Time for something classic!
A devout modernist designer Ladislave Sutnar began developing his building block toy sets in the early 1920s and they immediately became very popular. Since the MOMA exhibition ‘Century of The Child’ these toys once again found many fans, including me. The website dedicated to the designer is a little difficult to navigate, although full of information. He was a very important figure in the field of information design, but on this occasion we’re mainly interested in these wonderful toys he made!
If these remind you of the simplicity and uniqueness of handmade wooden toys popular today, the idea behind Sutnar’s couldn’t be further from it.
With an enthusiasm for a ‘modular city’ and industrial infrastructure, these toys were specifically designed for mass conveyor-belt production, made for the ‘generations of industrial society’. A long faded optimism for such ‘Factory Towns’ now brings a certain nostalgic feeling and strange charm to them.
However, these great designers all had an eye for timeless quality and it just makes these toys total classics, even outside the original context. Aesthetically pleasing, a simple geometric design with basic colors, lines and repetition make them ever so appealing to contemporary viewers.
Source: Prototype for Build the Town Building Blocks. 1940–43. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
I love this drawing for the promotion of the toys.
Source: Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague & Argo Publishers, 2003.
If you’d like to find out more about Sutnar’s work there’s a very useful page from design historian Oliver Tomas’s site and flickr stream on these fabulous toy sets from 1943.