Tag Archives: design

Sympathetic doll design

Here’s a post for anyone wondering about why they don’t/didn’t click with overly “grinny” dolls.

Sympathetic doll design hinges on the eyes and it’s so easy to mess up…

The test is to place your finger over the mouth and see if a doll still looks happy or if she now looks bored or distressed.

It’s down to the half-millimetre in the upper cheeks and side of the eyes, eye highlights and eyebrow placement. Kinda like celebrity fan art, it misses the sweet spot if it isn’t JUST right.

Bratz and Monster High mostly have smiling eyes and neutral lips whereas Barbie occasionally has a big smile but unsmiling eyes which then reads as a fake smile. A few of the new Draculauras had sad/distressed eyes.

OK, photos to illustrate:

This is a Desiree with the eyes printed slightly too high so her upper cheeks no longer register as smiling and her eyebrows are too low to look relaxed


On to the most used blonde barbies from the 80s til recently:


Generation girl and 80s Superstar* were very prone to getting the eyes just slightly off: she’s not unhappy just neutral.The dolls in green are gently smizing

*90s superstar mostly found the right balance to look like her smile matched her eyes.The Carnivale seen above is smiling without smizing.

This Superstar girl looks strained:

This Mackie has a closed mouth and arched eyebrows but her eyes are happy and relaxed:

Meet Maxie and Ashley: one is smiling with her eyes, one with her mouth:


Some people are quite happy with smiley dolls, others find it unnerving.   In certain european cultures, smiling is something you only do when you’re really happy so a big toothy ultra bright white toothy smile can come across as slightly foreign and uncanny.

This is a Liv doll: fantastic doll design except for the eyes that weren’t quite aligned, too glarey and cheek bones too low to seem smiley:


look how custom artists fixed that by changing the eye position and making the cheekbones look higher :

Compare and contrast with Bratzillaz who had naf body design, clothes, terrible hair and yet people clicked with them because the eyes were expressive and happy looking