Dream Reviews: Serial inventor Fi Murray reveals how she starts with the end in mind

Fi Murray, Making Things Studio

Fi, you wrote a short article a while back called Dream Reviews. I was really taken with it because it so beautifully complements the One-Star Review technique, which people can read about here… In the meanwhile, I want to revisit your idea in more detail. So first: how did it come about?
I’d discovered it as an initiative being used in the publishing world. In short, there was a collective of authors that would write aspirational reviews of their own books.

Aspirational – because they wrote the reviews before they wrote the books?
Exactly. At a point when there was an idea for a book, a strong idea that could definitely become a reality, they’d ask themselves, in effect: “What do I want people to say about this book? How do I want it to be reviewed?”

To me, that’s a fantastically interesting – and very grounded – visualisation technique. So did you just adapt that for toys and games?
Yes. I started using it as part of my creative process in the studio. Whenever I have an idea for a product or an IP, anything that’s got enough shape to form a concept, I write a Dream Review – a Five-Star Review, I think you might call it.

I would call it that! And you extrapolate these reviews, do you, based on whatever you thought was good about the idea?
Yes – and that’s the beauty of it, really… You probably already did most of the work when you were determining whether or not it WAS a good idea! So as a process, it’s essentially reframing a brief into a consumer perspective – super simple. I make it full of first-person perspective, pulling in the insights that shaped the concept.

Fi Murray, Making Things Studio

And playing Devil’s Advocate Fi, might someone reading this think it sounds a bit namby-pamby? Or that it takes up a lot of time?
Ha! We’ll, it’s not time consuming – we’re talking about a few minutes. And actually, Ai can even do it for you now… Enter your thoughts as a prompt and it reframes your input in a few seconds. You can shape it up from there very, very quickly.

Maybe some will think namby-pamby; it’s certainly not a ‘must do’, nor is it the most serious or tasks. But I’m in the ‘business’ of converting ‘make believe’ into commercial opportunities quickly… So I need to marry wild, blue-sky concepts with insights and strategy effectively. A Dream Review makes the process efficient and fun for me. It’s as much a commercial strategic exercise as any tool.

Great answer! Take the rest of the day off after this!
I might! I was also going to add that you could describe this as a manifestation tool – putting down in writing the ambition of a concept, saying this is what I want the idea to deliver in the future. For me, emotion has to be an ingredient in my process – I’m creating things for real humans, often for tiny humans that impact their most formative years. And after doing it, I find I have something of a touch point for the rest of the process.

How so?
Well, as you get into a project, it’s very easy to forget the original intent and ambition of a concept. You know how easy it is to get off track when you’re in the thick of it… You’re faced with feasibility tests, costing, troubleshooting, value engineering and all that day-to-day stuff. But referencing back to the Dream Review is my way of keeping the magic of the concept alive. It lets me hold onto the original spark; its reason for being.

Fi Murray, Making Things Studio

Yes. Asking if you’ve strayed too far from the brief…
Right. It also makes you wear the hats of two consumers – depending on the target audience age… Firstly, the user – the kid – and secondly, the reviewer – the grown up. Kids aren’t writing reviews, and within 60% of the categories I create for, the grown ups are making the purchasing decisions. So I need to bring both consumer sets into the review to help shape the brand, marketing, comms and so on.

And how important is it, Fi, that this review aligns with reality?
I don’t think the exact outcome matters much, but it sure can become a reality. Put it this way: I’m now starting to see the Dream Reviews I’ve written come to fruition in the creations that launched. It’s fascinating to see what stuck, what didn’t make it through and if the original intent of the idea held up. And then you start to see real reviews coming in – now that’s the true reality!

Can you give us an example of a Dream Review?
I can… Here’s a Dream Review I wrote for a Mouse in the House product:

“CUTE factor overload! I’ve never seen my kids’ imaginations so alive! This brand makes you imagine an amazing happy mouse world vs yucky house rodents! The play is like a modern take on traditional fairy doors. It feels wholesome and open ended – the locations are real-world aspirational, made fantasy!

If you’re a fan of this brand, you need to check out the animated series on YouTube – so fun – l feel like I’m watching a Pixar short! Also, because the playsets are against the wall and mini, they don’t take up loads of space in our lounge… No having to make the kids tidy them away everyday! We can’t wait to expand the world – I think we know what will be on their birthday lists coming up.”

Fi Murray, Making Things Studio

That’s great! And you have real reviews, do you not, that follow suit?
Yes! There are three or four if you want to paste them in…

“My daughter loves this. She gets up every morning to play with it and makes her own little dream world with it. Her imagination is amazing, and it stores easily due to its size”.

“This cute house is so nice! My daughter loves it. This toy has kept my daughter entertained for hours. Perfect size for small hands. My daughter loves imagination play and had lots of fun playing with it. A good size toy that provides lots of opportunities for play but compact enough that it doesn’t take up tons of space. I loved that it came with batteries so could be played with straight away. The house lights up in the dark. Nice and bright and full of fun”

“Bought this for my granddaughters at Christmas. They loved it – found it pretty easy to assemble with a bit of help from Granddad and really enjoyed playing with it. Their Mum was also pleased because it didn’t take up much space on the floor!”

“Absolutely amazing. My daughter loves the accessories that come with it, and she has had fun putting everything together to role play. It is small, compact and lightweight to carry around. We love the glow in dark stickers. The roof opens too which is amazing and although not an interactive toy, you can use your imagination to move and do as you wish”.

Great! Well, that proves it works! I mean, some of those the key themes are right there so I can really see how a brief would inform that process – and vice versa… Because you’d pretty quickly know if you’d veered off course! IS it cute? DOES it take up much space?
Right. I’ve also found it useful during the pitching and selling process. It helps keep things in focus in sizzles, line-review presentations, retailer previews and marketing content, because they all need to spark an emotional reaction from the receiver… So identifying what you want people to feel and think after they’ve interacted with your content and product really helps. These reviews end up reflecting and communicating the goal. Of course, only time will tell if the Dreams Reviews I’ve written for this year’s things come to fruition!

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