Rory’s Story Cubes® originated as a creative problem solving tool for adults, way back in 2004. Rory was a creativity trainer and coach, working with individuals and organisations to look at problems in different ways. The idea was conceived using an invention technique called ‘Advanced Civilisation’ (by Win Wenger).
Rory realised that the idea came from a combination of a book he was reading, ‘Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind’ and a course he was taking in ‘Guided Self-Healing’.
As the brain thinks in pictures but communicates in words, having a visual aid to creative problem solving would be advantageous. Using images to trigger stories would help the brain think in new ways. It originally took the form of a Rubik’s Cube and was called the MetaCube™. The assumed audience for it were other coaches, trainers and therapists.
When a fellow trainer’s daughter said she brought a prototype into school and the teacher used it to practise creative writing, we knew there was something more to this. When a colleague reported three generations laughing and telling stories together for two hours on a rainy day, we knew we had to take it further. We wrote to the license holder for Rubik’s Cube to see where we stood using the mechanism but they did not want us to use it. We had to change the format.
Looking at the essence of what it was, we broke it down into a dice format and Rory’s Story Cubes® was born. It became more game-like with more random combinations and added sound. Rory and Anita officially set up The Creativity Hub in 2006 to chase bigger creativity training contracts. When we landed a big international bank, part of the pitch was to supply each participant with a set of Rory’s Story Cubes.
Through a basic website and word of mouth, the first production run of printed dice sold out in May 2008.
We knew we had to make them more durable next time. We sourced molded dice for the next run of 1,200 units. When the recession hit in 2008, our training business (particularly with the big bank) ended abruptly. We had been selling Rory’s Story Cubes online and knew there was a market in education. We went to the London Toy Fair in 2009 to gauge wider interest in it as a family game. At this point, we had sold 1,500 sets. And it took off from there…
We had enough interest in it to invest in a larger production run of 10,000 units and look for distribution in Europe. We learned what we needed to know about game manufacturing and production and did it ourselves.
At the same time, we approached Gamewright (Ceaco) to license Rory’s Story Cubes® for the North American market. Our four year old daughter pitched it in a video. They launched it at New York Toy Fair 2010.
In December 2011, Rory’s Story Cubes® reached No.1 on Amazon in the toys and games category.
In 2012 it hit mass awareness in the US, getting much PR coverage and winning many awards.
The most exciting thing about the whole journey is seeing the diversity of creativity that comes out of playing with Rory’s Story Cubes®. We love hearing about novels written, illustrations drawn, music composed, short film shot and role-playing games mastered, all with the inspiration from a roll of Rory’s Story Cubes.
Not every roll needs to lead to a literary masterpiece. Witnessing a story (that never existed before) verbally improvised live in the moment, is a little magical. Sharing this playful experience with family and friends is still a special thing for us.
The Little Orange Box
People always comment on our little orange box and ask where the packaging idea came from. This is the story.
When we were starting out with the first run of 500 sets of Rory’s Story Cubes, we couldn’t afford to get special packaging made. We needed to source a ’found’ solution, something that was already in use.
We were looking at all kinds of packaging that we could source, including medicine bottles and sealed food bags. One day, Rory picked up a little jewellery case and to his delight, the nine StoryCubes fit in perfectly. We went to the jewellery shop where the box was bought and asked who their box supplier was. We then bought 500 of these and packed them ourselves.
Customers who bought Rory’s Story Cubes from or website loved the small box. Comments included that it fit in pockets, in handbags, in car glove compartments, always ready to be played with. Customers also liked that there was no waste in the pack, nothing that had to be thrown away.
This box, however, was not suitable when it came to physical retail stores. As the business of selling Rory’s Story Cubes started to grow, distributors and retailers told us we needed to put it in a bigger box. We problem-solved this apparent problem, looking for the needs behind all the comments we were hearing.
The retailers wanted something that looked valuable... The customers wanted a pack that was portable and clever.
We looked at these needs of both and researched where else this packaging dilemma had been solved. Looking at cosmetic packaging, we knew that it was possible to have a high-perceived value product in a small box.
We made a prototype based on cosmetic rather than toy packaging and used a vibrant orange (the colour of creativity) for impact.
We added an additional sleeve to hold all the regulatory information, barcodes and localised language rules. We finally had a product to be proud of.
The design iteration of packaging doesn’t end. The introduction of new product ranges, the need for different packaging in different stores and an evolving toy industry all mean that we will continue to adapt and change.