Get to Know: Toy Inventor and ToeDesign Founder Aaron Tompkins

Aaron Tompkins has gone from a toy hunter to a toy inventor in an amazing career that began in 1996. The founder of ToeDesign, Aaron talks with us about his work with brands like Hasbro, Mattel and Jakks Pacific, as well as the inspiration and design behind his own lines of original toys. Give his website a look here!

Over to you, Aaron!

What led you to toy design, how did you get started?

I started collecting toys in 1989 in high school with my friend Steve Fink. We went to garage sales, flea markets and toy shows. Then I went to F.I.T. Toy Design and graduated in 1996 with a focus on “toy inventing.”

Where does the ToeDesign name originate from?

When we were in toy design school we made shirts with classmates that had a giant TOE on it and said “Toe design,” which is just “Toy design” with a letter switched.

Were you a collector when growing up?

Yes. I collected Megos, 60s Joes, Captain Action, Star Wars and all sorts of weird and vintage character toys from the 60s through the 80s.

What was your first design?

After I graduated toy design, I became a “toy inventor.” I worked with an agent to license toy concepts. My first toy licensed was “Dr. Wacky’s Funny Bones” chalk to Cadaco in 1997.

The second concept I licensed was a “Micro Machines” playset to Galoob in 1998. I have never had a “job,” I was always a toy inventor, or a freelance toy designer.

Where do you draw your inspirations from?

I find inspiration in trends, vintage toys, Youtube, internet research and everyday life. I also review “wish lists” from toy companies, to focus on what they need invented.

What are some of your favorite designs?

My most favorite concepts I have worked on are the ones that have sold. As an inventor, I live off of “Royalties,” so if I do not sell any toy concepts I do NOT get paid. Even If one of my concepts gets licensed, it is not guaranteed that it will sell or ship. It is all a gamble.

Most notably “Co-Creator” of “Grossery Gang” with Bang Zoom Design

Most notably “Co-Inventor” of “Chow Crown” with Bang Zoom Design

Most notable “Inventor” of “Swear Bears”

I have invented endless toys in every category, last year I worked on 45 projects.

Tell us about the SwearBear and some of your other original works.

In 2000 I invented “Swear Bears” out of a warehouse in New Jersey making custom sound chips, selling online, went viral, then licensed plush, action figures and t-shirts.

We then produced a Puppet T.V. show pilot for “Swear Bears” with 30 puppets and a film set in our New Jersey Warehouse, then we pitched T.V. Networks. Then we created an animated version of “Swear Bears” that was pitched as well. The brand lasted for 12 years until “Ted” the movie came out, then I stopped the “Swear Bears” project.

What do you try to keep in mind when designing a new character?

I am not really a character designer, Character design is only one part of the toy, it’s usually never used, just for pitch purposes. Everything is about concepts and conveying that concept, the character style changes per. category of toy I am working in.

What’s coming next for ToeDesign?

Next I plan to license toy concepts for 2025 and 2026. I also am taking on freelance clients in toy design.

Any advice for someone trying to get into toy design?

Go to toy design school either at F.I.T. Toy design or Otis Toy design. Learn about the history of toys. Get an internship. Get a job.

If you have a dream, create it.

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1 month ago

Thanks for covering me ! appreciated !

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