NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 39


Moshama: Reza and Amir Alavi’s Toys

Sohrab Malmir

It has been at least two decades since art and the conception of art have undergone changes influenced by modern social events, technology, media, and other factors. Whether correct or incorrect, with any opinion and attitude, we must consider this issue as social conformity and not a dissonance. Art might still be divided into seven main divisions; but its medium, tools, and approach have changed dramatically. Painting is no longer restricted to church ceilings and cotton canvases. Much of the music we hear every day is composed behind a computer. Soon 3D printers will compete with the hands of Michelangelo. Everything is transforming fast, without causing any harm to the essence of art. Through these conversions, the only group that will be afflicted might be the one that resists every change with extreme traditionalism.
    Designer toys are one of the new instruments/media in visual arts — a borderless world for creation and creativity.
But what exactly are designer toys?
Designer toys are, in essence, toys made by creative artists. They are normally offered as a set, in small and limited numbers. Generally, the artists have a background in graphic design and illustration, although today many artists with experience in classic arts such as painting and sculpture are drawn to this field. If we do not dig into details about its origins, this domain can be considered as an interstitial, interdisciplinary art like most of the modern art branches in the last twenty years.
    Made from wood, plastic, resin, cloth, metal, etc. designer toys are conceptual rather than decorative. In fact, although design and beauty are inseparable, the main difference between these toys and commercial toys is the message, critique, analysis or idea the designer conveys through them.
    The history of making toys goes back a long time. The marionettes in China, India, Japan, and then Greece and Rome were perhaps primitive forms of puppets, since they mainly featured a message or the identity of a character rather than decorative aspects. But the designer toys that have received so much attention among artists and designers date back to 1980s or 1990s. In more than twenty years, they have enjoyed a massive growth and have gained many fans.
    Everything began in East Asia, in a country that has always offered unique illustrations and character making. The first private boutiques were established in Japan; they sold toys inspired by traditional toys belonging to Japanese popular culture. The key to their success was that they were not based on famous figures. In fact, the designs intended to attack the inattention to folklore and traditional characters with a critical view, and attempted to shed new light on them. These toys were so adored sold out so quickly that the designer was commanded to produce more of them.

The new era and present form of designer toys originated in Hong Kong. A well-known designer from Hong Kong mounted an exhibition of 99 figures, which were also based on the popular and traditional culture of the country. The exhibition included toys with cultural and traditional icons of the country on skateboards, cassette players, headphones, loose pants, etc. Perhaps the success and attention won by this exhibition sparked the globalization of this field of toy design.
    After a while, a small company in New York called Kidrobot, started working in this field. The company’s extraordinary design for its toys called Dunny and Munny in 2004 was welcomed with open arms. It soon opened up shops in New York and San Francisco. Dunny and Munny are still considered the most successful and famous cases of this category.
In recent years, designer toys are divided into different categories and are still growing and increasingly gaining supporters. However, the interesting point might be the involvement of Iranian artists in this new and exquisite profession. Reza Alavi and his brother, Amir, had spent many years working on graphic design and advertising in Iran. In the last few years since their immigration, they have engaged in different ventures. One of them was launching the designer toy brand Moshama. A small familiarity with the personality and viewpoints of the Alavi brothers is enough to avoid any surprise from seeing their names in different (sometimes irrelevant) fields. They are not sedentary by nature, even if they find a proper place to settle down. New experiences, discovering the latest styles, methods, and professions are part of their daily inquiry. A few years ago, Reza was mostly known as a graphic designer in Iran, but now at the age of forty-one he can hardly be considered so. He has programmed computer games with his brother, is expert in modern technology, and has developed a designer toy brand. Twenty-eight year-old Amir probably brings more courage and appetite for risk to this partnership. In the future, if you hear their names in stranger fields, do not become shocked — the Alavi Brothers might even establish an application farm or eternally transform themselves into characters of a game to escape conventionality and routine.
    However, perhaps Reza and Amir Alavi’s lightheartedness, empiricism, and curiosity in the various works, from graphic design to programming, and technology rose to its highest level in the Moshama brand. Reza started designing toys in 2012 with his brother Amir and has been responsible for the design of the logo, organizational identity, and website of Moshama.
    They have eight main designs, and they have ownership over five. But they have designed three other characters as a blank canvas and have invited prominent, creative Iranian and international designers to execute their designs on these Moshama canvases. Interesting and successful designs can be observed among these sketches.
    Each of the eight characters of Moshama has a unique, captivating idea, story or concept. An explanation about them, in addition to their pictures, is available on the Moshama website.
Comix: What makes a superhero? Moshama’s Comix blend American and European comics to challenge the method of how superheroes are created. Now Tintin and Captain Haddock may also turn into superheroes with cars and capes.
Mickerix & Obemick: Everybody dreams of going to Disney Land once. Asterix and Obelix had the same dream for so many years. Moshama took them to Disney so they can have as much fun and mischief as they want.
Pixel Prophets: Great prophets each have a remarkable story of their own. However, after thousands of years of human cognition and understanding, they are still filled with mystery. People need a different viewpoint to get to know them. This was the concept that led to the idea of designing these prophets on pixels.
Milliheads: Each of us has a million heads – sometimes we’re happy, sometimes we’re sad, or angry, or relaxed, or any one of a million emotions and events. Our millions of stories are instilled into these characters with a peculiar charm.
Persian Kittens: All of Moshama’s Persian Kitties are alike, despite their diverse and colorful patterns. They all have a common identity, but with their own patterns and beauty.
Kill Pills: Have you seen Kill Bill? That film inspires this toy. Pills kill us softly. They gently calm us down each day until we are entirely consumed. Kill them!
Last Day in Circus: Imagine inflatable clowns that have worked in the circus all their life. However, they have mysteriously become flat today and nothing is left of their life.
Moshemisphere: Three main characters of Moshama live in its logo. They are totally white and ready to take on many roles — roles that are formed in the mind of the world’s creative designers. Until now, fifty international designers have enthusiastically designed on these toys. You can also refer to the Moshemisphere section on the Moshama website, download the characters in PDF format, and send them back to Moshama after designing them to join the Moshama designers.

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