a handful of looks and types of vacuums, providing some range from which to choose.  The important features required were common throughout the designs;

Taking the best elements of the upright style and making some tweaks to the characters' faces I generated a tighter version which was rendered for presentation;

Here is the vacuum as it was produced by Playskool.  Since then it has gone through a couple of color changes, even being completely redesigned for newer generations.