Toys to tickle the imagination
Here at Micki, we make toys that will be loved and appreciated by generations to come. First and foremost, they must be fun and safe.
But making toys that are going to last long enough for more than one child to enjoy requires a little more than just good quality. The design must also be able to withstand shifts in trends and new tastes. This means that we spend a good deal of time and energy on finding a design that appeals to folk of all ages and a design that will evoke an urge to play in us all. We collaborate with some of Sweden’s finest designers, and together we produce toys that will attract both the young and the old. Toys to tickle the imagination, in a nutshell!
The design of the toys must obviously appeal to children first and foremost, but preferably to parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents too. The trick is to create characters that will appeal to several generations, and then use timeless colours and designs.
“One mental image that sprang to mind when we created Micki’s own characters Micki’s Wild Friends and Micki’s Small Friends was of course the children’s TV programme ‘Five ants are more than four elephant’,” explains Elisabeth Årbrandt, Art Director and Designer at Årbrandt Design.
Elisabeth has been heavily involved with Micki's concept development over the past years. Not only does she excel at thinking in conceptual terms and producing a range of characters, Elisabeth is also skilled at building networks with illustrators and others who can implement the product ideas.
The collaboration between Elisabeth Årbrandt and Micki began with a complete makeover of the packaging concepts for Micki and Pippi. Årbrandt Design was also brought onboard at an early stage in the Lundby project, in close cooperation with Box Design.
Elisabeth Årbrandt has in-depth training within advertising and design from institutions such as Berghs School of Communication, and has worked at advertising and design agencies since 1983.
One distinguishing feature of Micki Leksaker is that the design is becoming increasingly distinct and playing a much larger part in the products and concept. Lundby Stockholm and Micki Nursery are two good examples, and Micki's collaboration with Beban Nord and Ann Morsing at Box Design lies behind them.
“It all began when we were asked to design a modern doll's house, which resulted in Lundby Stockholm. That assignment was both a lot of fun and different, and a whole new way of working,” says Beban.
Beban and Ann are interior architects and product designers who usually work with the interior design of boutiques, public areas, offices and other premises. One of the challenges of working with Micki, they tell us, is constantly having to remember that the target group is children and that the design of the products must therefore not become too adult-oriented. At the same time, they have had enormous benefit of their collective experience, as design and function – and play – go hand in hand.
Box Design has also designed Lundby Gotland, as well as the makeovers and modernisations of Stockholm 2010 and Småland 2011. The collaboration is continuing, and both Beban and Ann appreciate the work format: Regular meetings, ball planking, and using their own and others' children as a panel of experts when the time comes to test the new pilot products.
Illustrator Thomas Fröhling is the creator behind the animals for Micki's Wild Friends and Micki Baby – in other words, the snake, the lamb, the hedgehog and all the other much beloved characters.
“I was asked to sketch some ideas and create a family of animals. We considered a lot of different characters in the process – thought about what they would look like, and played around with designs and expressions. Initially we thought that they should be quite realistic characters, but that shifted somewhat to more fairytale-like creatures. I think the end result is a perfect balance,” explains Thomas Fröhling.
Thomas lives and works in Stockholm. He has in-depth experience of illustrating for children and is much sought after and appreciated by a wide range of clients. The emphasis of his work so far has been on illustrating teaching materials, and Thomas has been involved with creating colourful characters for a couple of hundred text books for subjects such as maths, Swedish, physics, chemistry, biology.
Thomas believes his collaboration with Micki has opened up new paths to explore. He is always open to new ideas, and has published books about a young boy who wants to become a hiphopper – books that he has both written and illustrated. A new thriller for young people is due to be published in spring 2012.
Thomas studied graphic design and illustration at Berghs School of Communication, and started his career in the 1980s working within the advertising industry. He soon chose the path of a freelance illustrator, however, and has been an active member of the illustrators' collective, Stockholm Illustration, for many years.
The tiniest children, of course, have been given their own Micki toy range, designed by industrial designer/product designer Henrik Johansson.
“Micki is a company with tradition and experience of toys, which is what makes this collaboration exciting. Modern design and new perspectives on children's play are by no means at odds with tradition and history – on the contrary, they are an asset in any successful development process,” says Henrik.
Play and toys have always interested and fascinated him. Over the years, Henrik has participated in everything from research projects and developing toys for children with special needs for UNESCO, to products, packagings and marketing materials.
HEJHEJ (HelloHello) is the name of Henrik Johansson's own company, where he works as a designer and concept developer. Many of his assignments have come from within the food industry, which is probably no coincidence as Henrik has a major passion for the food culture.