Title: Imaginative toys
Pages: 36 - 39
Author: Alastair Best
Text: Imaginative toys
Polypops Products Ltd. the recently formed subsidiary of Polycell, has exciting ways with cardboard. In this article Alastair Best discusses the formation of the new company and its range of assemble-it-yourself playthings.
It is perfectly possible to rub along without good design - many firms do. No firm, on the other hand, can live by design alone. The old lesson that without sophisticated marketing techniques and highly organised production methods good design profits a man nothing has come home to roost where many said it would - in the throwaway world of Carnaby Street and the King's Road. Absence of these two basic skills, coupled with a sheer lack of funds, has driven many small and exciting firms out of business. Some have interpreted their plummeting sales graphs as a sign that the bottom has fallen out of the Pop market - but there can be little doubt that the demand is there, for those who know how to exploit it. This is where the larger, better-heeled organisations come in. Well versed in sales and production techniques, their only obstacle in the fragile world of Pop is impoverished design.
Polypops Products Ltd is an excellent example of a small design-conscious outfit operating with all the support of a big concern. Formed in 1968 as the sixth subsidiary company of Polycell - a firm which was itself assimilated by the Reed Paper Group three
years before- Polypops has an immaculate pedigree. The history of the firm dates back to 1967 to a time when Polycell were test marketing their Childsplay range of cardboard furniture at Hamley's and exhibiting it at The Design Centre's exhibition of prototype furniture. Public reaction was exceedingly good, but Polycell halted production at the end of 1967, convinced that they could improve the surface finish of the board. A means had to be found of producing a clear, scratch-proof (is child-proof) finish. It was obvious that as soon as Polycell could evolve a technique of laminating a polypropylene skin to the board without crushing its fluted lining in the process the problem would be solved.
Polyboard, as the new board was called, was evolved in the summer of 1968 and its development was typical of Polycell who, since the Reed takeover in 1965, have launched an energetic expansion programme of which the Puffin do-it-yourself dinghy is probably the most notable success
The success of Polypops looks equally assured. Its managing director, Eddie Pond, is also a director of Polycell and presides
(caption) Childsplay furniture was first test marketed by Polycell at Hamleys. The new range, left, comprising red or blue desks (30s) tables (30s) and chairs (20s) is almost identical in design, but the shiny polypropylene finish is new. The furniture is fitted together from red or blue components and is strong enough to enough to bear the weight of an adult. Roger Llmbrick's fibreboard toys include King Castle (60s), above, striped Roly Poly (30s), below left, and Space Station (60s) and Space Rocket (80s) below and right. The inside of the foil-coated Space Rocket, top right, has been printed with dials and circuits.
(caption) Polypops managing director, Eddie Pond, left, helps Roger Limbrick fit the roof onto King Castle. The Polypops badge and the
over Wallpaper Manufacturers central studio. He has surrounded himself with a young design-orientated team in which his business manager, Peter Galloway, is the only member who is not himself a qualified designer. The organisation is extremely small and Eddie Pond leaves the day-to-day running of affairs to Peter Galloway and to his production manager Jeremy Talbot. Three outside designers are employed on a retainer or royalties basis: Cliff Richards for graphics; Stephen Bartlett for adults' furniture; and Roger Limbrick for toys.
The first products to appear on the market were a series of box-shaped animals which could be made up from flat sheets of card flinches by23 inches; the cards were clearly related to Cliff Richards's earlier Slottizoo but they were simpler in design, and considerably better printed. Each carried the Polypops logo in chunky, Mabel Lucy Atwell lettering, a poem from the unabashed pen of "Edipon" and a badge inviting the buyer to "Join the Polypops club."
Polyboard Childsplay furnitu re came next, together with a spectacular range of corrugated fibreboard toys designed by Roger Limbrick. Limbrick, who won the first Galttoy competition with a timber dolls' house, has five children of his own and is a specialist in toy design. There are five different toys in the range and each comes as a kit of parts in a flat cardboard box. The components assemble into Space Station, Space Rocket, King Castle, Polyroly and Lunartrack, and, in Limbrick's words, amount to "a giant constructional kit for adults, and a game for children" although with a little assistance most children will be able to assemble all the
assembly sheet for the ingenious Lunartrack (55s) were designed by Cliff Richards, who does all Polypops graphics.
toys themselves. The most interesting, from the point of view of cardboard engineering, is undoubtedly Lunartrack, an articulated caterpillar loop which is propelled by the child from the inside. This toy is made up of 18 tabbed and slotted rectangular members which are folded back on each other and tabbed together to form a serrated track of one cc (child capacity).
Each toy comes in a box with a poster-size sheet of assembly instructions. Cliff Richards, who designed both, is far more concerned with assaulting the eye than invading the mind (most Graphic designers are) and the result is that the assembly posters are sometimes a little hard to understand. Richards has also designed an assembly poster for Childsplay range as well as an ingenious blue and red colouring-book publicity leaflet. On one page of this, three children are shown standing on the Childsplaytable - a good illustration of the great strength of cardboard in compression.
Polypops will shortly be issuing a brightly coloured cardboard dolls house by Cliff Richards and an impressivelooking range of adult furniture by Stephen Bartlett- a designer who is perhaps best known for his Tetrad range of timber furniture.
The great strength of the company appears to be that everyone within its small framework is absolutely fluent in design."Weallthinkthe same way," says Eddie Pond, and Polycell's managing director John Maybank is clearly satisfied that designers are the people best equipped to handle a design-based organisation. The idea seems to be paying off, and Polycell's export division is quietly confident that it will pay off overseas as well.
Assemble-it-yourself is the essence of Polypops.The three-storey dolls' house should appear on the market next
month. The animal gift boxes are produced exclusively for Goods & Chattels (the owl, below, retails at 4s 11d) and
make an attractive design even In flat card form.