Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research

The toy box - the changing semiotics of toy packaging

Thomas, V. (2017) The toy box - the changing semiotics of toy packaging. In: Zantides, E. (ed.) Zantides, Euripides Semiotics and Visual Communication II: Culture of Seduction. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. pp. 252-275.

Item Type: Book Section
Abstract: The visual language of commercially produced toys has changed throughout the twentieth century. The toys, their packaging and promotion reflect changing and conflicting attitudes to childhood, play, education, technology and design. The commercial toy production saw major changes one could say a belated industrial revolution from craft production to mass produced plastics. Communication also changed from the printed materials to film, television and multimedia. Distribution has changed too from the specialist toyshop to the supermarket and Internet. Children can be tempted by the displays in the shop window, the pictures in the mail order catalogue or the polished television advert. They rarely have more than pocket money. So, parents and grandparents need to be convinced by the visual language in the packaging and promotional material. The new commercially produced toys need to be seen as fun, valuable and worthwhile. The packaging often communicated more than one message. This paper uses as its source material a current study of the British toy manufacturing industry in the East Midlands. The study is based on collections, archives and oral history of designers and these working into toy trade. The methodological approach is historical. This will be augmented by other examples drawn from elsewhere which explain what was happening in the local context. What and how toys were communicating through their design, packs and presentation. Theoretically it is still a work in progress and part of a larger study that looks at culture of toys (Sutton-Smith, 1986, play (Huizinga, 1998, Moyles, 2010), toy design (Kinchin, 2012,) marketing (Kline, 1993) and creativity (Hegarty, 2014). The focus of this work is not just on children but how toy packaging communicates to others. It will draw on design arguments such as outlined in James Piiditch (1961) in The Silent Salesman, Ken Garland on his own graphic work (2012) and Dan Fleming (1996) the narrative of licensed toys. Although the focus will be on the old industrial communication it will explore the roots of current issues such as the ‘sexulisation’ of some girl’s dolls and boxed licensed toys created for adult collectors. Play and toys are now a key part of integrated marketing campaigns that are used globally. We all play and are seduced by their narratives.
Additional Information: The chapters in this book consist of selected papers that were presented at the 2nd International Conference and Poster Exhibition on Semiotics and Visual Communication at the Cyprus University of Technology in October 2015.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Toys, packaging, semiotics, design
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NC Drawing. Design. Illustration > NC997 Commercial art. Advertising art
T Technology > TS Manufactures > TS2301.T7 Toys
T Technology > TS Manufactures > TS195 Packaging
Creators: Thomas, Vicki
Editors: Zantides, Euripides
Projects: All Work & No Play
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars
Northamptonshire and East Midlands: Business and Industry
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: Faculties > Faculty of Arts, Science & Technology > Design & Photography
Date: 1 October 2017
Date Type: Publication
Page Range: pp. 252-275
Title of Book: Semiotics and Visual Communication II: Culture of Seduction
Event Title: 2nd International Conference & Exhibition on Semiotics and Visual Communication
Event Dates: 02-04 October 2015
Place of Publication: Newcastle upon Tyne
Event Location: Cyprus University of Technology, Lemesos, Cyprus
Event Type: Conference
Number of Pages: 293
Language: English
ISBN: 9781527500020
Status: Published / Disseminated
Related URLs:
URI: http://nectar.northampton.ac.uk/id/eprint/8302

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