To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, I had the honor of sitting down with Griffin Maghari, Bif Bang Pow! Design Supervisor and lead product designer on the awesomely retro Star Trek: The Original Series Pin Mate Wooden Enterprise Bridge Playset. During our chat, I learned more about his passion for concept design and how it translates into the Star Trek collectibles he helps to create.
How long have you been a designer?
Well, I have always been an artist. I went to school for Fine Arts and Graphic Design, and I’ve been a designer for 15 years. I first started out in animation and worked for Film Roman, which does The Simpsons, and DreamWorks Feature Animation where I was aspiring to be a character designer.
How did you begin your product design career?
I’ve always had a love for toys, and the company had just begun to create their own products – which meant they were looking for a designer. My skills as a character designer lent themselves to concept design for toys, so my career shifted. I started to focus on designing collectibles – which, for me, has become a dream job! I love having the freedom to draw different characters and making them into new products.
What’s it like to work on Star Trek products?
It’s really cool because you are working with such iconic characters. CBS (our licensor) has been a real asset when it comes to creating products for this license. They really help us make sure that we get all the details right. It’s been an amazing experience to design Star Trek products.
What was your favorite Star Trek item to create so far?
The Star Trek: The Original Series Pin Mate Wooden Enterprise Bridge Playset has been my favorite to create. I’ve always been a playset guy so it’s awesome to actually design one.
How did the bridge playset come about?
When we started the Pin Mate™ line, playsets were something we were always thinking of doing. The scale of the Pin Mate™ figures really lends itself to playsets and vehicles. When we started doing Star Trek, it was a natural fit to create the U.S.S. Enterprise as a wooden playset to accompanying the figures in the line.
Can you tell me about the kind of challenges you faced when you were creating the playset?
Our Pin Mate™ line is made from wood, so we had to create playset out of wood as well. The biggest challenge was translating the distinctive elements of the ship to this type of material. We had to distill down the key details that make the Enterprise‘s bridge so iconic and transform them using wood. Made with artistic input from William Smith of TOSGRPHICS.COM, a few of the key things we made sure to include were Kirk’s command chair, the work stations, the elevator, and the monitor.
Speaking of Captain Kirk, how did you pick the characters for this set?
We like to be in-tune with what the fans like, and we also know the history of the franchise. We had already made the top seven crew members from The Original Series, so who would be next? In my mind that would be Nurse Chapel. I think a lot of fans would agree with me. Of course, we also included a variant Kirk with green tunic, and an alternate version of Spock. Not only does the Spock variant have a tricorder, but he has his signature inquisitive facial expression as well. This is a completely unique to that Pin Mate™ figure.
When you talk about being unique, is there a special style or spin you like put on the products you create to make them distinctly your own?
I do. I sometimes like to put small details in. If you look at our nesting dolls, you can see the slight eye twinkle I put in to the characters; it gives them a little flare.
Are there any other Star Trek items that you are working on now that you can tell me about?
I’m sworn to secrecy, but we will have some cool items in 2017 when Star Trek: The Next Generation celebrates its 30th anniversary.