Monsters make the world go round

Posted by: Helen Walters on January 29, 2008

Here’s a rather lovely tale of a personal art project taking on a life of its own and becoming a mini social phenomenon. It’s the kind of thing that could only happen in this day and age, with the help of technology and open-minded and creative people.

Stefan Bucher runs a design firm out in LA, working with all sorts of clients. One day, for fun, he decided to experiment with his new blog. Not really putting too much thought into it, and not promoting it at all, he decided to set himself a daily challenge: to splat some ink on a paper and then make that shape into the picture of a monster. And film himself doing it.

Sounds simple, right? Well, it was. And it unleashed, er, a monster of its own. Check out the video below. More details — and why this is relevant to businesses everywhere, not least Starbucks and Target — after the jump.

As is the way of the web, people began to find the monsters, and started emailing Bucher with questions -- what's this monster called? What does this one do? He didn't know, but he liked the questions, so he decided to add some of his own to each video. Then, on day 19, a contributor called Simon, "posted the first truly elaborate story about the monsters and showed everybody else how much fun they could have... From there on everybody went nuts," remembers Stefan.

Nuts is right. Stefan created hundreds of the monsters (see many more of the films here,) and their fans posted hundreds of stories about them. Kids, seniors, even a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps stationed in Japan took part. Now, later this year, HOW Books will publish a book of some 250 of those stories, along with all 100 drawings, and a DVD of all the films with an additional 700 stories and comments.

Stefan (who still creates a Weekly Monster that appears on Wednesday evenings, PST and will do another month of Daily Monsters in February) has even been taking his monsters into a corporate context. Recently, he did a workshop with the design team at Starbucks, and he's also been into Target. "You have no idea how much fun it is to get 80 serious designers drawing and telling stories and having the whole room crack up," he says. "I’m enjoying actually getting people to participate. A lot of them start out quite shy and apprehensive, but once they get into it, they go nuts." And given how companies are trying so hard to work out how to create conversations and work on creating genuine engagement with their consumers, there's a serious idea underpinning all the fun.

Not least, Stefan says -- and this is a really important point for those who want to play in this space -- he works hard to make sure everybody feels welcome. "Once the more prolific writers and artists got in on the action, other people got intimidated," he acknowledges. "Honestly, what the little kids come up with in their classes is just as valid as what somebody else does on their lunch break or a professional in their spare time. The great thing about the random seed of the initial ink blot is that everybody gets to have a cool drawing, or a cool story at the end. There are no wrong answers on a Rorschach test."

What I really love about this story is the network and community that formed around the monsters. People felt personally attached to these little creatures, and bothered to write a backstory for them. Stefan's creativity spawned the same from others -- imagination begat imagination. That's fantastic.

Reader Comments

Christa

January 30, 2008 8:59 AM

What an inspiring story and I love Bucher's blog. I've just fired off an email to my boss with the link as our company is currently considering how to build narrative and guest participation around our brand.

James

June 30, 2008 3:16 AM

Nice post...I think if you want to do something whatever it is, it does not matter but only depends on your consentration and passion and if its is skyhigh then you can do every thing that you want to do. Thanks

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What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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