U of M Debuts Toy Design Class; Local Co. to Advise

Minneapolis-based Creative Kidstuff will provide input on toy concepts that students come up with; additional corporate partners are wanted.

A recent move by University of Minnesota could help spawn the next generation of local toymakers.

This semester, the U's College of Design will offer-for the first time-a toy product design class.

Taught by assistant professor Barry Kudrowitz, who joined the U just a few weeks ago, the class will provide students the opportunity to design and prototype their own toy concepts.

In the process, students will work with local sponsors, including Minneapolis-based Creative Kidstuff; experienced mentors; and children.

Kudrowitz is the college's first full-time product design faculty member. His previous experience includes studying projectile toy design with well-known toymaker Hasbro-and he currently has two patents and a Nerf toy on the market.

The goal of the course is to introduce students to the product development process, according to Kudrowitz. That includes determining customer needs, brainstorming, sketching, graphic design, industrial design drawing, concept development, design aesthetics, and prototyping, among other tasks.

Roberta Bonoff, CEO and president of Creative Kidstuff, said that her company will advise students as they work on product ideas. “We have a pretty good grasp of the marketplace,” she told Twin Cities Business on Wednesday.

Bonoff pointed out that Minnesota is home to a number of toy manufacturers, including Minneapolis-based Manhattan Toy. She thinks that company would make another great partner for Kudrowitz's class, which she says will benefit both students and the future of local toy manufacturing.

On three occasions during the semester, students will visit the Minnesota Children's Museum to test the toy concepts with kids. At the end of the course, students will present their product prototypes to toy designers, engineers, kids, and the University of Minnesota community.

Kudrowitz is now trying to line up financial sponsors for next year and identify corporate partners who would be interested in considering toy concepts designed by students.

Product design efforts at the U kicked off in late 2010. The college launched a graduate minor in product design and launched the Wearable Product Design Center, which formalizes research connections among apparel design faculty.