By pure accident, I had a privilege to explore a exhibition called 'Art Toy Culture 2015'. While I was surfing the internet last thursday, I came across a design/ character brand company called 'Sticky Monster Lab'. As cute as the name sounds like, the design firm offered high-end branding service with the cute figures and characters they created. I personally loved the character and brand design they implemented into their design philosophy and instantly took an interest to the company - which led me to realise that they were doing some kind of event in Art Toy Culture 2015 exhibition. Realising the exhibition was only for 3 days, I decided to take a visit to the gallery on this saturday.
The exhibition took place in a design gallery called 동대문디자인플라자 (Dongdaemun Design Plaza - DDP for short). The architecture was insanely massive and very organic. I really loved how the space was allocated for people to roam around - another masterpiece by Zaha Hadid.
Below are few exterior shots of DDP:
아트토이컬쳐 2015 | Art Toy Culture 2015
In the exhibition, I was first greeted with the graphic sculpture implying the playful atmosphere in the gallery. The place was quite crowded with people adding more life to the gallery. I never knew there were so many toy studios existed in Korea and majority of them were indeed in high-end quality. As a designer, it was amazing experience just to look at the toys that were exhibited because the ideas that Korean designers illustrated were phenomenal.
There were large number of studios exhibiting their designs - for this post, I'll just name few that I personally liked.
Studio Viper was a studio which seemed to offer robotic characters. A good example will be a character called Mazinga-Z which is a famous animation in the 80s and 90s from Japan. The figures looked very cute and adorable, seemed like an object for display.
TOiNZ was definitely a studio which seems to make their toys as something to be displayed with, not being play with. Due to the ceramic materials, it certainly added the sense of organic material to the product - in fact the material choice for their product seems to be deliberately done as their name represents the combination of humanistic and natural / organic elements together. Personally, the idea seemed great, but as I mentioned before, it seems to have purpose of display instead of being played.
Neon seven is a studio which the teenagers seems to like. Pissed off rabbits actually represents good character model within their product and it was pretty amazing to find out that the branding they did was professionally done, even with the character concept which has a potential to look immature. I personally think this significantly expanded the age range for the customer hierarchy from just for teenagers to young adults (pre-20s). I love this sense of 'swagness' in their product.
Sticky Monster Lab
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Sticky Monster Lab studio was one of the main reason I decided to make a visit to this gallery. When I first saw Sticky Monster Lab, I felt that the character branding fit very well with the minimalistic style in design, while also inherently have the sense of 'cuteness' within the character models. While the characters are cute, the branding of the products seemed to play a huge role for the customers to feel this product is actually for adults as well. I love thier graphic interpretation for their figures as it illustrates a sense of swagness (different kind of swagness to the Neon Seven Studio) and makes it unique from other product on the show. I personally love their product and the branding they are doing right now.
On the day at the gallery, Sticky Monster Lab didn't have their own separate booth to showcase their characters. I was told that they had their own booth last year, but for this year they planned to do a collaboration showcase event with Smoothie King only. It was a pity that they didn't have their own personalised booth, however it was great to see these character designs in real life (I kind of regret not buying the figures at that event).
Duckoo is another studio which I found it pretty cool on the show. While it is different from Sticky Monster Lab, Duckoo as well has its unique style in illustrating the sense of uniqueness and cuteness within their products. I personally think these products seem to suit for teenagers and for young adults.
This time, it is not the rabbit which is pissed off - it's a bear.
Krunk seems to be another well branded studio on the show. The branding and the product are professionally and carefully managed, however, I felt that their branding style seemed to be very mainstream in Korea.
I also realised that this style of being 'pissed-off' seems to be one of the mainstream style to illustrate the sense of swagness to people (mainly due to the fact that it reflects the user's internal stressed-out ego within them).
Clash of Clan
Clash of Clan is one of those mega game studios in Korea. I believe literally everyone who lives in Seoul must have seen their advertisement at least once. The amount they advertise is just so overwhelming, it is impossible not to see their ads on the street. Like a big studio, Clash of Clan displayed their work on a separate area entire just for them. There were concept arts and figures displayed very elegantly.
There were also an concept art artist live sketching the illustration on the show. Large number of people gathered around to see the live painting.
There were many more amazing studios that displayed their works:
After looking at most of the products displayed on the show, I realized majority of the studio emphasized the element of cuteness within their product. I agree that toy has to be cute in order to attract young customers to be purchased, however, it is interesting discover that overwhleming style of cuteness is becoming mainstream among the Korean culture. I personally think one of the main reason for this is due to heavy influence from Japan.
Overall, the experience of the Art Toy Culture 2015 was highly satisfactory due to the reason that there were actually few amazingly good studios and talents illustrated within their products. Also another reason why this gallery show was great is because that the show was not overly huge - it didn't pour abundunt number of different studios overwhelming me with new products and design for me to take in. I personally need time to soak my thoughts and design process within myself in the gallery and most of the other gallery tends to just pour information over and over again, not giving me enough time to soak in all those contemplation. This gallery, however, gave me enough time to think critically and explore all these new ideas from these products which seemed to played a huge role in my personal satisfaction. Normally, I tend to be extremely exhausted after seeing a gallery. But this time, it was just right - a goldilocks zone.
Special :: 더빵가게 The Bread Shop
While wondering around the gallery, I discovered this very unique backery store called 'The Bread Shop 더빵가게'. The store was famously known for a bread shop which is run by a French person, claiming that the bread in the store has the same quality bread sold back in France. I personally think that is true (although I never tried it - visually it was convincng enough).
The reason why I am making a post about this store is beacuse this store seem to have one of the most unique architecture structure - I was fascinated with the approach where there is a ceiling located under each table organising each space in a very orderly manner. In addition, the connectivity between each table seems to portray high potential in allocaton and shift in space for customers to sit and enjoy. I believe design is all about the relationship between objects and elements and this architectural structure seems to portray the relationship in a very interesting, modernistic, yet highly potential way. It seriously makes me want to dwell, experiment and play in that space (like an iPhone that Apple designs).