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For the Love of Polly Pocket

Illustration and Toy Design


They are Polly Pockets that tells stories of reality. I am standing in the position of an adult to ridicule original Polly Pocket’s “happy world” setting and questioning about our lives in modern society. I want to create themes that show adults’ revolt and thinking.


The themes of redesigned Polly Pockets are all reflections of people’s real lives base on comments of my posts online:

When social phobia meets a party, when a tired mother meets a crying baby and when stuff meets a boring company, my concept is encouraging people to follow their heart, and there is no need to pretend happy if they are not. There is no need to be colourful if they don’t want to be. Life is not always as beautiful as a fairy tale, but you shouldn’t escape from it by creating a fake Polly’s world. Just be who you are.


What the box outside looks like doesn’t matter, you can put your inside world in any containers. We are just like these boxes, seems similarly normal from the outside, but we all have interior worlds that are unexpected.


In some way, the love of Polly Pocket is the love of an unrealistic expectation of the world and addictive like drug. From my perspective, toys should play a deeper and more educational role both for kids and adults.


I am interested in the vintage toys called “Polly Pocket” as they are the most popular toys in the 90s among children and still eagerly sought by collectors nowadays. For the research process, I visited some vintage and modern markets to find Polly Pocket and did interviews with sellers and collectors. I want to know the different age of people’s opinion to Polly Pocket and understand what toys mean to them. I aimed to explore how a design like toys can evoke people’s imagination and how people interact with these designed objects or systems. I also wonder if we can use the method of Polly Pocket in other areas.


So, my concept that time was to create a story without a printed out story in it because the way of open a book is similar to Polly Pocket. There will be some characters and little drawings in the front few pages. Therefore, people can create their own stories. It’s more like a game for children and the promotion of imagination for adults.

To test my storybook, I lived with a family in Working for one day. This family have three members, a father, a mother and a five years old daughter. Similar to many families, the father is always busy, and the mother needs to take more time to take care of their daughter.

When I took out my Baily Book, Sophie (the cute daughter) is exciting and start to play immediately. As I watched her playing, I found Sophie needs to use one of her hand hold the book page to be perpendicular to another page and only can use one hand to play. So, her mother needs to keep the book for her. I also found her always trying to make my paper characters stand up with is impossible. So, this tells for a five years old girl, Polly Pocket may be better than my book because children in this age maybe can not understand something that abstract and say to a story by it. Her favourite page is the butterfly one because she likes to play with the wing of the butterfly. Unfortunately, she cannot understand the deeper meaning of my book. Maybe I should choose an age group around the secondary school.


Then I took out my second design “_’s book” to the mother. I explained to her it needs her to create a story to her daughter using these cards and characters. I took her a very very very long time to find cards and create a story. I felt her struggle, so I stopped her at the end. She told me she felt she already lost all of her imagination. She suggested me if I can print some words behind these cards, so that makes it more accessible. But I am not sure as I was aimed to make it confused and free people’s imagination. She said as a mother, she wants toys that can let the kids play themselves as she paid for toys to exchange freedom.


This experiment seems to be a failure. Am I doing the right thing?

Reflecting on my failure, another idea raised in my brain: an adult version of Polly Pocket. It’s a Polly Pocket that tells stories of reality. I want to stand in the position of an adult to ridicule this “happy world” setting and question about our lives in modern society. I want to create themes that show adults’ resistance and thinking. There is no need to be colourful and always happy.


So, I start to create my new themes. Base on the story told by one command, which is about social phobia, I came up with a Disco Ball theme. Similar to Polly Pocket, there is a bar and dancing people. What is different is that you are not welcome, or no one pays attention to you. But you can still dance alone and enjoy a drink. There is no need to be a part of them; just do what you want.


The second theme is base on that lovely mother and daughter who I lived with for a day. For a single mother or a mother has a very busy husband, maybe taking care of a child is not always a joyful thing. After she back from work, she needs to deal with a messy room, a dirty kitchen, make dinner and a crying baby.


The third theme is the classic office and is one of the biggest origins of pressure. In this theme, I want some creepy shape monster shape for boss and people’s pressure. It’s like a childish imagination from an adult. You can choose to beat your pressure and boss, or you can do nothing.


These themes are all reflections of people’s real lives. But my concept is encouraging people to follow their heart, and there is no need to pretend happy if there are not. Life is not always as beautiful as a storybook, but you shouldn’t escape from it. Just be who you are.


I plan to make some separate components of my theme so that it’s also possible for people to use these components to create their own. I have colourful figures, and some black and white characters as well so players can choose depending on their current mood.

It has so many possibilities, so I make it a long-term project. I am exploring my new skills to upgrade the design of themes and containers. It brings me so much fun.

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