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"Traditional toys have values that can’t be found in new technologies"

Gabriel Songel, founding partner of Design Consulting Innoarea


Gabriel Songel leads Innoarea Design Consulting, spin-off of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, which together with the Spanish Association of Toy Manufacturers (AEFJ) has promoted Spora, a website that publishes design proposals and trends in toys and baby products. Songel explains that Spora will be "a platform for creative and business contacts," which can promote new products and services for children.

What can Spora offer to the Spanish toy sector?
Spora is an information management tool that checks 800 sources in order to detect new products and developments of interest for the toy sector, from the generation of new products or services to social and technological phenomena. In addition, Spora allows designers to submit drafts to portal users who are associated to the AEFJ. The website gives value to these designs presenting them as examples of the observed trends.

¿Spora could be a marketplace for designers to contact with businesses?
More than a market, is a platform for creative and business contacts. It is desirable that such exchanges occur, as happened in the day of presentation, so we can help to develop a culture of design for children's products and take advantage of all the creative potential of our designers.

What are the traits that identify the top 35 designs that have been published so far on the web?
The designs presented in Spora are selected by quality criteria: interesting ideas, good presentation and accurate description of functions. They are usually fresh ideas that can be adapted to different sub sectors.

And which could be the most significant toy design trends over the next years?
I think there will be two distinct orientations. One is the mainstream market dominated by content generators multinationals and producers and distributors particularly focused on licensing and television commercials. Another direction would be the niche market of specialized products, offering shorter series for a select audience. Interestingly we are seeing that there are more innovations from the point of view of design in this last minority sector.

Does the economic climate affects these new designs?
A design is formally defined as an idea and becomes actual through a prototype, and both can adapt to market requirements. The departments that integrate marketing and design with product development are good examples of how to capture good ideas and turn them into profitable products.

How can the traditional toy compete against new technologies?

Traditional toys have values that can’t be found in new technologies. The participative value, the nostalgic value, the creativity and experimental values seem all to reflect better in traditional toy, and that while technology can be supported by these values, they lead to more individualism, repetition, intense but short experiences, competitiveness, and technological dependency. A future approach should converge traditional toys with new technologies, not following types of toys but taking into account playing dynamics.

Are licenses used in the project?

Of course. Licensing provides characters and stories that make products more identifiable. Precisely many designer illustrators are working in this line –to make their characters’ designs more real they apply them to specific products or games.

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