The Big Hit Planning Method of Toy Designer, Tsuyoshi Nonaka :Episode 2
BANDAI Super Mini-Pla (english)
Plastic Model Kits
In this part, we'd like to ask deeper about product planning.
Mr. Nonaka has engaged in many hit products from when you were working at BANDAI. Do you have something you care for when you are planning products?
(TN):In Steve Jobs' words, he said, "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." The real new plan is, not understandable with just some explanation.
That's interesting. No one said "I want a smartphone" before iPhone emerged on the world stage.
(TN):My teacher Katsushi Murakami (industrial designer, originally worked for BANDAI) said the similar saying in different words: "When a child notice 'It's the one I wanted!' as a product is put in front of him, it is a good product."
So a good product never comes out from children's existing wants.
(TN):For example, a robot GOLD LIGHTAN which Mr. Murakami planned in 1981 made a smash hit. It doesn't look strong for a robot, just has its arms and legs sticking out from a square lighter body, has no weapons, and is all over gold. Kids ought not to say, "I like a lighter!" So, nothing prove us that the GOLD LIGHTAN should sell well in the first information.
Yes it is.
(TN):At that time Mr. Murakami himself was a cigarette sucker , so he had a perspective that "a lighter is a nice glossy metallic gadget." And I think he were able to imagine that "What adults think it's good, children should have a twinkle in their eyes if it transformed and protected us with its small but super power."
Planning starts from imaginations!
(TN):GOLD LIGHTNAN's visual and figure is just like a real lighter, just that it only can't light the real fire. This concept hit the children in that age, and became a blockbuster. As a result, Mr. Murakami's imagination was proved.
Be that as it may, isn't it difficult to persuade others with just the imaginations?
(TN):Of course, if with imagination alone, we can't realize it to the merchandising. Therefore, planning has steps of imaging and information-gathering.
Imaging and information-gathering?
(TN):For example, even if you had an imagination that "it would be fun if this kind of product was in real," if it isn't existing now, nobody would understand its value for realizing.
So you need the information-gathering.
(TN):That's right. We need the step to gather information to complement the imagination. For instance, like looking for a successful case with similar concept, or doubting the imagination that it may meet no needs. By constantly doing this imaging and information-gathering, we move on our way to realize the plan.
About the case of this Super Mini-Pla VOLTRON it seems there's no need for imaging because it is a character product.
(TN):About the planning that targets adults to take the character product, the information-gathering process goes first. However, the most important thing is passion for VOLTRON. I didn't see VOLTRON in my childhood, but as a planner, it's essential to look through every animation movies. We have to make efforts to meet the high expectation of the fans.
It should have took long time for just watching through every stories.
(TN):It is much easier than before because there're various ways to watch the videos. In the age when there were no computers, we had to buy a video printer and had to concentrate on pressing the button to print out the scenes into paper.
As for the plan this time, you're collaborating with BANDAI's candy division in the Super Mini-Pla series.
(TN):The Mini-Pla series was the series that remodeled the regular SUPER SENTAI robot toys to sell in sweets sections. You can combine and build a robot by buying several of the sweets that cost about 350 yen.
But this product is SUPER Mini-Pla, right?
(TN):Exactly. Mini-Pla has evolved in a curious way in its long history. In the past, it was known as a cheap edition. But as it extended its range of joint motion and its appearance was arranged in original ways, Mini-Pla has turned into a series with many adult fans.
So the SUPER begins.
(TN):Super Mini-Pla started in about 2 years ago. My junior colleague launched the project as a leader.Then, the person in charge of this VOLTRON offered me this job. Actually, it is my first time to design Mini-Pla product as a freelance designer.
I see. So the planning methods inherited from Mr. Murakami and Mr. Nonaka are now applied on Super Mini-Pla.
(TN):Now that you say so, the third generation are working hard now!
In this episode, we focused on the planning method of Mr. Tsuyoshi Nonaka, the legendary toy planner. The inherited know-how produce many successful products that make people feel "it's just the one I wanted!"
To be continued in Episode 3: In-depth Dissection of How Creators Design Plastic Models
Interview, writing, photography, graph: Takuma Ogata
Photo by courtesy of BANDAI CO., LTD.
Episode 5:Messages for Super Mini-Pla VOLTRON Fans
This article has been translated from Japanese into English. Go toJapanese ver.
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