1. Wellness and the new adult toy consumer
Toys and games for adults have usually taken the form of pop-culture collectibles or modelling kits. But Georgia Totvanian and Talya Aylin Baker spotted a new kind of demand. ‘People are looking to do something physical, something that doesn’t require them to focus on a screen, but that they can still switch off to,’ Georgia says, ‘and so puzzles are suddenly everywhere.’
In November 2020, Georgia and Talya launched Rejig, a modern jigsaw puzzle brand. For them, puzzles were a natural extension to the adult colouring book trend from a few years ago.
For Georgia and Talya, the growth of puzzling was also linked to the rise in people wanting to engage in craft. ‘Knitting, cross-stitch, pottery and even floristry have all taken off because people like the satisfaction of seeing something come to life in front of them.’
Wellness is a macro trend that a lot of young adult consumers have embraced, which leaves a massive potential market for well-designed toys and games. But when Georgia and Talya set about thinking about how to segment this colossal market for Rejig, one thing was clear. ‘Young adults don’t have a lot of disposable income, and if we were positioning ourselves as a premium puzzle, we wanted to reflect that in our branding,’ Talya says. ‘Our core audience is between the ages of 25 and 41.’
Capitalising on the growth of the so-called ‘homebody economy’ and those embracing home comforts – both out of compulsion and choice – Georgia and Talya have found a sweet spot in the adult market: the houseproud consumer. ‘These are the people who are design- conscious,’ Georgia says. ‘A puzzle they choose needs to be a product that they would happily have out on their shelves and that would fit neatly with the rest of what they’ve curated in their house.’
2. The rise of multipurpose toys
A lot of business owners in the designer toy space are finding a similar type of trend: the new, design-conscious toy consumer wants multipurpose products. They want something that they can not only play with, but that will fulfil another function. And it falls to the product designers to bring this to life.
Based in New York City, Craighill fulfils exactly this purpose. ‘We touch on both art and functionality,’ says Zach Fried, co-founder and brand director. Alongside a series of complex and tactile puzzles, Craighill produces minimalist keyrings, trays, bracelets and stationery.
The Jack puzzle – made up of a set of interlocked bars – is an ancient Japanese art that is traditionally made of wood. Craighill found a way to not only replicate the puzzle in metal, but also enlisted a highly specialised manufacturer to make the parts. ‘They are super- sophisticated part-makers working for the likes of NASA, and here we are putting together a very precise puzzle. It’s $100, so we thought people would appreciate it but ultimately not have a real need for it.’
Instead, the dual purpose of the puzzles appealed to multiple audiences. ‘We launch our new puzzles on Kickstarter, which has consolidated a very focused, puzzle-centric audience for us,’ Zach explains. And while puzzle enthusiasts are an obvious audience, the brand has found that there is sometimes a slight disconnect with them. ‘They’ll tell us that it is beautiful but not difficult enough.’ Rather, the second target group, of people looking for display objects, stress relievers, and analogue objects, has ended up resonating a lot more.
3. Toys for adults and children alike
Overwhelmingly, research and market trends indicate that children are moving away from physical toys and towards digital modes of play. That said, for parents who are conscious of screen time, the physical toy still reigns supreme. This is one of the founding principles of Toyno, a product and spatial design company bringing adults and children together through play.
This exploration began in Lisbon, with co-founders Rui Quinta and Joana Brígido working on a prototype of a toy donkey that doubled up as a bench. Discussing it over a coffee, the pair were interrupted multiple times by curious onlookers: ‘Maybe 15 or 20 people stopped to ask us how much it cost,’ Rui says. ‘And all of them were adults.’
Using cardboard as their medium, the pair built out a line of products for adults and children. A crocodile toy became a storage unit for CDs and vinyl records, while an elephant held coffee capsules that were dispensed through its trunk.
Rui and Joana also designed a line of interactive office stationery products designed to stimulate interaction with colleagues. ‘We felt we needed to bring some of that messiness of childhood into the corporate environment,’ says Rui.
Soon, Toyno’s products were spotted by the director of Lisbon’s Pavilion of Knowledge – Ciência Viva, and Toyno began its expansion into spatial design. ‘People associate exhibitions with learning for children, but it’s usually a family trip. We want them to be able to build and learn together.’
Read more: How playtime finally grew up