Dot Dot Dash (Designer Toys, Action Figures and Character Art), published by Die Gestalten, is the latest book dedicated to the art of character and toy design. You only have to search this site to see how crazy I am about character design; Pictoplasma’s a good start. Actually, Ektopia could easily warrant a Character Design category. Speaking of Pictoplasma, Dot Dot Dash is actually edited by the same people, Robert Klanten and Matthias Huebner, who edited the first two Pictoplasma books; Pictoplasma and Pictoplasma 2 (both of which were also published by the mighty Die Gestalten). It comes as no surprise at all that Dot Dot Dash is another skilfully and beautifully compiled book. While its Pictoplasma brothers are more focussed on character design, Dot Dot Dash’s focus is shifted primarily on actual objects; objects of desire…yes…designer toys, AKA urban vinyl!
What is it about designer toys that’s managed to get the attention of so many of us grown-ups over the last few years? Do we just like nice material objects to put on our desks? Does collecting them make us feel young again while at the same time mature because we’re collecting possible art objects? Maybe it’s just our way of buying into art in some way…an affordable way maybe. Maybe it’s how customisable these items have become and we either enjoy customising them or enjoy checking out the custom designs with their familiar shapes and forms…or both. Maybe we have just the right amount of expendable income! I guess that for many of us its all of the above…it certainly is for me. Dot Dot Dash however “demonstrates that there can be no simple answer”.
Anyway, pulling this monster of a book from the bookshelf feels like you’re selecting a book from a shelf in a reference library (you know…the kind where you can only look at the books on the premises and not actually take the book home with you). I’m always one to judge a book by the front cover. Yeah, I know that you shouldn’t but I’m very rarely disappointed and I wasn’t when I opened Dot Dot Dash’s classy front cover (tactile gloss print on a matt cover never fails to get my fingers wandering around!). Anyone who’s interested in designer toys will feel right at home inside Dot Dot Dash and I’m sure that anyone else who follows Ektopia’s links will also recognise many of the pieces featured inside. I’ve posted links to so many of these characters, it’s so amazing to see them catalogued in such a great, and respectful way. Dunnys and Munnys get a whole load of pages showing numerous customs as well as many of the standard characters from the various collections. Teddy Troopers get in on the action in their four page spread too. I hadn’t actually caught any of their custom models so this was a real feast for the eyes. Andrew Bells creations are included too (what urban vinyl collection would be credible without his characters?). As well as featuring collections and whole series’ of characters (Dunnys, James Jarvis, Monsterism, Scary Girl etc.) there are also heaps of one-off designs. These are the kind of designs that aren’t so prolific on the internet and what make this book extra special. Merredith Dittmar’s stunning 3D paintings stand out here (no pun intended) with their relief-like characters are subtle with their beautiful colours.
There’s a nice mix of studio styled white background photos as well as photos of the toys taken while they were allowed out for day trips! It’s also nice to see that designer toy photography is given a spotlight of sorts too. The most amazing of these photos were, unfortunately, the most disappointing thing about Dot Dot Dash – read on…. Brian McCarty (McCarty Photoworks) has taken many of my favourite toy photos over the last couple of years. Unfortunately, some of his images are ruined by the character being stuck bang in the middle of the fold in the centre of the double page spread! Ho hum, alt least Superdeaux’s Gimp Stereotype survived the dissection (and that just so happens to be my favourite photo of his anyway).
Perhaps one of the best pages in this book is dedicated to Kristin Tercek’s excellent Cuddly Rigor Mortis plushes. If you’ve not seen them before they are wonderfully crafted plushes that are all hand made by one person; Kristin. I know because I own one :-) I was surprised that the one I own isn’t featured here though but the ones that are on show are all pretty great (I own the Gimp by the way. Check out his/her/it’s photo in the official Cuddly Rigor Mortis family album!). Another great page details a massive road-kill rabbit, and I mean massive…actually, let’s say MASSIVE! There’s a person laying on the rabbits belly (they’ve had to use a ladder to get there!) and the rabbit’s intestines lay spread out over a huge distance…maybe 15 metres! Nuts.
I guess all this name-dropping may be going over some readers’ heads without prior knowledge of the scene. If you find this and you’re still here try searching Ektopia (top right on this page) or Googling them; you’ll find so many great characters from these artists that I’ve already mentioned and that should give you a good idea of the kind of thing that Dot Dot Dash is all about. Die Gestalten’s Dot Dot Dash page also shows some of the amazing pages too. In case you’ve not already worked it out, I LOVE Dot Dot Dash so much. I really think that this book will appeal to so many people out there. Design lovers, artists, people who love characters and cartoons, kids, adults and people who just love owning classy books. Dot Dot Dash is a real monster at a thick 24 x 30 cm and weighs in at 296 pages. Get your copy direct from Die Gestalten or all the normal places including AmazonUK.