College for Creative Studies: Product Design


Ian Grout

Fisher-Price (East Aurora, New York)

Project Designer

Imagine a career where dreaming up toys, or racing through the office on a hand built prototype is considered serious business. Ian Grout knows just how fun a career in design can be. He has spent the last ten years designing toys for three of the country’s most successful companies.

“What I enjoy most about my career is that it blends entertainment with problem solving, plus seeing product that I’ve designed being enjoyed by kids is really rewarding” said Grout. “I brought two Radio Flyer Ziggles to Thanksgiving, and it took about 30 seconds for my nieces to set up an impromptu racecourse in my aunt’s basement and start doing laps.

“A couple weeks ago, I gave an toy Animal Rollers Rhino to friends who have a seven-month old. Then, my friend called me back a week later and said, ‘Aiden is and that Rhino are inseparable. He took it to his grandmother’s this weekend and doesn’t go anywhere without it!’ Hearing stories like that about something I’ve designed is the best feeling.”

Currently, Grout is a project designer at Fisher-Price in East Aurora, New York. In this position, he conducts research (evaluating how babies play with prototype product, and seeking insights from parents), generates ideas (sketching, 3D modeling in CAD, and building prototypes) and sees the design through to production. While his specific tasks vary day by day, it all encompasses the design process he learned at CCS. The first project he worked on for the company, Fisher-Price Roller Blocks, recently debuted at the 2014 New York Toy Fair in February.

“The Roller Blocks stack like blocks, but roll like balls due to the roller trapped inside the block,” Grout explained. “They combine what’s the most fun about blocks for babies (stacking and spilling) with what’s most fun about balls (rolling and spinning). In addition, each block roller has four different faces printed on it, so baby sees the blocks come to life with faces as they play with it.”

Although the Roller Blocks won’t hit the shelves until May 2014, the new toy is already getting a lot of buzz. Online pregnancy/parenting website What to Expect listed the Roller Blocks as one of the eight new toys “Sure to Be on Your Baby Registry.” 

Grout worked at two other major toy manufacturers before landing his current position at Fisher-Price. He spent two years as a senior industrial designer at Radio Flyer, where two of his favorite projects to design were the Radio Flyer Ziggle, and the Ride 2 Glide.

“The Ziggle offers a really unique riding experience,” said Grout. “You twist the front and wiggle the back to power it forward, and once you get up to speed, you can drift it, slide it, or spin it 360 degrees.The R&D group at Radio Flyer built several full size prototypes at first to prove out the handling characteristics, and we had a blast racing those things around the office.”

The Ziggle was released in the fall of 2013 after being tested by children at daycares and preschools. It was named as Parents Magazine’s Outdoor Toy of the Year and featured on the Ellen Show. Currently, the Ziggle is sold at WalMart, Target and Toys R Us.

The Ride 2 Glide transforms from a ride-on to a scooter, which helps in the development of a toddler transitioning from riding a foot-to-floor ride-on to improving his or her balance to ride a stand-up scooter.

Prior to working at Radio Flyer, Grout was a senior product designer at Little Tikes in Ohio where he designed over 50 toys in seven years. Some of his favorite projects are the Spiralin' Seas Waterpark, Sandy Lagoon Waterpark, Little Tikes Big Adventures Playsets and the 3-in-1 Baseball Trainer on which he collaborated with Ed Cox (Product Design, 2011), who was interning from CCS at the time.

Although Grout has gained most of his insight from over a decade of professional experience, he still credits some of his wisdom to lessons he learned as a student at CCS. 

“I use a lot of what I learned at CCS on a daily basis."

My VisCom instructor, Jim Fleming, broke down rendering into terms that were simple enough for me to understand (the single, double and triple line weight technique, combined with the single light source, render the cube with dropped shadows). I use this every time I draw at work.

“Tom Roney taught us to always remember the consumer. I also appreciated those instructors, Clyde Foles, Patricia McCohnen, Russ Dunbar and Bill Robinson, who encouraged us to think different and try crazy ideas. They made design fun then, and it still is for me now.”

Check out this fun link to the Ziggle’s being put through its paces

More of Grout’s work can be found at