Form and function donâ€™t always go hand-in-hand, but every so often some bright spark manages to make whatâ€™s practical pretty – and hats off to them. The world would be a hell of an uglier place without people like mimoco. Creating USB flash drives that not only hold data, but are designed by talented illustrators from around the globe, mimobots married design and technology in 2005, and have been cultivating the relationship since.
“Part of the beauty of Art Toys is that, beyond simply existing as toys, they can act as an entirely new medium for artists from a great variety of genres to express their visions.”
Format: First things first, who and what is mimoco?
mimoco: mimoco is the mimobot company! We’re a Boston-based start-up founded in 2005 by Evan Blaustein and his wife CÃ©cile. As a tight knit team, we’ve joined together to give life to our collection of mimobot Art Toy USB Flash Drives.
Format: Ok so where did the idea for mimobots come from then?
mimoco: mimobots were Evan’s brainchild. A new media maven and big fan of contemporary character artists and the toys they create, Evan had the idea that Designer Toys could be more than just eye candy â€“ they could be useful too. Then one day in early ’05, his wife, fishing for her flash drive in her purse, pulled out her Tron Bearbrick by mistake instead. This moment spawned the concept of the Designer Toy USB Flash Drive and the notion of the mimobots was born.
Format: Combining computer hardware with limited edition toys, you’ve tapped into two very different niche markets. Do you think with mimobots you’ve created the ultimate nerd accessory?
mimoco: Well, as a nerd myself, I believe we have. The power of toy collecting is strong, and now grown-up nerds can explain to their significant others why they’ve got to have this new toy. Plus, with the ever-expanding capacities of flash memory, the particular breed of tech-savvy nerd which has to have the newest, highest-capacity drives on the market can keep up with the trends in style.
Format: Do you feel like you belong to one world â€” tech or toys â€” more than the other? Ort are you happy bridging the gap between the two?
mimoco: Bridging the gap seems to fit us best. There’s a part of me that wants to say we’re more of an Art Toy company adding functionality to the genre, but then there’s another part of me that thinks we’re a technology company bringing soul to consumer electronics. Which side I believe kind of changes day-to-day.
Format: The debate about whether toys are art never seems to ever reach a conclusion. With the added complication of technology, where would you place mimobots?
mimoco: Definitely art. Part of the beauty of Art Toys is that, beyond simply existing as toys, they can act as an entirely new medium for artists from a great variety of genres to express their visions. mimobots take the art side a step further by giving artists the digital medium as well as the exterior canvas. I think that our customers, especially with our Artist Series, see the hard work and creativity the artists put in, and recognize mimobots as pieces of art. Of course, there will always be people who don’t believe in the artistic nature of toys; if you ask them, they’re probably just toys. But, then again, those are the same people who think graffiti is nothing but vandalism and cartoons are just ways to entertain small children.
Format: The original series of mimobots were all designed by the same artist, how did you get together with him?
mimoco: Yahid “Serial Killer” Rodriguez is the man! We hooked up with Yahid in the Kidrobot forums, which is the source for community in all things Art Toys. We had just finalized the 3D mimobot form, which was spearheaded by industrial designer, Baron Brandt, and were ready to apply characters to our fresh canvas. At this point Yahid was showing off his Nahualli line of toys on the Kidrobot board, and as newcomers appreciating his subversive anime style we approached him to create the first series of core mimobot characters. He was stoked for the opportunity and the rest is history.
Format: Thereâ€™s quite a back-story to these characters can you tell us a bit about that?
mimoco: mimobots are silicon-based inhabitants from the planet blÃµÃ´h in galaxy 4210 and are as old as time itself. Each one experienced a ‘flash event’ (different depending on the individual ‘bot) that wiped its memory and left it confused and ill. Fortunately, the ‘maddest genius’ of blÃµÃ´h, Knowledgeus, devised a way to restore the poor ill mimobots’ memories: by sending clones of the stricken ‘bots to Earth, where the kindly humans would share their data with the clones. This data, while being protected for the humansâ€”this is a symbiotic relationship, after allâ€”would also be sent back to RALF computer on blÃµÃ´h and used to restore the memories of the original mimobot and nurse it back to health. We sculpted an individual background for each character from the core series, from lifestyle to personality to whatever their ‘flash event’ happened to be. That way, the mimobots’ adopters know, for example, to keep Magma from overheating and toasting his memory further.
Format: Will the story continue to evolve?
mimoco: Absolutely! While it’s been a bigger challenge to incorporate the story as we’d like, the tale of poor, woe-begotten mimobots from the planet blÃµÃ´h will continue on. The world will evolve, and each new mimobot will provide a bit of insight into what life is like in galaxy 4210. One of our major goals here is to create characters with distinct personalities, more like small friends than toys, and maybe to evoke a little feeling of altruism when you restore a bit of your mimobot’s memory.
Format: It’s rare for such a practical product have this kind of narrative element. Why was it so important for you to incorporate it?
mimoco: Narrative is a very important element of creating a character, which is what we’re doing with the mimobots. While in practice they merge two distinct product categories – Art Toys with USB Flash Drives â€“ they’re also an original character property. The narrative exists to bring them to life, and to add another dimension to the product line, which we hope will create strong connections with our fans.
Format: In addition into Yahid, youâ€™ve worked with a lot of other artists. Whatâ€™s that been like for you?
mimoco: It’s been great! We’re lucky to have the opportunity to work with a lot of artists that we’re fans of. It’s amazing to see what kind of designs they come up with when presented with the mimobot canvas. All the characters designed in the various Artist Series have been simply amazing. One of my favorite experiences is seeing a design come in from an artist the first time and thinking “My God, that’s awesome, how did they come up with that?!”
Format: Are there any artists out there you still would like to work with?
mimoco: Sure, there are tons of artists out there we’d love to work with! There are also tons we don’t know who would be great to partner with too. The shame of it is that there are so many really, really talented folks out there, and we wish we could produce lots more mimobots with them all.
Format: The artists series arenâ€™t just a case of getting a mimobot with some nice artwork on it, they come with some preloaded digital content as an added bonus. Do you have any guidelines for this or do you leave it in the hands of the artists?
mimoco: We mostly leave it in the hands of the artists. Like the character design, we want the content to be an original, interesting, unique creation from the artist’s mind. Baseline content includes desktop personalization items like wallpapers, screensavers, avatars, icons, etc. But the exciting part for me is the rich media portion that is a freeform digital canvas for the artist.
Format: Have you ever thought about doing blind box style content or a digital golden ticket?
mimoco: Not really, but it’s an interesting idea. Something like that could spur our community on, maybe get them trading content. We’ll definitely consider it in the future. On the flipside, the content is a surprise to all, in the sense that the only way to experience it is to pick up a mimobot and see for yourself.
Format: If a mimobot is used as it should be, there’s bound to be a fair bit of wear and tear on it. Investing so much into the aesthetic of them, does seeing a bashed up one fill you with pride that it’s being used or make you a little sad?
mimoco: It definitely makes us a little sad. That’s one of the driving forces behind our Protohoodie Keychain Accessories, to try and help fans keep their mimobots as healthy and happy as possible. Of course, we’re always glad that they’re being used, but you can’t help but feel a bit sad seeing something you’ve helped create, one of 400 or 500, getting damaged; knowing that there’s one less pristine Galaxor or Jolibear in the world and nothing coming along to replace it. Which is why we’re on a continuous mission to improve the resiliency of mimobots, so are always experimenting with new production processes to better protect the little guys.
Format: With the vimobots you’ve kept the shape of the Mimobots but ditched the hardware to create a more conventional collectable. What made you take this step?
mimoco: The vimobots are all recreations of the original Core Series mimobots. We wanted to re-release them in some form, since they’re the original mimoco mimobots and the basis of our storyline. But the original mimobots were, and remain, limited edition and we didn’t want to undercut that by making more of them, so this way, fans of the originals can get the chance to own their favorite character while people who bought them when they were available are still the only ones with the mimobots.
Another reason for this step was the blank vimobot: we wanted to get fans as involved as possible, and one thing that Art Toys do rather frequently is give fans blank vinyl toys to customize however they want. It would be a lot to expect of people to create a blank mimobot, a magnifying glass or microscope would likely be in order. So, we created the blank, oversized, customizable vimobot, and are now looking forward to seeing the collective creative talent of our fans.
Format: The market’s pretty saturated with platform toys at the moment, how do you think you’ll fair against the others? Does the tech side of the Mimobots give you a slightly different route to market â€“ different stores carrying them, etc?
mimoco: The tech side of mimobots certainly opens up a greater variety of retail options, but it also differentiates us in the eyes of our customers. Art Toy fans love the designs of platform toys, the variety of unique artist designs on all the canvases available. But before we started up, there was no practical side to the genre. Now, when fans think about buying a new Art Toy by their favorite artist, they have to consider the usefulness of mimobots in the equation. Plus, there’s an entirely new audience that’s not terribly interested in Art Toys as a genre, but loves the idea of having their flash drive display their creativity and individuality. I think the combination of these advantages will help us survive and thrive in, as you said, a fairly saturated market.
Format: Would you consider doing any other toy projects that use original shapes or are you happy to stay true to your original vision?
mimoco: We’re always considering new projects, and we’ve got a few interesting twists on the original mimobot design in the works. However, we’re still working on building the popularity of our core mimobot product, so most of our new projects have been on the back burner or in the brainstorming stage purely out of necessity. Given some time, though, I can predict fairly confidently that you’ll see us add more new product lines.
Format: What’s next for mimoco?
mimoco: We’ve got our hands pretty full with Star Wars Series 1, Artist Series ’07, vimobots, and., well, we’ve got a few new series coming up this summer that we’re really looking forward to. And there’s always another trade show right around the corner, too. We’re going to Star Wars Celebration IV in May and Comic Con in July, so we’re preparing for those. All that keeps us pretty busy, well, very busy, well, someday soon we hope to go home and get a few hours of sleep.
More Info: http://www.mimoco.com/