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December 2003 | Vol. II - No. 12


Design Science Toys Unfold a World of Science

What started out as a friendly debate between Stuart Quimby and his wife in 1986 turned into a model that would be the basis of a unique educational toy company based in upstate New York.

Archiforms Archimedean
The debate surrounded a scientific diagram, which would eventually become the Tensegritoy, a flexible construction system of expanding geometrical shapes. That diagram became the first product of Design Science Toys, whose catalogue now includes a range of toys in categories such as puzzles, games, novelties, infant toys, manipulatives, blocks and construction sets.

Calling the products on the company website ( "toys" might be a stretch. Quimby, the company’s CEO notes, “We call them toys because a better name has not been invented. All of our toys are based around a theme: how they interact with simple, and not-so-simple, geometry.”

At first glance, Design Science might baffle those seeking toys with bright primary colors and cute characters. After all, what other toy company boasts having the Archiforms Archimedean, a simple construction system derived from the geometry of Plato and Archimedes? Quimby points out, “We’re not a toy company in the traditional sense of the word. We are a reflective merging of toys, society and culture.”

While Design Science is a company offering retailers and consumers unique educational toys, their website also serves as a portal for other science-toy creators, which is unusual in the toy business. “It’s a survival mechanism more than anything else,” Quimby says. “Because the niches in the toy market are more and more marginal, companies in these markets have to band together in order to survive.”

In all, Quimby estimates more than 150 products will call home over the next few months, ranging widely in price and complexity. 

Besides selling alternative toys and puzzles, the Design Science website is also a clearinghouse for educational articles, debates and commentary on topics ranging from math to science and everything in between.

Quimby attributes the modest success of the company to human nature and the quest for knowledge. “The attention span of people in general has been truncated by the media,” he says. “These are toys you sit down with and realize they are also being used by scientists in mathematical and scientific equations.”

That’s not a surprise, considering Quimby finds most of his toy designers at art and math conferences--not exactly typical recruiting territory for a toy company. The company also recently hosted a design conference, with attendees coming from as far away as Argentina.

As for the future of his company, Quimby first looks at the past. “We almost lost our shirts at first. We had to learn how to do things more efficiently. Up until two years ago, our company was having record sales. The downfall was the closing of retail outlets like Museum Company and other educational stores.”

While the Internet has proven successful for Design Science, Quimby is happy with the current growth of the small firm. “I don’t want to grow more than I already am. I’m working with a quality of people that I enjoy. That’s quality of life.”


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