Designer Toys 101: What are Designer Toys?

Countless times in the past, I've begun some sort of romantic relationship with a girl and — eventually — the topic of my passion for "designer toys" would emerge. The majority of the time, mention of this is met with a blank stare behind which the gears of her mind are churning and pondering: "He's into what now?" This, of course, is followed by a lengthy attempt to explain this scene and I've always wished there was a more concise information source for newbies; a "Designer Toys 101," if you would… So if you're an avid "designer toy" collector, then this new weekly column is not really for you; but, should you be a novice to the scene and are looking to understand what "designer toys" are, then you'd be my target audience.

We're going to start extremely simply: What are Designer Toys? The two words, separately, surely are recognizable: "Designers" being those who take artistic inspiration & apply it to practical subjects, such as producing the cover image for a book, outlining the structure of a piece of furniture, or sketching the appearance of a piece of clothing, while "Toys" are those things we played with as children, whether it was G.I. Joe action figures or Barbie Dolls. So, in the most broad strokes, "Designer Toys" are toy-like pieces done with modern art sensibilities; think of them as utilitarian art sculptures, if you will.

"Designer Toys" gets confusing because it is an term used to define an entire industry rather than one specific product. Typically "Designer Toys" are limited in the amount made, anywhere from a couple of thousand copies all the down to only one piece produced. The term applies to the sensibility and aesthetic more than anything else, since not even the material a "Designer Toy" is made in is set… In fact, "Designer Toys" can be made out of just about anything, though the four most common materials are (with example pictures of each):

  • Plastic, though commonly the type known as Vinyl;
  • Plush, which is the "Designer Toy" equivalent of stuffed animals;
  • Resin, a synthetic liquid that permanently hardens once set; and
  • Wood, hand-carved and/or assembled into some sculptural toy.

Right now you're quite possibly scratching your head in confusion… and that's perfectly okay. This is more meant to be a rough primer than absolute solution. Each week, as you learn more, you can read our normal posts with, hopefully, greater understanding and comprehension.

Next Week: What does Blind Boxed mean?

Designer toys used in the example set are:
Plastic (Vinyl): "Supermagical Dunny" designed by 64 Colors and produced by Kidrobot, 2012
Plush: "Stroll Cavey" designed & produced by John "Spanky" Stokes & A Little Stranger, 2011
Resin: "Mini MAD*L - Crystal Edition" designed & produced by MAD (Jeremy Madl), 2012
Wood: "Topsy Turvy Croc" designed by Amanda Visell and produced by SecretFresh, 2011

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