Inside Kids2 is an ongoing series that spotlights our colleagues who are doing extraordinary work across the Kids2 network. The following is a conversation with our Senior Vice President of Global Design & Innovation, Franco Lodato.
Franco Lodato, Kids2 SVP Global Design & Innovation
You joined Kids2 in 2018 to integrate human-centered innovation, nature-inspired design methodologies, and technology insights into design product development. As such, you oversee experience design, design engineering, and advanced innovation. Can you tell us a little about each of these areas and how they are contributing to new innovations at Kids2?
Nature-inspired design and human center techniques are at the basis of any product that we do and reflect my personal philosophy for design.
Since joining the company in 2018, my intention has been to create solutions that people love and enjoy by crafting the most unique product experiences in support of the brands. This is a tremendous challenge because it is about integrating complex elements up to the final detail to create the simplest experiences related to our brands. We manage and master complexity to make simplicity.
I’m proud to know that by utilizing nature-inspired, human-centered design elements, our products are innovative, unique, and more recognizable.
What are some of your team’s big accomplishments?
- We have a world-class team and external network of designers and engineers and have been able to connect the outside ecosystem with the different Kids2 departments to apply and learn about human-centered design, biological ergonomics principles, and technology.
- We have developed more than 35 provisional invention and innovation patent applications since January 2018, each one with the potential to have at least 5 to 8 implementation products, that is about 250 new products, mechanisms and practical ideas in 17 months, a great achievement for us.
- We have developed and are implementing a new Ingenuity product portfolio – a collection of more than 40 new home products based on a modular design system.
- We successfully helped create and develop the Magic Touch technology for our HAPE – Baby Einstein partnership. The Magic Touch Piano has won several awards including a very important international ToyAward in Germany last spring. More of these products are coming out in the fall and next spring.
How do you encourage ideation and concept creation at Kids2?
We create a series of Sprint design sessions which include multidisciplinary teams across all of Kids2, along with external partners, to help define, develop, and create different opportunities of design and implementation for our brands. These Sprints translate into new product opportunities for Baby Einstein, Ingenuity, and Bright Starts.
How is Kids2 changing to adapt for the future?
Innovation strikes when there are challenges and constraints, and there are plenty in this field. In order to be competitive, it is important to understand our capabilities and those of our competitors; to be flexible, adaptable, and capable; to plan ahead, and to react fast. We have put in the work, team, organizational structure and investment toward each of those criteria. I believe that the company has one of the most capable leadership and management teams to create our future in a very successful and innovative way in support of our brands.
What can our retail partners and consumers expect from Kids2 in the next few years?
They can expect to work with the most capable and innovative partner in our sector that will change and supersede our competitors. We are the creators of the most amazing experiences for parents and kids through Baby Einstein, Bright Starts and Ingenuity.
In your opinion, what’s the coolest or most interesting thing happening in design and innovation in the toy industry right now?
I believe returning to basics. Many new companies and start-ups are trying to return to the essential aspects of learning and teaching. We are in the best place and moment to make this happen. With the convergence between the basic and most simple things and the promise of always-connected technology (5G), there are no limits but the imagination to creating the most amazing toy experiences. Kids2 is the best place to make this a reality. We are living our "Apple Moment " now and we better take advantage of it.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I get to work with the best people in town every day! Learning from every person, department and potential project we are doing or planning to do is so exciting and rewarding.
What is your favorite fundamental and why?
Be a life-long learner because one of the goals during my daily life is just to learn from my surroundings. There are so many important things that happen around us and we don’t have the time to think about and learn from: your friends, family, nature. Take the opportunity from every moment in front of you to reach, participate, and learn.
What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?
I love nature and started during the summer with my wife Leyla to get more involved in discovering the town. Between Atlanta and Buckhead, we encounter an incredible network of spaces to walk, visit, and be more connected with the people and the environment. I am starting to get deeper into meditation and yoga with Leyla, as she has been on this path for two decades. Also, we like to travel, just a quick trip outside town to the beach for one or two days helps to recharge and get back to reality.
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Just do it! Just get out, learn, and experience life. The time lost will never come back. I’ve been doing this all my life. The worst-case scenario is you meet great people, experience something new and really enjoy every day.
What are you reading right now?
I am reading Hyper-Focus, a practical guide to manage your attention, from Chris Bailey. It is about today’s overloaded life with many information and multitasking.
It has a lot of great insights on novel techniques to manage the incredible amount of information we get exposed to (email, text, news, meetings, family, kids, personal and job related issues, etc.) and describes how our brain has two powerful modes that can be unlocked when we use our attention effectively: a focused mode (hyperfocus), which is the foundation for being highly productive, and a creative mode (scatterfocus), which enables us to connect ideas in novel ways. It helps you access each of the two mental modes so you can concentrate more deeply, think more clearly, and work and live more deliberately every day.
I highly recommended it!
Kids2 is a global company that designs solutions to help early-stage parents and families create tiny wins that build bright futures. The Kids2™ brand portfolio includes the leading infant, baby, and toddler brands Baby Einstein®, Bright Starts®, and Ingenuity®. Headquartered in Atlanta, Kids2 spans globally with 12 offices on four continents serving customers in more than 90 countries and has been inventing and reinventing baby products for 50 years. Led by CEO Ryan Gunnigle, it operates with an agile start-up approach, which fosters the company’s growing success.