CUTE: Youth Games mascots Merly (left) and Lyo are the creations of Ms Lee Wee Na and Mr Stanley Toh of design consultancy Cubix International. (PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN)
A ROBOTIC Singapura cat with an LCD screen for a face. A merlion in diapers. Mr Durian Head.
All these strange creatures were "invented" on the drawing boards, and contributed eventually to the genesis of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) mascots: Lyo and Merly.
The creative team behind the two mascots - six designers from branding and design consultancy Cubix International - began doodling their inspirations in late 2008.
Despite their forte in character design, it was not a walk in the park, according to the team leaders, creative director Stanley Toh, 33, and art director Lee Wee Na, 32.
"The creative process was indeed arduous," said Mr Toh.
"Each of the six designers involved had his own ideas."
The team initially came up with two vastly different concepts:
Futuristic robots and traditional animal mascots.
The robot theme could showcase Singapore as a technologically advanced nation. However, research and reactions from their colleagues' children showed that animal mascots were the way to go.
Even then, there were plenty of other considerations, such as whether the mascots would be able to perform sports poses.
Naturally, there was plenty of creative conflict and the team had to use "democratic polls" to decide the outcome on contentious issues.
The "eureka" moment eventually arrived when a silhouette of the very first Lyo was drawn.
Mr Toh said: "The decision was unanimous. Everyone agreed that it was the winning design."
And that was how a youthful lion and merlion cub came to be, and the designs were submitted in a final proposal in January last year.
Then, last May, a call from the Singapore YOG Organising Committee brought good news - Cubix International had earned the right to showcase their mascots at the inaugural Youth Games.
More work was done to "personify" the mascots. For example, to make Lyo more approachable, the lion cub's fangs were removed, while Merly's bangs, inspired by the latest fashion trends, received blue highlights.
The lucky merlion cub also got to try out various hair accessories - from a laurel wreath to the colourful Olympic rings. They finally settled on a hairband adorned with a purple starfish to reflect her watery origins.
Biodata was also created, complete with the mascots' personality profiles, ambitions, favourite food and even their star signs.
The sporty Lyo, for example, is an aspiring basketballer with a penchant for spicy food like chilli crab.
Merly, who wants to be an environmentalist, is passionate about creating a sustainable environment for the future - an issue the designers felt to be pertinent to youth.
Asked why the two mascots were not shaped into superstar athletes, Mr Toh said: "We want to convey the message that everyone can be part of the Youth Olympic Games."
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