“Cut The Rope” Toy Design

Cut The Rope sketch

A few months ago I was hired by DecoPac, Inc. to design a “Cut The Rope” toy for their novelty cakes. Here’s how the final product turned out. Look for it at your local bakery this Spring. Nom! Nom!

Cut The Rope cake

Cut The Rope toy


Toy Design – Educational Slide Projector

Last year I was contacted by the Quois Corporation, a toy company in China that specializes in technology-based toys. They wanted to create an interactive slide projector and hired me to work up some ideas. The toy needed to have a projector lens, a slot for inserting cartridges and/or a thumb drive, and a method for advancing the slides.

Here’s a few of the initial rough thumbnails I came up with, just to get the discussion going (click to enlarge):

Projector toy design thumbnails

After some discussion the client decided to move forward with the snail idea. My next step was to develop some detailed sketches of possible snail designs. (Click to enlarge):

snail concept sketches

The client chose the first design (upper left). Here’s the final control drawing turnarounds I created (click to enlarge):

snail toy control drawing turnarounds

Eventually the project was killed and the toy was ultimately not manufactured. That kind of thing happens sometimes in this business. Regardless, I really enjoyed working on the project, the client was terrific, and I was still paid for my work. Even though the project didn’t get across the finish line I was grateful for the opportunity to take a crack at helping them out.

Madagascar 3 – Toy Designs

Madagascar 3 cake design

One of my regular clients is a toy company called DecoPac. They design many of the fancy birthday cakes you see in grocery store bakeries. They also create various toys and novelties to put on top of the cakes, often tying in with licensed characters and brands.

Last year they commissioned me to design a set of cake-top toys to tie in with the ‘Madagascar 3’ marketing campaign. I wasn’t told much about the movie other than that it had a circus theme, and DecoPac gave me some rough ideas of what they envisioned for the overall design. I worked up several thumbnails of each character, they picked the ones they liked, and based on those I worked up turnarounds.

Here’s the final art I submitted (click on the turnarounds to enlarge):

Alex turnaroundsGloria turnaroundsPenguins ring artPlac sketchRecently I received samples of the cake topper set in the mail. Here’s a quick photo taken with my blurry pocket camera. As you can see, the background plac design has been updated with official Madagascar style guide art (which I was not privy too), but otherwise everything turned out pretty close to what I designed:

‘Avengers’ Toy Display Tray

Avengers Ring Tray
Tray design copyright © DecoPac, Inc. Avengers copyright © Marvel. All rights reserved.

One of my regular clients is a toy company called DecoPac. Among other things they design many of the fancy birthday cakes you see in grocery store bakeries. They also create various toys and novelties to put on top of the cakes, often tying in with licensed characters and brands.

Last year they commissioned me to develop some concepts for an Avengers-themed cake topper that would be exclusive to Walmart. I developed a few different concepts but due to confidentiality agreements I can only show you the final chosen design, a display case. I was given an Avengers style guide and some plastic rings of the four main characters and asked to design a cool-looking tray to showcase the rings.

This project was a bit unusual for me in several respects. First, both the character art and the toys (the rings) had already been fully developed before I came onto the project. I was only designing the tray. (I don’t know who did the Avengers illustration but the artwork is amazing!) Second, the overall look and feel as dictated by the style guide was much more realistic and industrial-looking than the soft, cute, cartoony toys I usually work on. It was a fun challenge.

My final concept art is above. Here’s how the final cake topper turned out. Look for it soon in your local Walmart:

Avengers cake topper

I’ve Been Interviewed On DesignMontage.com

Design Montage logo

Australian designer Jenica Smith publishes designmontage.com, a website which brings together an eclectic mix of creative goodies from all corners of the internet – design, illustration, photography, animation, and the like. She’s just posted a short interview with me about my illustration work and career. I encourage all my blog readers to take a poke around the site. There’s some really neat stuff, and I’m very flattered to be included.


2011 Highlights and Accomplishments

Since tomorrow is the last day of 2011, I thought I’d take a moment to review some of the many highlights and accomplishments of my illustration studio over the past year:


Toy Design

  • I worked on a variety of toy design, packaging illustration, and presentation sketches for a major toy company to help relaunch one of their well-known brands. Unfortunately the confidentiality clause in my contract prohibits me from saying more, but it was a great deal of fun.
  • I sketched up some toy concepts for several licensed properties, including three upcoming feature films, for DecoPac Inc. Can’t wait until I can show those too.
  • Speaking of DecoPac, one of my toy designs for them won a silver award from the 2011 Play International Art Competition.
  • I created almost 100 illustrations for a series of preschool puzzles for Patch Products.
  • I designed a couple of educational toys for a manufacturer in China (another project I can’t show yet).



  • I created marker comps for advertising agency Olson-Denali to pitch to Best Buy.
  • I assisted the uber-talented Sherwin Schwartzrock in a fun cartoon ad for Target and the Minnesota Twins.


Misc. Projects

  • I created some animation costume and prop designs for an upcoming VeggieTales DVD.
  • I was a courtroom sketch artist for two court cases, including the NFL/Players Union hearings. My sketches were shown nationally on MSNBC, ESPN, NNS, and the NFL Network.
  • I did a little animation for Phil Vischer’s “What’s In The Bible” project.
  • I launched the “March Is Sketchbook Month” blog (with a lot of help from my wife). Dozens of artists committed to creating sketches every weekday. Word spread and by the end of the month we received over 15,400 total page views.
  • Behind-the-scenes I hired a business coach and finally launched a brand new website.



  • Over the summer I traveled to Chicago for the Creative Freelancer Conference and to San Diego for Comic-Con.
  • I stayed put for the annual chapter gathering of the National Cartoonists Society, which was held right here in Minneapolis.
  • In November I flew to Los Angeles for the CTN Animation Expo where I gave a talk on freelancing.

On a personal note my wife became pregnant with our third child, yet another daughter due in March. I also joined a health club and we remodeled our kitchen—shaping up both house and body.

I’ve had an awful lot to be thankful for, and I’m eagerly looking forward to what 2012 has in store. Here’s wishing all my blog readers great success and joy in the coming year!