JEREMY “MAD” MADL
Urban Vinyl Daily: Would you mind telling us a little background about yourself (i.e. where your general base of operation is, when you started designing, and how you first started out)?
MAD: I am based out of Kansas City where I run both MAD Toy Design and SOLID Industries. I’ve always been into toys, comics, animation, etc. so when the opportunity to learn about toy design came up I jumped at it. I got a BFA in Toy Design from Otis College of Art and Design back in 2000, and jumped right into the business working for most of the major mass market companies via my first gig at a creative agency in So.
UVD: Would you mind telling us about some of the designs that you came up with when you were first starting out and how designs have progressed over the years?
MAD: The mass market stuff I did is too long of a list, but I also did design work for most of the fast food companies “kids meal” toys… chances are if you got a kids meal from 2000-2005 you had one of my toy. In 2001 I started seeing the HK urban vinyl stuff popping up in research and was instantly hooked. In 2002 I designed the MAD*L platform and started shopping it around for production. Since then I’ve focused mainly on developing my own brand, style, products… but still do a lot of consulting work for the big guys.
UVD: What are some things that influence you and your work? Is there any artist’s work that inspired you and your style early on in your career? After looking at your MAD APE and some of your illustrations, I sense a possible graffiti inspiration.Was/is graffiti a large inspiration for you?
MAD: As with most designers, we pull inspiration from everything around us. Pop culture, old school cartoons, graff, music… everything finds its way into my work. Graff was something I was into, but my true love was drawing. I’ve been drawing since I could walk and still do it everyday.
-found on MAD’s flickr
UVD: Sparing us both the typical questions surrounding specific dunnys or Kidrobot figures, how did you and Kidrobot cross paths, and what are some of your contributed designs that you are most proud/impressed?
MAD: I started buying toys from them before they had a brick an mortar shop. Then in 2002 I ran into them at Toy Fair in NY. Having met Sket, Tristan, and a few other artists on the KR roster, it was only a matter of time before I was asked to submit some work. It took a few years before we actually locked in a project, and since then its been nonstop. I’ve got many projects with them I’m very proud of but the Modern Hero 3”dunny and Bentworld Vandal series stand out since they were my “firsts”. The new Swatch x Kidrobot collaboration that’s about to release is one of the latest projects I’m really proud of.
UVD: Most associate you more synonymously with a different figure, your self-designed MAD*L. How did you happen to come up with the design for this figure and its features and characteristic head?
MAD: I designed the MAD*L platform in 2002 just as my first son was born. The proportions (big head/ little body) was based off a kid, and the overall design was based mainly so there was maximum printing surface.
UVD: For the 5” artist series and the subsequent production figures, how was it getting to produce the figures from other artists on your platform figure?
MAD: A dream come true… the idea for the MAD*L was always to be a platform for artists to work on. Seeing what people do with the canvas
UVD: With the MAD*L platform seeming to be such a versatile platform among artists, are there any customs that have stuck with you over the years that continue to impress you each time you see them?
MAD: oh man… that’s a tough one. There’s so many amazing custom MAD*L’s out there I don’t think I could even pick.
UVD: When tapped to work with companies such as Pepsi, NFL, Upper Deck, and Cartoon Network, what were some of the resulting designs that we may possibly be familiar with in the consumer realm?
MAD: Pepsi was a bunch of marketing stuff I did when I was just out of college, the NFL stuff was some character designs I had done for an animation/ motion graphics company. Both these were fun, but the work itself didn’t really highlight me as an artist/designer. Upper Deck on the other hand was a great project. I was tapped to help them design their line of All Star Vinyl figures. In the end I think I designed 15
different players in the NFL, NHL, and NBA… the line itself ended up dying off after a year or two, but it was really awesome doing so much product that highlighted me as the designer. The Cartoon Network stuff is relatively new… I was asked to develop the Adventure Time packaging style guide for all the retail products for the license. After that I was asked to design/ illustrate some original characters and artwork for a project I cant’ say much about yet.
UVD: Would you mind telling us a little about SOLID industries and some of the steps that you enjoy the most when assisting to get a figure from sketchpad to 3D figure?
MAD: I must admit I created SOLID so I could make my own stuff on my own terms. Since I had access to different factories I decided to open it up to select projects and clients. Everyone wants to make toys, and unfortunately I turn down a lot of projects. I have to be really into what’s going to be made, otherwise I pass. I also try to not load up on too many things as to not get stretched too thin. When I take a project on through SOLID I over see it as if it were my own toys. So the production/ manufacturing quality
has to be top notch. The part I enjoy most is getting that final production sample…when everything is done right and ready to release.
UVD: With numerous Kidrobot and self-produced figures to your credit, what would you say your “highlight reel” of figures would be?
MAD: Probably the MAD*L’s “phase’s” and my 8” Dunny’s. I find it hard to pick just a few things… all the products, toys, etc I make are all special to me in their own way.
UVD: Are there any future projects that you wish to discuss for the reader to keep their eyes open for in the upcoming future?
MAD: Hmmm… Bentworld Beats (series 2) is dropping later this month. There’s plenty more, but I can’t talk about them.
UVD: What would your encouragements/suggestions be for artists/designers that are either just starting out or who are trying to get themselves noticed?
MAD: Develop your style, do your own thing, don’t listen to the haters. The quickest way these days is to hit the customs hard. There’s so many amazing artists out there, so if you can make a name for yourself in the custom game, there’s a good chance production pieces will follow.