Sometimes Designers have to Wear their Sales Hat!

Sometimes as a Designer you have to wear your Sales hat! When I moved to Cleveland 5 years ago to lead Faber-Castell Creativity for Kids Product Development and Creativity Center, one of the first memberships I signed up for was Cleveland Museum of Art. 

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Upon visiting the gift shop, I discovered there was NOT ONE PRODUCT in the store from the Faber/Creativity house of brands. How could that be? I had a conversation with the manager and took her card, let her know that she was missing out on featuring some amazing products from brands in the museum’s back yard. I passed the sales manager’s business card along to the sales department at the company and asked why in the heck didn’t we have a relationship with the museum? 

Craftivity AromaJewels at the Cleveland Museum of Art

Craftivity AromaJewels at the Cleveland Museum of Art

Last week I visited the museum store for the first time in a while during my visit to see the Georgia Okeefe exhibition to find several products from the company FINALLY! It’s about time! Glad to know that I helped to increase the visibility for the brand at this phenomenal Cleveland arts institution. #Craftivity #CreativityForKids #FaberCastell  #Smithsonian #SparkLab #sales

Product Design & Development Customer Insight Sessions

Product development and design is ALWAYS about consumer insights. Decisions should never solely be based on “gut”. Engaging with your customer and consumer, getting product prototypes in their hands saves you costly mistakes of bad product launches. Consumer insight sessions DON’T have to be expensive.

The newly designed modular space at the Faber-Castell Creativity for Kids offices was ideal for onsite insight sessions. If you aren’t engaging your product team in consumer-centric research you are missing a huge opportunity.

Kid’s Focus Group Table Station

Kid’s Focus Group Table Station

Focus group participant paperwork and “Creative Council” opt-in. (Cultivating a local group of invitation-only consumers to interact with product development and design teams)

Focus group participant paperwork and “Creative Council” opt-in. (Cultivating a local group of invitation-only consumers to interact with product development and design teams)

Developing a Consumer Product Brand that was inspired by a Vintage Shoppe

As creatives we have to tell our stories, because frequently they are erased and forgotten.

I went to high school in Montclair New Jersey, and would often frequent the shops that lined Bloomfield Avenue after school. During my leadership at @eksuccessbrands a huge part of my responsibilities were to identify new concepts as a part of the new product development process. I would often visit Manhattan to find new things in the shops on Madison avenue and #Soho, but I’d often frequent a small curious vintage shop named @parcel_vintage. It was a mix of items you’d find in a vintage antique shop and a curious assortment of newly acquired stationery bits and pieces.

I would often spend a good amount of my development budget on samples purchased from Parcel (who often re-sold curious vintage paper goods found in basements and estate sales) to inspire the creative process for development projects at EKSuccessBrands. Eventually I made a proposal to the shops owner #about a licensing partnership.

I developed a brand and concept inspired by the @PArcel experience which has taken its twists and turns, the shop has since moved to the other side of Bloomfield avenue and has launched their own brand separate from the initial EK Success Brands licensed project.

Typesetting Decisions!

Typesetting Decisions!

The shop’s logo has evolved but I remember the initial debate on type setting and settling on the current font. . When your inspiration and trend seeking inspires a partnership and launches a consumer product brand. #trendhunting #trendshopping #licensing #antiques #stationery #stationary #vintage #montclairnj #montclair #NJ #EKSuccess #CreativeDirector #Parcel

Did you know? I'm the inventor of 3D Dots™ Making Dimension Easier for Artists & Makers!

Hey Hey! I developed 3-D Dots™ over 10 years ago as a solution to add volume to paper and art projects. It’s now a common item in the general adhesives category and can be found under several brand names…..even 3M! (But I was FIRST! 😃) #Inventor #designer

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Translating a Museum Experience into a Consumer Product - Smithsonian Lemelson Centers Spark Lab

Translating a Museum Experience into Consumer Product - Smithsonian Lemelson Center’ Spark Lab

During the data collection phase of the Smithsonian Spark lab Invention Kits developed for Faber-Castell, Creativity for Kids, I visited the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation with the goal of creative ethnographic research at the centers Spark Lab. 

The Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation

The Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation

( Spark!Lab is where museum visitors become inventors. The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation invites children between the ages of 6 and 12 to create, collaborate, explore, test, experiment, and invent. Activities for children and families incorporate traditional science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with art, museum, and creativity.) 

I would spend time observing the exhibitions visitors, who were families of small children with parents or guardians, who moved through the self-guided activities. Each station presented the opportunity for a child to engage in a stage of the invention process.

The goal for the product development team was how to best represent this exhibition as a boxed STEM activity. As the exhibition had no plug-and-play style guide, my team would need to develop the brand style guide and packaging systems which would capture the aesthetics. The time spent in the space during this visit provided the content for the team to kick off the ideation process.

The program’s goal was to feature several skus for a strong planogram presence, and this initial visit was the beginning of the process to determine how many SKUS was the right balance to represent the experience and fulfill the requirements of the licensing agreement that we needed to structure. 

The end result was a program featuring 8 STEM / STEAM Activity Kits.

Concept pitch of Spark Lab to Buyers at Dallas Toy Preview

Concept pitch of Spark Lab to Buyers at Dallas Toy Preview

Handmade Box Prototypes and product samples - first presentation of concepts to Buyers at the Dallas Toy Preview

Handmade Box Prototypes and product samples - first presentation of concepts to Buyers at the Dallas Toy Preview




















DIY Crafting That's IRL and Insta-Worthy

Excerpt from Article: “ The tween scene is all about “in real life” crafting that’s cool, collectible and ready to share.” - By Pamela Brill

No matter whether your store carries toys or gifts, you know the challenges of catering to the tween demographic. Sometimes, it can feel like trying to sell a toy to any kid older than 8 is like trying to sell ice to an Eskimo.

Blame it on any number of factors: age compression (kids appearing to get older, younger), their constant desire to be digitally connected, fickle buying habits…did we mention too much screen time? It’s enough to make toy buyers and sellers throw their hands up in the air and cry mercy!

And just as important as who is buying the craft kit is who is receiving it; toy designers must tailor their tween selection to a more mature audience. “A tween girl doesn’t want her little sister’s crafts; she wants a much more sophisticated look, something that her little sister would not be interested in,” say Delanie West, vice president of product development, at Faber-Castell USA. “The experience is  ‘graduated’ to more challenging techniques, more steps in the creative process and more of an open-ended feel in the projects to let their creative decisions flourish.”

The CRAFTIVITY Pretty Pendants Aroma Jewelry combines natural fragrance oils with beads to create scented jewelry. $20. Creativity for Kids/Faber-Castell USA. Craftivity.com

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Insta-Worthy?

As craft kit manufacturers develop lines for tweens, they must determine what role, if any, the integration of technology will play in design or promotions. For Faber-Castell USA’s Creativity for Kids brand, the company looks to social media for inspiration for its product and packaging, specifically Instagram Top Down positioning that presents a bird’s eye view. “By presenting some product photography using that subtle photography angle, we are speaking to (tweens) in the way they engage with imagery on Instagram,” say West.

Does your creative department REALLY have the tools that they need?

Does your creative department REALLY have the tools that they need?


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When I accepted the position to lead a creative team for a 250-year-old brand, I was shocked to see that the company's designers were using a standard 11'/11'x17 printer for presentations and product mockups.

If you're in the consumer product development business, you'll know this means that to create a product packaging mockup, a designer has to print out a packaging or other layout on several 11'x17' sized tiled sheets, and painstakingly glue them together.

No creative department should have to do this. It presents your product presentations and sales materials in the most pedestrian manner.

One of the first improvements I made was to budget for a #Epson wide format printer, which was a time saver and allowed for the creation of excellent quality mockups, gloss and matte printing. Printing on adhesive paper (eliminating the need for dangerous spray mounting), and saving the business on the cost of super expensive large format printing at Kinkos and print houses. This group could finally present top quality comps.

Are you certain your creative team has the tools they need for your brand to be successful? Have you asked them what they need?

I’m giving you recommendations on the top 3 tools you MUST secure for your creative consumer product art team.

3 MUST haves for all creative consumer product art departments.

#productdevelopment #prototypes #mockups #creativeteams

Product Development Sneak Preview

It’s a good idea to give the entire company a “sneak preview” of what’s in the pipeline. Sharing some images from one of the last product previews that product development presented for the entire company. Lots of Q&A’s, and it gave developers and designers the chance to practice the pitch before any trade shows or engagement video filming.

This is a fantastic way to include employees who may never be this close to the development process.

Team engagement is where it’s at - get the entire company involved in your PD process!

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How to train your brain to be more creative?

A few ways to train your brain to make new connections (creative thinking).

  1. Disrupt Your Schedule Disrupt your normal routine. Pick a week and discover a new route to the office each day, you'll open up your creative capacity.

  2. Do Nothing Make a point to schedule free time to relax and do nothing, under-scheduled minds have time to dream.

  3. Don’t be Afraid to Screw Up Don't be afraid to make mistakes, it activates a most engaging form of learning (creative problem solving) you'll find ways to make other choices that perhaps are more efficient than the tries that were "errors".

  4. Search for New Things Creative people love to forage for new things. They don't like perfect experiences that are curated. Engage in the work of making new connections and discoveries on your own.

Train Your Brain to Be More Creative