Let’s address the elephant in the room, this isn’t a great paper toy. The majority of the models I designed in 2014/2015 haven’t aged very well and showcase some very strange paper engineering choices. Just check out this reindeer that was designed alongside this Santa Clause toy.
It’s a mess! It’s important to understand the context in which these models were designed to full understand why their shape, texture and presentation looks so different from the work in 2016 designed for the same theme at the same company.
2014/2015 were before an my “eureka” moment. I was still enthralled with paper toy design and was experimenting with more and more ambitious techniques, but in reality my whole process was incredibly inefficient and unprofessional. I had just left university and started my first job at Twinkl on the day of my graduation, I was still designing on Powerpoint 2003 whilst I frantically tried to learn the basics of Adobe Illustrator. To put it plainly, I had no idea what I was doing.
My design process at the time went a little something like this : I’d be asked to design, for example a reindeer. I would load up Powerpoint 2003 on the absurdly heavy laptop I’d lugged into the office and start designing the basic papertoy shape. I would have a general idea in my head of how the model would look when built, but no way to know if it would work until the model was built, I was simply relying on basic paper engineering know how but wasn’t using any of the mathematical and measuring techniques that I use daily in the present. I’d print out a few test runs, fix issues and then transfer everything from my laptop to my work computer where I’d add texture and fold lines in Adobe Illustrator because I had so little knowledge of the software, I couldn’t design a model in it because it didn’t have a grid system like Powerpoint 2003 (a perceived necessity of mine at the time).
The “eureka” moment came in 2016 when I was working on the X-plore paper toy for the Urban Paper event the same year. I realized that the template, unfolded before me in my mind, that with each new shape I was given a mountain of new information with which I could figure out and more importantly accurately predict the final outcome with. I recall creating the models head and shoulders, the shoulders where the same as the head just turned around, every angle in the piece was unusual and seemed unpredictable, but I realized I could accurately predict and illustrate the way these pieces would look when built, not only from the side but from the front and top too. This in turn gave me more information with which to predict other parts of the model.
It suddenly all seemed so obvious (and in retrospect it was) but at the time it was as if a veil had been lifted from me and all the work I’d produced before that moment was clearly flawed. I had been stumbling around in the dark, creating models and hoping that the pieces fit together the way I had hoped they would and now I could create infinity complex models safe in the knowledge I could accurately predict how every face, edge and curve would interact with one another.
This simple and flawed Santa Clause model and others created around it may not have aged well due to my lack of design experience, illustration ability and bizarre paper toy process but they stand as testament that before I knew what I was doing, I was trying to know what to do. It took me years to have this sudden extreme moment of clarity. Years of not being good, years of failure and poor design choices. This model although completely forgettable echos a single sentiment that I can not agree with more: “to become good at something, you have to accept you’ll be bad at it for a while and that’s ok. “.