Why I’m Getting Back Into the Dopamine Department | Act I

Let’s Start with...

I Have Actual Toy Industry Experience
I’m sure it’s not rare in your applications you’re reviewing, but I feel ever so lucky to have had this experience.

Matchbox books, one of my first projects in product design. I designed packaging, vehicle deco, art directed a stable of illustrators, and conducted field research at work sites to support them.

I spent the formative years of my career in toy, book, and game design at 🔴 Mattel. Very early on I was extremely fortunate to design stewardship of several brands. It was a risky move, but it paid off. In my years in that role, I shipped literally tons of successful products, including new lines for American Girl, Matchbox, and other Mattel brands. Success mostly outweighted the failures. Meanwhile, the brands and I learned a lot from both scenarios.

The best way to see and understand the types of products I worked on at Mattel is this short video I recorded:

My title was 🎨 Art Director, not designer, because my home turf was historical product at American Girl, but I also worked with Matchbox (quite successfully) and other Mattel acquisitions. But art direction also made sense for my personal strengths: I was able to serve as a connector atom in the creative molecule. I thrived on having head space to think and be observant, and to think like a kid (and often a girl kid). In terms of contribution, I was able to work at the idea level, then hand off sketches to talented designers, illustrators, photographers, or other talent, and then curate the products of their work into a coherent whole. Meanwhile, I had plenty of opportunities to be a hands-on designer. I remain a skilled visual and packaging designer, with a passion for 2d and 3d sketching and prototyping. 

There are many highlights, but one that felt amazing at the time was launching the 🚒 Matchbox Books brand. We found a powerful synergy by packaging a book accompaniment to the traditional matchbox car. Toys Я Us could not keep them stocked. What the project afforded me was a chance to develop a brand on my own, from conceptualization, developing a visual language, inventive packaging design, vehicle deco, as well as field research at work sites where real trucks were in use.

As I grew there, I was increasingly invited to join for corporate introspection projects, such as redesigning or refreshing evergreen properties, or exploring solutions to our brands’ blind spots. From beginning to end, it was a rewarding first act.

When I think that at one time I had an expense account for toy shopping, there are times I wonder why I ever left. But then I consider the subsequent 15+ years of my career, where I’ve managed to “find the fun” in many other realms of product development. I can speak to why I did leave, but that’s a story for another time.

This chapter almost didn’t happen, if I hadn’t 💥 crashed my car on the way to my portfolio show. And that’s another story.

Otherwise, keep going to
The Rest of My Design Career is Interesting Too

Also: General Portfolio | Book Portfolio | Resume | Email | Phone
Also check out my LEGO Mocs and my pilot LEGO App, Brainbricker

all work © will capellaro and clients