What is Toyification?

Is tilt-shift photography, like this example photo, a form of toyification?
Your World as a Toy
Image by drew_anywhere

The root of "toyification" is "toy," which is most commonly used as a common noun or adjective denoting something one would give to a child. "To toy" is also a verb.

I recently passed by two nurses, both with Ph.D.'s and teaching positions at a local university, looking though a medical supply catalog. I overheard one of the two nurses exclaim with excitement that the reflex hammer she wanted for her nursing lab was the reflex hammer shaped like a giraffe. The other was excited about purchasing cartoon-character adorned scrubs. Neither teaches pediatric nursing courses, so why the excitement? It's part of a societal trend, and it's called "toyification."

The "Toy" in "Toyification"

Although the term "toyification" is not as of now listed in the Oxford American Dictionary, Merriam-Webster's or Random House dictionaries, it is a term that's being used currently by pop culture theorists, anthropologists, and sociologists to refer to what one might expect by taking apart the word, itself. The root is "toy," which is most commonly used as a very common noun or adjective denoting something one would give to a child. However, "to toy" is also a verb meaning "to play" or "act idly."

Toyified Products

Christopher Noxon takes a close look at toyification in his book, Rejuvenile, and in his blog of the same name. "Toyification," he states in a blog post called Fisher Price Fonts, "describes how everyday adult stuff is getting less utilitarian and more toy-like" (2006, para. 1). Examples of "toyified" products include not only giraffe-shaped reflex hammers and cartoon-adorned scrubs, but everyday business and home products like cell phones, kitchen cleaning supplies, and even cars. A businessperson might take a call on a Star Wars R2-D2 Motorola Droid cell phone. A tired homemaker might clean up after dinner using a flower-shaped kitchen brush that sits in a piggy-shaped holder. Retirees might just jump in their lime green VW Beetles with the built-in bud vases to head to their local supermarkets.

Although taking business calls, doing the dishes and grocery shopping are not fun tasks anyone but Mary Poppins might think of as a game, the toyification of the task-related products might make the tasks more palatable. Putting the fun back into the everyday might just be what our at-war and out-of-work society needs.

Consequences and Causes of Toyification

On the other hand, it's unknown whether or not toyification could be considered detrimental to a functioning society. Being a fairly new term and area of theory that crosses many areas of study, the dangers and ramifications are yet to be thoroughly studied.

As a start, the key might be in Noxon's use of the phrase, "less utilitarian." It could imply a less serious use or application of a product meant to be taken seriously: For years, now, children have played with toys modeled after adult commodities, like guns and high-heeled shoes. Perhaps it even implies that the businessperson who uses a toyified cell phone doesn't take serious care when dealing with clients. It might, to some, imply that even an expensive toyified tablet computer can be discarded or replaced like a child's toy. Still yet, toyification implies we may need to reexamine what it means to "act your age," or how we can reverse the spoils of an overstimulated and instantly-gratified up-and-coming work force who may not be able to cope with the previous generation's working world.

There is always a correlation between a society and its products, yet it's unknown at this time whether toyification is a symptom of a less-functioning society, or whether it's part of the cause. Whatever the case, toyification has taken a strong hold in current product development and marketing. Only time will tell whether or not the benefits will outweigh, or outlive, the causes and consequences.


Noxon, C. (2006). Fisher Price Fonts. Rejuvenile Consumer Goods: Blog Archive. Retrieved from http://www.rejuvenile.com/blog/c/rejuvenile_consumer_goods/

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
Originally published Aug 30, 2011 by Amy Lynn Hess.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts