Listening to bedtime stories. Building with Legos. Watching Toy Story at the drive-in. These are childhood pastimes that Joe Bradford, BIND ’12, isn’t quite ready to give up. And as designer in the Boy’s Gaming division at Hasbro, he doesn’t have to.
“Storytelling is a thread that runs through all of product design,” Bradford says. “I get to tell the story of actual characters and emotions through toys.”
He works on licensed games within the Marvel and Star Wars brands, developing board games in conjunction with movie launches (think Star Wars Wookiee Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon battling stormtroopers). The process typically takes eight to 12 months, and Bradford is involved in every stage of the design process, from initial concepts to final product—including brainstorming games from movie scenes, developing and balancing game mechanics, designing mockups and 3D models, and reviewing production samples before manufacturing. Some of the funniest moments come during product testing with tough customers: kids.
“You have this preconceived notion of what they will like and not like, and then they just completely tear it apart in front of you,” he laughs, describing what happens in the company’s Fun Lab.
His favorite board game design is Star Wars Risk (available now), based on “the epic final moments” of Episode Six (Return of the Jedi). “I remember watching Star Wars at my grandmother’s house, and playing Risk with my brother and sister, Bradford says. As a kid you don’t think you’ll be working on the things you love.”
Family also played a role in choosing to major in industrial and product design. “My mom stayed home and we did lots of arts and crafts,” he recalls of growing up in a tight-knit Italian family in Londonderry, N.H. “I knew I wanted to be hands on and work in a creative field from a young age.”
But it hasn’t been only about superheroes and galaxy wars. At Wentworth, Bradford’s senior thesis focused on brain training to help improve neural pathways for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. (It won Best Directed Studies Project). He also worked on community-based design campaigns at Design Museum Boston (founded by Wentworth professors Sam Aquillano and Derek Cascio).
And while he originally planned on a career in high-end housewares, Bradford landed in the universe of toys—inspired after back-to-back internships at Rhode Island-based Hasbro during his junior year.
“Don’t be afraid to take opportunities outside of your comfort zone,” he says, “because you might discover something you love.” —KRISTEN L. WALSH