Title: Duke of Edinburgh's prize for elegant design: Patrick Rylands for Trendon Toys
Pages: 34 - 37
Text: Duke of Edinburgh's Prize for Elegant Design Patrick Rylands for Trendon toys
The Duke of Edinburgh's Prize for Elegant Design 1970 has been awarded to Patrick Rylands for a range of toys designed for Trendon Ltd. The judges were impressed by Mr Rylands's creative approach to the design of toys and by his sustained contribution to toy design in the development of this range. They particularly commended the abstract qualities of the toys, which encourage children to use their imagination and introduce them to ideas of structure, form, colour and balance.
The best known of Patrick Rylands's toys is Playplax and this illustrates all the features which the selection panel praised. Playplax consists of simple tubes and flat squares of transparent polystyrene slotted so that they can be constructed in a multitude of ways. Red, yellow, blue, green ond clear pieces are included in each set so that children learn about colour combinations while exploring the wide variety of constructions which can be achieved.
Of the other toys designed for Trendon by Patrick Rylands and selected by the judges for the award, two are constructional. Little Men consists of a series of coloured ABS plastics discs, arms, legs, and bodies-with-heads which can be slotted together in a variety of ways with additional circular pieces, using a double-sided slotted platform as a base. Mosaic consists of triangular pieces of white polystyrene with a wide band of red, yellow or blue across them which can be fitted together in many different shapes and patterns.
Gyrosphere is simply a plaything, consisting of a rotor carrying a coloured pattern and housed in a clear polystyrene sphere; children can make the pattern rotate and create an attractive visual effect by just twisting Gyrosphere in their hands or by rolling it along the floor. Bird and Fish are very simple smooth shapes in ABS plastics with only eyes for decoration, and are weighted to be self-uprighting in water; they have a comforting tactile quality, and are attractive to both adults and children.
In the opinion of the judges, Patrick Rylands has shown in this range how toys can be designed to amuse, to stimulate creative talent and to educate.
The Duke of Edinburgh's Prize is awarded annually to the designer of a product "distinguished by its elegance." Patrick Rylands receives a certificate at this year's presentation ceremony and, at a similar ceremony next year, Prince Philip will present him with the actual prize. This will take the form of an appropriate article designed by Mr Rylands himself or commissioned by him from another designer.
Patrick Rylands points out that a single toy can have many functions. "For me," he says, "one of the most important functions of a toy is to enable the child to enter into fantasy. I believe that a child can come to grips with reality through fantasy. The proverbial cardboard box is excellent because a child can make anything of it: the box suggests so little itself that the child is completely free to use his imagination. The 'less is more' principle probably applies more to toys than anything else: the doll that does everything itself does nothing for the child. I do not set out to design specifically 'educational' toys. My prime aim is to design something that will amuse children; if I achieve this then I believe the child will be learning anyway."
Playplax - which has sold well over a million packs in three years in 30 countries, and is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York - was designed and manufactured almost by chance. Patrick Rylands had been working on the design of interlocking industrial facings in ceramics and concrete while still a student at the Royal College of Art, and developed these into freestanding building units. In turn, this suggested a constructional toy, and Mr Rylands produced cardboard and then acrylic models of what was to become Playplax during a college vacation. He was introduced to Bryan Fisher, managing director of Trendon, a plastics company specialising in precision mouldings, and showed him the models. Mr Fisher took the courageous step of deciding to put Playplax into production, although nothing of a similar kind was then being sold.
It is a remarkable demonstration of the creative designer's power to generate valuable new business that In four years Trendon has built up a large toy-manufacturing business, with exports running at 60 per cent of production. Now part of the Friedland-Doggart group of companies, Trendon acknowledges its debt to its designers by crediting them in all literature and packaging - a rare thing in the toy industry.
The panel which made this year's selection for the Prize was chaired by Prince Philip, the other members being Mary Quant; the Marchioness of Anglesey, former president of the Federation of Women's Institutes; Robert Heritage, and Robin Day, both industrial design consultants.
Patrick Rylands, aged 27, is the youngest designer to have won the Duke of Edinburgh's Prize. Born and brought up in Hull, he studied ceramics and lithography for four years at Hull College of Art before going to the Royal College. As well as working on studio pottery and industrial ceramics, Mr Rylands also gained enough experience of plastics to be aware of the basic requirements of designing for this material. After leaving the RCA he worked for a time as staff designer for a ceramics manufacturer in Stoke-on-Trent and taught at Hornsey College of Art before becoming a freelance designer two years ago.
Apart from his success with Trendon, Mr Rylands has also designed wood toys for the Swiss company Spiel Naef and, late last year, was commissioned to do some concentrated work in the United States for Creative Playthings (a subsidiary of CBS).
Patrick Rylands sells his designs to manufacturers on a royalty basis. "This is providing me with a reasonable living and is therefore allowing me freedom to develop ideas and have models made which, at the moment, are non-commercial and are perhaps stepping off the edge into the future. I am able to work on what I think will amuse children and not necessarily what market researchers or manufacturers consider to be commercially viable. Nevertheless, I design for mass-production because I obviously want my toys produced at as low a price as possible to reach the widest market."
Mr Rylands is married to another former student of the Royal College of Art, and lives in Central London.
Caption page 34: Prince Philip was chairman of the judging panel for the Prize. The other members this year were Mary Quant, the Marchioness of Anglesey, Robert Heritage and Robin Day.
Caption Page 35: Patrick Rylands's prize-winning toys for Trendon are Playplax, tubular rings and flat squares in translucent coloured polystyrene, slotted for building; Little Men (centre opposite), arms legs and bodies-with-heads in ABS plastics which also slot together; Mosaic (on the floor opposite), striped triangular tiles in polystyrenea with notched connecting edges; Gyrosphere (above), a patterned rotating disc inside a clear polystyrene sphere; and Bird and Fish (top), smooth shapes in white and yellow ABS.