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The founder of Hong Kong toy company TinBot tells us where he gets his design inspiration from, and about his recent collaboration with Hong Kong Airlines

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Tell us more about TinBot.

We are a toy company that makes collectible robot figurines. Our designs arrive in a tin box, where all the magnetic parts – like moveable joints, head, feet and swords – are stored. Customers can then build their robot using the box as the body, making play a more interactive experience than with typical action figures.

What motivated you to start TinBot? 

The drive to be creative. As a Hong Kong-based product designer, I dreamed about creating my own brand. The first version of TinBot launched in 2013 as a gift concept – and we won a Hong Kong Smart Gifts Design Award in 2014. I later established TinBot as a toy brand in 2016, so I could continue designing robots.

Why a tin box?

The tin box and moveable magnetic joints are the basic components of my design and, from that base, I create robots in various styles and themes. It’s a reference to old-school tin robots in the ’60s and ’70s. Instead of wind-up robots, which were popular back then, my robots use magnets for a different way to interact and play with the toy.

What inspires you?

I find inspiration in my surroundings – in our collective memories of Hong Kong culture. Our ice cream truck robot, Mr Softin, received a great response on social media! Everyone in Hong Kong knows Mister Softee [an iconic local ice cream truck] and can relate to it. I think all our robots represent my personality and style. For example, our vintage-style Japanese robots, Voltes V and Daitetsujin, were derived from the Japanese anime I grew up watching.


How do your designs reflect the city’s distinct culture?

I’ve designed more than 100 robots, of which over half are “Hong Kong-style”. My robots have captured the city’s famous mini-buses, old colonial post boxes and lemon tea – these are all classic Hong Kong elements. My friends and customers often share suggestions on what robots I should produce next. It’s a long to-do list!

Tell us about your recent collaboration with Hong Kong Airlines.

Hong Kong Airlines invited me to work on a series of collectible toys. I produced quite a few: Captain Sam, a popular TV character back in early 2000s; Miss Milk Tea, inspired by an iconic local beverage; a cabin crew member; and an Airbus A350. This last robot was challenging to design, as I wanted to capture the precise ratio and details of the airplane’s wings and tail.


Find out more about TinBot at tinbot.com.hk.

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