Provocative and playful, Beijing-based studio UDL takes creative control of a toy brand

The studio continues to use a unique and humorous point-of-view for its unconventional graphic design projects.

14 December 2022

We first met Beijing-based design studio UDL in 2021, when co-founders Fang Jianping and Ding Fan stunned us with their work for Mega Suen, a Chinese menswear fashion brand. Now, the studio is back with another project that has caught our eye, and this time it’s all about toys. PlasticFriends, an art toy brand that takes on political subtext, enlisted UDL to help brand their latest project thanks to an old friendship with the brand's founder Niu yuan. “He has worked in the toy industry for many years," says UDL, "so when he wanted to create a toy brand by collaborating with creatives, illustrators, artists and others to turn their work into toy and Toy-related products, UDL was delighted to be involved in the logo design.” The studio channelled Niu yuan’s genuine passion, and allowed that to inspire them to bring joy, humour, and provocation to the brand identity and logo design.


UDL: PlasticFriends (Copyright © UDL, 2022)

“PlasticFriends is not a toy for children in the traditional sense, but more of an 'art toy' or ' collectible toy',” UDL explains. “PlasticFriends tries to find a balance between the pop toy and the artwork, so it is appreciated and at the same time playable.” Tapping into PlasticFriends’ interest in the deconstruction and “recreation” part of toys, UDL uses its unique style to experiment with humour and playfulness. “PlasticFriends wants to intervene in real life in a humorous way, hoping to be a symbol of resistance to dullness in a gentle way by breaking the shackles of mainstream culture,” UDL says. “Possible targets are those who want to break out of the dull atmosphere of life, or perhaps those who want to break out of certain conventions.”

In general, PlasticFriends’ work revolves around the sofubi toy, which means “soft” and “vinyl.” It’s safe to say that it's a brand that expands the boundaries of toys. UDL uses this knowledge in its typeface process. “When designing the logo, UDL wanted to present a state of instability, where two words are playing off each other,” UDL tells us. “By presenting the logo with only two initials, UDL created a state of overlap, and perhaps you can sense that there are some inappropriate metaphors for children.” It’s part of building on Plastic Friends’ response to the state of plastic, and a reference to the consumerism and hedonism rife in society that the duo “wanted to discuss".

Overall, UDL hopes “the audience likes the look and the humours parts it brings, but also that something can be associated with it.” They want the fun to seep through the logo, but stress on the importance of “encouraging others to think out of the box or bring in alternative possibilities” when it comes to the many different issues Plastic Friends’ is acknowledging.

GalleryUDL: PlasticFriends (Copyright © UDL, 2022)

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UDL: PlasticFriends (Copyright © UDL, 2022)

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About the Author

Joey Levenson

Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.

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