Back in August 2010 when the thought of my own brand occurred to me, I had that big dilemma of what to call it. I'm not good with naming things, most of my soft toys are named with a formula of Name = Colour + Animal. To change it up, sometimes I call a soft toy a bunny when its actually a bear! Like Blue Bunny, which is actually a bear that's blue! Whooooaaaa...
Anyway, I knew I definitely wanted a name that would mean something to me as well as reflect the spirit of my designs. So I chose Hooby Groovy! So where did the name come from? Short answer: The Hoobs! If you haven't heard of The Hoobs, it's an excellent children's show by The Jim Henson Company, creator of The Muppets. Basically, The Hoobs are a race of (I guess) aliens from Hoobland that have journeyed to Earth to learn about Earth. There are 3 main characters, Iver, Groove and Tula who travel around on the Hoob Mobile (powered by the singing of the Motorettes) to learn about the world. Hubba-Hubba is the Hoob back on Hoobland that they contact every episode to report on what they learn and Roma is another Hoob that travels the world separately to learn things too.
One of the best parts of The Hoobs is their little phrases, for example Hooble-tooble-doo to mean "Bye" and Hoobacious for fantastic. And Hoobygalooby for Wow! When I first heard that, I misheard it as Hooby Groovy and that word just really stayed with me!
So why choose it for my brand? Well for one thing, its such a fun word that I really liked! A more practical reason was that I already had an email account with that name so I figured I could use that email for the brand. More importantly, I think Hooby Groovy just really encompasses what I want my brand and business and life to be about. Just hearing the word conjures up feelings of fun and laid-backness and wonderment to me.
Most of all, it was the philosophy behind The Hoobs that really spoke to me, and that's all about learning! Discovering new things and learning about the world, I really like that! One of my favourite things to do is just think about something, anything and just go read up about it on Wikipedia. For example, I recently learnt that hedgehogs are somewhat immune to snake venom. There are so many fascinating things around us in the world and I firmly believe that it's never a waste of time to learn about anything, whatever it is and no matter how irrelevant it is to my own life.
My Hooby Groovy journey has definitely been about learning. Right from the start, from how to sew to how to design, how to set up shop to how to set up a website. As I tackle new designs, new ideas, new requests, I learn more and more about so many things.
Running a small business, especially one as tiny as Hooby Groovy is really tough! There's always way more work than time and never any certainty that what I'm doing is the right thing or whether my business will just fall flat on its face at any second. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day rush and routine of trying not to drown in this big, big world of brands and products. So, every now and then, it's very refreshing to take a step back and remember all the awesome things about running a small business and a lot of that has to do with the multitude of things I've learnt in the past 2 years! So no matter the setbacks or failures or low points I've had on this journey, there was and still is always something new to learn. And I'm glad that I have the name Hooby Groovy to remind me of that! :)
A couple of weeks ago, I spent 2 days attending presentations and panel discussions at the Game Masters Forum, a developer-focused event that was organised as part of the Game Masters Exhibition at ACMI Melbourne. It was really interesting and insightful but as I said, very game development focused, so I want to try and analyse what I learnt and see how I can apply it to Hooby Groovy.
These series of talks were definitely more focused on independent game development than most other game development talks I've been to in the past. Well, in the same way, Hooby Groovy is very much 'indie'. I make the products I want to make, no one else is invested in Hooby Groovy or can dictate the way I should go. The freedom is wonderful of course, but at the same time, it's a really hard slog too! Often, I feel like my products are very much like the little games you find on the App Store, a needle in the haystack or a plankton in the ocean, waiting for the big whales to swallow me up and poo me out. There's just so much things in the world these days! So many choices and everything easy to access. Great for customers but as a seller, there's always that drowning feeling. How do I get my products noticed in the great, great never-ending sea of stuff?
One of the talks in the Forum discussed the importance of being inventive. I really enjoyed that talk because it was just so right and made so much sense. As an indie, I am in the perfect place to be inventive. I have no one else telling me that I can't, because there is no one else but me involved in the risk of being inventive, no cautious investors or shareholders that just want a return on their investments.
And at the same time, because I have no one else, I can't afford not to be inventive to stand out. All projects and businesses are about balancing available resources, namely time, money and labour. That's one thing an indie has in common with the big players, the only difference is the quantity of said resources. If I were to compare myself to say Crumpler for example (because I really like Crumpler products and would love to grow my company to be something like that), they have so much more money available, which would give them the chance to hire more labour, which would make the most efficient use of their time, which would then result in more money being fed back into the system.
Unfortunately, I don't have much money, labour is me and me alone, and time is 24 hours a day minus sleeping and eating. Immediately, I've lost the battle. Fortunately, I have the option to be inventive, there's no limit to that besides my own brain. And if I can invent something good enough, that will help set me apart from all the other companies that will always beat me hands down in all other areas like manufacturing or marketing.
So, the big question now is how to be inventive. I haven't quite solved that one yet. But just the realisation that I really should venture out more and try to do more crazy stuff has galvanised me into thinking about my products and how I can expand on it and that I shouldn't be scared to just try!
Another discussion at the Forum dealt with the old question of Creativity vs Commerce. Does the business side of game development limit or even harm the creative side? Well, bringing that whole issue of money vs art back to Hooby Groovy, the answer is quite easily No. It all goes back to being that struggling little plankton trying hard to get noticed. And while it sounds quite harsh, this little plankton does need the whole money thing in order to pay the bills just to keep staying in the ocean with the other planktons. And I do honestly believe that being creative is the only way to go if I want to evolve from a plankton to a shrimp.
Looking back at my body of work with Hooby Groovy, I honestly don't think I've been very inventive or creative. And a lot of that is to do experience and knowledge and confidence. As time goes on, I will gain more experience, especially if I do actively try to be more brave in my creations.
As for knowledge and confidence, that's a bit harder. I grew up in a culture that was very focused on academic achievements and pathways. People around me entered universities, studied a certain field, graduated to work in that field. So I think that deep down in a very deeply planted seed, I think that unless I've studied something properly through the traditional avenues, I don't really know it at all. Of course, I tell myself that's not the case and as I've often experienced myself, the best way to learn something is to do it! But there's always that self-doubt. I've never studied design or art or sewing (besides a short 4 session course on how to use a sewing machine), I have no prior background in any of these fields and before Hooby Groovy, never did anything remotely like this professionally. And that's where a lot of the self doubt in my creativity comes from. There's a whole lot of "Am I doing it right??" questions going around all the time. When I make something, I think, "yeah I like it, I think it looks good", but then I also think "but what if its not really good because I don't know how to know its good".
Well, besides going back to school to study design or art, there's not much else I can do about it at this point in time besides keep on chugging and just keep learning! And mostly challenging myself to take on new things and try out new ideas. Which is why I really enjoy getting custom requests! Each is a new lesson learnt and a bit more to add to my tiny pile of experience and knowledge. Each is an emotional journey of self discovery. I get happy, I get sad, I get downright depressed, I get frustrated, I get excited but most importantly I get it done and I get to learn something.
Most of my custom requests have been creating cases based on popular characters, which is a real honour because I really love these characters and look up to their designers and to get the chance to really study the design that goes into these characters that make up what they are is really insightful. I dream that one day, I can achieve something close to what these designers have achieved and somewhere in the world, someone can look at my product and say "Oh that's a Hooby Groovy!"
This has been a very personal reflection kind of blog post, sorry that its not more exciting but thank you for letting me use you to sort out the thoughts in my head! :) Here's a sneak peek of the my drafting process of the custom order that I'm currently working on :) Stay tuned to see the finished product!
I just completed a really fun custom request for an 11in MacBook Air case. This request came from a previous customer and Mario fan and was for a Thwomp case. They're one of the obstacles commonly present in Super Mario games. Basically a large, angry cinder-block that will try to squash you flat as you try to get past.
I was very excited to try this out, its such a cute design. Hmmm...I seem to gravitate towards angry things! Goombas, Angry Ninjas and now angry Thwomp! Maybe its my inner grumpy trying to get out ;).
I thought this would look best in felt, as it would have that nice 'rock' texture. None of my other products are grey so I had to specially order some of this in. Unfortunately, I could not get the materials in time before I had to leave for Malaysia. Luckily, my dear customer was patient and didn't mind waiting until I returned! :) In the end, I'm really thankful for that extra time. I felt that if I had tried to create this while under the time pressure before leaving to go to Malaysia, it might not have been able to turn out quite so well. As it was, I got the chance to spend quite a bit of time carving this when I returned.
I say 'carving' because that's sort of what it feels like when I work with felt on a completely new thing. I start with rough sketches to try to get the feel of it and then draft up the shape in its real sizes on paper and redraw the design onto that. I then cut out the pattern onto the felt and then pretty much 'carve' the felt until I really feel like I've captured the essence of the character. Sometimes I go too far and have to start again with a whole new piece.
For Thwomp, the hardest part by far was its eyes. Getting that angry look wasn't easy, my rough sketches caught it easily enough but when transferred over to felt, it turned out looking like surprise more than anger. There was a point when I decided to take a break from the eyes and work on the mouth instead. This actually helped a great deal because the mouth looks angry too and so that helped me to focus and imagine it better in my head, so when I went back to the eyes, the angriness came by more naturally.
Another design challenge that I did not forsee was the closure tab. For example, in the case of the Ninja MacBook Case, the closure tab is attached onto the inside of the front layer and closes on the outside of the back layer.
I forgot that the Thwomp had these jaggedy edges on its border, meaning a closure tab going over that would look really ugly. So I had to change it up a bit and have the closure tab closing on the inside of the case. While its just a very minor design challenge, at the time it made me think of how much I really needed to get out of my comfort zone and just try making more different types of things because I always run into tiny little challenges like these. Things that I never really think about until suddenly "Uh-Oh, what do I do now??" Luckily, this wasn't an "Uh-Oh, have to start from scratch because I really didn't think this through!" moment.
So anyway, here's my Thwomp 11in MacBook Air Case!
I couldn't resist "playing" Super Mario! ;)
Why, hello there Mr Blog, its been a while! Time has certainly flown by and its now 2012. Actually 13 days into 2012 and I'm only just getting started on thinking of what I want to achieve for the year.
Which kicks me off into...
Resolution #1: Less time slacking off, more time blogging
One of the main reasons I started this blog was to motivate myself into learning. By looking out for content, I would be able to discover interesting and inspiring things around me, learn new skills and also analyse and discover myself better. As you can see by my meagre 2011 effort, I quickly forgot all about that and so this year, I plan to be more diligent about blogging.
I won't just be blogging about my products and updates to my store. I'm planning on sharing many more things with all of you. Innovative products that I've discovered, interesting websites, fun games, inspiring works of art or ideas and also I plan to bring a bit more of my personal life onto here.
So I hope you all will come along with me on my journey in discovering the plethora of amazingness that exists in the world.
(photo via A Perfect Kind of Day)
Starting with this truly awesome staircase. I saw a photo of this and it just made my brain start ticking. I can't find any info on where this is, I believe I read somewhere that it was in a lighthouse but for the life of me, I can't find that link anymore. It made me wonder how the design process went. The way I imagine it, it went something like this: Architect was having an 'architect's block', starts doodling pictures of himself/herself coming up with ideas, ie stick figure with light bulb, "Wait a minute, lightbulb! That's it!" and the rest, as they say... is an amazing staircase.
I really would like to see this in person because now I'm wondering how obvious the lightbulb shape is in the building. Or is it something that the photographer discovered when walking around figuring out how best to photograph the place? I like to think that from the 'usual' viewpoint, you would just see a normal winding staircase but if you walk to some back corner, suddenly you get this very interesting perpective.
Which is how I want to start looking at things around me, to really take the time and ponder "What if?" and maybe I will discover lightbulbs everywhere too. :)
Some of the best designs come about from having to abide to very strict parameters or limitations. In the case of these next two videos, the limitations come in the form of space. Here are 2 videos of 2 very tiny apartments, one is in Barcelona and one in Hong Kong.
I love how both have managed to take these really tiny places and turned the space not only into a fully-featured home with everything you'd need for day-to-day living, but that the end result looks extremely beautiful, cosy and even spacious! And I like how you can really see that a lot of thought goes into each design feature, about how it would work to make the place really liveable and functional.
There are many big, beautiful houses with gorgeous architecture and interiors. But I think its so much more inspirational to have the same level of gorgeousness in an itty-bitty little space!