Toys had always been a life-long passion and obsession for Ban Yinh Jheow. Even as a child, he would spend his free time poring over scores of books and magazines on toys and memorabilia to look for his favourite action heroes.
His eyes would sparkle with excitement whenever he spoke of his newest discovery at a toy or hobby store. "I've been searching high and low, and all over Singapore for this little guy," he smiles with a bright glint and reveals a vintage collectible toy.
It is a little wonder that he chose to take the road less travelled to pursue his dream of becoming a toy creator. At a time when nobody paid any attention to the already saturated toy market, Ban forged on with zeal, vigour and enthusiasm, only armed with his sketchbook of ideas. "At times, some people thought I got too carried away with this pursuit, but I knew I had to press on."
Today, Ban Yinh Jheow is the Chairman and Founder of Stikfas Pte Ltd. He is also the creator and inventor of STIKFAS™ (US Patent 6692332), an articulated action figure that has revolutionised the global toy industry.
STIKFAS™ first entry into the toy market was a co-branding effort with Electronic Arts and Westwood Studio on their game 'Emperor, Battle for Dune'. Stikfas Pte Ltd is also the first Singaporean company to have their patent licensed to a US multi-national corporation (MNC), Hasbro Inc. The brand has won many awards in the US, like 'Best Original Concept of the Year' in 2002 (ToyFare), 'Most Fun and Innovative Toy of the Year' in 2002 (ToyShop), 'Top 100 Greatest Toys of the Decade' in 2007 (ToyFare) and even has a comprehensive Fan Book published by Japan's biggest hobby publisher, Hobby Japan in 2004. Stikfas Pte Ltd currently manages all aspects of the brand, from manufacturing and distribution channels to the design and marketing.
STIKFAS™ is a 3-D physical expression of the philosophy underlying 'Web 2.0', where the producer provides platforms, libraries of parts and scripts and puts the act of content creation directly into the hands of the user. Not surprisingly, STIKFAS™ is now moving fully into 3-D software called Constructor, where every single available part will be on-line. This allows the user to build a figure, change the colour palette, paste on stickers and articulate it - all with a simple click of the mouse. The user can then purchase what he has created, use the software as an animation tool or send his figures into an online game called Stikworld.
As an active member in the design community, Ban has been invited by various government agencies and private institutions, like the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, Media Development Authority of Singapore, National Heritage Board, Monetary Authority of Singapore, Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, Intellectual Property Office of Japan, National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, Singapore Technologies, Leo Burnett, BMW and many others to speak at their events. He also sits on the Boards of ACE (Action for the Communities of Entrepreneurs), DesignSingapore Council, Nanyang Polytechnic School of Industrial Design and acts as a consultant to other companies on design and branding.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Ban strongly believes that design is about being in tune with the market's ever-changing needs and responding to those constant changes, by creating fresh and innovative ideas that are revolutionary and defies convention. His fellow colleague, Tey Beng Huan, also notes Ban’s sharp business acumen and creative ingenuity in this field, "Today, Ban's idea of an original toy is a 'Designed in Singapore' international brand with an international fan base and distribution network. Still, it does not end here. Ban is constantly working on new 'Designed in Singapore' brands for the toy industry and he is also expanding his creative skills into other areas of creative media through collaborations with other organisations."
Advice for emerging designers:
"Have a good sense of reality in your field. Understand the entire process from design to market. This enables you to cut down on wastage of time and resources. Check all pride and ego at the doorstep. Be your own biggest critic. Break the rules and take risk. Lastly, do your homework!"