Toy and jewelry designer Andrew Tober has worked as an Industrial Designer for over 15 years. Having worked on everything from theme-park rides to educational toys, Andrew is an expert in his field who has even worked with brand names such as Hasbro and Disney. To date, he has developed numerous award-winning products and licensed brands for both large and small businesses. Andrew holds a BFA in Industrial Design from the Columbus College of Art & Design. He currently resides in Orlando Florida with his family and was happy to discuss his career:
Andrew Tober (AT): It was just something I was always interested in. I started out as a kid making all sorts of gadgets (most of which never really worked but it was fun). I also always loved to draw, especially comic book characters. Coming up with new heroes and vehicles. Eventually went to college to become an illustrator and then found out this thing called Industrial Design. It was great, I could draw, build models, and create whatever I wanted. I knew it was the thing for me.
MM: How did you get into toys, then jewelry?
AT: While getting my major in Industrial Design, a friend and I took a toy design class. It was an amazing class and so much fun. I guess at some point I impressed the teacher enough that he introduced me to someone working with Hasbro. With that I got my first professional freelance design gig! I got to work on several concepts for G.I. Joe and Batman. Now that I think of it I really lucked out. Getting to work on two of my favorite licenses from my childhood so soon in my career. Having that in my portfolio helped me get a full-time gig at a toy company in Orlando a few years later. I didn’t quite fall into that job as easy. I contacted so many companies and did a lot of my own projects to beef up my portfolio. But all that work paid off and I eventually landed a great job working in toys. The world always takes your career in ways you never see coming. After a few stock market crashes and some changes in the economy, I was introduced to an opportunity with the jewelry company I work for today. Oddly enough a lot of the designs I do are still toyish. On top of doing all sorts of fashion jewelry, I do a lot of designs for Hot Topic and Spencers which can of course be very juvenile. So, one day I’m designing for a millennial demographic and the next day for a totally different demographic. It really keeps me on my design toes. I currently design jewelry by day and freelance for toy companies and entrepreneurs by night.
MM: What toys have you personally designed?
AT: Worked on all sorts of projects from G.I. Joe, Batman, Crazy for cupcakes and everything in between. For G.I. Joe, I worked on a hand full of vehicles and while on Batman I worked on some of the action figure lines. I spent a large part of my career working on educational toys, which was really interesting for a lot of different reasons. It’s one thing to make action figures, but it is a whole different perspective to make something both fun and educational. At one point I was blessed to work with the American Museum of Natural History in NY on an educational toy line called Ology. I got to work hand and hand with some of the smartest people in the world in Archeology, Astronomy, Biology and more. I had to laugh at myself in a meeting when I realized it was very likely that I had the lowest IQ in the room. But it was great working with them and gave me different views and ideas that I would of never thought of by myself.
MM: How did you learn to design? What tools and/or software programs do you use?
AT: I learned the basics in college but really where I learned to design was and still is by just working in the real world. Whether from at a full-time job, freelance or just personal projects. As a designer, you can never stop learning. Whether always trying new things that might take me out of my comfort level, picking up new programs or just looking for tutorials on programs I already know. Everything you learn is an invaluable tool. Mostly I use Photoshop for everything from sketching to graphics. Rhinoceros 3D for computer models and 3D printing. And let’s not forget the old pen and paper for everyday designs.
MM: What would be your “dream project”?
AT: I’ve always been a huge “Star Wars” fan. So, personally, I would love to work on a Star Wars movie. Or anything Star Wars really. If you ever take a look at any of the “Art of Star Wars” books, that is something I totally would love to do. The concepts those designers come up with are works of art in and of themselves. They could (and do sometimes) make whole other series just based off of the designs that don’t even make it into those movies…meaning even the rejects are great. So, a dream of mine would be to work on the character or vehicle designs. Heck, even working on some of the props would be great.
MM: What advice can you offer to people who want to forge a career out of designing?
AT: Never burn any bridges if at all possible. Make as many friends as you can. There have been so many opportunities open up for me from people that you would least expect. Everything from freelance to new career opportunities. Another thing a wise man once told me is to view every project like it is going to be a portfolio piece, but don’t fall in love with it. Meaning in my career I’ve worked on and seen so many amazing products that get scrapped for many reasons. Some reasons that make sense and some that are just silly. But no matter the reason sometimes you just have to move on to the next big idea. Finally, never stop sketching ideas; even horrible drawings can be great ideas.
MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working in the design industry?
AT: For me one thing that never gets old is running into a product you worked on in the wild. Especially when you’re in a store and you find the product unexpectedly. Still to this day brings a smile to my face.
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To learn more about Andrew Tober and see examples of his wonderful work, visit his official website.