When blogging first became a cultural phenomena the media stereotype was a writer making his living in pajamas and caricatured the larger trend of business decentralization. Brilliant academics and Disney VP’s alike could now make a living sharing their ideas, wherever they were. Xoddo (pronounced zoh-doh), founded by independent toy designer Russell Benfanti, is taking advantage of the same trend, but leveraging it to manufacture customized toys.
Russell made a career designing characters for the major brands, but had an idea for a new toy experience, where the customer could design their own plush friend. The Build-A-Bear Workshop pioneered this model, but Xoddo utilizes print on demand technology to increase design choices. Imagine Build-A-Bear fused with KidPix. Using the web-based Xoddo service you create your character in Mr. Potato Head fashion, starting with a uniform base and choosing between dozens of options for eyes, mouths, and a host of other embellishments. A big part of Xoddo’s appeal is flexibility. A six year old could design a traditional stuffed animal, but a college student could design a plush version of a friend, like the “Emo” Xoddo pictured above (center bottom). When satisfied with a design you can add your Xoddo to the gallery or have it manufactured and delivered to your home for $32.88.
I think Xoddo’s main challenge will be overcoming the lag time between when a customer designs their character and when it’s delivered. Kids have a tendency to be impulsive and having to wait five days could be a deal breaker. A retail presence would help reduce this frustration or creating a virtual world that would allow kids to play with their characters online until the real deal arrived.
The current Xoddo design is also kind of flat. This allows easier customization, but limits depth leading to a “2.5D” feel. Beanie Babies are often thought of as kitschy, but their cut and sew patterns are carefully designed and add character to the animal and the Build-A-Bear Workshop addresses this with artfully crafted base animals and an ala carte accessory selection that helps add personality and dimensionality to the purchase.
Xoddo is a great demonstration of how a single talented designer can take on an industry with his individual skills, some contracted help, custom manufacturing technology, and a home office. Xoddo is currently looking to add to it’s software engineering team, learn more here.