Richard Heayes on the launch of his new invention studio, PlayLenz

Rich Heayes Play Lenz
Richard Heayes has been designing and inventing toys and games for over 25 years.

With over 300 products to market, he uses his experience to fuse imagination with reality in order to deliver products that are both fun to play and profitable to sell.

Having spent 18 years at Hasbro working across their brand portfolio and leading the creative team from the West London office, Heayes then set up his own design consultancy, Heayes Design, and this week sees him officially launch his own invention studio, PlayLenz.

We caught up with Heayes to find out more about PlayLenz, and why he feels just as creative now as when he first started out.

For those who may not be aware, what’s your background in the world of toy design?
Hi Billy, I’ve worked in the toy industry for over 25 years. I first became interested in toys and play working for small giftware company called Loncraine Broxton in the early 90’s. We designed and made everything in the UK and worked with bi-fluids, magnets and other fun materials. I knew it was a sector I enjoyed and was fortunate to gain a design role within Hasbro. I started off on the Playskool brand and worked on most of Hasbro’s portfolio at some point. I spent 10 years in games and went on to manage the development team in London.

Talk us through PlayLenz?
When I set the business up, I wanted to split my time evenly between invention and consultancy. Of course, that goal has not always been easy to keep. PlayLenz is set up to focus the inventing side of the business. As well as my own concepts, I also love to collaborate with the right people and wanted a brand that reflected that. PlayLenz does what it says: it looks at the world through a lens of play and that also enables me to approach non-toy companies who are looking to add playfulness into their products.

And on the Heayes Design front, what should people know about this service and how it differs from your work with PlayLenz?
I quickly realised when I left Hasbro that I’d gained a lot of ‘know how’ spanning design, NPD, marketing and manufacturing. I’ve always pushed for what I call ‘total design’, where the designer has an awareness from sketch to shelf. I believe it makes for more commercial, more rounded solutions. Heayes Design is about strategy as much as design and development. I work with toy and game companies creating new products, whole lines and new brands.

How do you assess the state of creativity in the industry at present?
If you can’t be creative in the toy business then you might as well pack your bags! The reality of the world today is you need to cut through the noise and as much as most toy companies hate to admit it, we are a product led industry. Get the product right and everything else falls into place. Great product becomes a great brand and whole companies are built off of one product.

Personally I feel as fresh and creative as I did 25 years ago. There is always new tech, new ways to play, new things to learn and new companies starting out. It’s a great business to be part of.

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