China Counterfeits & Knock-Offs

During my last visit to China to tour factories for a client, I stumbled upon this disembowled Sequin Pet in their showroom.

Clear that this vendor purchased a sample, and dissected it to understand the design. I’m more than certain this vendor also prepared a “copy”.  They were slightly mortified when I shared with them that I was the original creator.  

Not only did this vendor copy this particular design, but they had copied a wide assortment of products developed by my former PD team at Faber-Castell Creativity for Kids. Disheartening but a fact of PD and Design. Unless a brand is actively defending IP, expect to see brilliant design copied, and copied fast.


Sharpening Creative Leadership Skills

From my personal office library, books on leadership.

From my personal office library, books on leadership.

What personal investment do you make in leadership and creative growth? In effort to make sure I continue to build my skills, I enrolled in leadership coursework at University of Michigan via Coursera.

One of the final course exercises was to identify the "why" of what I do in my creative business role of creative leadership. It was a solid exercise and my classmates had good critique for my below submission:

Questions 1 - 3

1. As designers and developers, why do we do what we do?

2. What does success look like?

3. How must we act to ensure success?

My Answers:

A 1. We create products and product experiences for consumers so that they may experience the joys of visual creative activities. We wish to give them the foundation in tools, materials and knowledge in order to continually learn and grow their creative techniques.

A 2. Consumers who are continually building on their skill bases, and experiencing graduated degrees of art and creative knowledge. They are happy with their accomplishments and are confident in continuing their creative journey. Our company is credited with giving them this amazing experience.

A 3. We must continue to serve the customer’s need for new experiences and great products. We must continue to ask if our process is serving them well.

This exercise I'll definitely take with me in my next project challenge. 

Excerpt from: Loadstar Leadership: A Product Development and Designer's Notebook © 2018 Delanie West

Racial Stereotypes in Play Patterns

The past few weeks, I have been researching the design & engineering for children’s paper play patterns and stumbled on several paper doll sets, I certainly didn't expect to find this. The oldest date cited was 1911 for McCall’s Magazine, but I am certain some of these are older.

I knew about tones of racism embedded in children’s cartoons, but never considered racist stereotypes folded into children’s play patterns. I couldn’t help but to think of what child these paper designs were created for. Were these developed for black children? Did the illustrator draw what the art director outlined for the project, did the creative include their own cultural and social influences in the work? Did designers ever consider the impact of their designwork?

The “paper wardrobes” for the majority of dolls were all service outfits. The accessories were housekeeping, childcare and cooking themes. Aunt Dinah, featured accouterments of the classic Mammy trope.

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Aunt Dinah, the colored cook paper doll.

Aunt Dinah, the colored cook paper doll.

One of the paper sets feature a black paper doll that, not given outfit options, she seems to be the “accessory” to the baby she was caring for (there were toys, and outfit changes for the baby only - not the woman - who is usually the feature of the play pattern for paper dolls ).

The “feature” doll is actually the accessory.

The “feature” doll is actually the accessory.

In another, the illustrations featured an alligator, an elephant and a black girl toddler (Svarta Nelly) in blackface. These caricature “dolls” each had a wardrobe of accessories. The alligator, elephant and Svarta Nelly, all illustrated caricatures to inspire imaginative play, I don’t think Svarta was thought of as a human.

Svarta Nelly

Svarta Nelly

One of the collections features a woman in blackface in profile, overweight in slip undergarment and striped stockings and on her feet, what looks to be a man’s style of shoe ( illustrated with exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others ) She is not glamorous, she is not high heeled, but she will be well-dressed when the clothing options are folded over her frame, she was given gloves, hats, fur-trimmed jackets. I don’t quite understand this one.

Well dressed but not well-heeled?

Well dressed but not well-heeled?

Another set (Jane Arden's Wardrobe) includes a black woman (Effie) with exaggerated lips and natural braided hair. She comes complete with 3 service outfits (Formal, Nursery and Cleaning) and one church outfit (complete with a bible in hand). If you search for other Jane Arden’s Wardrobe designs you’ll see the difference between Effie and all of the other fantasy subjects and their “wardrobes”.

Google Jane Arden’s Wardrobe images to see the stark contrast.

Google Jane Arden’s Wardrobe images to see the stark contrast.

And I have SO many questions. How did our parents and grandparents navigate these toys? Were these purchased for black children? How did these toys make children feel? The cues in the play patterns shaped how children viewed themselves and their mothers, aunts, grandmothers & sisters.

When your only options as a child to “play pretend” were as a maid, or nanny or cook, how did they dream to be different? When and how did toy design begin to evolve?

( Great information on the private collection of Arabella Grayson here)

Mandala Art Therapy

Mandala Art Therapy - a new product experience via inspiration and call-to-creation packaging Product development doesn’t always require you to create new products, often great new products are a presentation of new experiences using existing products.

A primary responsibility as VP of Product Development and Design at Faber-Castell was developing new-to-the-world products but also presenting new experiences for the 256-year-old brands’ existing product. For the Mandala Pitt Pen Set, the goal was to inspire consumers to experience Faber-Castell Pitt pens in a casual, non-technical way.

This collection of pens, already existing in the brand’s product pipeline, required inspiration in form of packaging inviting (call-to-create) the consumer to experience the therapeutic process of mandala making. To make the experience easy, and to add value - stencils are included. The art of creating Mandalas is proven to be therapeutic “Mandalas can be an excellent art therapy intervention for both children and adults.”

I am available for new product development and product development solutions for your branded or private label line. 

At Age 11 I launched my First Toy & Craft Business - Kid Entrepreneur Selling Craft Kits in the early 80’s 

I like to say there are three categories in the craft business: Do it Yourself, Do it With Me and Do It For Me  In the early 80’s I was in the "Do it For Me" Business.

Id' say "architect" when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. The next best thing when you're 9 is assembling dollhouses. There weren’t many open-ended or even guided craft experiences for kids, nothing like the selections in the market today. Ma and Pa hobby shops sold dollhouses for girls, and model car and truck sets for boys, oh and latch hook kits, that was pretty much it. I couldn’t get enough of this DIY stuff, as many dollhouses, model car sets and latch hook kits as my mother would buy, I’d assemble. Mom told me she refused to allow me to be bored as a kid, I was always crafting, assembling and making.

I officially launched my first DIY Craft Company in 1985. I was CEO, Sales, Designer, Production, Quality Assurance, Shipping and Ad Agency. I kept my operating costs down.😂

"Story Book Cottage Dolls Houses by Dell" ( Even as a kid was branding and selling ) 
My tagline was “Great Gift for all Ages! Years of Enjoyment! What kid thinks about this kind of stuff??? Who was I?? 

"Fully assembled and furnished for 53.00 USD."  The lead time was two weeks. My factory was in my bedroom. I apparently controlled costs by limiting the choice of paint color. 😭 Customers could order a fully customized dollhouse, complete with flowers, a captains’ bed, 2  lounge chairs, coffee table, curio cabinets, table and 4 chairs. 

Storybook Cottage Dollhouse - Greenleaf Dollhouse

Storybook Cottage Dollhouse - Greenleaf Dollhouse

My Sell Sheet - Mom never throws anything away so I have the receipts.

My Sell Sheet - Mom never throws anything away so I have the receipts.

Back when # meant NUMBER! Can you imagine #hashtagging a phone number 😱

Back when # meant NUMBER! Can you imagine #hashtagging a phone number 😱

Dollhouses were (and still are) sold in flat pack boxes, the customer assembled the house and the furniture. This was the part I LOVED.  Someone from my church who knew of my hobby asked me to build one for their kid. I had my first customer. 🎯

I designed (typed) my own sell sheet, samples, pricing list and order form (with up-sell options). My customers could order the ultimate in luxury options, they could select house, trim and shingle paint color. For an additional charge - they could have carpet, curtains, wallpaper, an entire dollhouse family, and whatever "miscellaneous fixtures and furnishings" were. If you wanted to place an order, you filled out the form, called me on the house phone, and paid a deposit. My receipt was on the sell sheet. 

I loved miniatures, and almost 15 years later, I had the opportunity to think in miniature once again as designer and developer for Stickopotamus and later on, Jolee’s sticker line, the first three-dimensional sticker (which rose sticker price points from .99 upwards to 4.99). Thinking in miniature was THE perfect creative process prep for illustration for sticker design. My love of small tiny things was the impetus behind the endless options and line extensions for those enormously successful brands. The DIY in-a-box assembly aspect helped me in my role as VP for the Creativity for Kids brand. Greenleaf Dollhouse influenced many of the creative things loved and created as a product designer. Today you are able to purchase this exact Dollhouse Kit online from $33.00 to $200.00. 

With many years in the art, toy craft business, only this past week did I remember my early venture into the craft business, how could I ever forget that? 😏




What a Vice President of Product Development and Creative for a multi-National Brand Does.

I’m always asked, what a VP of Product Development and Creative for a multi-national brand does?

I’ll share one of the many tasks I enjoyed most, Creative Direction: I’ve written, edited & directed content for a number of #DIY #HOWTO art and creative books & kits. Planning, styling step-by-step images and three language translations. Ensuring a rewarding customer experience and they finish feeling as if they are Basquiat or Picasso.

Most importantly I’ve mentored and shared all these skills with jr. development and design colleagues which makes for a much stronger business unit.



Book projects featured are for Faber-Castell 

4 Steps to Identifying the White Space in Your Market

  1. What do you sell, or what service do you offer? Make this clear to your teams, your customers and to your consumers. 

  2. Who's your target consumer - focus on the niche, you can't be all things to all markets and consumers. Apply a laser focus.

  3. Leverage your core competencies - do what you do best.

  4. Leg up - what's your competitive advantage? Identify it.

Delanie West on identifying White Space

Creative Keys x Delanie West x BeSuperCreative: How Baking & Starbucks influenced Mixed Media Product Development Ideas

Sharing some of my product legacies: These were both fun projects!

Texture Cards were inspired by both my standing in line at Starbucks viewing the beautiful artwork on the gift cards at the register and my love of baking and all of the clever texture & pastry brushes offered to add detail to cakes and sauces. With the growing popularity of artist textures for the mixed media consumer, I wanted to present an inexpensive solution for mixed media artists to manipulate their texture of choice. 

Texture Luxe, also an answer for a luxurious texture experience for the mixed media artist. It was developed in three colorways: Silver, Gold, and Pearlescent. 

Texture Luxe Gel Medium Whipped Spackle, Gelatos and Texture Cards
Silver Texture Luxe & Texture Cards
Texture Luxe and Texture Cards
Unprinted first samples for approval.

Creative Keys x Delanie West x BeSuperCreative: Vision Boards - Creative Direction - Product Development & Design

This was an interesting project. All the materials were included to create your custom vision board and help you visualize and your goals! Learn how to create vision boards that are both beautiful and inspirational #Visionboard with #design_memory_craft #Vision Board kit! (Instructional kit, fabric planning board, pens, #listing sheets and embellishments)


The Creative Keys X Delanie West X BeSuperCreative: The Power Practices of The Super Creative

Being Super Creative is a process of thought and a manner of being. Super Creatives often visualize complex results before taking action to solve the problem. They are more apt to diverge from the standard script; they know there is a better, fresher, more efficient way to get results. They like a challenge and prefer originality. They write their own rules. They live these principles at work, home, and during the must mundane of tasks. Being super creative has a lot to do with being painfully efficient but with purpose. Nothing associated with super creativity is accidental. Friends and associates sometimes think these people are “extra,” but they nevertheless seek them out often for advice and leadership.

I live and identify with the practices of Super Creatives, and I’ve sharpened these skills growing up in a uniquely Super Creative household as well as naturally being drawn to other Super Creative souls. Without realizing, I’ve used these principles to challenge norms and present fresh perspectives. I am always processing multiple outcomes and solutions when problem-solving. This way of living has contributed to my success in innovative product and brand development. It’s helped me do everything from think of more efficient ways to organize my closet to find ways to book the cheapest airline ticket. It’s often allowed me to ask, “why not?”

Here are a few aspects you’ll find to be true of most Super Creative people:

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They Move Among Excellence. Super Creatives accessorize their lives expertly. We network and connect with those who are all-around excellent and seek and keep quality company. Your associates are your influencers. Super Creative people commune with the best because they know that iron sharpens iron. Keep a brilliant circle. Edit your social ecosystem often, and categorize your connections. Create your mental filing system: those who are engaged and interested; the barterer; the take-but-don’t-givers; the passive; the social climbers, and users. Open files as needed.

They Adopt Early. Super Creatives know about the evolving trends before anyone else does. They’re usually responsible for birthing and evolving them. Make it your priority to be in the know. Super Creatives are early adopters and move through challenging learning curves with comfort. They like the challenge of newness and the uncertainty of the unfamiliar — these qualities keep them thinking and fresh. By the time the majority are in the know, it’s usually old news for the creative.

They Don’t Ignore Pop Culture. Super Creatives never take the position of believing that common culture is irrelevant, beneath, beyond, or outside of their realm of understanding or tolerance. Fascinating observations and patterns can be identified from understanding pockets of society. Super Creatives watch, listen, learn, and mimic; they look for patterns of behavior. They’re in constant ethnographic mode. We observe, we’re inspired, and we’re ready to problem-solve or create.

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Super Creatives Take Note. Keep quality writing instruments — pen or pencil, sharpener, eraser, and journal — on your person at all times; you never know when you’ll need to have a fast draw duel with Bansky. Be prepared to record your creative musings at all times, and if and when you have to sign a document, you’ll look super boss.

Become the Jack-of-all-Trades: Master The Ones That Count. Super Creatives learn it all and do it well. We stay curious. Today’s creatives are expected to blend skill sets effortlessly. If you don’t know how to do a certain something, Google it. When Super Creatives need to know more about “it,” they invest more time and effort to master it. With the accessibility of information today, there aren’t any more excuses. Super Creatives may not be an EXPERT at everything, however they are curious enough to engage and learn broadly. Imbibe information and the unfamiliar. 

Cultivate a Circle of Culture: Be Socially & Globally Diverse. Super Creatives value culture. Develop friendships with interesting humans from around the globe who live lives that are unlike your own. Via your relationships with them, the way in which you see the world will forever be unique. I have a few great friends who live in Taiwan…I can’t read many of their Mandarin posts on social media, but from viewing their personal photo journeys, I’ve received great non-American perspectives. Those friends will make your life that much richer. Super Creatives have global social ecosystems. We love culture and understand the value of learning new ways of seeing.

Experience Life. Super Creatives always deviate from the standard script and schedule for the more interesting option. If you have a chance to do something amazing, don’t second-guess: do it. Book that last-minute flight, plan a visit on a whim, jump out of that Piper with a parachute. You live once and will never get that exact moment back again.

Be Classic. Super Creatives cultivate all things owned, worn, consumed, and loved. The things they spend time with are selected with care. Objects influence. Be influenced by good design and well-planned artifacts — this of course applies to good souls. The things you choose should be of value to you and last forever. People should leave positive lasting impressions.

Take it Light. My Dad used to say “Take it Light,” a ’70s phrase that I interpreted as travel light, which allows one to travel further. Don’t allow objects and clutter to occupy your physical space and your thoughts. Get rid of the heavy. Think light, live clear. Allow for more capacity to problem-solve and create.

Burn Bridges. Forget not burning bridges. If you must, the London, Brooklyn, and Golden Gate can all go down in flames. I question the notion that you have to preserve meaningless or BS relationships. Why waste your bandwidth on a meaningless connection? Burn it. You don't have to go out of your way to sabotage a draining, all-take-no-reciprocate relationship, but you also don’t need to spend any time nurturing a deemed-to-be-dead connection. Sometimes it’s as simple as not returning a text or DM. Save your energy for relationships that yield strong, purposed bounty. Often the fuel from that fire makes your pathway brighter.


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Super Creatives Push Boundaries and Norms. Be the ignition. Be the instigator. Disrupt group think. Find another path to the solution. Be Original and Fresh.

Delanie West is a product developer and designer specializing in creative team management.