It all started in the 1950s when Harry and Patricia Kislevitz began experimenting with a flexible vinyl material. They had bought rolls of different colored vinyl and simply cut out shapes that they would place on their bathroom walls. They left the vinyl and scissors available so guests could add their own touch. Their friends were intrigued and they knew they were on to something.
The first Colorforms set was hand-cut: a thimble, a bottle, and a medicine container top were just some of the shapes that would become the foundation of the very first set, designed by Patricia, and now housed in the Museum of Modern Art in its permanent collection. The pieces had the ability to cling to backgrounds without adhesive.
The idea is that you can move the pieces on your backdrop countless times. The pieces stick to the background without chemical or static adhesion, and in a secure but non-permanent manner when a vacuum is created between the two polished surfaces, holding the piece in place.
The concept came in 1951 and was firmly rooted in the Modernist design ethos and reflected the Color Field abstract style prevalent at the time. The first 1,000 sets were sold “on the concept” to the FAO Schwarz toy store. They adopted the slogan “It’s More Fun To Play The Colorforms Way!” in print ads and television commercials.
In 1957 they introduced Popeye as their first licensed product. Two years later Paul Rand (an eminent twentieth-century American graphic designer and art director. He was the pioneer of iconic corporate logo designs for major firms, including IBM, ABC, Morningstar, Inc., NeXT Computer, Yale University, and Enron. He was an avid practitioner of the Swiss Style of graphic designing in the American advertising industry) designed the Colorforms logo. They would release “Space Warrior” and “Outer Space Men” In the early 60s.
It was 1962 when “Miss Weather”, a Colorforms character featuring a wardrobe that changed with the weather, makes her debut. In 1966 Colorforms released the “Batman Cartoon Kit” including the Batmobile and the Joker. Later in the 60s, they announced the popular “Beatles Cartoon Set”. I personally had the Colorforms “Make Your Own IN Buttons” from 1967. I used to make up buttons that could be redesigned easily. I remember being influenced in my button designs by the TV show, Rowan and Martins Laugh-In.
The 1970s brought “Space 1999” “Star Trek”, “Barbie” and all her outfits. There was “David Cassidy”, “Welcome Back Kotter” and the ability to solve mysteries with “Scooby-Doo”. The 80s added “Muppet Babies”, “Pound Puppies”, Cabbage Patch Kids”, “California Raisins”, “ET”, “Gremlins” and even “Pac Man”. The ’90s brought “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “, “Where’s Waldo”, “Blue’s Clues”, “WWF Action Set”, “The New Kids on the Block” and “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”.
The 2000s and 2010s continued on with such as “Harry Potter”, SpongeBob SquarePants”, “Jurassic World Sticker Story Adventure”, “Frozen”, “Despicable Me”, and “Dora the Explorer”. Colorforms was named “Top 100 Toys of All Time” in 2011 by Time Magazine. They’ve introduced glow-in-the-dark, glitter, magic reveals, sound effects, and even record and playback capabilities. Colorforms are listed among the Top 10 Toys of the Century by the Toy Industry of America (TIA). The Colorforms name has been acquired several times since 1997 but they still sell products today.