Toy Design & Prototyping

Toy Design & Prototyping

We get the design right.

Happy Worker's rock-solid prototyping process is set up so that we get the peskiest little design details “just right” -- without losing sight of the big picture and key goals for the toy. About a third of every project schedule is spent on iterative prototyping stages that guarantee that our clients will love the final toys.

Note: we exclusively design and prototype toys that Happy Worker is manufacturing. Because of all the love and attention we lavish on the things we make, we aren’t able to offer design and prototyping as an independent service.

Prototyping Approaches

Our design teams and creative community include a diverse mix of artists, sculptors, engineers and craftsmen, with backgrounds in the toy, videogame, SFX and licensed products worlds. Different toys and collectibles require different approaches. We employ a mix of:

  • Hand sketches and illustration
  • Digital sculpting / 3D modeling
  • Rapid prototyping / 3D printing / Stereolithography (SLA)
  • Hand sculpting
  • Molding and casting
  • Airbrushing and hand brushing
  • Hand patterning and sewing (for plush toys)
  • Graphic design, package mockups and proofs


Thank you so much. Happy Worker has been wonderful to work with. You guys are super helpful and professional. Roger came out AMAZING!

Derric Wise, Creative Director

We've done something that's astounding... we’re really, really happy. People are saying this is the coolest thing they've ever done. Think this represents how awesome Happy Worker is.

Jason Bischoff, Licensing Manager
Blizzard Entertainment

Toy Design Process

Our design process is iterative and fun, with review and approvals at each step. At a high level it includes:

  1. Rough Illustrations / concept art - guides design and engineering decisions
  2. Final Concepts - clean “final” toy sketches, with a draft color palette
  3. Turnarounds & control art - series of illustrated views from multiple angles; serves as blueprints for our sculptors and engineers; finalizes color palette
  4. Packaging Mockups – package design runs in parallel with prototyping; if your design team is handling package graphic design we’ll provide a template with all required elements
  5. Prototype Modeling – physical prototyping begins via 3D modelling/CAD or by hand sculpting or patterning; first prototypes are uncolored and without branding, and made of different materials than final toy
  6. Production-Ready Prototype - prototype with final engineering; any final tweaks are made to the 3D design or shape of the toy
  7. Tooling & Molding - tools and molds are created and refined
  8. Packaging Approval - final packaging copy & artwork are approved; UPC barcodes are assigned
  9. Painted / Colored Prototype - for plastic toys this is also called the “paint master”, and serves as paint guidelines for production; for plush this is a final sample in final dyed materials
  10. Test Toys – Also called “engineering pilots” or “trial samples”, these are first samples in final materials; some of these may be unpainted/uncolored (for plastic toys, these are called “first shots”)
  11. Packaging and Artwork Proof - proofs and/or packaging prototypes
  12. Final Toy Samples (“Pre-Production Samples” or “Production Samples”) - final samples of the toy in its packaging; our clients receive, play with and approve the final toy samples before we start production
  13. Quality Control – during production, our design team plays an active part in QC, ensuring final products achieve design goals and are consistent with the final toy samples – that is, we’re truly getting all the little details right during production

Review & Approvals

At several prototyping stages we ask our clients to look at photos or samples of the prototype, give feedback, and request any improvements. We only proceed to the next prototyping stage when the current stage is right and your team (happily!) approves it.

Production only begins when your team approves the final toy samples.

Final toys & collectibles are consistent with the approved samples. We train our production and QC teams, and do multiple QC reviews and inspections at all phases of production. We also have independent third-party inspectors verify that we’re meeting our stringent toy quality targets.

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