December 21, 2012

Snap-Together Foam Alligator By Horst Diener

horst_diener_gator_nyt68.jpg

I'm not finding a lot of info--actually none--about this online, so I'll just float it out there. It's a covered foam alligator pillow/toy from 1968 by the German product designer Horst Diener. The six segments snap together in various [well, twelve] configurations for minutes of fun.

Diener's had a steady career in both design and teaching since, but none of the bios on him go back to the 60s.

The alligator was apparently sold in NYC at One Two Kangaroo, a fairly awesome-sounding toy store founded in 1965 by Stephen Miller in the Village [at the corner of Greenwich Ave & W 11th St, where the Two Boots is now].

The Kid-O of its day, Miller's thing was to scour Europe for innovative, fun, well-designed, and high-quality toys. Kangaroo was an early retailer for Naef, for example. [He went on to sell/get bought out/hired by Creative Playthings as a VP, and the store was the CP downtown branch for a while. Miller was an early and ideal-sounding client for Lester Walker, who designed both the store and Miller's residential space. Both of these are posts for another day, after I can get some more color pics.]

The image above comes from one of those classic NY Times trend pieces about how high modernism is sweeping the world of kids product design. It was from March 1968. Like so many art and design pieces of the day, it was written by Rita Reif, whose son and grandkids, totally coincidentally, have become friends over the years here in DC.

And so, though in one sense, yes, I'm interested in finding more out about the gator, I'm also fine admitting the details don't matter too much. Because let's face it: at whatever Powers of Ten-level specificity you choose--species perpetuation, parenting, ideas, design, retail, cutesy pillows, media and publicity--the entirety of human existence is a fractal Groundhog Day.

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