Last Saturday's BODW lead-up seminar: How a simple pen jump-started a company's sales and up-market
Three years ago, the designer was approached by Huzi founder Cindy Ng. She asked him whether he could design a few luxury children's toys for her new company, and he happily obliged.
Mak whipped up a set of toy cars made of walnut, beech and poplar wood. I examined one shaped like a Jeep, pulling it apart and re-assembling it—the quality of the craftsmanship makes it easy to understand why parents pay top dollar for this luxe toy. The bottom half of the toy displays the natural grain of the wood, with carefully sanded mini-wheels attached to it. Attached to the lower half with magnets, the top part of the car is hefty, weighing about the same as a small brick, and coated with black, stain-resistant paint. Kids are encouraged to use the accompanying chalk to draw sketches on this easy-to-clean surface.
The toy cars are selling so well that there is a spin-off product in the works: this fall, Mak is launching mini versions of the cars, but instead of black, they'll come in a variety of fun colours.
Mak says his designs are influenced by memories of his childhood. He says, "The toys I make are drawn from my own user experience; as a kid, I had a bunch of toy cars, such as remote control cars and Hot Wheels. There are so many memories there. We [Huzi] provide a platform to play." Mak adds that he designs his toys with family lifestyles in mind. One of his favourite products, a kid-sized ping pong table that also has a doodle-friendly, stain-resistant surface, is meant to be used as a coffee table by parents while their little ones aren't sketching or playing table tennis on it.
Another product developer, Pinky Wan, discussed how her minimalist designs jump-started her career at ten Design Stationery. A couple years back, Wan was newly graduated and trying to fit into her brand-new gig as a product designer at Ten Design. Her first invention, a simple swivel-to-open pen inspired by classic Japanese stationery culture won a handful of prestigious awards including the Good Design Award and the Reddot Design Award. When you're fresh meat in a hyper-competitive industry and you outperform industry vets for top-shelf design accolades, it's not really surprising that media outlets start buzzing about your work.
According to Wan and ten Design's marketing officer Paul Poon, the extra amounts of publicity led to many more deals with retailers and e-tailers. Presently, the stationery line is doing so well it's even carried at American office supply mega-chain Staples.
Wan says she is very grateful for the success achieved so early in her career, since it afforded the company so many opportunities. She says, "Our company just started four years ago, and the first pen gained recognition from the public. I enjoy having a lot of freedom to explore creative design."
When asked who she looks up to as a design role model, Wan said she looks up to MUJI designer Naoto Fukasawa and his clean, minimal aesthetic. Based on last month's lead-up seminar (in which the renowned Japanese designer discussed his creative process), I guess great minds think alike!
Did you know these mini-design seminars are FREE?
If you want to check out the upcoming seminars, they're only an hour long and held at popular shopping destination Hysan Place, inside the Eslite bookshop. For more info, visit: bodw.com