Andres Alfonso - Sparking a Passion for Toy Design through Skateboarding

by Educational Insights | 25 Aug 2022

Biographies and Interviews


A Q&A with Andres Alfonso of Educational Insights


Andres Alfonso is the UI Digital Design Manager at Educational Insights, the Southern California based educational toy and game manufacturer committed to "igniting the spark" in every child. Andres has spent the last five years volunteering with the Next Up Foundation, which stimulates increased interest in school, promotes higher education, and presents career opportunities to underserved children in Los Angeles through skateboarding and the arts.


Andres is currently preparing to kick off a six-month after school design workshop for the Next Up Foundation. We sat down with him to learn more about his work with the foundation, talk about how his passion for skateboarding sparked, and hear how it led  to his career in graphic design and work at Educational Insights.



Tell us about the Next Up Foundation.

Next Up Foundation is a non-profit that believes in the power of skateboarding to change kids' lives. The idea is to teach life skills through a common ground of skateboarding. Skateboarding is hard. You have to practice a lot and it's very repetitive. You’re constantly falling and getting back up. Next Up teaches kids how to translate the focus that skating demands into other areas of life ranging from relationships and environmental responsibility to developing academic skills and exploring future professions. Grown up skateboarders like me connect with kids through their passion for skating and use that as an entry point to share what they do in the world.



What does a typical Next Up event look like?


Everything is always related to skating and so we typically start by doing just that. This creates a common ground and puts you in a certain type of creative, motivated headspace. Then, kids might take a workshop on design, drawing, repurposing old skateboards, photography, video production, reading or yoga. Next Up works closely with the shoe company, Vans, and we've also toured its warehouse before.


When did you first get involved and how?

I first connected with Next Up in 2016. I had done some freelance work for a skateboard company in Huntington Beach, which presented at one of Next Up's events. I loved what they were doing with the kids. A lot of them looked just like I did when I was their age. The founder and I actually first connected when I overheard him speaking Portuguese, which jumped out at me because of the Brazilian members of my family.



When and how did your passion for skateboarding spark?

I first started trying to skate when I was about 15 years old. It began with just trying to do some simple jumps and tricks. My older brother was a skater, and he gave me my first board. I've always been really active and into sports and I've tried many different extreme sports. But I've always just gravitated toward skateboarding. I recently asked my brother why he gave me that board. He told me that I had done exactly what he'd hoped I would do and that he wishes he had followed his passion for skateboarding in the same way that I have.



Tell us more about the connection between skateboarding and design.

Skateboarding culture has a very specific aesthetic. From the boards themselves and the wheels to the shoes and the look of skating magazines, a lot of what I love about skating comes back to design. So, not only has skateboarding been my passion, but it led to my profession in graphic design. If it hadn't been for skating, I probably would have become an artist. But learning that graphic design was such an integral part of skateboarding definitely pulled me in that direction.


How has your work at Educational Insights prepared you for your volunteer work?

What I really like about Educational Insights is that they've given me the space to do this work that is so important to me. When I first started working here, we were given the opportunity to raise funds for any foundation of our choosing. That really stood out to me. When it was my turn, I made it my goal to raise more than anyone else had raised before. My team and I went nuts creating flyers, hosting events and doing everything we could to raise money.  This created a real link between Educational Insights and Next Up that remains to this day. We get two full days per year to use as volunteer days. This plus Educational Insights’ flexibility and enthusiasm about this volunteer work has really helped me maximize my work with the organization. 



Tell us about the after school program you're currently leading.

I'm so excited it's finally launching. We've been working on the program for over three years, even before the pandemic. First off, it's being held at The Berrics--a famous professional skate park. If you know anything about skateboarding, you know that's a really big deal! I am super-excited to be able to skate there. We'll be meeting for two hours every Tuesday and Thursday for the next six months. We'll start by skating together for an hour. I’ve got two other people helping lead that part of the afternoon. Then, I'll take the kids to an office where we'll settle into our computers for a wide variety of design projects. What's cool is that by the end of the program they will have developed an entire collection ranging from stickers and hats to actual skateboards. Other workshops will bring in aspects of production so they'll get to see how the design process leads to manufacturing.



Has working with the kids at Next Up influenced your work at Educational Insights?

It gives me a closer understanding of kids. When I'm working with the kids at Next Up, I feel like I'm getting a real experience in consumer research. It's also really taught me what it takes to break through to kids, keep them engaged and actually teach them something. It's been really fun to learn more about that.

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With Educational Insights, kiddos can become backyard explorers with Geosafari Jr., creative architects with squishy squashy Playfoam, or puzzle masters with brain games like Kanoodle. For 60 years, Educational Insights has been developing and manufacturing award-winning toys and games that ignite the spark in every child! From hands-on sensory play to learn-to-code drawing robots, each toy and game is designed to “spark” more confidence, creativity, exploration, togetherness, play, and curiosity so kids can be whoever they want to be! Located in sunny Southern California, Educational Insights is a subsidiary of Learning Resources — based in Vernon Hills, IL. Learn more on our website and keep the play going with games, toys, and resources at Get social with Educational Insights on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest and LinkedIn



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