Today we’re talking to Ukrainian-born toy designer Nazar Yarish, who is all about pouring love and creativity into his craft.
Knowing a thing or two about toy designing for a “little” kid-craze phenomenon called Paw Patrol and currently creating quirky, imaginative toy designs guaranteed to make every dog wag their tail with joy, Nazar’s playful work definitely brings that special something to the industry.
Tell us about yourself. What do you make?
I’m Nazar, and I’m a toy designer!
I was born in Ukraine and moved to the U.S. with my parents when I was five years old. Growing up, we never had much, but I loved cartoons and toys (Who knew someone created those?) and had a pretty active imagination.
I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York with a BFA in Toy Design. After that, I went on to work for some really amazing companies, including Mattel and Spin Master in L.A., where I mainly designed Paw Patrol toys.
Fun fact: my name is in the credits of Paw Patrol | Season 2!
Later on, I ended up moving back to N.Y. and currently work in the dog toy space as a Principal Designer for BARK, a rambunctious and witty brand that caters to all things dog.
And dogs love toys just as much as kids; the only difference is that they chew them up!
What do you consider your best or favorite work?
Funnily enough, my favorite work was a painting I made years ago, which happened to be the first one I ever sold.
It was an abstract piece, so it’s hard to describe, but I remember staring at it for hours at a time and always finding something new in it (it hung in my bedroom for a while).
I’m typically pretty self-critical of my own work so that one meant a lot to me. I wish I still had it, but I was a broke college student at the time; I needed the cash and sold it!
My other favorite was the Air Patroller for Paw Patrol. It had lights, sounds, rotating turbines, and more.
Tell us about your workspace
My workspace is a mess, honestly! But life, like art, can be messy at times, so why not embrace it and lean in?
Since the pandemic, my current workspace has been a small desk in my bedroom, as I’m currently working from home (or sometimes in different locations as my wife and I travel).
I receive weekly product samples of designs I’m creating, so I have to go through a bi-monthly purge to keep the space organized.
Luckily, my golden retriever Ludlow is a big fan/product tester!
What is your favorite material or tool to work with?
I use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop on a daily basis as my main tools, but I still prefer pen and paper the most.
Since I’m technically an Industrial Designer, nothing beats quickly sketching out an idea on any paper I can get my hands on when inspiration strikes!
I have a background in traditional fine art, so I also like to work with watercolor, acrylic, and oil paint for personal projects.
How long have you been doing your craft? Who taught you or where did you learn?
When I was a child, my mom saw that I had an interest in art, so she signed me up for private art classes with a local Ukrainian artist.
This experience honed my skills and helped me get accepted into multiple universities with solid art programs.
Still, I ultimately chose to go to FIT because it offered Toy Design as a major, which I thought was cool.
What is the most challenging aspect of your craft?
The kid toy space and the dog toy space are very different, but they share one similarity: designing by cost.
You can have an amazing design with all the bells and whistles, but it may not get made if you can’t produce it within a certain price target.
The biggest challenge is keeping the original integrity and spirit of the toy while still figuring out how to produce it within a budget.
Any advice for beginners to your craft?
Design in terms of play pattern! When it comes to a successful toy, one of the most important aspects is play pattern.
How will a child or dog interact with your toy? Designs constantly change and evolve, but play patterns remain the same at the core of it all.
If you know what play pattern you are designing for, it’s easier to design around that foundation.
Also, strong technical skills will help get your foot in the door, i.e., strong sketching abilities or 3D software capabilities are a must for most designers in this field.
Read also: Best Adobe Illustrator classes
Who/what inspires you? Any shoutouts to fellow makers?
Other than traditional artists (my all-time favorite is Basquiat), I’ve had the privilege to work with some pretty rad designers who are way more talented than I.
Big companies like Mattel, Hasbro, and Spin Master have powerhouse teams and designers from all backgrounds.
My mentors at Spin, Todd Kass (@toddkassdesign) and Viet Nguyen (@vietnguyenart), as well as Andres Garza (who worked at both Mattel and Spin), are incredibly talented artists/designers/humans I admire.