No trip to a theme park is complete without a visit to a merchandise store, where souvenirs and gift ideas can be found that feature the mascots and characters of that park, as well as some of the attractions. Stuffed toys, miniature models, stickers, coloring books, coffee mugs: all these and more make up what we collectively call “merchandise.”
Samsung C&T Newsroom recently carried out an interview with Do Nam-sun, Merchandise Designer at Everland, a theme park in Samsung C&T’s Resort Group, to find out not only how merchandise items come to be, but also what it is like to be a designer.
Merch for all seasons
Everland souvenir and gift ideas come in a wide variety, and they are always being updated, with new items added to the mix and old ones becoming part of history.
One of the most popular categories remains toys, in particular stuffed dolls modeled on the residents of Everland’s zoo. Animals like pandas, lesser pandas, penguins and desert foxes are particularly popular items that give park visitors a tangible memory of their experience to take home and treasure for years to come.
There is also a dizzying range of hairbands with animal ears and other highlights that can be worn for fun no matter how long one’s hair is, and that help visitors enjoy the park a little more. At Halloween time, costumes are popular purchases.
Working for a theme park
Do Nam-sun joined Everland’s merchandise design team in 2014 and is now in his ninth year with the company. At university he majored in industrial design, and always harbored the dream of being a product designer.
In the last year of his course of study, Do had to choose between an internship at an electronics designer or a toy designer. He chose the latter because it was something he could really enjoy and do well. Ever since Do was a child, he had a fondness for toys and merchandise, as well as happy memories of visits to Everland with his family. During his internship, he worked on a water gun design project and ultimately decided he wanted to become a merchandise designer. He says, “I consider myself lucky in that I was able to turn my obsession into my profession.”
Of course, each member of the merchandise design team may find different sources of inspiration in the job. What really attracts Do Nam-sun is being able to feel the reactions of customers who encounter his designs as final products in the park. That is what inspires his designs. Because his office is close to the Everland theme park, he likes to visit to check visitors’ reactions to merchandise items in real time. “When preparing for the next product or choosing a new concept, it is helpful and fun to study,” Do says.
He also visits the merchandise shops in spring and autumn, when the park is especially busy, to check the arrangement of merchandise displays and what attracts customers more or less. Most of his working time centers around researching new concepts, drafting them, discussing them with colleagues, and honing finished designs.
Making new merchandise
Do Nam-sun explains that planning begins 11 months before launch date. Based on data that includes feedback on existing products and market research, new concepts are found and are visualized in “inspiration pages.”
When these inspiration pages have been approved, the merchandise design team produces style guides that contain the concept graphics for the items to be designed and produced that year in different product categories. Based on these style guides, the team members design actual products.
After this, all teams gather together to put all the draft ideas on the table and have a meeting called a “style-out.” Says Do Nam-sun, “During the style-out, we discuss whether all items are unified as a whole, the color, shape, material, and size of each product, and the overall design uniformity and concept matching.”
Approved product designs get made into prototype models which are further refined and selected during subsequent style-out meetings. One item may go through up to 3 rounds of prototyping before the process is finished. Ultimately, the best ones enter factory production about 3 months before hitting the stores.
“About 2 weeks before the start of a festival, the visual merchandising team will arrange store displays and that is when Everland visitors will finally be able to see the new merchandise items,” concludes Do Nam-sun.
In the Year of the Tiger
This year being the Year of the Tiger, a number of tiger-related products have been launched. Panda merchandise has also been a big hit with Everland visitors since the birth of Fu Bao in 2020. Do Nam-sun says that he is keen to see how far Fu Bao’s power will go this year, as more panda products will be launched based on her most popular YouTube appearances.
Also, this year there will be merchandise based around brand new content, such as Lessy & Lemon, the lesser panda couple, unicorns and much more, so Do Nam-sun invites people to keep watching for new arrivals and hopes that they will be just as popular.
For young designers who are thinking about a career in merchandise design, Do offers these words, “Each field of design is attractive. I think merchandise products especially have their own story and vitality. It is content that meets consumers, and I think the work to think about how to realize that content as a product and what creates the link to the encounter is a meaningful and interesting attraction.”
Everland merch marches worldwide!
Do Nam-sun assures fans that Everland merchandise is by no means restricted to people who live in Korea or who visit the park in person. People wanting to order a Fu Bao doll or incense diffuser can look on the main page of Everland’s official YouTube channel and click on the “Store” tab. There is also a selection of Everland merchandise in the information section below each individual video. Alternatively, online merchandise platform MuchMerch offers many items. Purchased items can be delivered to addresses outside Korea.