Lily Van

Design Thesis Blog

Blog #5: Preliminary Research and Summation

Problem 1: Brand & Character Goods

How can a brand be created centered around a character without the need for content like videos? What makes a brand meaningful to people, where it can sell goods? Similarly to Sanrio or Pusheen, I’d like to explore how fun and meaningful characters can create an impact within the marketplace. Hundreds of character good brands are created all the time, but many of them do poorly. In fact, Sanrio has over 200 characters but only a small percentage of them sell well. As someone who would like to work in branding, particularly in children’s entertainment and media, I’d like to understand better how I could create something that is endearing to people.


Mosendz, Polly. “How An Internet Cat Craze Became A Toy Empire.”, NDTV, 15 Mar. 2016,

  • Article discusses the success of the “Pusheen” brand. Pusheen was an underground brand that stemmed from the

Pazzanese, Christina. “Hello Kitty, Hello Profits.” Harvard Gazette, Harvard Gazette, 30 Apr. 2019,

  • Hello Kitty is one of the first brands to become an outlier in the toy industry. More accurately, Hello Kitty was just a character slapped onto pencils, stationery, and boxes before she even became a toy or brand. She was successful on her own, without the use of content or media until after her popularity. What made it this way? What is it that sparked her revolution as a pop culture icon?

Problem 2: Impact of the Digital Realm on Physical Items (Specifically, toys)

How has the act of play and learning changed for children? The toy industry is slowly declining, and with this welcomes the increase of products that try to bridge the gap between physical items and the growing digital industry.

How does play shift the way that kids engage? As someone who has worked in toys, and loves creating work for children, I’d really like to understand what makes learning effective. More specifically, how can we design toys so that they are more captivating than technology? Is it inevitable? Is there a way to escape the digital growth?

In my experience, toy companies don’t know how to overcome this gap yet. Many of them think creating “apps” that coexist with a product will make that product more successful, when really it creates a hurdle for their consumers. I’d like to further research the science behind how we learn, and are developing our learning through interactivity.

Corbyn, Zoë. “The Future of Smart Toys and the Battle for Digital Children.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 22 Sept. 2016,

  • This article is a great example of how parents fear the growing tech industry, and how toys have to now evolve into digital items into engaging kids. When it comes to toys, parents are going to be the ones making the overall decisive decisions on final purchases. But what happens when the tech industry is growing and you don’t want your child to be at a disadvantage? It’s interesting to see the opinions of parents as the way children play changes so rapidly.

“Why Are Physical Educational Toys Better for Young Children.” Spielgaben, 21 Nov. 2015,

  • Understanding the science behind why certain methods of learning are effective, especially through physical toys, will give a good basis for researching further into what kinds of things should be implemented to create a more successful product.

Lily Van