Inside the non-deadly armory of nearly every child in America is a series of ever-more technically impressive Nerf guns. There are Nerf blasters, Nerf Accustrike dart systems and a 30-barrel Nerf gun called Doomlands the Judge. For adults who are into all things foam and projectile, there is a line of tactical Nerf weaponry called N-Strike. “But who makes these weapons?” a father wondered. Was it former Smith & Wesson guys who saw the light of ahimsa? So into the void of email was sent a list of questions and from that void came, happily, some answers. Turns out, it’s not an old hippie pistol maker after all. It’s a guy named Brian. Well, at least he’s one of Nerf’s design directors. Here’s what he had to say about his enviable gig.
What is your name? What is your role at Hasbro?
My name is Brian Jarvis and I am a Design Director for the NERF brand at Hasbro.
How old are you?
I am 54 years old, but a kid at heart.
Did you always want to design Nerf blasters?
As a child, I was very creative and loved to make the toys I played with. Designing Nerf blasters brings me back to those days where I would create the blaster of my dreams. Except, now I get paid.
What do you use for inspiration – do you look at other toys, or other things?
I, along with the other Nerf designers on the team, use a mix of imagination and fun as our main inspiration. We value our fans and listen to all consumer insight we receive in order to create the Nerf blasters kids (and adults) know and love.
Do you have an engineering background, product design, etc.? Where did you go to school?
I went to the New England Institute of Technology where I received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Machine & Tool Design.
How long does it take to design a specific blaster?
The duration it takes to design a specific Nerf blaster varies with each product, but can range from 18 months to two years. In most instances, a prototype is created to test how a new product would look, feel, and work for fans. Once a design is approved, it goes into production where it undergoes extensive testing to ensure it meets the proper standards.
Are there different Nerf blaster designer styles, their signatures so to speak?
The Nerf product designs are inspired by many things, from the last 48 years of Nerf insights, current pop culture trends, and our evolving fan community. Each blaster design is strategic in enhancing the power and performance of the product. Whether it’s the development of the Accustrike dart providing our most accurate dart yet, launch of Nerf Nitro with Nerf’s first ever launchable cars, or the power of the Rival Nemesis designed for older members of Nerf Nation.
What kind of testing does a new blaster go through?
All Nerf products go through extensive performance and safety testing to ensure we are giving our fans the safest and highest quality products while still offering major innovation that will enhance their Nerf experiences.
How has technology affected the design of Nerf blaster?
The Nerf brand has been around for over 45 years; that’s over four decades of innovation and growth providing us valuable insight to tackle the evolving technology landscape. The Nerf design team listens closely to fan and consumer insights, stays on the cutting edge of what’s new in technology, and they have a keen sense for the type of technology that will enhance blaster performance. All of this paired together allows us to deliver cool blasters that kids ask for by name year after year. Take for instance the Modulus Regulator blaster — this blaster features three different firing modes: single fire, three shot burst, and rapid fire.
Do you have kids? Are they the most outfitted ones on your block?
Yes, and yes they are! It’s great to share my love of Nerf with my children and it’s safe to say they are the envy of all their friends, always sporting the latest and greatest Nerf blasters. Right now their favorite is the Doomlands the Judge, but it’s always changing.