Life of a Toy Designer: Kaz Shiomi of Kiko+ (English)

Life of a Toy Designer: Kiko+

Kiko+ is the second brand of the creative and talented designer Kaz Shiomi. The brand is part of her company Kukkia which means ‘bloom’ in Finnish. She also designed the gg* collection together with a friend. Kaz creates toys that are appealing to the eye but also very fun for children to play with. Toys that help children to use their imagination and makes every moment of play special and magical. In this interview you can read more about why Kaz wanted to become a toy designer and what her dreams for the future are.

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When did you know you wanted a career as a toy designer?

When I was a young girl, my grandpa was a carpenter and I remember him making me toys and roller skates out of wood. He was my hero and he could make anything. I loved the smell of his workshop and so this was the beginning of wanting to work with wood for me.

How do you work? What is your workflow/ process?

This is a difficult question as no day is the same — I try to think of the feeling kids have when they play. I try to see it from their perspective and not as an adult.

How are the toys made?

The toys are made by hand in Asia. Each toy goes through a long process from concept to making a sample and prototype to going into production.
It takes very large teams of people just to make one item.

How many new products do you design/ create each year?

Usually 2 or 3 per year for our own brands Kiko+ and gg*.

Some examples of Kiko+ products (go shopping!)
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As a Toy Designer, what do you believe is your best asset?

I think I am active and creative. I think like a kid so I can relate to them easily.

How do you come up with new inspiration?

I think of the toys that I’ve enjoyed as a child and then put a modern twist on it.

How do you deal with creative mental blocks?

I enjoy my social life and usually I am lucky to meet inspiring people who help me get through these mental blocks.

What part of toy design do you find most difficult?

I find knowing if the kid will like the toy and for it to be educational and functional as well as have a good design aesthetic.

What is your favorite part about toy design?

Finding out that adults as well as kids enjoy our toys!

Do you enjoy playing with the toys you design?

Yes of course, I have many of them at home on display and often have a little play…

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On what design you are most proud of?

Tanabata star dominos — simple but functional and there is a romantic story behind the design.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

I want to make kids happy and also create nice spaces for them to play in..

Is there anything else you want to share with us?

I don’t want to force kids how to play so we don’t put instructions. Most of the time, kids play in very different ways to adults and end up showing us new and interesting perspectives.

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