Product makers must tell a good toy story to stay focused

How should a startup identify and communicate its core purpose? With a ripping yarn, say two veterans from the nexus of technology and creativity.

At GigaOM’s Roadmap 2012 conference, which is discussing design thinking in technology, former Pixar CTO Oren Jacob and animator Bobby Podesta said good design requires a good story.

“An idea needs to have a foundation – something that can support it,” said Podesta, who worked on A Bug’s LifeToy Story 2 and 3Monsters Inc.Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

“How people experience this stuff is through design. The fuel for that design is going to come from a story.”

Although their missive may have resonated more with humanities folk than computer scientists, what the pair were really espousing what the necessity for clear thinking and a clear mission among product developers.

As Jacob, who worked on the original Toy Story and founded Pixar University, explained: “Groping randomly begets poor design.” And, as Podesta added: “If you know your intent, then you know what’s important and you can strip away the rest and focus on that.”

What these animators might call a “story”, others of a discipline might call a marketing “campaign.” You might say Facebook’s recent “chair” messaging was an attempt to re-clarify its own story.

Jacob summarised it thusly:

“Tell a story that will power your design to realise your bright ide,a which will be experienced through design through your story so the user connects with your idea.”

Now out of Pixar, Jacob and Podesta have formed their own start-up, launching early in 2013. To one RoadMap attendee who asked the pair to clarify their story, Jacob said: “Toy Talk is the name of the company – I think it should be pretty obvious what we’re trying to do.”

For those to whom it is not, here is their just-published tease video for what will be a range of talking teddy bears…

Check out the rest of our RoadMap 2012 coverage here, and a video recording of the session follow below: