Designing Futures
The CEO Magazine Asia|October 2020
Designing Futures
Early on, Hape International CEO Peter Handstein saw the potential in early childhood toys. For 35 years, he’s been dedicated to improving the lives of children around the world.
Oliver Featherston
You may think designing early childhood toys would be a pretty simple process. How complicated could it be? According to Peter Handstein, CEO of global toy manufacturer Hape International (pronounced “hah-pay”), it’s a careful balancing act of numerous responsibilities. When designing a toy, he says, there’s a lot to keep in mind – the perspective of the child, the teacher, and parents and guardians – but supporting the development of the child is paramount.

“Good design principles, from day one, have the child in focus,” Peter says. “This is the most important factor in any design – the child’s development and the support of elements like curiosity, confidence and responsibility. This is what we need for the future. The world is full of challenges and sometimes we don’t leave the world to our children the way we should, but we need to prepare them for all the challenges to come.”

Other requirements for the ideal toy design include safety and cost, while following the philosophy of “form follows function”. It’s undoubtedly tough to balance these requirements; Peter tells all of Hape’s new designers, “If you’re looking for an easy job in design, don’t make toys.” But he found an effective way to manage cost early on, ensuring that Hape’s products could remain affordable.

“Many people liked my designs and concepts but manufacturing in Germany was quite costly – less cost-efficient,” he says. “From the beginning, I saw an opportunity in going to China in the early 90s. It was a good time as people in China were looking for investors – change-makers. But lately, we’ve realized that today, China may have the greatest potential in the world to become the number one market for educational products and toys.”

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October 2020