Many of our customers have worked with us after working with another toy company. Without a true artistic designer working to communicate your vision to the factory, you’re likely to end up with subpar design and materials.
When designing our first plush, we made this mistake. We worked with a company who is known as a (if not the) leader in plush toy design and manufacturing. However, they paid minimal attention and acted only as a facilitator. They simply sent our drawings on to the factory, without assisting in the communication of the design, the myriad of details, the importance of high-quality materials, or stepping in with the expert knowledge of having been through this process many times.
Here’s How it Went
We have seen from many others that this is typical (and that there are even worse experiences out there.)
Most people start out with an image. This is ours.
We were paired with a graphic artist who turned the drawing into something that looks more polished, that can be turned into a stuffed toy.
We went through a few iterations and were pretty happy with this one at the time. A lot has changed along the way, but it’s the basis of our doll today.
This is the picture that went to the factory. (We instructed them that we want blue instead of green.)
When we received pictures of our first prototype, we were disappointed.
It’s fine right?. But we knew we didn’t like it, but we had no idea how to tell them how to fix it.
We tried. We sent images of other dolls we liked. We described the changes we wanted to be made. We received this:
Again, we weren’t sure what to change, we just knew we didn’t like it. We made suggestions. We sent in more images of other plush dolls we liked. Finally, we received this:
Here’s the thing. These dolls do look a lot like the picture that we started with.
Someone at a factory in must have been like, “YES, this looks exactly like what they want!“
And we were like, “Ugh, that’s just not something we can be proud of.“
It was getting worse, not better. It felt like we were taking shots in the dark. And we had nobody jumping in on our behalf to help get it back on track.
Rather, at any point in the process, everybody else involved would have been perfectly happy to move forward. All we had to do was say, “fine, this is as good as it gets.”
At some point, we feel like we’re being too difficult, or it’s just not possible. Which felt like what they were all waiting for, even counting on.
(Spoiler alert: IT IS POSSIBLE!)
They just don’t have the same caring and passion that we did and we couldn’t bridge that gap.
This went on for months and months.
What was wrong?
First, you can’t just turn a 2D drawing into a 3D plush toy without addressing dozens of details.
The prototyping people at factories are very good at what they do. But their goals don’t align with yours. They’re trying to match a specification to get to “good enough” in the least amount of time.
They don’t share your love and passion or even have the context to get there.
They literally have a 2D drawing. How could they?
Most importantly, they don’t know how to give something that “It Factor” or “X-Factor” that Simon Cowell often talks about on shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent. They can’t really. It goes so much deeper than being able to copy a drawing. It’s art. It’s culture. It’s having seen a lifetime of wonderful, adorable, soft plush dolls in real life and all the books, movies, and drawings that they were based on.
It’s not something you can describe. You just know know it when you see it.
We inherently knew this, but we couldn’t convey this to anybody involved and it was very frustrating!
We were at a loss
At this point, we nearly gave up. We thought we would have to accept trying to market a doll we were embarrassed to show our friends.
But then, we learned the magic of involving an artist and designer. She talked to us, looked at the original art, looked at the prototypes and said, “oh, these are awful. I can fix this.” She took charge of the creative process, made her own suggestions and design changes based on her experience.
Stuff like, “I love the way the sleeves go over the hands!”, “How about shiny fabric for shoes?”, we need the arms and legs to fall perfectly”, “how about a cute button nose?”, and “Let’s try this star fabric that I’ve seen.”
There were so many little details that she paid attention to that nobody else would. It would have been impossible to convey or even conceive of all these things. There were dozens of these details that we talked about with her.
And here is the prototype we ended up with in our hands to hold! We were so happy we nearly cried.
On to the Factory
At this point, it’s not over yet. We still need the factory to be able to create their own prototype that they can replicate thousands of times cost effectively. Fortunately the doll was designed with this in mind, with all of the elements designed in a way that can be mass-produced.
This was their first attempt at recreating the doll:
They were close, but they didn’t quite get it right in so many little ways. Again, without someone on our side who knew the ins and outs of this process, we would have been back in the same situation where we just weren’t happy. We needed someone who knew what’s possible in manufacturing plushies, the techniques, fabrics, someone who wouldn’t settle for just okay. Because understand, everybody else just wants to be done with the project.
With the intervention and guidance of a designer, they were able to perfectly re-create our doll:
The doll on the left is the factory prototype. The doll on the right is the custom doll designed by our artist. We did have to make some compromises based on fabric availability, which is why the shoes aren’t exact, but you can barely tell the difference!
This is what we will do for you
We will guide you through the entire process of getting your plush toy created.
Additionally, what we uniquely bring to you is the caring and unwillingness to settle for just good enough. Without someone to adopt and communicate your vision, you are likely to end up with a plush you are embarrassed to show your friends.
We’re here to make sure that never happens and that you get a toy that makes you proud.