The Yolk Frat NFT Collection

The Yolk Frat is an original NFT collection that I created the artwork for in 2021. This is a brief overview of the base character design, trait design process and the marketing materials created.

The client, a gentleman based in France named Gabriel had seen some comic strips I’d illustrated a few years back called Beanums (a personal project). He really liked the style of the artwork and wanted something similar for his new NFT collection. After reading the brief and chatting with Gabriel, we decided to move forward with the project!

"Secret Universe" Beanums Comic Strip
Style Inspiration - Beanums Comic

The Brief

Create an original base character.

Design 200 interchangeable character traits.

Design 10 legendary characters.

Create marketing materials

Phase 1

Create an original base character

The first task was to create an original base character for these NFTs. Gabriel wanted the character to be neutral enough so the traits stood out, so nothing too complex. Originally he wanted the characters  to be wearing themed buoys (those big inflatable swimming pool rings with flamingo necks) so I started sketching some ideas. The first idea was a weird abstract character with big ears, big teeth and a tail.

The First Character Idea Sketch
The First Character Idea Sketch
Potato Character Idea
Potato Character Idea

Once that idea was shelved (and rightly so!) we started getting somewhere with basic foods. I started down this path by creating a potato character to begin with. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite right. He does however make an appearance later in the comics!

I then sketched three more ideas, an egg, an onion and a squash. We all loved the egg, so once I created the vector version were off to the races! I worked in Adobe Illustrator for the character portion of the project and created the final base character

Food Character Sketch Ideas

At this point the project was name Yolk Bros, but was later named The Yolk Frat. The idea behind the collection was that these were a bunch of egg dudes that lived in a frat house and were going to give advice about the NFT space. The wanted to educate the real world Yolk Frat community on what NFTs were hot and what’s worth investing in. To become a member of The Yolk Frat, you had to buy at least one Yolk Frat NFT.

The Yolk Frat Base Character
The Yolk Frat Base Character

Phase 2

Design 200 Interchangeable Character Traits

Designing the traits was the meaty part of the project. This was my first NFT project, however in a previous life I was “Head of Character” for a custom avatar company called toxicfox (Popmoji in the US). During my time there I’d designed lots of characters with interchangeable traits so customers could customise their own avatars and have them printed on a huge range of products. I’d been doing this since the early 2010s, so I knew what I was in for when designing this new set of NFT traits.

Johnny Bravo Towel with custom character
Previous licensed custom character work for toxicfox / Popmoji

The developer on the project, Ben was also managing the project. He provided me with a brief for the 200 traits. He would later generate the final characters with his coding wizardry. The 200 traits needed to include the following:

Each category was assigned a number of traits, totalling 200. I chose most of the traits myself and was also provided with some specific ones they wanted to include.

As part of the brief I was also asked to document the process. This meant providing sketches, taking photos and recording video of me illustrating these traits. This would all be used as marketing material to help build hype around the collection. You can see some of the process material below.

The basic process was to sketch the trait in Photoshop, bring the sketch over to Illustrator, trace the sketch with the pen tool and apply colour. I created the traits on separate layers in the same Illustrator document so I could turn traits on and off to check they all worked together.

All Yolk Frat NFT Traits Turned On
All NFT traits turned on at once.

Having experience creating interchangeable character traits, the process went pretty smoothly with little correction. It’s easy to run into problems with overlapping traits that don’t fit together correctly. Getting it wrong can make the final generated character look glitchy. I was in touch with Ben on a daily basis for feedback when it was needed, but these were mostly minor adjustments and colour changes.

Getting through 200 traits is a test of endurance. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can feel like a mountain when you’re stood at the bottom. Chunking the project into focused manageable sprints really helps prevent getting overwhelmed with the mammoth task!

Phase 3

Create 10 Legendary Characters

The rarer the NFT the higher its value. I was tasked with creating 10 legendary Yolk Frat characters that would become the super rares. These included:

Originally I was going to create each one as a single image rather than separate the traits, but Ben requested I created each part separately so they could be combined with the regular traits. Some of this needed thinking about because some of the signature traits of these iconic characters didn’t easily fit together with the existing traits. In the end we managed with some compromises (Bart’s hair hat for example). My personal favourites are Daft Punk and Spider-Man.

Phase 4

Create Marketing Materials

This NFT project was being marketed on Discord primarily. Gabriel and the team had started building an audience that was growing fast. By this point I’d already been taking photographs and video of the process, but they wanted more engaging content that the audience could interact with. Gabriel asked me to create a series of comic strips, similar to the ones that had attracted him to my work in the first place. He also asked for a series of “Find this Yolk” images, similar to Where’s Wally (Waldo for my American friends).

The most challenging part of the comics for me was coming up with mini storylines based around the NFT scene. I was given a list of NFT themed phrases that had to be included throughout the comic series. A lot of these phrases were new to me, so it was back to school! These went down a treat in the community and I’m really pleased with how they turned out. I created a total of 14 comic strips.

The second part was the Where’s Wally/Waldo style images. I didn’t have time to sit and draw each individual character and saving individual characters from my Illustrator file would have still taken too long. After having a think I asked Ben if he could generate me 500 unique characters with transparent backgrounds based on the traits I’d delivered to that point. He kindly obliged and then I placed these characters around my Photoshop canvas and created different themed backgrounds. There was one unique character that was the focus of each image. Once these were posted on Discord, whoever was the first to find, screenshot and post the location of the character won a free NFT. As you might imagine, these got a lot of engagement, so much so that I had to stop creating comic strips to create more “Find this Yolk” images! There were a total of 14 unique “Find this Yolk” images created plus a variation of sizes and difficulty.

In addition to the comic strips and “Find this Yolk”, I created a range of banners and a short launch date teaser animation.

Summary

I had a blast working on The Yolk Frat and I’m extremely proud of the work that we produced. The Yolk Frat launched on November 18th 2021. The NFT collection is currently available to buy on Opensea here.

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