Saturday, March 27, 2010

sketchatoy podcast (portfolio discussion)

sketchatoy podcast one (1/2) from sketchatoy on Vimeo.

sketchatoy podcast one (2/2) from sketchatoy on Vimeo.

Greatest Business card EVER!
American Psycho
NDA agreement

Also I stand corrected. In the do's section I say that you cannot create a multi-page PDF presentation from Photoshop. Allow me to apologize to you all because you can. Here is a link showing how to do it.

That being said I still endorse InDesing since A. the program is for multi-page documents; and B. exporting a multi-page PDF is much easier, you simple click export, then PDF.

Now for the list you can print!

I have spent the last few days hitting the internet hard as well as asking coworkers of mine what they look for in a portfolio when hiring or things they learned in past job hunts. From this I've compiled a list of do's and don't's for you all that should be extremely helpful. If any of you have some input please leave comments, we need some discussion on this topic.

Portfolio Don'ts

1. Ambiguity with how you present your work
Try too keep your portfolio clear and concise. A confusing layout or misleading flow of information only frustrates the viewer and more often than not they will skip right over that piece of work, or in extreme cases your entire portfolio.

2. Over-cramming your pages
Yes there's lots of information to show for each project but spread it out. If you look at a portfolio spread and you think the page looks heavy, it probably is. Break up the information into smaller bits so that it is easier to digest.

3.Less is more
If you think a project doesn't stand up against the rest, or that you could do better, you're probably right. It's best to show a few great pieces than show mediocre filler projects to have a hearty portfolio. You don't want the interviewer to remember the wrong projects.

4. Random clutterPick up a graphic design book and learn the principles of page layout. Improper use of hierarchy can ruin a portfolio. Keep boarders and vignettes to a minimum and make sure they are secondary to the important stuff, i.e. your work. If you have access to a graphic designer, utilize them! Have them critique your portfolio, it's their job and they will make it so much better.

5. Lack of contact information
Make it easy for the potential employer to get in contact with you. Always answer your phone and make sure your voice mail message is appropriate in case you don't answer. Check your e-mail consistently. Don't have a professional sounding e-mail? Create one. A portfolio should be a branding exercise so "infuse your personality into your design". Try to be more creative than John Smith Design e-mail Here are some examples of clever, successful, and creative, self branding.

Fool Proof Art
N. Design Studio

6. Don't lie!
Everyone is going to stretch the truth in their resume and only show the best of their best work in their portfolio, especially after several failed interview attempts. You'll reach that point where you may say anything to land the job. Bad idea! It's always better to not get a job than to be fired from the job you just received because you lied on your resume or there was plagiarism in your portfolio. Lying will set up unrealistic expectations for the employer and burn bridges.

7.The jack of all trades
Make sure to know your strengths and weaknesses and don't underplay your strengths to show how well rounded you are, this will only expose your weaknesses. Yes, it is important to have a wide variety of skills but a company simply wants to know you are capable of a variety of tasks not a master. Make a portfolio that suites your skills, you want to find the company that is the right fit for you and vice-versa so let them know what you favor.

8. Artsy fartsy fluff
A photograph, self portrait, still life, piece of pottery, etc., you did in high school or college, as amazing as it might be, doesn't necessarily support your design skills. If you do have this work and you want your potential employer to see it create a blog or put it on a website then they can choose to view it if they want. If you are actually a talented illustrator/painter then include your work but make sure it is related and reinforces your design skills.

9.Narcissus branding
This means no business cards or no websites with a giant photo of yourself, no using yourself as the main model or test subject for your own products. Some will choose to create an illustration or representation of themselves, this is fine if done right and it's subtle.

10.Research overload.
For most designers research will be secondary for your job. On that note, make sure the level of research in your portfolio is appropriate to the company you are interviewing with. This is connected closely to #1 and # 5 in the portfolio do's section. I would say that a well rounded portfolio in it's entirety for a non research oriented job would be 10% or less research based.

Portfolio Do's

1. Identify your viewer
You must understand who you are interviewing with. Research the company before you show up and familiarize yourself with their product line; if possible learn the names of the people you will be interviewing with and cater your portfolio towards the company. You may be able to sketch, render, and perform all the tasks listed under their job requirements but that doesn't mean you can design for their field and they probably wont hire you on faith.

2.Start and end on a high note
Push your best work to the front to grab the attention of the viewer from the start and end with a bang. If you have a piece that is not particularly strong either remove it or stick it smack in the center. Your first and last piece have the best chance of being remembered so they should always be the strongest.

3. Copy lengthKeep each paragraph as short as possible. When interviewing they are there to hear you explain the project to them, not to read a novel. "It's well-founded, empirical proof that short copy is more likely to be read in its entirety."

4. Share your work
Give your portfolio to as many people as possible and force them to be brutally honest with you. Better to look bad in front of colleagues than during an interview.

5. Multiple portfolios
This ties back into #1 identifying your viewer. You want multiple portfolios that can be reorganized to conform to a companies needs. You can also bring all the portfolios to each interview so if it goes well and they want to see more work, you can let them know you have another portfolio to show but the work is unrelated. This way it's up to the interviewer whether or not they want to see more work and shows you respect their time.

6. Be professional
You want to be taken seriously so take yourself seriously.

7. Adapt
When interviewing, try to remember all the criticism they may have given you. Remember what they loved about your book and what they forgot/hated and update accordingly.

8. Networking.
Opportunities and jobs are gained through simple networking. Find local IDSA chapters and participate. You'll learn something and possibly make a new network. This isn't limited to industrial design events, go to all design related events; illustration, graphic design, animation, you never know who you'll meet so always have contact information with you. (i.e. business card)

A few online communities to network with other creatives.

Behance Network
Deviant Art

9. Memorable teaser.
This is the most important part of your portfolio because this is what gets the company interested in you from the start. The teaser needs to give a taste of who you are and what you are capable of while not giving away your best work; that should be saved for the interview. Be creative, go online and find some cool examples of teasers to use as inspiration. Remember, your portfolio, letter head, mailer, business card and anything else you create for your job hunt is related so it must all work together. This may be your only chance to grab the attention of a potential employer.

10. Process, process, process.
Show how you got from initial inspiration to final product, present your skills to the viewer, but don't overwhelm or bore them. Create a portfolio with a wonderful layout and process that guides the viewer. Process isn't a cover for quality and quality is not a cover for lack of process, you need to balance the two. A project structure in a portfolio should look something like this.

1. Research: Including competitor analysis, ergonomics, inspiration, etc.
2. Ideation; Thumbnails, sketches, refined sketches, etc.
3. Renderings: Photoshop, Illustrator, marker, something to refine the concept.
4. Sketch models: A physical model to test scale, ergonomics, etc.
5. CAD: 3-D model.
6. Prototype: Final stage before production. Show how the product was refined from the sketch models and how you've taken manufacturing considerations to mind
7 Production model: For students this probably won't exist, but if you're a professional, show the final product that went to market.

CitationsSmashing Magazine
Digital Web
Design Sojourn
Nonlinear Creations

Friday, March 26, 2010

Plush Rendering Take Two

sketchatoy twelve from sketchatoy on Vimeo.

As mentioned is sketchatoy ten, there are many, many, ways to render plush. I'm currently working on a little side project and I needed to do a concept rendering to use in a pitch so I saw it as the perfect opportunity for a long over due tutorial!

This technique is very similar but instead of using the grass brush to create your texture, I am using an actual photograph of a texture (in this case fleece) and then using a grass brush eraser to define my edges.

Here is a link to the actual image I used so you can all follow along and experiment for yourselves. Remember, my character is wood so he's all brown hues, but you can make that texture any color you want! So have fun and if any of you do experiment send the results my way and I will post them.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Great find on Toysrevil by one of the readers!

Gatotkaca is the first figurine released by Indonesian studio ProxyFigures. I don't know a thing about Indonesian culture except that my fiancees old roommate was Indonesian and she annoyed the shit out of me. But that is an unrelated story really having nothing to do with Indonesian culture to tell over a drink. :) All I know is that wikipedia tells me that he is a character from an old folklore...please excuse my ignorance.

This figure is pretty cool! It looks hand painted in the photograph there but that may just be a prototype shown at a fair I'm not sure. Hopefully they will improve the quality for the final production. That being said, there will only be 100 released worldwide so if you're a collector grab one up! You can click the link up there ^ for the post on Toysrevil or go to their website to learn more.

The figures look to capture this new trend of angular style happening in the Urban Toy/Illustration field. I know one of the blog contributors goes ape over this style so I'll send it to him and see what he thinks about it.

You know I would like to see some more urban legend/folklore type toys in this style since I too really enjoy it. If anyone has any they know of send them my way and I'll post them all up. Hopefully someone other than Mighty Muggs or Mez-Itz will create some Clash of the Titans urban toys! Even though I admittedly own the two Hellboy Mez-Itz.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gather you sketches!

I will be attending the IDSA Southern District Conference this April from the 9th -11th. If any of you are attending I’d love to meet you. I will be trying to go to as many panels and speakers as possible but since I am being sent to recruit and network, I will be interviewing at both portfolio review sessions. If any of you readers out there are interested in a junior or senior toy design position, or want some freelance working directly with me that involves sketching, illustrations, or CAD work, shoot me an e-mail, and if at all possible come on over to Charlotte NC!

This week I will also finish and post my top 10 do’s and don’ts for successful portfolios. I have researched online, talked to other professionals, and added some of my own thoughts, to create this list for you. Please check back, I know some of you will be graduating this summer and this will be useful!


So I want to apologize to those who check back frequently. I know I have been posting very irregularly and far between but I’m not ignoring you don’t worry. Things are coming to a head at work, we’re coming up on our first line review for 2011 and I’ve had two weeks to concept 17 new toys o_o. Also, I’ve finished moving into my new apartment after this weekend so things should settle back down for me.

On that note, allow me to introduce you all to my new endeavor, Pook-a-looz!

Luckily I was able to find out about these early last year because one of the licenses for the company I work at is Disney so we get insider news. Just yesterday a coworker and I went out and bought up the entire release they had; that would be Mickey, Minnie, Snow White, Dopey, Cheshire Cat, Tinker Bell, and Eeyore. More to come but I am already seeing a great investment for resale. The plush were $12.99 at Toy-r-Us but they’re going fast! The Eeyore was not released at all the Toys-r-Us' but luckily the one in my town had him. Already online some of the harder to find plush are going anywhere from $30-$50. So if you have the chance and you are a collector, get your hands on them because I think these might go somewhere.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Awesome illustrations

Hello everyone, I know it's been a while and I'm sorry! Things have been a little frantic at work since we just kicked off our 2011 product line. That and after being the interviewer at SCAD Atlanta a few weeks back I decided to catch up on my own portfolio since I haven't touched it since school; such a daunting task. I think a post on building a portfolio will be great in the future for students and those professionals who want to stay on top of theirs. Maybe some do's and don't's along with some examples of strong portfolios. I'll start talking to others to get input and create some kind of a list.

Today I was out getting my mind filled with inspiration in some toy stores for this years product launch when I stumbled upon a children's book named Harry and Horsie in Pottery Barn Kids. The illustration style is retro comic book and I freaking love it! It's written by Katie Van Camp an illustrated by Lincoln Agnew. I was not able to find too much work by Lincoln, he has a website but it's still under construction. I just love his style and I'm sure he has some more great work so when I find out more I'll make sure to post again. For now I did find this interview with him from the casual optimist. So stop by and read it!

If any of you are illustration buffs and want some inspiration check it out. Also, there is a donation made with each purchase to
Free the Children, it's an organization that brings healthy drinking water to developing nations. Great art, great cause, you have nothing to lose! My book's already in the mail!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sketch Aerobics One

sketchatoy eleven from sketchatoy on Vimeo.

I'm excited about this one because I find it so helpful! This video was made by Jose Gamboa, creator of the Sketch Aerobics program. Unfortunately the audio didn't work out so I'm speaking for him in the video.

There will be a series of sketch aerobic videos including a live demo whenever I take a trip down to The Savannah College of Art and Design where he is a professor and film one of the demos. In this video he goes through the first 4 exercises. These are warms ups you can do before sketching or in your free time.

Please enjoy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Great find by one of the readers! Please stop by and check out SketchBot. It’s an awesome process blog by character designer and animator Steve Talkowski. He has some amazing models, great CAD work, and some really nice branding.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Joe MacCarthy Feature!

Joe MacCarthy has over fifteen years of experience designing in the fields of children’s toys, marine design, electronics, and most recently game concept design. He has won several awards for his products and continues to bring new ideas to the field of toys. Joe is constantly pushing himself to become a better designer, think even more creatively, and improve his skills while adding some new ones. He’s a graduate from Wisconsin-Stout and it’s my pleasure to bring his knowledge and advice to all of you.

Please stop by his Coroflot to see his professional work ranging from packaging, furniture, bikes, and more, or visit his blog.

1.Welcome to sketchatoy, I’m glad you could join us here so thank you. If you could describe your style and approach to design in three words what would they be?

Not 3 words but here ya go:

1. Openyourf*ckingmind- Really force yourself to think differently. Find the niche in the market to create something special and new. Let your brain flow and your pencil flow freely when laying down some new ideas. Have FUN!

2.Inhale/exhale-Take in all that you know from what is around you (learning from past projects, specific project goals and parameters, cool influential things) , relax, and do a vomit type of a brain dump on paper.

3. Play Well- Being a designer is working on a team. Keep in mind you need to work with people from many different types of backgrounds to make design happen. You really need to listen to other team members and do not try to force your ideas upon others. You never know what will happen to your design seeds that you plant when you expose them to other brilliant minds.

2. Walk us through your design process from thumbnails through to final stages. When do you know you’ve found that final concept to move forward with?

Stage 1 Research/ Define:
There are a few ways I tackle a new toy design at Leapfrog. The first is the team approach. I work with a team of Marketing, Program Management, and Content Design peeps to define an idea for a toy. Once we have defined what this thing might be (cost target, age ranges, product size, general content ideas, and theme) I will start the design process. The second way I will start off “give birth to” a new toy idea is generating ideas that start with me. I can find ideas from a cool product on the market (not typically a toy), from watching my kids play or kids in our play lab, a trip to the museum, or thinking about what I liked as a kid and how that could be updated.

Stage 2 Thumbnail:

Once the idea is generally defined I will start sketching out thumbnails of what this could be. I usually will have reference art on the side of my sketch page to remind me of materials, cool forms, kids the age of that I am designing for, or competitive product that I am trying to deviate from. I sketch mostly on my Cintiq 21UX at work but I also sketch on a sketchbook as well when I am in a meeting that allows me to sketch. I ALWAYS have a sketchbook with me. They are in my car, in my bag, in my office, in my living room, and I need one next to my bed. I get concept art visions all the time and have to jot them down. When I thumbnail sketch I will use different method s of sketching. Scribble sketching is way cool for concept art. You just do random sets of scribbles then take a look at each one and see what you can “read” out of the mess.

3. What does a typical day as a principle designer entail?

My typical day consists of 30% team meetings to go over current or future projects, 40% Design Time and about 30% of my day is just zoning out at the computer monitor. (ok that was ripped from Office Space). Seriously though…the other 30 % could consist of 1 on 1 meetings, perhaps a trip to Target to walk the Toy Isle, looking for inspiration on , a good design Magazine, kid testing, or zoning out at the computer monitor.

4. You are truly passionate about design and spend time outside of work on side projects. Do you find it important to design and draw for yourself?

Hella Yeah! (in Oakland,CA accent) I love creating and designing new things. I still remember as a kid I was always like “Hey Mom, what if….” “Hey Mom, what if…” And my Mom would reply “Would you quit asking me the what if questions!!” I certainly am glad that I didn’t. I find myself always wanting to peek into the future and see what is next. I guess that is why I am always sketching the “What If’s” About 1 year ago I started putting time into doing concept art to develop a gaming portfolio to hone my skills, get faster, and possibly start getting some Gaming Companies interested in my work and get some freelance. Mission accomplished on all levels. Next plan of attack is doing a book of my sketches called “What if?” and send it to my Mom!!

5. You have lots of vehicle concept designs on your blog. Could you talk about how you approach a concept illustration and how it differs from product design?

Concept Art: If I am designing work for my portfolio doing a concept vehicle there are no boundaries! That is what is so fun about it. You can do a series of thumbnails and then look at them and find lots of hidden forms, surfaces and ideas that will amaze you and make you wonder where this stuff comes from. I am excited to see where these designs take me. When I am doing gaming concept art for freelance projects there are a lot of parameters involved but since I am not manufacturing it I am not concerned with safety issues, mechanical engineering issues or cost!!

Product Design: The process for Product design is quite constrained with factors such as limited size, limited cost, limited technology, safety parameters, and taking into account the wishes from other outside forces. One thing you will find when you are a designer and work on a team with other disciplines is that everybody wants to be a designer. In saying that I mean that everybody has their favorite color, everybody likes certain shapes and everybody sees something familiar in your work. In being a designer you need to strive to design something that you believe in and be able to justify what you came up with. Pour the passion in what you do and get into the project enough to have it become a part of you and remember that this project will and can be KILLED at any moment ;)

6. You’ve worked for several toy companies over the years including big names such as Fisher Price and V-Tech, but you’ve also worked in other industries, what is it about toys that keeps drawing you back in?

I love kids!! I actually am kind of a big kid at heart as well. I grew up with 7 kids in my family and during College I worked with kids at YMCA Camp Icaghowan every Summer. Now I have about 14 nephews and nieces to hang out with and I also have 3 kids of my own. I have always loved toys and still buy the cool ones even up to this day. Just ask my full scale Sandtrooper “Sphen” in my living room ;)

7. How has your experience changed throughout your working career and what/who do you feel guided you to become the successful designer you are today?

Experience Changes:
Over the years I have seen the design teams dwindle to about 50% of their original size at the companies I am and have worked at. We are expected to manage a lot more projects with fewer designers. Regarding production a lot of companies are phasing out local USA based Mechanical Designers, Manufacturing Engineers, and other local positions. Now a lot of the ME support is overseas or is done with our selected manufacturers. At work we tend to run faster with projects and once we have a good feel of the directions we jump right into 3D modeling and rapid prototyping. This is done a lot easier these days since the Rapid Prototyping machines are so affordable and our overseas model shop is FAST and they are very cost competitive.

*A prototype toy that is made at a local model shop here is the USA is about 3-4 times more expensive than our Hong Kong model shops.

Man, whew….that is a great question. I will have to say that encouragement from my 6th grade art teacher really had an early and strong impact on me even though I did not realize I did not was going to go into the art and design world until my Sophomore year of College. I also had some great Professors at UW Stout that were pretty tough (Graphic Design, Art History, Manufacturing and Processes, and ID) and I thank them for that HARDASS attitude every day!

8. Is there a product you’ve done past or present that has received an award that you are particularly proud of?

I would have to say that the Scout Line that was just released from Leapfrog would be a recent success that I am proud of. The Scout Line is a tech forward learning line that is features our characters Scout and Violet. I did the Product Design for four of the products in the line so far. They are all performing really well and the Moms really dig it according to the great reviews on Amazon and the fact that “Scribble and Write” is the number one toy in the Preschool Toy Category right now. Go Leapfrog!!!

9. What do you think is most important when designing for a specific age range?

The most important thing is to remember who you are designing for. When you get into the technical, marketing, costing, materials side of things you can forget just who the heck this is for. It is sooooo helpful for me to have kids the age I am designing for at home and also have a whole bunch of them in our play labs here in the office to observe and interact with.

10. You’re currently working at Leapfrog, a company known internationally for their learning toys. How do you cater a design to encourage a developmental milestone and promote learning?

Well that is a great question. We actually have developed a thing here called our Learning Path. With the Learning Path most of our products falls into place so as kids grow with us. Parents can monitor what the kids are learning and not learning to make sure that certain developmental milestones are hit. We look at our product line as a whole on our team and see what areas of learning need more reinforcing and will take that “content” and infuse that into new concepts for the appropriate ages. We are trying to make our toys still learning but really focus on the FUN in and ID way while still having the Leapfrog learning infused in the product. You don’t have to slap the abc’s and 123’s on every product to justify that it is a learning toy. You will see some great fun first products coming out of a new line called the Everyday Play line this year!!

11. You have a strong understanding for both traditional sketching methods as well as digital rendering and sketching. Is there one you prefer, and why?

Lately I have been generating a LOT of concepts with traditional digital sketching. I will do a few a week for practice and fun in my spare time. I really enjoy the fast paced level of sketching and being able to crank out a lot of concepts in the time that it would take to build one of them in 3D. (Even though I am pretty fast in Pro-E)
I do also love refining a developed concept in Pro-E model and doing some tasty Bunkspeed renderings with Photoshop tweaks to Ohh and Ahh my team here at work. What is really sweet is to have a meeting one day and present a design and 3 days later have a white FDM model in your hands.

*Now for the repeat questions.

12. What programs or tools could we find in your arsenal that you couldn’t design without?

Good Music (Pandora), Photoshop, BunkSpeed, Pro-E, and Illustrator. This has been a great tool to have when working with my Mechanical Engineers. I used to work with Alias and Solidworks but the Pro-E Wildfire is a pure delight!!

13. You’ve been in the industry going on 15 years. Do you have advice for young designers wanting to break into the field? And for those already in the field what advice do you have?

For young designers remember that you are not a designer once you graduate from College. You are a designer THE DAY THAT YOU DECIDE YOU WANT TO BE A DESIGNER! Get a feel for an area you would like to work in early in your career if you can and start researching and studying that Industry. By the time you graduate you will thank yourself for taking the time to be ahead of the crowd with some great portfolio pieces that are ready to roll! Also, if a place is not hiring, don’t give up! Keep working towards that goal and develop a portfolio that will excite them. I wanted to get into a place years back and I sent them postcards that featured different projects on a weekly basis. It worked to get me noticed and got the job. You really need to stand out when you have literally hundreds of other designers applying to the same position these days.
If you are already in the field I would just say to keep honing your skills and keep being inspired!! Get out and see new things and create new things on your own time that do NOT relate to what you design for a living. Go sculpt a pig out of the snow in your backyard for cripes sakes!!

14. What other artists do you look to for inspiration?

Glenn Barr, Dr Seuss, CORE77 (Designers,Illustrators,Sculptors) Picasso, Salvador Dali, GNOMON Artists…