Toys are fun! The goal in designing a toy is to make something so appealing that people young and old will want to sit down and play with it. Toys spark our imagination.
One of the interesting challenges of being a toy designer is coming up with something that will evoke that emotional response.
A toy that turns inside out hits the nail on the head. Whenever someone comes into my studio and picks up this chick they immediately want to turn it inside out to explore how it works. The reaction is always the same. "Oh wow! How clever!"
I love interactive plush toys like this!
Designing a reversible toy takes some mind bending. One shape has to fit inside another, with some sort of opening so that you can flip it inside out and then right side out again.
The first reversible toy I designed was the chick and egg. It's a fun project to make: quick and easy to sew, cute, and most importantly, clever. (I'm excited to say that I've just relaunched this pattern with an updated format. It's one of my favorites!).
I've also designed a caterpillar and butterfly reversible toy. He's the ultimate metamorphosis.This guy is super fun.
At some point I'd love to really delve deeply into how to design these sorts of toys, but for today I thought I'd start with some tips that might get your creative juices flowing and help you bend your mind into designing a reversible toy of your own.
Tips for Designing Reversible Toys
1. Come up with two related ideas. There are so many pairings that would work well together as a reversible toy. Here are a few: cat and mouse, bee and hive, fox and hen, and tortoise and hare. I'm sure you can think of many more! Brainstorming is so fun.
2. Create two compatable shapes. We're delving into 3-d thinking here. You're shapes can vary somewhat (the butterfly has wings, for example), but they should be similar in size and scale. They have to fit inside one another, giving the illusion that it's only one toy.
3. Allow for enough inside space. There's no stuffing involved in the toys I'm showing here (you could create some small stuffed parts, like a head or arms, as long as they don't take up too much space inside). You want a shape that has some volume and it helps if the stretch of the fabric goes from side to side so that the toy will stretch a bit and be easier to turn.
4. Choose a place for the two sides to attach. Once you've designed both parts, you'll need to figure out where it makes sense to attach them to one another. The chick and egg are attached around the bottom. The caterpillar and butterfly are also attached along their underside.
5. And now for the trick…The trick for assembling a reversible toy is to turn one part right side out and leave the other one inside out. Push the right side out one into the inside out one, so that the are right sides together. Be sure you've left an opening somewhere else so that you'll be able to turn the whole toy right side out. Stitch the two toys together at the attachment spot.
Once you've designed a reversible toy that works, think about variations you could make on your original design to make it go further. My chick and egg became a penguin and egg, for example.
I'm looking forward to playing with more reversible toy shapes. They're addictive!
I recommend checking out Flip Dolls and Other Toys that Zip, Stack, Hide, Grab and Go by Laura Wilson if you're interested in exploring some more interesting design techniques for interactive plush. You can read my review and see what I made from the book here.
And if you have some great ideas for reversible toys, I'm all ears!