Matt Nuccio is dedicated to the field of toys and games. As the owner of Design Edge Inc.—which is a design, development and sourcing agency—for over thirty years Matt has designed many items that have gone on to win many accolades and TOTY Awards. Matt has also served as co-chairman of the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and sits on the Board of Directors of the United Inventors Association of America.
Matt currently sits on the Board of Directors of the United Inventors Association of America (UIA), the world’s largest none for profit inventor advocacy group. He also writes a column in Toy Family Entertainment magazine focusing on design as well as having lectured at Toy Fair, ASTRA, ChiTag and Hong Kong Toy Fair. Design Edges products have won and been nominated for many awards including TOTY, Games 100, Origin and Family Fun to name a few.
Recently Matt Nuccio, who is now the President of Design Edge, Inc., chatted with Kidskintha about his experiences as a toy designer, his hopes for the future, and more.
Meagan Meehan (MM): When did you first discover your interest in design and how did you get in toys and games?
Matt Nuccio (MN): I grew up in the toy business. Since I can remember I wanted to make toys like my father. He started in the business back in 1969 working for Ideal Toys. He later moved over to HG Toys where he was VP of marketing and design. As a kid I’d spend a lot of time in the HG model department coming up with my own toy concepts. I’d sculpt my own toys and I learned to cast and vacuum-form. I actually had my first success at this time with an original concept–I came up with a line of Ninja toys in the early 80’s. There were no Ninja toys whatsoever on the market then and Ninja and Samurai films were sort of popular. So, until this day, I get called the “Ninja Kid” by many of the guys from my father’s generation!
Art is in the blood. Both my parents are artist as were both sets of grandparents. Before my parents started Design Edge together, my mother was a professional illustrator and art teacher. When my parents started the business, I was fourteen and I’ve worked at Design Edge at some capacity ever since. I studied figure drawing at the Arts Student League and design at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
MM: Do you actually think of all the toys you design, and what have been some of your favorites?
MN: At Design Edge we work on some many different types of toys. The concepts can come from almost anywhere. Sometimes we’re given strict guidelines and we will design a concept from sketch to production based on those restrictions. Other times, we’re given free reign to expand one small idea into a universe. We also invent, develop and license our own original ideas to toy companies and retailers. We’ve worked on so many brands and I feel like all of them are my children in a way. It’s difficult to select favorites.
MM: Which of your toys achieved the most success and/or fame?
MN: We’ve worked on some many great toys. The toy business is a lot like the fashion business in that what is successful today may very well be dead tomorrow. I’ve been fortunate to have been part of several of the biggest toys, trends and brands. Early on in my career I did concept boards for Tickle Me Elmo which was hugely successful. Do you remember when POGS were a big thing? By the time I was 19 I must of hand cut a million of POGS for sales samples. We’ve been part of brands like Barbie, Spider-Man, Batman, Transformers, Trivial Pursuit, Disney Princess… to name only a few.
MM: Does Design Edge work directly with inventors and, if so, how can you be contacted?
MN: We love working with inventors, and we really love working with startups. It is always great to work on new concepts and inventors and starts-up bring with them an outside perspective that is often fresh and exciting. We’ve helped many inventors develop and license their concepts. Many toy companies come to us looking for new inventions because we understand the market and we understand costings. When an inventor comes to us we develop their concept we make sure that it doesn’t just look cool or have a novel function but that it is something that will price out and make sense for our licensing partners portfolios. And when a startup comes to us we don’t just design and manufacture for them, we also lineup distribution outlets through retailers, sales reps and distributors for them as well to try to ensure the best possible outcome.
MM: What was it like to win so many awards?
MN: It is certainly nice to be recognized. And it’s great to know that something you spent months or even years developing has found acceptance with your peers and/or the general public.
MM: You have been a co-chairman of the Toy Industry Association, what did that position and experience entail?
MN: Becoming a Co-Chair on the TIA associate panel was not something I set out to do. The TIA called me one day asking if I’d like to join the newly formed associate board. At the time the TIA only represented the interests of toy manufacturers. The associate panel was formed to represent designers, inventors, sales reps and everyone else that wasn’t a manufacturer. I was brought in to represent the interests of the designers and inventors. Once I got there, I started fighting for a greater representation for all with in the entire organization. They voted me up to Co-Chair and over the course of a few years we managed to have the TIA merge into one unit.
MM: You are also on the Board of Directors of the United Inventors Association of America, so what does that job entail?
MN: The UIA is the world’s largest non- profit inventor advocacy group. We fight for inventor rights, patent reforms and help protect inventors from scams through education. The organization was birthed out of the U.S Patent Office. We lobby in Washington and speak at trade shows and clubs around the country. The education I have received from the UIA is immeasurable. The board meets several times a year to allocate funds for inventor education. As a board member I review new programs, speak at trade shows and vote on agendas.
MM: Which inventions have most interested you?
MN: It’s not the inventions, so much, that interests me, but rather the adventure of bringing a product to market successfully. When we work with toy companies, or even inventors, they are bringing us on to avoid the pitfalls of development. Design Edge is not just a design company, we also are a sourcing agency. We handle the entire process as a one-stop shop. We have many factories that we’ve been working with for thirty years. I know the owners, their kids and even their grandkids. We communicate on a constant basis and we educate each other to ensure the best products at the best prices. Success isn’t built off of one production run. We need to build fantastic products that retailers will want to order over and over again. It takes a lot to get that figured out and we work hard to make sure we do.
MM: You write about toys, so which topics do you prefer to focus on the most?
MN: While I’ve written about many aspects of design, it is trends that interest me the most. We’re in a fashion-type business. We need to stay on top of what’s going on. And it’s not just what color is hot or what style doll eyes are trending this year, the challenge is also about design techniques, the manufacturing process and incoming technologies.
MM: You’ve also given lectures at conferences and conventions. What were your speeches about and was it scary to get up and talk in front of so many people?
MN: I’ve spoken on a lot of topics such as package design, invention, manufacturing, legal requirements, sourcing, product design… I don’t like uptight crowds so I like to loosen them up by being appreciable and funny. I prefer to do question-and-answer formats; straight lectures bore me so I don’t want to do that to my audience.
MM: How do you feel that toys and play positively impact people and communities?
MN: Toys and play inspire imagination and imagination brings on innovation. A world without toys would be a stagnant world.
MM: Do you think toy manufacturers are paying more attention to how toys are made?
MN: Innovation isn’t just about the end product. Often the processes in which it is designed and manufactured is just as important as the product itself. When I started in this business we hand sculpted everything. Today we design in CAD and 3D print. Another factor is that manufacturing has become more and more automated allowing prices to come down. Technology is changing at a rapid rate and any toy manufacture who is not paying attention, is not paying attention to their bottom line.
MM: Have you seen an upward trend in “green”/eco-friendly toys recently?
MN: I really wouldn’t call it a trend anymore. Over the past decade there have been many government and retailer mandates to reduce material footprints and wastage. We strive to use recyclable materials whenever possible. Unfortunately, it is not always our decision. We can lead a horse to water, but our customers have to make the final decision and often cost is the great decider.
MM: What is coming up next for you and how do you hope the toy industry evolves in the near future?
MN: New York Toy Fair is right around the corner. I get excited to see what the industry plans for the 2018 holiday season. It’s great see what our industry friends at Spin Master, Hasbro and Mattel have developed with or without our help. It’s just as rewarding to see new companies like Cortex Toys, StoryCraze and Broadway Toy breathe their first breaths into the industry. The toy industry always needs new blood. As great as the big companies are it is often the startups that birth new trends.
MM: Do you have any exciting news, projects, or events coming up that you would like to mention?
MN: We have quite a few of our own inventions showing at Toy Fair this year with major toy companies like Fisher Price, Spin Master, Endless Games and Goliath. And we’re not just helping out the big guys. I’m proud to say we licensed a product with Cortex Toys and it’s off to great start by blasting out of the gate. We also look forward to seeing dozens of toys and games that we’ve developed and/or manufactured over the past few months or years for many other toy companies. We love New York Toy Fair.
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