Sarina Simon: Influences and Influencers | CREATIVE CONTENT FOR PINT-SIZED PEOPLE
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CREATIVE CONTENT FOR PINT-SIZED PEOPLE

30 Apr 2014, Posted by Sarina Simon in Expert Interviews

Rachael Tobener and one of her finest creations.

Rachael Tobener

Meet award-winning children’s writer and content designer, Rachael Sophia Tobener.  Rachael has worked with a wide range of companies, including Disney, LeapFrog, Crayola, Discovery Kids and Fingerprint Play. Though she has only been in the business for 15 years, she has written 10 full-length video scripts, designed more than 30 mobile apps, produced more than 50 toys, and authored more than 75 interactive books for kids.  Besides being prolific, Rachael is just plain good at what she does.  I sat with Rachael (in the virtual-seating sense) and asked her about her career.  Her answers are candid and reveal a person who gets genuine satisfaction from her work.

1. When and how did you decide to go into game design? Was it hard to get started?  Tell us a bit about your career progression.

I never actually ‘decided’ to go into game design. My career development is very similar to my design process. Start with a blank page and see what happens. If something starts to gel – go with it!  I started out as a kindergarten teacher and moved into educational toy design, then onto script writing for children’s videos.  For the last few years, I have been focusing primarily on content and game design for mobile apps.

2. What do you like the most about the kind of work you do?  What do you like the least?

I love the variety.  I also like the speed (most of the time).  More than ever you can now see your designs realized in a matter of months.  I have always written and designed for kids, and it’s very rewarding to create products that delight and challenge pipsqueaks.

3. Whose work or input has impacted you the most in your career and how?

The Muppets!  I learned to read by watching Sesame Street.  PBS in general has been a huge influence on so many kids, and I am definitely one of them.

4. What are you most proud of in terms of career accomplishment?

My kids now enjoy many of the things I made 10 years before they were born! 

5. What is the most surprising result you experienced in your career?

It can be a hard truth for the creative set, but marketing can absolutely make or break a product.  Of course it is much easier to market a great product, but some of my personal favorites never did well for lack of marketing.  Also, each little piece of the puzzle is so important – your sound design, implementation, art style.  Collaborating with great people is a joy – and makes for great products.

It can be a hard truth for the creative set, but marketing can absolutely make or break a product.  

6. What product or service have you seen lately that really excites you?

I love the scanning feature that apps are starting to use. It feels like magic.

7. What do you know now about game design and the games industry that you wished you had known sooner?

Having basic graphic design skill to communicate your ideas visually is essential.  I am a writer, and I can tell you that people generally don’t read. 

8. What are you working on now? What would you like to be doing ten years from now?

I am working on several educational apps with Fingerprint Play. I am also consulting on a puppet show and working on a kids album with my songwriting partner. I’m not a planner – so I’ll have to see what comes in 10 years.

 

Rachael raises a good point about how marketing can affect a product’s success.  I can recall many times when product people and marketing people debated (that’s putting it politely) over who was “to blame” or who should get the “credit.”  How about you?  Do you have any marketing/product development conflict stories?

 

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    Great blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost
    on everything. Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so
    many options out there that I’m completely confused
    .. Any recommendations? Cheers!

    Reply
    • Sarina Simon

      Thanks for the kind words. I am no blogging tool expert, but for what it is worth I would suggest you start with a free platform if you are fairly proficient with computers. A platform like WordPress can do a lot but it does take a little bit of technical comfort. In my experience, some of the paid ones are easier to use but ultimately may not give you as many options as you may want. Many people feel WordPress can give you better “discoverability” than other tools. For me personally, the jury is still out. If you are serious about starting, I suggest you start and see what you can accomplish.

      Reply