Otis College Toy Design and Kinder Joy Project

Chocolate and toys converged when Ferrero partnered with Otis College for one of the sweeter projects for Toy Design students.

By Lisa Butterworth

Of all the partnerships that have come to Otis College’s Toy Design program, perhaps none has been sweeter than the Kinder Joy project. Ferrero—one of the world’s largest sweet-packaged food companies—collaborated with Toy Design students to create the toy surprise that comprises one-half of these delightful treats. 

Toy Design students gain real-world experience during their program thanks to a wide range of sponsored design projects such as this. As one of the only colleges in the United States to offer an undergraduate toy design degree, Otis draws passionate students as well as toy design companies from around the world. The program is fortified with tons of real-world experience through faculty who are all also working in the industry and can relay first-hand the challenges and thrills of actually making toys for a living. 

There are also incredible internship opportunities and inspiring semester-long projects sponsored by various toy companies like Mattel, Spin Master, and Jazwares, who know they’re getting access to the industry’s brightest up-and-coming creators. Graduates finish well-versed in everything from conceptual and technical drawing to prototyping and storytelling, and commence working in the industry for global companies like Hape and Moose Toys in locales as far flung as Australia, Italy, Denmark, and China. Of course, many alums remain right here in Los Angeles and work in the city’s thriving toy industry for giants like Hasbro, Disney, and MGA Entertainment. Thanks to the program’s versatility, the career paths range from dolls and games to action figures, plushies, and vehicles. 

Opportunity Knocks

More than four years ago, the opportunity to start a collaboration with Ferrero on its Kinder products arose, in particular the Kinder Joy egg, which is an egg-shaped container made up of two sealed halves—one side contains a creamy, chocolatey confection, and the other side a surprise. Food Business News asserted that Kinder Joy eggs were “on track to become the biggest candy launch of the past decade.”

Sponsored projects—which have included action figures with Spin Master, games with University Games, vehicles for Hot Wheels, and dolls for Mattel—typically happen year-round and are strategically embedded in classes. The initial Kinder Joy project was part of a design prototyping class and garnered a record 25 participating students. 

“We have a wonderful working relationship with Ferrero; they present a real-world business challenge of how to design novelty-type toys within very strict parameters,” says Toy Design Chair Jennifer Caveza. “Our students must understand cultural context and safety requirements and devise innovative concepts within defined cost ranges. Ferrero mentors students along the way, and, as with all our sponsored projects, we offer students scholarship money for their participation. It’s a rewarding learning experience that’s beneficial for everyone involved.”

The original undertaking with Ferrero on the Kinder Joy designs presented unprecedented difficulty, thanks to a number of challenging parameters, such as those linked to quality and safety, as well as the fact that the toy needed to fit in half of the egg-shaped container, which is just about one-and-a-quarter inches long. The design brief from Ferrero also requested a toy that could be styled to fit a number of themes and also had some kind of mechanism that allowed the toy to transform or move. The semester-long project was handled mostly online, with students sending concept sketches and then presenting models to Ferrero’s teams in Italy and Luxembourg; feedback and review meetings happened every few weeks. 

The students rose to the occasion: Ferrero awarded more prizes than anticipated for the student work, moving forward with 10 of their ideas, two of which went into production. 

“Ferrero values Otis so much that they are now working with our drawing class on a character development exercise,” says Caveza. “Otis Toy Design is clearly a hub of young, fresh, innovative talent and it’s sweet to know the world is taking notice.”