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Backstory


A recent review of an audio tape from the afternoon I first described my book-and-toy concept to Don Levine startled me with how true to my original concept the final Masterpiece Edition remains. Despite a long process that introduced the opinions and input of dozens of people, in the end I felt as though we'd truly given form to my initial idea.

My original box design for the Masterpiece Edition can be seen in the sketches at right.

It was black and red with a subtle varnish background design depicting the GI Joe figure's blueprints. GI Joe's face showed through a die-cut square in the center of the box cover; when lifted, the face is revealed as the cover of the enclosed book.

I wanted to feature the technical and engineering prowess that was involved in creating a fully articulated figure that would be durable enough for little kids to play with indoors and outdoors. After all, the idea of a "doll for boys" was one thing -- actually making it work was what captured lightning in a bottle for Hasbro.

I proposed lidded and sliding-drawer options, and the figure and book were placed exactly as you see in the final product.

Within moments of the glue drying, I had this package in an overnight package to Don Levine so he could show it to Hasbro Licensing.

It was with that original mockup - - which was never photographed, unfortunately - - that Don Levine and I sold the project to Chronicle Books (and, later, Hasbro and Target).
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Once the project was under way, we began to receive input from Chronicle Books, Hasbro, and Target stores regarding design and engineering requirements for my book-and-toy box concept. Shipping and stocking variables required specific dimensions and interior "platforming."

Unbeknownst to myself or Chronicle Books, Levine took the accumulated new data and my original box to an ex-Hasbro designer, Matt Lizak, who then put together the box you see pictured at left.

My project was suddenly called the "OFFICIAL HARDCOVER COLLECTORS EDITION." Though I had in mind a different graphic approach (to this day I believe the design is a bit dated), I thought Lizak did a commendable job. He had instant access to the graphics needed, and knew exactly what colors said "GI Joe."

Soon after this prototype appeared, Chronicle coined the (slightly) less clunky "Masterpiece Edition" title, and I was able to argue for a slightly better display font. We spent the remainder of our time on the box working to make sure everything inside would survive shipping from Hong Kong and shelf-time at Target and bookstores.

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Leading up to the near-final package design, I worked with friends of mine at Creative Design Concepts of Milwaukee to explore different manifestations of my book-and-toy concept. I told the designers, Jeff Fay and John Norman, to follow their bliss in sketching out approaches to the package that could be far more elaborate than my simple lidded idea.
Eventually we came up with a simple black package that featured two hinged lids; one to access the action figure and one to access the book.

Click the sketches below to see larger versions.

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