As a child, Bruce D. Lund was fascinated by designs in the living world--the whorl of petals on a clematis or the pyramidal shape of a conifer. So perhaps it was only natural that he pursued a career in design. After graduating from Duke, he entered the Illinois Institute of Technology and received his master's in industrial design in 1981.
Lund looked forward to making his living designing tools, he says, but, after an unsuccessful job search, he signed on with Marvin Glass Studio, which has been called the Walt Disney of toy design. The studio created the Yakity Yak talking teeth and popular games such as Mouse Trap and Time Bomb. To his astonishment, Lund says, he fell in love with toy design. "After two weeks on the job, I knew I had found my direction."
By 1984, he realized that he could "do this on my own and better." He opened Lund and Company Invention in a small warehouse in downtown Chicago. Since then, his company has gone on to invent prize-winning toys, games, and other fascinating products for major toy companies, including Mattel, Hasbro, and Fisher-Price. "Love to Walk Pooh," for Fisher-Price, was a triple award winner in 2005. The "Talking GeoSafari" microscope, produced by Educational Insights, with slides about planets, animals, and stars, has received multiple awards. And the Lund company's "Get Up and Bounce Tigger," produced for Fisher-Price, received the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award in 2003. (The Oppenheim toy awards are the only national toy awards given by an independent group of parents, children, and child-development experts.)
Last summer, the company's hydrogen-powered hobby rocket reached the shelves of toy stores. The fun of the rocket is old-fashioned--big bangs on take-off and bouncy landings--but the concept is cutting-edge, and it won a design award from NASA in 2003. This educational "toy" is operated by a miniature internal-combustion engine similar to that found in automobiles, but fueled by hydrogen.
"In a world that has become increasingly concerned with finding alternative energy sources, hydrogen is a viable fuel source," Lund says. After receiving the NASA award, Lund's company continued to explore hydrogen technology. Recently, it was issued a patent that broadly covers hydrogen-operated power tools and equipment.
Lund finds it fascinating that his interests have come full circle, from tools to toys and back again. Soon, Lund projects, institutions as diverse as Duke and the city of Chicago will have hydrogen-powered lawn mowers.
"I believe that toys are profoundly important," he says. "They touch a person's life so often and so early, and they influence choices later in life."
He recalls that Frank Lloyd Wright, as a child, made designs with wooden blocks similar to his famous architectural designs. Lund says he hopes that his company's toys inspire children to go beyond play. "Some children may be inspired to pursue a career as a scientist. They may make important discoveries for the advancement of all."
Nydick '81 is a lawyer and freelance writer living in Durham.