by Jared Wade | 03 Mar 2022
Biographies and Interviews
What are your roles and responsibilities in our industry?
I lead the Hasbro SPARK team as SVP of Design Innovation and Inventor Relations. The Hasbro SPARK team is a central team that supports “Innovation Acceleration” across our consumer products organization and includes Inventor Relations, Advanced R&D and our Funlab, which leads observational design research. When I’m doing my job correctly that means I’m connecting the dots, and most importantly connecting people, to help bring more new play experiences to life.
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I spent much of my childhood building costumes and contraptions, drawing superheroes or creating interactive stories in the margins of my schoolbooks. It never occurred to me that it could be a career. I attended the University of Cincinnati expecting to pursue Graphic Design, but ended up graduating with a degree in Digital Design as part of their first class in which that was offered as a major. Many of my roommates were design or engineering students and had co-op opportunities at Hasbro who had a branch just down the road from UC - the old Kenner Toys. What they were bringing home to work on looked like so much fun – deconstructed Nerf blasters, Transformers toys, Star Wars vehicles – it looked a lot like what I grew up loving to do. I gathered up my portfolio and ultimately received an “assignment” as part of my interview – to create a new Transformers design. Back then Beast Wars was the main storyline, so I designed a transforming Baboon overnight and that got me in the door. (If the TF fan wikis existed at that time, I wasn’t on them or I would have realized that there was already a Transformers baboon named B’Boom – I forget what I named mine, but it wasn’t as cool as B’Boom). I was thrilled to be back to physical drawing and tinkering, but soon found that my digital design background also gave me an advantage in leveraging new tools to get the job done. That combination of hands-on design and evolving ways to use technology to create user experiences is what has always appealed to me about the toy and game industry.
What are you working on now?
Expanding our Inventor Relations outreach and deepening those connections with our internal development teams.
What has kept you motivated to stay in the toy industry?
#1 is the people. I’ve been at Hasbro for 23 years now, and the people I’ve worked with are just like family. We’ve all been through so much together, supported one another, and have achieved so much together. And beyond Hasbro, I have so many friends in the industry that I love and respect. In my role with Inventor Relations, I am lucky enough to meet more amazing people every day. This industry attracts people with such a positive creative energy who work hard, value craftsmanship and great design, and who love to have fun.
What was your favorite project to date?
My favorite projects reflect two of my favorite aspects of toy design.
I was lucky enough as a young designer to inherit the Star Wars Unleashed product line after the initial launch. That line was a reimagining of the Star Wars characters as statuesque figures in dynamic poses. It really allowed me to approach each figure as a work of art, working closely with some of the best Sculptors and Engineers in the industry to achieve a vision. With each wave of figures, we pushed the designs further in an attempt to make the most compelling 360° compositions and pay off the iconic characters and moments of the Star Wars galaxy.
The other project was the launching of the first Transformers Movie and product line. It was such a big milestone for the company and the industry, and I was so fortunate to be supporting the early pitches and help manage that toy line. We were able to be a part of reimagining not only the way these classic characters were portrayed on the big screen, but also the ways kids and fans were able to experience the toys through new play patterns and expressions. But most special was the team that worked so closely to pull it all together at all levels of the organization - from our former CEO Brian Goldner down to the Transformers team intern, we were all so invested in the brand and the vision, and most importantly in supporting one another to deliver our best.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
It used to be in the creation of product myself, but now I take more pride in helping others to create those great products. When I can help to make the pieces fit – connecting an inventor to an unexpected opportunity, or helping the team overcome an obstacle to move a project ahead – those are the most rewarding experiences.
How do you define innovation?
Innovation has become overused across so many parts of our lives that its meaning has been watered down. To me the core meaning of innovation is the creation of an experience in a way that is unexpected but has a meaningful impact. A new “thing” without a meaningful experience or impact isn’t real innovation. Similarly, a new thing or experience that is obvious may be meaningful and have an impact, but isn’t truly innovation. I’m not sure this lines up with the dictionary definition, but this is how I prefer to think about it.
How do you recharge or take a break?
Over the last eight years or so, I’ve slowly gotten back into creating artwork in the free time I can find between work and family. Mostly painting lately. In this fast-paced industry, and amidst the unending energy of a 2 and 6 year old, those precious times I’m able to lose myself in a canvas do so much to recenter me.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
Transformers Jetfire. I’ll never forget taking it out of the box on Christmas and experiencing all of the details of the packaging, the backstory, learning how to convert it, the accessories… The quality of the design told such a story and sticks with me as a designer to this day.
Where were you born?
Springboro, Ohio – A small farm town between Dayton and Cincinnati that quickly grew as a suburb throughout my childhood.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I was surrounded by family. Most of my family had been in that part of Ohio for generations so we had cousins and grandparents all around us. It felt like we kids had the run of the farms and fields all around us to explore - making giant hay bale forts, building dams in the creeks, playing flashlight tag through the whole neighborhood at night. It’s one of the hardest parts of not living there now. I wish my own children could have that experience of being so close to family every day. I think those days of creating our own games and stories stuck with me as a designer looking to create those same types of experiences through the toys and games we bring to kids all over the world.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
First, clear other distractions out of the way and allow for space to think, and then I force myself to jump in and put pen to paper. Every false start leads to what else is possible (kind of like Wordle)
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Lots and lots of coffee….
What are your favorite books?
The Silmarillion, The Architecture of Happiness – books about world-building
What’s your favorite TV show?
This Old House – I put it on almost every night after the kids are in bed as I catch up on work or household chores. It’s my background noise. There’s something about the sounds of things being made that relaxes me. I think I’ve seen every episode a dozen times by now, but I somehow never get tired of it. (Although when my wife joins me the channel is quickly changed)
What are your favorite sports and sports teams?
UC Bearcats and Cincinnati Bengals – It was a good year!
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
My wife and I lived in Hong Kong for three years, both working with Hasbro, and while it was far, HK quickly became our home. It was one of the best times of our lives – growing in our careers, traveling the region, and most importantly making the most amazing friends. We miss it every day.
Summer of Winter?
What is your eye color?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
“This too shall pass” – my favorite quote. A comfort in hard times, and a reminder to appreciate the good times. Whatever comes next, we move bravely into the future and are thankful for every moment…
Jared - Thank you for taking time to answer our questions thoughtfully and with a sense of play!
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