I read a blog today regarding the ever-changing face of the American child. It was written by Richard Gottlieb, a man who is well respected in the toy industry and by all who meet him. He writes:
I continue to be amazed by the rapid change in the American child population. In a New York Times article entitled, “Among Nation’s Youngest, Analysis Finds Fewer Whites,” we learn that “whites continued to decline as a share of the American population … [now representing] less than half of all 3-year-olds….” Not only that but “whites [are] now in the minority in nursery schools, preschools and kindergartens in eight states — Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.” Maryland, Georgia and Louisiana are close behind.
I don’t know for sure but I would bet that the average member of the American toy industry is mid-40 and white. Not only that, but most of the people that that person sees in their community and their workplace look pretty much the same.
It is for that reasons that it will be no easy task for the industry to intuit the changes that are taking place in America. Whether we can or cannot, we better start sensitizing ourselves and the rest of our industry to the reality that the kid in our heads (probably white and blonde) is not the kid who is playing with our products.
Look around. It’s a different world.
Like all who know him, I think highly of Richard so it’s with all due respect that I am going to challenge this thought. I absolutely agree that the world around us has morphed into the melting pot we have always claimed to be. Perhaps the word minority will be stripped out of the language and we will come to understand that we are simply just people with similar hopes and dreams. The cultural differences are no longer held in the color of our skin but in the culture of our homes.
This piece made me take note of my creative process. Do I put a specific child in the picture? Am I targeting a demographic? The answer was no. I create from my 5-year old mind. That mind does not hold judgment on race, age, or tax brackets. That mind thinks simply about what is fun. I understand completely that the new toy industry looks at the bottom line, the target market and what is the newest licensed figure they can exploit. However I believe what is lost in boardroom decisions of what to put on a shelf is the magic of the industry.
My children and I could spend an afternoon with a deck of UNO cards and a lot of laughter. This is an example of the purity of the toy industry from days gone by. It’s a game that can be enjoyed by everyone. It is why the old games are still the most popular games. They were created simply for the fun of play without the need to become the next big thing.
So I ask my fellow inventors, what is your creative process? At what point does culture and or race come into the picture? Or is this the beauty of the small company that we just get to create from the dream world as opposed to needing to hit our numbers.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. ”
George Bernard Shaw