Playmobil was invented by German inventor Hans Beck (1929–2009). Beck received training as a cabinetmaker and was also an avid hobbyist of model aeroplanes, a product he pitched to the company Geobra Brandstätter. The owner of the company, Horst Brandstätter, asked him to develop toy figures for children instead.
Beck spent three years from 1971 to 1974 developing what became Playmobil. Beck conducted research that allowed him to develop a toy that would not be too complex but would nevertheless be flexible. He felt that too much flexibility would get in the way of children’s imaginations, and too much rigidity would cause frustration. The toy he came up with, at 7.5 cm tall, fit in a child’s hand and its facial design was based on children’s drawings – a large head, a big smile, and no nose.
“I would put the little figures in their hands without saying anything about what they were,” Beck remarked. “They accepted them right away… They invented little scenarios for them. They never grew tired of playing with them.”