Customization is the process of creating something unique and individual. Due to recent advances in technology, what once was a costly, and therefore a rare and/or luxury process, is quickly becoming cost-effective and commonplace. Today, nearly every item can be customized to a certain extent and –when it comes to dolls—the company known as MakieLab is par none in its customization services.
MakieLab is an online store that enables kids to build their own doll. Although based in England, MakieLab avails its services to many countries. Children can use the templates provided on MakieLab to select a dolls hair color, eye color, and even face shape! Additionally, there is a wide variety of clothes and jewelry to choose from. What’s more, MakieLab dolls have the ability to stand on their own feet and they are flexible enough to bend so they can be arranged in a number of positions. They are also durable so they can be taken “out and about” with their human companion. Both female and male dolls are available. MakieLab also prides itself on printing 3D products that are ecofriendly and non-hazardous. This “waste free” approach extends to the clothes which are stitched by hand. Moreover, if someone is unhappy with their MakieLab doll they have 30 days to return it.
Recently, this Examiner had the opportunity to speak with Alice Taylor, the CEO of MakieLab, about her experiences working in the toy industry:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): How and when were you inspired to start your company?
Alice Taylor (A.T.): I was hit by a small bolt of lightning while at Digital Kids conference in NYC, in 2010. The DK conference is located with the NY Toy Fair; all the digital stuff was in the basement and the physical stuff was upstairs. And I thought – I wonder if you can make an avatar into a doll using 3D printing…? And that’s where it started!
M.M: Why did you choose the name MakieLab?
A.T.: We wanted to have “making” at the heart of the Makies brand, but we also feel that people who make are themselves “makies”. So the Lab is both full of makies making … Makies. Making is awesome.
M.M.: How, exactly, does your company work? For example, does the customization feature operate via a virtual template?
A.T.: Yep. We believe kids express themselves creatively through play and what they make. We wanted to offer dolls and toys that the child (or tween or teen or adult!) would have a hand in creating themselves. So you build a Makie doll using an interface similar to one you’d use to build a digital avatar for a videogame: there are options and sliders for facial features, so you can digitally sculpt the face, choose eye and skin and hair colour and styles, name the doll and choose the outfit the doll ships with. We know that doll lovers, kids and adults alike, use dolls to tell stories and role-play their world. And so we wanted to offer dolls that really represent the maker, and all their own unique attributes. This stretches into less usual areas, too, like custom facial birthmarks and – coming soon – limb differences even! Once the digital Makie is made, we take the digital 3D image, wrap it around an engineered doll core, and have it printed in pieces on industrial sized printers. Then we assemble the pieces, add the hair, eyes, clothing, and send the Makie to his or her new home, direct in a Makie-sized Travel Tube. The whole process takes about two weeks, and the result is an original doll for each and every customer. And, they’re certified toy-safe for kids 3+.
M.M.: How many variations of dolls are there? For instance, all the dolls human or are there other model options?
A.T.: Well, they’re mostly human. We added in the Elven ear choice for a bit of fun. It’s really popular! But currently, there is only one body choice, though it is a healthy shoulder-waist-hip ratio body. There are three skin colours: light, medium and dark (we’re working on expanding the range). There are at least 40 different hair options, and 6 eye colour options, plus about 18 outfit options and lots of accessories. With the custom facial sliders, there are millions of combinations.
M.M.: Thus far, what has been the most rewarding part of working for MakieLab?
A.T.: Oh gosh, where to start. We’re a 50-50 female/male company working on the cutting edge of 3D tech. That’s pretty cool. We make custom one-off dolls, and Makies are the world’s first 3D printed toy – fully certified for safety – sold at retail. Also cool. I think best of all though, Makies are so inclusive: we sell t-shirts with I HEART MATH on them, and we sell hearing aids and walking canes for Makies, and can offer facial or body custom markings. Glasses, cochlear implants and Diabetes monitors, too. Every kid should feel heroic, and special, and included. That’s our mission.
M.M.: Where do you hope MakieLab will be ten years from now?
A.T.: We’d love to be huge, and catering to as many flavours and options of human (and beyond!) on the planet. When kids can make a toy that represents what they care about… it feels really important. Not many kids have heard about Makies yet, but when they do, they immediately become attached to their Makie because it’s something they created themselves. We’ve had statistically zero Makies returned to date: custom creates a deep, long-lasting connection.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
A.T.: We’re working on new fashion ranges and new licenses at the moment, and we’re also making our debut into the North American market for the holiday season; MakieLab is headquartered in London, England but we have just opened a new office in Los Angeles (local manufacturing soon!) too. Most of the Makies we made already were shipped to creativity-loving customers in the USA—over 70%!—so we know our growing fan heartland lies there.
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MakieLab dolls tend to cost roughly $115. To learn more about MakieLab visit the official website, Facebook and Twitter.