Tikr is an activity toy for dogs that rewards play and curiosity with gradual access to treats contained within. A built-in timer rotates an inner chamber, periodically aligning holes within the form across a 45-minute time span. As the holes align, treats of increasing sizes can fall out during continuous play. This perplexing time-based reward system ignites canine curiosity and engages dogs for longer than typical static toys.
Our client came to us with a solid concept – a dog activity toy that would sustain interest over a long period by releasing treats slowly and consistently. Existing products approached the problem by withholding treats using various methods, but were either overwrought and expensive, inconsistent, prone to malfunction, made of noisy and unsatisfying hard plastic, or had mechanisms that could be quickly defeated through practice. Our challenge was to address this market opportunity with a clever, feasible, and fun design.
We developed an approach that encapsulated a reliable and economic oven timer with flexible, durable food-safe TPE. The metal timer enshrouded within is mechanical, extremely robust, mass-produced, and requires no batteries. The tick-tock cadence of an active toy creates an energetic pavlovian excitement, and because treat release is metered by the advancing timer, that engagement is maintained for the duration.
Designing the toy around the timer was the strategic decision that formed the basis of the product. With this functional pillar establish, we designed the shape to evoke play. As a familiar form and accessible size, dogs are drawn to Tikr, and the rubbery material reinforces natural behaviors. The teeter-totter balance of the toy jostles the treats inside, and increasingly larger apertures allow larger and larger treats to emerge, heightening reward.
We also designed custom-shaped treats sized to match the holes within the toy. Gear-like in shape, the treat’s teeth interlock with each other, further challenging any treasure-seekers.
Designing for four-legged users is a special challenge. Understanding animal psychology and behavior is key to delighting a demographic that doesn’t express themselves in words. Thankfully, it’s clear when a concept is a hit; a smiling and captivated canine is a telltale sign!
In addition to the product design, we were also responsible for developing the SBARK Dogs brand and Tikr product name. With the brand and mark, we sought to express that intangible quality that dogs have: the spark of energy and curiosity that bridges the species gap and forms such powerful connections with us humans. In an over-saturated market filled with every iteration of pet iconography imaginable, developing a unique perspective and visuals that still expressed “dog” was a challenge. Furthermore, relating the intent of the brand – to create products for dogs that activate their minds and exercise their bodies – was an additional layer. The mark embodies these sentiments as an attentive dog in profile with a spark symbol emanating from the mind, resembling a playful ear.
As SBARK Dogs’ first toy, the name for Tikr had an important precedent to set. We worked to develop a name that was expressive of functionality and the product’s unique value proposition, while still being snappy and fun to say. A spelling tweak, replicable for future products, helps to cement a familiar word and associate it to the toy.
Both brand and product name were the result of a creative process of discovery and refinement to create memorable and expressive identities, unique within their arena, trademark-able, with strong SEO.
It takes more than a name to create a strong, compelling brand. Beyond the initial encounter, the brand is imparted with a voice and perspective through the colors, graphics, imagery, and copy that become the touch points of interaction. We helped to establish this voice, crafting all aspects of the identity to create a compelling experience expressive of the brand’s ethos of energetic curiosity.
A critical component of the purchasing decision is presentation at point of sale. We designed the packaging for Tikr and multiple configurations of treat packs to best express the brand and the unique qualities of the system. Tikr’s package angles the product slightly forward, emphasizing the timer dial, and inviting the inquisitive to give it a turn. This interaction also serves to relate the rubbery nature of the material – a unique quality among competitors.