Creating and manufacturing soft toys goes through a three-step process before full production proceeds.
First step, the toy concept and design are put on paper.
The second step is creating a prototype or a model of the toy to be made.
The third and final step before production is a laboratory test.
We shall discuss the first step in this article.
Soft toys, such as stuffed animals, may all look the same, and some people think that they're that easy to make. Not exactly true. A lot of effort is made even before the soft toy gets into the production line. Think about stuffed toy animals, like the most popular one - the teddy bear. Teddy bears all look the same. Furry, soft and cuddly. But if you look closer, you will see a lot of different features in every teddy bear you see on the store shelf. Aside from size, there are differences in the head and face features, the body build, the fabric used and even the softness can be different. These things are mostly determined during the design phase.
The first phase in creating soft toys is the design phase. Buyers normally have a concept or an idea of what the toy would look like. This concept or toy design idea is first put on paper to help sample makers to picture out how the toy is going to be built. It's very similar to an architect's work. Even before a building is constructed, a drawing or a building plan is put on paper to help the engineers determine how a building is to be built.
Some buyers are not that good at creating illustrations of what they have in mind. Often it starts with a picture of an existing design that they would like to merge with other design ideas. An artist or illustrator would need to create several pictures or versions of the toy concept to capture what the buyer really wants.
Aside from how the item would look, the other features are discussed, such as the fabric and materials to be used, the placement of markings and facial features such as eyes and noses, and other physical features such as color or tone combinations, positions and sizes of each component part, and other distinguishing marks.
Once the buyer agrees that the illustration has successfully captured the concept he had in mind, and that fabric and other materials are selected, it is now time to build the prototype to see how it will actually look.
The illustration would now be used by sample makers to draw patterns that will also be used later in the production process.
We will discuss sample making or prototyping of soft toys in the next article.