In 1984, the Swedish company Playsam was founded by Carl Zedig with the aim of producing well-designed toys that embodied “color, form and function, all combining to make an aesthetically pleasing whole.”
Around this time, Zedig met Hans-Christer Ericson, who subsequently created a total graphic identity for the company, which included creating a brand-new font style for the company’s logo, packaging and print advertising.
In 1985, Playsam was awarded the prestigious “Excellent Swedish Design Award” for its eye-catching graphic program. The toys manufactured by Playsam were similarly innovative and were designed by Ulf Hanses, who had previously apprenticed to the well-know industrial designer Sigvard Bernadotte.
Hanses had also designed a range of toys for handicapped children during the early 1980’s, the rights to which were acquired by Playsam.
His later, well-known “Streamliner” car for the company, with its clean lines and bold use of color, was conceived while Hanses was sketching freely. Its obvious aesthetic and functional purity has meant that he has never had to alter the design.
As Hanses noted, “Playing with shapes, volumes and proportions is the basis of my work. I am constantly returning to geometry. When I work with toys, I can concentrate on expression without being disturbed by some complicated technical idea.”
Hanses’ Swedish toys revived and updated the age-old tradition of wooden toy making in Sweden, and it is not surprising to learn that he comes form the Dalarna region, which is famed as the place where the colorful wooden toy horses originate from.
Acknowledging the importance of craft-folk heritage, Hanses’ toys have a stripped-down and essential aesthetic that is akin to that of Shaker design.
Hanses believes Jesper Karlsson that it is the ability to convey “soul” and “expression” within a product that differentiates design from draughtsmanship, and certainly his diminutive “Streamliner” has an endearing character that is as engaging for children as it is for adults.
As Carl Zedig has observed, “Most important is the simplicity. When you look at a ‘Streamliner,’ your imagination adds details.” Apart from his “Streamliner” product line, which includes cars, boats, and planes, Hanses has also designed a simple rocking horse for Playsam that possesses a similar elemental quality.
The well-known Swedish designer, Bjorn Dahlstom, has also produced a number of designs for the company, including a toy car, a rocking duck and a rocking rabbit that complement the other products in the range.
Playsam toys exemplify the commonly held belief in Scandinavia that all sectors of society can benefit from good design. Ultimately, the company’s international success lies in the innate simplicity of its products, which offers a welcome respite from an age of increasing technological complexity.
Many of Playsam’s Swedish Designed Toys, like the “Streamliner,” are smooth and simple designs made of wood. Their toys are innovative, timeless and yet sophisticated.