We have collected together 20 amazing examples of the scene across a variety of disciplines in order to share some of our favourites.
Step into any creative studio, and there's a high chance that you'll see a sea of small, brightly coloured plastic faces beaming back at you. In a world where digital is the focus for so many, the physical appeal of designer toys have led to them adorning desks far and wide. Designer toys, or 'art toys', have been growing steadily in popularity since their emergence in the 1990s. Pieces range from mainstream, mass-appeal productions through to more bespoke, items often limited in number.
Artists frequently release original designs, but DIY figures are also available, giving consumers the ability to customise their own one-off pieces. The practice of artists collaborating is commonplace, with many producing joint output, or individuals starting with another artist's existing pieces and taking them to a whole new level. Whilst 'urban vinyl' is a term often used synonymously with designer toys, their production may involve materials including vinyl, resin, plush, or even wood or metal. Maybe one of them will be joining your desk soon!
Barry Williams' Octo project marks his first full production piece, which is currently being funded by Kickstarter. Having exceeded his initial goal, Octo looks set to be successfully released into the wild in the form of resin figures, which can be made to order depending on the amount pledged. With plans already being made for other characters in the Octo world, Williams looks to be one to watch in 2012 for the designer toy world.
Price: From donations of $15
Standing at 5 foot tall and costing a mere $6500, this piece is probably not one for the casual designer art fan! With only 6 units produced globally, Kid Dragon is an example of where art toy principles can be taken to extremes of exclusivity. Created using fibreglass, and painted using detailed gradients, Kid Dragon is from the mind of Sam Flores and has been created by The Loyal Subjects for Kidrobot.
Following on from his successful Lunartik in a Cup of Tea collection, Matt JOnes has returned with his latest creation, The Art of Tea. Like many, JOnes includes tea as a crucial part of his creative process, and this helps to feed back into his output, whether it is in his toys, or sometimes through the meeting of drink and paintbrush as illustrated in this piece. For this latest release only 18 pieces have been formed, using plastic, resin, and acrylic paint.
During a period of injury Ryan Christensen formulated the concept of Steelplant, started sketching, and eventually produced his flagship product Desktop Dumpsters out of recycled steel. Each hand-painted model is unique, and purchasers are actively encouraged to experiment with their dumpsters, including sanding off old paint, or introducing deliberate rust.
Price: $100 blank, $250 hand-painted
Due to be released on the 31st May 2012, HX Studio's D.O.G is a limited series of custom pieces, with DIY figures and special versions also available. Made out of resin, with some figures featuring an additional dog house, these pieces look set to spawn another generation of DIY evolutions.
Price: From $6.50
One of the most popular and longstanding designer toy releases, David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim's Uglydolls have taken a new, flatter form in their Blox incarnation. Featuring well known and loved existing characters such as Icebat, Ox and Wage, the Uglydolls are sure to gain a few more fans before the release of their upcoming animated feature film, which is currently in development.
Minecraft, the independent video game by Mojang, has proven to be a huge success story since its initial release in 2009. Now available on a multitude of platforms including PC, Android, iOS and Xbox 360, this addictive sandbox has captured the imagination of many... some on work time. Instead of practicing your window minimisation routine for when the boss walks over, this vinyl toy can help remind you of the thrill of discovering a diamond block and the fear of the first sighting of a Creeper at night. Just keep an eye on it. There's no guarantee your desk and belongings will be intact if you turn your back.
Originally released for the Autumn/Winter 2011 season, Kidrobot's collaboration with Swatch ensures that those who can't be without their urban vinyl can now carry it with them. Consisting of a watch and a matching Dunny figure, artists including Joe Ledbetter, Frank Kozik, Tara McPherson and MAD have all contributed their unique spin to a fashion classic.
Price: From £44.50
We know, we know, sadly this one is a bit of a tease. The Instagram Mascot by Shinbone Creative isn't actually for sale at present as it's currently just a concept and design. Judging by the levels of interest on social sites such as Pinterest, and Instagram's huge fanbase, we think this could be a huge hit. Consider a full release, Shinbone?
Price: Not for sale (yet!)
Alison Perez has recently released her first mass-produced figure in the form of the DIY Zukie. After working on other custom pieces from the Zukie family including sculptures in themed environments and characters made from plush, the move to mass production heralds a bright future for this cutesy character. Perez's 4" DIY option is made from vinyl and also comes with a customisable box.
Price: $9.95 for a D.I.Y. version