Episode #28 - Garrett Sander
For a little over a year while he was in college, Garrett Sander worked at FAO Schwartz. Other than that, he has spent his entire professional career, about 13 years, at Mattel. His background and training are mostly in graphic design, and after he presented his portfolio to them at the end of his junior year, Mattel spent the next year waiting for him to graduate so they could hire him. He started by designed packaging. He now works in entertainment, making the animated Barbie movies, and from 2007 to 2010 he was the person who birthed the global phenomenon known as Monster High and brought it forth to the world.
Mike Bradecich: "Garretts Sander, thank you very much for being on the Kids Stuff Podcast."
Garrett Sander: "Thank you for having me."
Mike Bradecich: "Oh, off course! I was looking at your Tumblr and your Instagram and all of your education and all of your job descriptions say designer, illustrator, artist. But, looking at your social media, it looks like the art is definitely not the headline for you. It's all about toys. You are a toy guy."
Garrett Sander: "Yes, I'm a toy guy, yes."
Mike Bradecich: "So what did that look like when you were a kid?"
Garrett Sander: "Lots and lots of toys everywhere. My parents were very patient and I have a twin brother too and we love toys, so we had a bonus room in our house. And that was just a floor covered in toys. We'd clear little paths to walk through. We used to sit for hours and set things up. My sister, who is five years younger than us, even she would join in with us. So, she liked the Micro Machines and she's little, so we'd line them all up and set up the cityscapes and stuff like that. It was nonstop toys and it never stopped."
Mike Bradecich: "And it was everything? It wasn't a specific kind of toy? I was an action figure guy. I mean, I had the Legos and the Lincoln Logs, but it was action figures."
Garrett Sander: "We had Legos, Lincoln Logs, Brio, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Barbie, Jem, She-Ra, He-Man, ThunderCats, you know, so it was like a wide gamut that we went."
Mike Bradecich: "If you had not mentioned She-Ra by name, I was going to call you out. Because that is one of the main recurring themes of your social media."
Garrett Sander: "He-Man and She-Ra, they were (fraternal) twins, so for my brother and I it was really cool that there are superhero (fraternal) twins."
Mike Bradecich: "You're not on Monster High anymore?"
Garrett Sander: "I'm not on Monster High anymore, no. I haven't been on Monster High for about two years. The last line I've worked on was for the movie Great Scarrier Reef."
Garrett Sander: "I started in packaging, yeah, in 2004."
Mike Bradecich: "Lets back up a little bit to that. On your LinkedIn, it's Southern California University and Mattel. And that's almost it except for a little over a year as a personal shopper at FAO Schwartz. Your entire professional life has been here. First of all, lets just take a quick detour to FAO Schwartz. Was that New York?"
Garrett Sander: "No, it was here. There used to be one at the Grove, where that American Girl store is now. It was really cool, because I got to be part of it when they were building it. So we got to be in the store and actually learn about setting the store up and merchandising stuff. I was an associate, just salesperson, for a while, and then I became the assistant personal shopper. So, you know, doing all the work, but not getting into commissions. But it was fun! We got to work with celebrities and things like that and that was super cool! "
Mike Bradecich: "So is that what it is? Celebrities and very wealthy people coming in and saying: "For my daughter's birthday..."?"
Garrett Sander: "Yes, they email in a list and we pull everything, wrap it, and then send it to where it needs to go."
Mike Bradecich: "So it's like a VIP service? That sounds fun."
Garrett Sander: "Yeah, it was really fun and the people were reall awesome."
Mike Bradecich: "How did you end up in that job?"
Garrett Sander: "I was looking for something to do while I was in school and just to have something to make a life for myself. And then there was this opening and I was like "cool, that sounds perfect!".
Mike Bradecich: "I've heard you say that even when you were studying illustrations and art that you always wanted to design a toyline. Was that always the idea? Did you know that's what you were going to be doing?"
Garrett Sander: "I didn't know until I was in college that you could actually go to school for toy design. It was like "Oooh, I could've gone to school for that". Just across the street from us here they have a toy design program; it's dedicated to just toy design, but I look back at my college experience, when I went to SCU, got my degrees in fine arts with emphasis on graphic design, like, when I went to college, I had so many opportunities to do other stuff too. So I got to take neuroscience classes where we learn about how children acquire language. Like, we got to learn how children learn and acquire things. So I got to have a very broad education too, which I think helps in becoming the designer I am today. And, the networking at SCU helps because I had mentioned to one of my professors that I was hoping to go into toys one day. And she replied that she knew someone who worked at Mattel and that she'd get me into contact with them. And she got me into contant with Shannon Gabor, she owns Clever Creative now, and she was a package designer then and she came up to SCU, we had coffee, she looked at my portfolio, and she decided to show it to the rest of the team. And so I went in for an interview even though I hadn't graduated yet and it was kinda scary because I walked into this whole room full of people to share my portfolio with. I was not expecting that. And then a year later they call me back to ask if I was out of school yet and yes, so they brought me in."
Mike Bradecich: "So they were waiting for you? I mean, you approached them but it sounds like from that point on it was a recruitment. They were impressed."
Garrett Sander: "Yeah. I told them I wasn't graduated yet so I couldn't start, but it was pretty sweet that they called me back."
Mike Bradecich: "How friendly was that room once you were in there?"
Garrett Sander: "Oh, they were great! They asked questions and stuff. Of course, I don't remember it fully, but I remember it was a great experience."
Mike Bradecich: "What was in the portfolio?"
Garrett Sander: "I included some work from IC. I also took toy design classes once I found out they existed; I took a summer of toy design at Art Centre and then I did a summer of toy design at Otis too, so my designs from there were present. One was from where we had to pick a cartoon and design toys of it, so I chose Kim Possible and then I did one too for Totally Spies, which was another cartoon that was on at the time. There was also my various projects from the classes I had like sculptures and stuff."
Mike Bradecich: "You said you didn't realize there were toy design programs available, but were you doing graphic design and illustration with the idea of doing toy design? Was that what you thought from the moment you signed up?
Garrett Sander: "Well, I knew I wanted to do something in the art field, so that's where I knew I was going. But I didn't knew quite what to do with it. And then I got to do packaging here