Past IDer: Bruce Lund

by New Idiom


Bruce Lund is toy-inventor and designer, originally from Lewiston NY, just North of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY. He spent 6 years in Durham, NC to attend Duke for Botany + Zoology, and then he began a business in leatherwork there and relocated the business in San Antonio. He moved to Chicago in 1977 and has been here ever since.

When did you graduate from ID and which program? MS Product Design, 1981
Married? Yes
Children? 2
Politics? no
Religion? Occasionally, Lutheran

In which ways and dimensions do you think ID changed your career?

ID was my avenue to become an inventor. Probably would not be doing today and for last 28 years, had I not gotten design background which taught me prototyping, thinking and design skills that allowed me to get a job at Marvin Glass and Assoc, in Sept 1979. Marvin Glass was the legendary, now defunct, first, largest, and greatest toy invention studio in history, Operation, Mouse trap, Toss Across, Chatty Cathy, Simon, SSP, Rock em Sockem Robots, rubber vomit, yakety yak teeth, Mr. Machine, Lite Brite, and countless other great toys of the 60’s through 80’s to their credit.

I think to have come from being a biologist, to a leather craftsman to IIT to study industrial design was an unlikely career path. From there to being an inventor of toys and games has left me with the sense of few or no limits. What can be imagined, may well be done, either as a new product category or technology, or creating an impossible mechanism. The unlikely is not necessarily so. We have just received a DoD [Department of Defense] grant to do research, have won NASA technology competitions, worked wtih the Chicago Park District (with IIT collaborators) on H2 powered lawnmowers, created hit toys like TMX Elmo that raise the bar for what a simple toy motor mechanism can accomplish in one product. One needed be too narrowly defined in the scope of one’s endeavors.

What are the skills learned at ID that you use the most in your current practice?

Today: Thinking in a critical and organized manner. The idea of being methodical. Exploring solutions to problems in your head, on paper and in 3d. In years past, sketching, prototyping skills, experience with plastic and shop equipment were skills used day to day.

You’ve obviously had a very rich background and seen changes in our industry over the years. Based on that, what kinds of shifts do you see now and into the future?

Electronics is a part of almost any product, and creates new dimensions and richness, and allows us to create much more sophisticated mechanical actions as a result. The competition with youth and adult electronics and video games has made us create better products to compete.

Toys can have a profound effect on a child, and on the adult they become. The toy industry will begin to promote how toys influence and change society and the world. There will be a realization of the power of playing a game with other people and the benefit of face to face interaction in the context of play, as opposed to solo video game play. There is even now a movement to create products that make kids more physically active. Toys and games are physical machines through which we experience and explore the very real, physical world, and interpersonal world we live in all of our lives.

What hard times did you have at ID while a student, and what got you through them?

Ran out of money. Had to quit work on thesis to find work. Was not a good industrial designer. Jay Doblin told me “Lund, you can’t draw a stick” (actually not true, he didn’t say that, but might have, as I couldn’t draw much more than a stick” I was a great fan of his. A great thinker, and teacher. And I think he admired my thinking, if not my drawing ability. He was an inspiration.

Went everywhere, couldn’t get work, didn’t have the drawing/rendering skills critical to an entry level designer, and out of desperation, took a job at a toy design studio. I was broke, $200 to my name, in the midst of a divorce. I didn’t know what was to become of me. Couldn’t even get unemployment, as I had always been self employed. They hired me after several interviews. God and Fate took over, and after a couple weeks I realized this is just what I was looking for. The toy industry has constant need for invention and new products. Whew, I was saved. Mr. Harry Disko of Marvin Glass, and the toy industry saved my metaphorical life.

If you could have changed one thing about your time at ID, what would it have been?

It was perfect. Worked long and hard, because it was what I wanted to do. Loved it. Perhaps I could have spent more time and tried to learn more from my teachers’ lives and their career experiences.

What other advice do you have for current and/or future ID students?

Go out and use your gifts to touch the lives of others, and make the world a better place for your efforts. Perseverance and hard work overcomes all things. Success is the product of hard work over a long period of time, many years. Exactly as it should be, I suspect. Lov to think it might be otherwise, by why would/should it be? Working hard is like buying lottery tickets. More you work, the luckier you get. You shift the odds in your favor. And don’t believe in the impossible. If one believes something to be impossible, it most certain is. Once that belief can be set aside, many things become possible that were not thought to be.