Project: Product Concept Development and Design
Services Provided: Brand Strategy, Naming and Copywriting, Design of Identity, Product, Packaging, Presentation
ello was a construction toy that I had designed with the intention of attracting girls to construction play. Getting girls involved with construction play was particularly important to Ivy Ross who headed Mattel’s Creative Division. She announced this goal during the time I was a Creative Director for Barbie Packaging.
I conceived ello while participating in the workshop Ivy had created with the purpose of exploring the subject of girls and construction play. The workshop featured a variety of studies, lectures and observations of girls at play. There was a broad range of participants in the workshop from different departments of the company. After studies and research all of us split up to develop some ideas for the ideal construction toy for girls. Some people grouped together and some worked independently as I did.
Once everyone’s individual concepts were ready to be presented we went through a long series of reviews and tests. The concept I created went through a barrage of testing along with other concepts created by other individuals and teams. ello (not the name at the time) tested highest with both girls and, perhaps more importantly, their mothers. So my concept was chosen to be developed. I was immediately thrust into a 24/7 life of ello. I developed the final concept to be presented to Mattel’s Marketing executives and our President. I worked closely with engineers Jim Mills-Winkler and Armin Danielian to perfect the function of the toy.
I created the concept pitch book (shown above) to introduce my design of the toy to the marketing teams and executive levels of Mattel. The book included the philosophy and the research information on girl’s unique approach to building. The live presentation contained so much detail and information, I wanted the book to continue to communicate the concept long after the audience had left the room.
The under-lying purpose of the book and everything in it, for me, had another important purpose. Mattel’s development process at the time really excluded to creators from the development of the final toy. The marketing groups were more accustomed to driving proven existing brands but not so successful at generating new brands. A new concept, especially a complex one such as ello, really demanded an unwavering focused vision. In this case it was essential that my team and I take ownership of the entire brand and execution of the concept.
Due to my experience in graphic design, branding and packaging I naturally felt compelled to conceive the name, design the logo, branding, as well as complete merchandising and packaging recommendations.
The concept was well-received and “green-lighted” for production.
I suddenly was then involved in all aspects of development; naming, logo design, all parts, packaging, illustration, photography, styling, showroom, collateral, really …just about everything.
This also included involvement in the creation of the “sizzle” video (shown below), directed by Scott Kennedy. The video was presented to launch the toy at Toy Fair. It communicates the concept well and was, for me, the best interpretation of my intent for brand image before it was handed over to Marketing to develop the TV spots.
All this was happening while I was maintaining my job as Creative Director for Barbie for about 6 months. Exhausted, I finally was able to bring designer Stella Jung on board to work on product development with me as I transitioned out of Barbie and on to ello full-time. I then hired builder/inventor James Molina to round out our little team of three.
The success of ello had set a precedent for the development concept of “off-line” product development… i.e. engaging employees from different departments outside of product development to diversify the creative development process. It was a precursor and model for Ivy Ross’ Project Platypus (a Mattel in-house “think tank”).
Having worked for a number of large corporations in a creative capacity, the fact that this concept moved from idea to store shelves with so little diversion from the original design was with out question, nothing short of a miracle. Of anything I’ve had the pleasure to create, ello is by far the most personal and rewarding project of my design career …so far.