Novedge: Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do
Anthony Monzo: My name is Anthony Monzo. I am a Product Design Manager with the Crayola Product Design team. Even though by title I am a Design “Manager,” I still try to design every day. I vow not to become a paper pusher or lose the essence of what keeps my creative fire burning. I love creating new products from concept to production. If we as “designers” are not creating, then what are we doing, right??? I attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia’s Industrial Design Program and started my career at the very young age of 20 years with Tyco Toys. I interviewed for a freelance position with the Matchbox Design Team in 1996. The hiring team said the position was only supposed to last a week or two…
Fast Forward! Here I am, 18 years later still designing toys! I spent 10 years with Mattel in New Jersey and California designing Matchbox play sets and vehicles. I also had the great opportunity to provide concepts for Star Wars, Jurassic Park and a variety of movie properties. I have been with Crayola for the past eight years designing products for the Crayola Outdoor, Color Wonder, and “My First Crayola” product lines.
Novedge: What were some of your favorite toys growing up?
Anthony Monzo:Well, being a child in the heart of the 80’s, I would definitely say Star Wars toys were my favorite toys. The combination of the brilliant creatures and space ships had my imagination on fire. The designs and art of Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston have had a profound affect on me as a child and a toy designer. My fellow designers and I used the “Art of Star Wars” books daily as inspiration, especially in my Matchbox days!
However, on a more cerebral level, I would have to say blocks were also a favorite toy as they helped nurture my creativity being able to build anything I desired! I spent hours building castles and forts for my action figures. I believe the blocks really provided the early sense of spatial relationships, proportions and balance that every great design needs. The great thing was my grandfather was a carpenter. He handmade me simple blocks by cutting wood into a variety of different shapes and sizes. When I think back now as I am writing this, I can only say “WOW what a wonderful inexpensive toy to provide a young mind!” QUICK, I need my chop saw running full speed and a pile of wood so I can do the same for my children!
Novedge: What matters most to you in design?
Anthony Monzo: What matters to me most in product design is of course the function! I subscribe to the saying “Form Follows Function.” The end user must have a pleasurable and fulfilled experience using the products we create. Once this function is nailed down and the best it can be within our constrained margins (LOL), I say, let the styling begin! That’s definitely when a designer has the opportunity to place their personal mark on the product and express themselves. A great product has it all, the function that makes you smile and a style that makes you just want to grab it!
Novedge: What is it like to work as a product designer? What is your typical day like?
Anthony Monzo: A typical day is crazy crazy crazy! The toy industry is fast and fashionable. I spend the majority of my day in meetings with cross-functional team members discussing our current projects. A large part of developing a toy is tailoring the product to a very precise cost target. It has been said anyone can think of a great product, but to try and think of a great product at $1.99! The toy industry does not have the carte blanche to charge a premium for innovation like the technology world. We are held to very low price points and strict safety regulations. It is a daily challenge and struggle to produce the product you know is right while maintaining our stringent cost margins. As a designer you must always fight for your product and vision through to the end. In some cases we have only days to concept and develop ideas before moving onto the production phase.
Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?
Anthony Monzo: Unfortunately I cannot talk about any current projects I am working on. We work up to a year in advance, so anything that I worked on over the past year is highly confidential. Sorry! What I can tell you about is a product that has just hit the shelves. The really great thing about working at Crayola is the combination of Product Design, Mechanical Engineering, Electronic Engineering and our Chemistry departments. The latest product we created is the “My First Crayola” Touch Lights. This product encompassed the expertise of all cross-functional teams. It combines design, electronics and chemistry so nicely, that's what makes Crayola such a unique company.
There is one particular product I created and actually hold the U.S. patent on that really sticks with me. The Crayola Rainbow Rake, which I designed in 2007. We received a letter saying how children in wheelchairs could never draw with sidewalk chalk before. That was until the RAINBOW RAKE! The children could hold the product and drag it along as they moved about the play area! That really felt rewarding and still does to this day!
Novedge: What software do you use?
Anthony Monzo:I am a self-taught Rhinoceros user. I stumbled upon Rhino about 10 years ago. Rhino allowed any user to download a free trial of the software. The ease of use and designer friendly nature of the program yielded success for me. I was hooked immediately and totally charged to master the software. I have tried other programs, but my love for Rhino is just too strong! My co-workers and I have discovered KeyShot about two years ago. WOW! What an amazing rendering program. I used to look at beautifully rendered images online and wondered frustratingly how they produced them. Once we used KeyShot our product renderings became amazing! Key Shot has profoundly changed the mindset of my colleagues and the expectations of what we can produce as product designers. I am a photographer hobbyist and proponent of the craft…but boy…our images with Key Shot are rivaling the actual product photographs. SShhh…Don’t tell the photographers, but we may not need them soon!
Novedge: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Anthony Monzo: Hmm….the best advice I have ever received? Honestly…I can say that I have never received that one piece of advice that stuck with me or had a profound effect on my outlook or career. I will make it my pursuit to acquire that nugget of knowledge some day, LOL…..or maybe I’ll continue to listen to my heart and gut. Do what “moves” you, do not be motivated entirely by money!