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Ai LIVE: Toy Designer Lora Stephens Discusses Creative Connections

By: Rachel Handel

April 16, 2021

Lora Stephens, Product Designer for MGA Entertainment | Design, talks with Ai LIVE’s E. Vincent Martinez about the importance of reaching an audience through products. Stephens, who has over 20 years of experience in the industry, explains that toy design involves innovative storytelling that creatively connects people to a product.

L.O.L. Surprise! dolls

While she’s now known for her work on products such as L.O.L. Surprise! dolls, Stephens admits she didn’t know that toy design could be a career until she attended college. There, she studied fine arts and learned to take the pastel, acrylic, and ink portraits she’d created and transform them from 2D into 3D.

As a professional, Stephens works with a team of people who specialize in everything from doll hair to engineering, packaging, marketing, and even communicating with overseas producers. She adds that while many doll designers do have a fashion design background, some bring other art degrees and experience into the industry.

L.O.L. Surprise! doll

Stephens asserts that the best way to connect with an audience is through authenticity—and she encourages all students to show their authentic, creative selves. This has allowed her to create toys that look like the children who are playing with them—toys that resonate with children across the world. “It’s representing the world that we live in. There are more skin tones, more colors, and more freedom to add different uniqueness and likeness to the dolls.”

Stephens states that a typical work day requires that she is innovative, creative, and in a positive mood. To achieve the right “vibe” to create, she listens to music, shops, people-watches, and then begins market research to tie everything together. “It’s very personal to me because [toys] had a lot of influence in my life,” she adds, saying that toys provide an outlet that promotes imaginative play.

L.O.L. Surprise! doll

She adds that teamwork is a key part of the process—and one that can lead to lifelong friendships and partnerships. Stephens tells Martinez that there are a number of times in her professional life when she’s referred a former co-worker for an open position—and vice versa. She also reveals her current favorite L.O.L Surprise! dolls—tune in to find out who topped the list!

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By: Rachel Handel

April 16, 2021