It’s the late ’90s in Japan, and Frank Kozik is designing away, creating toys that are distant cousins to what other popular toymakers have done.
Kozik was obsessed with toys and found himself there when American toy markets dried up.
Frank had a feeling that toys would return to pop-culture in the states.
Fast-forward to 2004, when Kidrobot was founded, and the first thing they did was contact Kozik. He immediately began creating characters and storylines for the newly founded [adult] toy store.
Toys For Adults – Not Adult Toys
An avid toy collector, Kozik realized he can only get the toys he liked from a single, but limited supplied boutique in Los Angeles. The other places were Japan, and a website called Sweaty Frog, at the time.
Sweaty Frog would provide rare toys from Japan at doubled the retail price. Frank was a loyal enough customer that he was discovered through sales receipts by the founder of Sweaty Frog, Paul Bunditz.
Bunditz is the mind behind Kidrobot, and when he realized Kozik worked with Medicom, at the time, he sought after his talents. Kozik recalls Bunditz’s offer; “Are you the Kozik who was working with Medicom?” Frank replied, “Yeah!”
“Hey, man, do you want to do toys with us,” Bunditz implied, and Kozik enthusiastically agreed, “I am ready, I have 100 designs and I am totally into this.”
From there, Kozik designed and produced his first toy in the United States.
Punk Rock Kids & Robots
Kozik’s design skill goes back to the Punk Rock era where he designed posters and flyers for some of the top rock bands of the time.
Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Pearl Jam got posters made for their shows per Kozik and his Xerox process, and his diligence in promoting the shows around the city of Austin where he lived at the time.
Working in the clubs, Frank’s relationship with the bands and clubs grew, big enough for Frank to start a record label which he ran for six years.
“As the bands grew bigger, I got better gigs for doing rock posters and started a record label. I had a record label for like six years, and it did really well.”
“We [first] did Queens of the Stone Age records and we broke some other big bands. I started organically, no school. I just was a punk rock kid doing little fliers, riding my bicycle, putting them up on telephone poles, you know – [like] 35 years ago.”
Today, Kozik is the Chief Creative Officer of Kidrobot and has been since 2014. Creating unique designs for Kidrobot and himself, but mostly doing things for China. This is where the market is booming. According to Kozik:
“China is really getting on the hype trip. They are getting into sneaker culture, into street culture, into art, and music. Since it’s all about artists, there’s always something new. It doesn’t get that boring. There’s always somebody new who has a new cool thing that they are doing.”
This is why Frank was asked to refresh the brand in his promotion to Chief Creative. Hiring designers and artists from all over, Frank brought in female artists, including artists from South America, Mexico, and China.
Frank says he was “trying to get back there, to what Kidrobot was, originally. Which was all over the place, really colorful and some new voices. We paid a lot of attention to the customizing community.”
As Far As The Design Eye Can See
Kozik has a broad interest in things. Things that are dark, demonic, cuddly, and cute, all seem to go hand and hand for Frank. Similar to his music taste, ambiguous and varied, Frank wants to create something for everyone.
The latest custom Bhunny toy designs by Kozik are exactly that, cute and cuddly characters of the furry variety, but rocking everything from Frankenstein stitches to Anarchy logos on the forehead.
This inclusive approach has a lot to do with Frank’s days as a punk rocker.
“Punk Rock was really cool in the beginning because it was inclusive, everybody was welcome. It didn’t matter what color you were, if you were straight or gay, what kind of music you were into, how old you were, nothing, as long as you wanted to party, you were welcome.”
The most relevant features of his designs are contrasting in the custom ‘Bhunny’ collection. It’s a mash-up that an artist like Frank is attuned to as eclectic as he is. Kozik wants to level the playing field as much as possible with informed designs that everyone can relate to.
“Everyone deserves a shot. Everyone should be able to do art, everybody should be able to buy art and appreciate it, no matter if it’s music or a toy or a piece of clothing or whatever.”
Design Something For Someone
Frank refers to himself as a collage artist and a mixer of mediums. He started out doing cut-and-paste collages. Eventually, he learned to paint and draw, then design in three dimensions.
A Stuckist artist – Stuckism, founded in 1999 — refers to art that sources from the real world with a call back to the true spirit of modernism – Kozik is an anti-anti-artist through this particular discipline.
Kozik doesn’t design from a unique style from within his being. He often has to look at all these different things around him.
“I look at this, I look at that, and then I say what if I take [this and that] and twisted it and stuck it out this and make something different,” as Frank referenced his design inspiration.
A man like this has lived a lot more lives than the average and has brought joy to the world in the form of toys. As the toys live on, he is aware of the contemporary qualities of the real-life characters known as humans.
He understands life is short and encourages those who live it to be good to other people and have a good time while you’re here. Like the custom 1-of-1 toys he created for the Bhunny collection, it’s a discovery of yourself reflected in your choices.
Look out for this article on PAGE magazine.