Interview with Chris Reiff, STAR WARS Product Designer for The Mandalorian Helmet

Interview with Chris Reiff, STAR WARS Product Designer for The Mandalorian Helmet

Interview with Chris Reiff

In the past few days we have had the privilege of interviewing Chris Reiff, STAR WARS Assoc. Principal Product Designer who worked, together with a global team, on the creation of the Star Wars The Black Series - The Mandalorian Electronic Helmet, produced by Hasbro.

So, let's go and present the interview!

Design and development process

Did you have the original design projects from the series during the product development process?

Yes, we did. We have a long history, and a fantastic partnership with Lucasfilm. Through that relationship we are afforded access to a wide variety of reference assets which allow our designers to deliver high authenticity and great immersive experiences through the product and features we include.

Chris Reiff

How does the creative and engineering process of an item like this work?

While we have a small core group that is with the project from start to finish , over the entirety of the process our projects involve a large team of designers, engineers, project managers, model makers, marketing, packaging, photographers, and so many more. Plus, with our offices around the world, it's not uncommon to be in meetings with our counterparts in Hong Kong late at night or early in the morning. It really is an impressive team working together that makes this all possible.

How long does it take between the product development request and the on-shelf date?

This varies depending on the complexity of the item, but generally speaking we start working on things a year to a year and a half before consumers see the product on shelves.

When you develop an iconic item as a character's helmet that has been studied in every single detail by the fans, which are the main features that you consider critical for success?

We strive to be as authentic to the entertainment as possible. We are fans ourselves so making sure we are spot on with the details for these Black Series wearable helmets is as important to our team as it is to our fans!

Product features

The metallic details are amazing! How were you able and how much was difficult to obtain them? It really looks like Beskar!

Thanks! The team worked hard to really figure out just the right finish to achieve that look. Early on there was a lot of experimenting with different painted silvers and vacuum metalizing. We used some of our previous helmets to test the metallic details, so we had various chrome Stormtrooper and Boba Fett helmet pieces to work from as we refined the Beskar finish. Ultimately, we achieved the look through a combination of vacuum metalizing combined with several subtle tints and matte finishes to get that look just right.

Your helmet's wearability is getting better and better, helmet after helmet. Which are the main changes you have applied to have more and more usable products?

We are always looking for ways to improve, and wearability is an important part of that. Different helmets have different requirements but with the Black Series Mandalorian Helmet we were able to include additional padding in the top and rear as well as use a nice streamlined (and removeable) headband to finetune the fit if needed.

In the other Star Wars helmets, there are often voice modifiers. Why do you have not added it in this item?

The voice changer feature is a fun one to include in the Stormtrooper helmets so you can become one of the Imperial forces and hear that very quintessential helmet noise. For this character specific helmet there isn't much distortion of the voice in the show, so we chose instead to add new features such as the tactical light and interior lighting to let fans explore the full detail of the helmet and play out their own adventures as the Mandalorian.

Why have you decided to use the new Black Series packaging in this product?

The new Black Series packaging design is really beautiful and includes great artwork for each product! We want to celebrate the look of the characters and bring more of that great art and style to the full Black Series line including the helmets.

What would you have liked to include in this helmet that you had to give up for technical or manufactural reasons?

Real Beskar! Beskar is expensive though and it's hard to come up with enough to outfit all the Black Series helmets fans…

Curiosities and anecdotes

Do you have any story on the funniest and toughest moment in the realization of this product?

One of the funniest things that happened during our research was deciding which tint to apply over the metal finish to deliver the right Beskar color. At our offices we painted a sample piece a blue-gray color and sent it off to our factory who would then provide a color match for us. When they got the sample, they matched the color and returned a production-level sample to us as normal. The funny part is that what when we received the sample it was pink! It turns out that the prototype paint that we originally painted blue-gray at our office changed through oxidizing while in shipment to the factory. They matched what they got perfectly but it was not what it looked like when we put it in the box here!

Which element from the Star Wars galaxy are you most looking forward to (or you are most worried about) that Hasbro may ask you to develop?

Every piece of new entertainment brings exciting new content to the Star Wars galaxy. I think that is the part I look forward to most with Star Wars; that there are always new and exciting props and characters to explore!

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