Designer toys, also called Art Toys, are novelty toys and collectibles created by independent artists and designers, which they usually produce in limited editions. Artists use a variety of materials, such as ABS plastic, vinyl, wood, metal, latex, and resin. Many designer toys are plush toys. Creators often have backgrounds in graphic design, illustration or self-described low brow art; some artists have classical art and design training, while others are self-taught. The first designer toys appeared in the 1990s.
A typical example of designer toys are the Qee series, produced in Hong Kong by Toy2R. The standard size of Qee figures is 2″ high, but 8″ and 16″ figures are also produced. Qees vary in their design, usually with the same basic body type, but with head sculpts that may be of a bear, a cat, a dog, a monkey, or a rabbit. Variations of the Qee are the Toyer with a head that resembles a cartoon skull; the Knuckle Bear, which was created by Japanese character designer Touma, and resembles a graffiti-style caricature of an anthropomorphized bear; and the Qee Egg, a bird’s egg with arms and legs. Blank Qees are produced in 2″ and 8″ sizes; these figures may be of any Qee sculpt, but are packaged unpainted, as do-it-yourself pieces. Each piece is designed by an artist and carries its own aesthetic theme. Each 2″ figure is packaged with an optional keychain attachment.
Another example of designer toys is the Dunny series, produced by the American company Kidrobot. Dunny figures may be considered the Western counterpart of the Chinese Qee and the Japanese [email protected] Dunny are a series of figures that resemble anthropomorphized rabbits in a cartoon style (a design originally illustrated by graffiti, stencil, and comic artists) which are produced as 3″, 8″, and 20″ figures. There is a variation of the Dunny figure called a Munny, which resembles a monkey, and is only sold as an unpainted do-it-yourself piece. Some creators of designer toys are Hong Kong-based Michael Lau, credited with the establishment of the Urban Vinyl movement; Devilrobots, a five-person design team from Japan, known for their television character named TO-FU Oyako; Mexican artists Carlos & Ernesto East “The Beast Brothers” which are known for their Dia de muertos and Aztec influences; American concert poster artist Frank Kozik’s Mongers series and Labbit character; and British illustrator James Jarvis’ cast of characters, produced as vinyl figures of varying sizes.