From board games, conversation cards and YouTube videos, The School of Life's abundance of resources are an amazing way to explore self-knowledge for calmer and more resilient lives - but have you ever wondered what goes behind creating such emotionally-rich products? \nWe chat with Toby Marshall, Head of Publishing \u0026amp; Product Development at The School of Life. Pen-palling from across the globe in springtime London, Toby takes us through the development stages, the importance of play and accessible language, his favourite TSOL products and Alain de Botton.\nThank you, Toby!\nFirst off, how about you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role! \nMy role at The School of Life is Head of Publishing \u0026amp; Product Development. That means I oversee the teams who make our wonderful books and products and have an overarching responsibility for everything from idea generation through to delivery of the final product.\nI am supported by fantastic colleagues who are great at what they do, which certainly helps! I come from a Publishing background, having worked for both big and small Publishers over the years, and have worked on the development of a variety of product types. I’m from London where I live with my wife, young daughter and our three-legged Poodle.\nThe School of Life formed as an educational organisation in 2008, published their first book in 2012 and has since come to offer a range of insightful books, games and objects. Why did The School of Life venture into product and how did the process happen?\nI would say that the decision was taken with the aim of reaching as many people as possible. We have branches around the world, but at the time, classes were only delivered in person, with the majority taking place in our London classroom. The world has changed quite a lot in that regard over the last year or so, now you can easily join a class form anywhere in the world, but books and products remain a vital touchpoint, enabling TSOL to make a difference in the lives of many, no matter where you are.\nWe’re all different and learn in a variety of ways - not everyone will want to join a class, or read a book, but they may like to play a game, or reflect using a card set as a guide. That’s the beauty of what we make, it is varied in format and accessible, ensuring the message at its core can be enjoyed and valued by everyone. \nA talk at The School of Life, LondonI really love the language of The School of Life! It’s able to translate such complex topics into something accessible, digestible yet calm, gentle and reassuring. Can you tell us about the importance of this language, and how you ensure it translates through all of the product and publications?\nWe are lucky to have a highly skilled Content Team who are able to make big and often pretty heavy concepts, approachable and digestible for everyone. You don’t need a Philosophy or Psychology degree to be able to understand and draw value from our products – that is really important. We now also produce a range of Children’s books and products which I think is really exciting and such an important area to focus on. With these we are able to really start the conversation around emotional literacy and open this whole area to children, helping them engage with their emotions and the deeper meanings found in the world around them. \n \n\n"You don’t need a Philosophy or Psychology degree to be able to understand and draw value from our products – that is really important."\n \n\nIt’s not very common to find such thought provoking and insightful games for adults. With that being said, what is the role of play in TSOL? \nOne way that play is important is that it can help us open up and get past a psychological barrier. Conversations are often quite boring and surface level, there are things we’d like to ask but don’t - that’s where a game can really help and unlock richer, more meaningful conversations. When you’re playing a game, you are all in it together and can be (in the spirit of the game) able to more comfortably open up in a way you might not either to yourself, or in conversation. In addition to that, as I mentioned earlier, accessibility is vital, and play - through games - is a great way to make our content accessible.\nWhat are the stages of product development? Who and what’s involved?\nOur development process is quite simple. We hold regular Creative Ideas meetings in which we get together and discuss ideas we have had, or revisit older ideas. Sometimes ahead of the meeting we will set a topic to think around, but often we leave it more open to see where ideas will take us.\nIn those meetings we have a mix from the Content Team, Publishing, Product Development, Editorial and Design – a varied group to approach ideas from different angles.\nWe knock ideas around to see if something feels right and if it does, we take it forwards. Following those meetings, in a smaller group, we will work on the nucleus of an idea a little more, filling out the concept and generally thinking about where it should go.\nWe then re-group and discuss, the now fuller idea, further – it is at the stage that an idea will be fully green-lit. In parallel with this we will discuss the idea with our sales teams, who often reach out to customers for feedback. We do this with the overall range in mind, to make sure anything new will fit.\nIs there a binding set of values that all products have to pass?\nProducts are weighed up in a number of ways but put most simply I would say that our aim is to make tools that will genuinely help people. That’s what is at the core of any of our products and what we always strive to achieve. We want to help people live more fulfilled lives, so if a product does that, we have succeeded!\nWhat would you say are your favourite products?\nI really like the 15 Minute Timer. It’s a lovely object and perfectly serves its purpose. It’s hard to say, but I think that is my favourite.\nI also really like the Dilemmas Game – it’s an interesting and engaging idea, and the illustrations are fantastic.\n15 Minute Timer\nAnd lastly, just out of curiosity (haha) - how much involvement does Alain de Botton have in this realm of The School of Life? \nAlain is our Creative Director and leads the Content Team. He is keenly interested in the development of our products and the overall quality, look and feel. As the title suggests, he guides the creative direction of the business, we meet regularly and he is always available when we need his advice.\n \nCheck out the range of TSOL products on Milligram.For more of The School of Life, check out their website here.