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Pinocchio pin wins international design award


Pinocchio pin wins international design award

Duncan Shotton (Industrial Design & Technology 2008) has won two industry awards for his handmade stationery products. His hand-painted ‘Real Boy’ pins impressed the A’Design Award judges so much that he won Gold in the Young Design category for his studio in Tokyo, and the highest Platinum award in the Stationery category. We caught up with Duncan to find out all about his path to success…

Congratulations on the success of Real Boy pins! How did you come up with the idea for them?

Thanks. The general idea was no flash in the middle of the night. I brainstormed new ideas for pins and Real Boys were my favourite.

At what point did you decide that you were going to start manufacturing them?

I launched my first own-brand product Cloud Keyholder in February 2011 at Designboom Mart in Stockholm, Sweden. When I moved to Japan in August 2012, I was excited about exhibiting in the Tokyo Designboom Mart in October, as part of Tokyo Designers Week. However, six weeks before the event I was informed that Nessie Pins (another product I’d designed and licensed to a collaboration partner earlier in the year) wouldn’t be ready in time, and I didn’t want to simply re-exhibit the Cloud on its own.

So, slightly recklessly, I decided I was going to design and manufacture Real Boy pins under my own name, in time for the show. At the beginning of those six weeks, all I had was a vague sketch in a notebook. At the end, and in time for the show, I had the first 200 packs hand-painted, serial-numbered, and ready to launch.

You hand-paint all the pins yourself – do you think there will come a time when this has to be outsourced?

Yeah, it’s a bit of a nightmare! Even though most people think I’m a loony, it was my only choice. If I outsourced the painting/manufacture, the pins wouldn’t be special.

RealBoy | Process from duncan shotton on Vimeo.

People expect mass manufactured pins to come at a certain price point, and with a certain number of pins per-pack. Unless I manufactured millions of the same design (which I don’t have the network to distribute/sell), there would still be a lot of manual labour per boy, plus more per pack, meaning the unit cost would still be quite high, and the pack cost would be much higher compared to your average pack of pins (albeit a unique design).

Unlike your regular pack of pins, Real Boys come two per pack, are limited-edition (there’s only 1000, individually serial numbered), made (moulded) in UK and hand-painted by the designer in Tokyo, and sold exclusively on my online shop. You won’t find them in any other shops, anywhere in the world. Each order also comes with a hand-signed thank you note.

It’s not just their appearance, but their story makes them special, and that’s why people buy them, for themselves and for gifts to people that are special to them. That’s the kind of product that I’m proud to have my name associated with.

Tell us about your pop-up shops in Tokyo…

My first, “Pop-Up a Tree Shop”, was in Tokyo’s vibrant Harajuku district. I sat in the tree to exhibit and sell my Cloud Keyholder, Real Boy Pins and Nessie Pins. I used a little wooden tray on a pulley to winch money up and products down and a toy fishing rod to do business card exchange. My next pop-up shop is coming very soon!

What is next for Duncan Shotton Design Studio?

I have just started a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter ( to launch my next own-brand product. The three other product ranges in the pipeline are collaborations with Japanese companies.

What advice would you give other alumni who have an idea they would like to develop and eventually manufacture?
Your next idea might be better than the one you have now, so try not to be too precious whilst still being excited about it. Prototype as soon as you can. A lot of the time, a scalpel and some card is all you need to visualise and initially access your idea in the physical world. It can take a lot of time, effort and money to design, develop, manufacture, market and sell your idea. Doing it all yourself for mass manufacture isn’t always the best option. Consider hand-making, batch-manufacture, partnerships, collaborations, developing in-house, and what you want to get out of the project.

Do things you’ll be proud of.


Keep up to date with Duncan on Facebook, Twitter or through his eNewsletter, or visit his website to see his other quirky designs, including a tape dispenser that was featured on Hollyoaks!