Name: Allan Lennon
Job Title: Product Development Executive
How did you come up with the idea for the game?
We were receiving a lot of feedback from teachers that the majority of fraction based products seemed to portray fractions in circles. The feeling was that more emphasis needed to be given to show young learners that fractions can be represented in a variety of shapes and sizes, not just pizzas and pies.
We came up with the idea of a treasure hunt game where the treasures you seek are broken down into their fractions (1/2 of a gem for example). This way, not only are you satisfying the fun of collecting whilst playing, but you are learning your fractions as you go. As the game progressed in development, it went through several variations until we finally settled on a pirate themed game. Who doesn’t love pirates!?
What learning area does the game support?
The game teaches the fraction representation of wholes, quarters, halves and thirds. We also incorporated additional levels of play (intermediate and advanced modes) so you can play the game whilst reinforcing equivalent percentages and decimals.
What is the process from initial idea to physical product?
Like all things I start with a concept, or in many cases, direct feedback from customers. I conduct some market research and then create a simple mock up version so I can play around with things like piece count and playability. Often I get to call in my colleagues to help me play test which is always fun!
Once a working model is known I discuss the project with the people who make the games, constantly tweaking it to ensure it’s just right.
Whilst this side of things is ticking along I liaise with our art department and provide the creative steer for the product. I work with our gifted artists to bring the product to life and ensure that our company brand is properly represented.
This process goes full circle until everyone is happy with the product. After a thorough check by our compliance teams and a visit to the testing laboratory to ensure the product complies with all European safety requirements, the finished product is ready to mass produce. This whole process can take more than a year from conception to final product!
(Early concept sketch of the game board artwork)
How do you choose the design for the product?
Long before any physical product is created we often draw opinions from our product panel. This is a group of professionals from across the education industries who have agreed to help us, providing valuable feedback. This kind of communication is essential as these are the people on the front line who use our products in the classroom and who know the current trends. We take all of their expertise into consideration right down to the feeling on the theme of a product and the contents. Once we know that the concept itself is solid we work with our artists and designers to ensure that the look and feel of the product meets both our corporate brand and appeals on a wider scale.
What feedback has the game received since its launch in January 2017?
From customers I have had the pleasure of speaking to at trade shows, this product has certainly delivered exactly what we set out to achieve. Not only does it steer away from the unhealthy cakes, pizzas and pies that usually depict fractions, Jolly Roger’s Pirate Pieces has significantly more appeal by showing children playing the game that fractions relate to many shapes, not just circles. Customers also like the fact that the game play can be extended to cover decimal and percentage equivalency too. It has recently been named as a winner in the Right Start Toy Awards!
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into product design?
Simply start! Linus Pauling (an American scientist and author) said “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas” and I certainly think that is true. If you have an idea for a game then plan it out, make a simple version and play it with friends. Who knows? You could be onto the next big thing!
Who is your favourite pirate?
Although not a very original answer I would have to say Blackbeard! He was known for coiling smoking fuses into his long, braided facial hair to intimidate his enemies. Though I’m not sure I would braid anything burning into my facial hair I can certainly appreciate a splendid beard!