Toy Design

Subject Description

The toy and game industry is a massive business and the more traditional, non-virtual games and toys contribute around £2 billion to the UK economy each year. As long as there are babies and children there will be a need for toys and games and therefore toy and games designers.

The transitions from baby to toddler to teenager to adult mean that toys need to be enormously varied and multifunctional. Toys become props in the development of identity, hand-eye co-ordination, and in strengthening relationships with parents, siblings and other children. Toys and games are also a source of simple and important amusement. Toy designers may be required to come up with ideas and designs for baby-feeding products, educational and fun toys for helping a toddler to understand shape and colour, and developmental aids that fit in with the National Curriculum when children reach school-age. Teenagers require a different set of experiences from their games and these tend to become more adult and in the 21st century, electronic. A designer will also need to keep up with trends in popular culture as tastes in music, television and film also have an influence on the kind of toys and games they want. Therefore understanding a toy's place in the market and the needs and wants of the target audience are also imperative.

Toys and play in general are vital to a child's development. Babies and toddlers play to explore the world around them and therefore toys have a history as old as human civilisation. Toys in Ancient times used to be made of natural products such as wood, stone and clay, indeed the first yo-yos are recorded to have been made of clay discs and used as far back at 440 BC. Today, toys are often made from plastic and other synthetic materials, although wood and other more sustainable products are becoming more widely available.  Green design is becoming more and more popular and more and more essential.

Example areas of study

There are only a small number of specific toy design courses, but you may find that some three-dimensional design or product design courses may have modules in toy design. As with all courses, make sure that you check the modules and course content information with the institutions that you wish to apply to before submitting your application. The list below will give you an idea of the subjects you may be able to study:

  • Toy and game industries
  • Processes and production
  • Theories of play
  • Virtual environments
  • Animation
  • Research and product development
  • Design and implementation
  • Product design
  • Creative thinking
  • Computer-aided design
  • Material culture
  • Child behaviour and psychology
  • Design for manufacture
  • Visual design
  • Three-dimensional design and modelling
  • Toy and game theory
  • Media and packaging design
  • Market research and analysis
  • Industrial design
  • Toy design studies
  • Professional studies and industry experience
  • Live design projects
  • New media culture
  • Games art
  • Motion graphics
  • Drawing and sketching techniques
  • Green design
  • Toy safety legislation

Some career possibilities

Graduates from toy design courses may wish to pursue careers as freelance toy designers or to work within a large toy company. Alternatively many graduates find employment in related industries such as graphic design, illustration, product and packaging design or advertising. There may also be opportunities within the more legal and legislative side such as trading standards or health and safety.

What do I need to get on a course?

The entry requirements only vary very slightly so the list below will give you a good indication of the type of qualifications and grades that you may need. However, make sure that you check the entry requirements with the institutions that you wish to apply to before submitting your application:

  • UCAS Tariff: 200-240 points
  • A-levels: DDC-CCC
  • SQA Advanced Highers: DDC-CCC
  • BTEC National Diploma: MMM in a relevant creative subject
  • Art Foundation Diploma
  • Portfolio
  • Interview

For your application or interview the following may be useful:

  • Further information on the creative industries is available from The Chartered Society of Designers
  • A good portfolio may be required. This should include designs and photographs of finished pieces that you have produced as part of previous study and in your own time. You should be able to discuss each piece with confidence at your interview

To find out more about the typical subjects you will study, potential career paths and further information useful for your application log-on to Course Discover at*

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