The First Annual Designer Toy Awards were held during the nerd celebration known as San Diego Comic Con. Founded by Clutter Magazine and Trade in Cool, the awards attempted to “celebrate the best of the industry’s artists, designers, customizers and manufacturers, as well as honoring those involved in championing Art Toys throughout the world”. Awards, designed by Pete Fowler, were given out to winners in 22 different categories. Those categories were split into Community Choice Awards and the DTA Board Awards.
While I was invited to attend and cover the ceremony, I opted against the celebration. I had a few issues with the way the Designer Toy Awards were assembled and run. Here's my list of complaints.
• The open nomination process allowed anyone to nominate anyone else. You could nominate yourself. Friends could nominate each other. Etc. And while the process eventually weeded out some of the lesser known entries, it started out a little congested.
• The public voting process allowed users to vote once a day in every category. Essentially, it became a contest in who could stuff the ballot box.
• There are conflicting rules on the same site: “(A) carefully selected board of professional artists, producers and impresarios will choose group of nominations from the many designs released over the past year.” “Only releases that occurred between March 2009 and February 2011 will be accepted into the nominations.”
• Even though it is to be an annual event, there was a two year release window that the nominated toys had to fall into. The winner of Toy of the Year (KAWS 4-foot Dissected Companion) was released in 2009 and costs around $6,000. Is that even considered a toy?
• What's the difference between Manufacturer of the Year and Outstanding Production? The Outstanding Production award was described as celebrating “outstanding practice in the manufacture of toys, taking into account, printing, manufacturing technique, mold quality and materials”.
• A number of the categories show little room for expansion. Will someone's collection ever top MutonIsYourFriend's? Will an art show ever be more influential than San Diego Comic Con?
I've been giving out designer toy awards since 2004. That year, Go Hero's Mechabot won Toy of the Year, while Rocket World's Insurgents Wilderness Gruppo took home the Best Toy Line. So what business do I have critiquing the Designer Toy Awards?
I make a point of mentioning (quite often) that the awards I give out are my personal opinion. Anyone with a computer and a website can give their opinion in the form of a list or an award. However, the Designer Toy Awards attempt to represent the mass opinion of the entire designer toy community. That's a big responsibility. It's the difference between Roger Ebert announcing his top films of the year and The Academy Awards handing out Oscars.
So what are my suggestions for the Designer Toy Awards? Limit the number of votes to one per account. Trim down the list of categories, since several of them overlap. Only allow releases over the past year to be considered. And make sure everyone knows what they're voting for.
I have to reiterate...this was just the first year for the Designer Toy Awards. There were bound to be issues along the way. Let's just hope that this constructive criticism helps Clutter make the Second Annual DTAs that much better.