Matthew Fisher — Senior Designer at SmartLab Toys

Matthew Fisher’s career is centered around fun. For more than 20 years, he’s been working in graphic design and has been with Bellevue-based SmartLab Toys since 2015. As the senior designer, Fisher creates artwork for toy packaging, books, and materials for marketing, as well as offering some input on the toys themselves in terms of functionality, form, and color schemes. SmartLab combines STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) with award-winning toys that exercise kids’ minds — think science labs and detective kits.

“My main task is capturing the fun, excitement, and innovation of a toy in a single visual for the front of the box,” he said. “It’s a fun and challenging process that evolves constantly, right up until we release files for production. An average day for me includes a lot of research and concept design, along with a fair share of comic relief to offset a sometimes-heavy meeting schedule.”

We caught up with Fisher to get a peek inside the toy industry.

Favorite Places

To relax Beside the bird feeder outside my dining room window at home

For dinner The Grange in Duvall

To Grab a Drink The Duvall Grill & Tap Room

To Be Inspired Riding my bike in the woods, somewhere like the Paradise Valley Conservation Area or Cherry Valley

Inspiration Board

Currently Watching Gravity Falls, the entire Star Wars saga, and The Witcher

currently Listening To Guided By Voices, The Yawpers, Silver Jews, Uhh Yeah Dude, and Swingin’ Doors on KEXP

Who Would Play You in a Movie? Brad Pitt. Isn’t the answer always Brad Pitt?

Favorite Childhood Toy LEGOs, Star Wars toys, Slot Cars, Atari 2600

Last Thing You Googled Zozibini Tunzi

Best Professional Advice You’ve Received Never lose your sense of humor.

Q&A

Toy-making is sort of romanticized by television. What are some aspects of your job that might not occur to people? It’s a long and often challenging process from concept to creation. The final product is often a very different toy than what is originally imagined, due to things like budget constraints, safety testing, and the overall process of developing a genuinely fun kit.

When designing a toy, how do you approach it? What are you considering during the process? One of the main considerations of any SmartLab toy is the educational and scientific value it provides. We always want to create toys that inspire and empower children with kits and activities that often hide the science within fun play patterns — “Making science fun!”  

Tell us about a toy you’re really proud of and why. This is a tough one. … Probably our MODO dough, and the entire kinesthetic learning ecosystem we had in mind for it. Unfortunately, it was never fully realized.

A runner-up would be Spy School Sneaky Surveillance. It was great fun being a big part of creating the fictional BREK Industries and imparting a lot of my own humor into a product and its underlying story and premise, while hopefully giving kids a light-hearted look at the world of espionage and the science behind surveillance.

Is there a toy you came across that seemed really innovative or inspired you? LEGOs are infinitely inspiring, limited only by one’s own imagination. I’ve also been a fan of the Anki car racing sets, which are app controlled.

Has your work changed the way you take in or perceive the world? Yes, absolutely. Even though our kits are for children, there have been times when the science we are exploring has surprised me. And it’s definitely made me try to think of ways to include more hands-on and real-world activities into a toy that stands out and inspire kids, something more than just another smartphone game or app.

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is an assistant editor at 425 magazine. Email her.
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