Interview with Squishable Designer Zoe!
Hey Zingers! Sorry that I fell off the surface of the planet last week, but I have a good excuse that I’ll explain on Thursday- And now for something completely different: I had the pleasure of sitting down with the one and only Zoe of Squishable. Zoe is the talented artist responsible for infusing each type of Squishable with as much cute and awesome as possible. Thanks so much Zoe! Sit back and educate yourself with the process of how these giant fluffballs transform from cute drawings to best friends: Enjoy!
Zinger Stuff – Hello Team Squishable! Thanks for taking a moment away from populating the planet with new Squishables of all sizes and creating my Baboon. He’s always fun to have around the office and although he often lets me win at videogames, he gives the best hugs ever!
Zoe – Really glad to hear it!!!
ZS- Squishable characters all have a unique shape, weight and uniform style, yet each individual species is radically unique. What inspired Squishable and its iconic design?
Zoe -Indeed! Well, I come from a CS background and the world of tech is a hard, uncomfortable place filled with flat surfaces and bad smells. Truly, what it needs is more curves, preferably fuzzy ones. I’m myself influenced by a whole bunch of artists, but mostly by the stuff Jhonen Vasquez did back in the late 90′s. No one in the world can use more exclamation marks in a single sentence. Every Squishy employee is required to read a copy of Fillerbunny before they’re allowed to start. True story.
ZS- I’m certainly not the only one who would like a sneak peek into the process that takes an excellent Squishable idea and makes it a reality. How are new Squishable characters made from start to finish?
Zoe -Well you might ask! Once or twice a year I take the top 10 items on the voting list and give them my best girl scout try. We crowdsource all our designs, that way we don’t waste time making stuff folks don’t want, and we also don’t get our tires slashed by fans who realllly want a Red Panda.
Usually I’m locked in a hotel room for four days with some pencils, bristol board, a scanner, and an internet connection. Next there’s the process of drawing scanning, asking facebook’s opinion, re-drawing, rescanning…you get the idea. By the the time they let me out we usually have 10 to 15 new designs, and a big room service bill.
From there we send them off to be prototyped – it can be perfect in as little as one try or as many as ten. There are a lot of prototypes out there where the fur was a strange color or the face was cross-eyed – we send all our test prototypes when we’re done to a kids hospital here in NYC. Facebook usually gets the final say on if a prototype is ready or not. When they say it’s all set, off it goes!
ZS – Although the Squishable family has certainly grown since their debut in 2007, they’re as squishy as ever. What are some of the subtle changes that modern Squishys have that their plush forefathers don’t?
Zoe – Modern Squishies tend to be A) Stranger animals because they’re the ones that the fan community has requested, B) More anatomically correct – we realllly care that the baboon butt was shaped just so, and C) More complicated. There’s only so much you can do with the shape “round” but we’re pushing it.
ZS – There is a large Squishable community that rallies around the Squishable homepage as well as social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook. How important is feedback from the fans for you? Has there ever been a drastic change in the process of building a Squishable due to suggestions from your devotees?
Zoe -Feedback from fans is what warps and controls our lives…in a good way! It controls which Squishies we make, what designs of those Squishies we use, what color they are, and sometimes, when they come out. My favorite example here is the pheonix, set to come out in a couple of weeks. The first draft I was told looked like a Turkey. I tried again…the second draft gained approval and that’s what’s happening. I’ve included pictures of both – you can laugh away. It did look like a Turkey.
ZS – You’ve worked alongside Google to build an Android, Andrew Bell (Creatures In My Head) to dream up a Worrible and Ryan North to make the T-Rex from Dinosaur Comics. How exciting was it to collaborate with another artist’s characters and to Squishify them? What other existing characters that you would like to see in Squishable form?
Zoe -Working with comic artists fills me with happy flutters. We advertised with them when we first started, and from there it was just a matter of time before they started wondering “what are these weird folks who keep buying all our banner space”? As for Google, well, we’d have Google’s baby if it was biologically possible. They’re on my list.
ZS -This past summer saw the release of the new Squishable Massive line of two-foot tall Squishables from the existing lineup including the Dragon and Panda. How did these bulky buddies come to be? Were there any initial design hurdles that you had to overcome to supersize Octopi and Androids?
Zoe – Once you have something cool, there are two things you can do with it: make it bigger, make it smaller. So we covered all our options. We did run into a basic geometry problem – twice as tall when you’re dealingwith spheres actually means much much bigger, volumetric speaking. I think we didn’t realize how gosh darn huge we were talking about when we came up with the idea. Darn spacial geometry….
ZS – I certainly can’t let the Massives overshadow the extensive work done to shrink down a selection of classics and fresh faces for the Squishable Minis. Why did you decide to go back and develop the handheld Squishable crew? Was it difficult to choose which characters to shrink for this series?
Zoe – Eh, not so much – some Squishes are just too complicated for the itty-bitty. So there ya go!
ZS – As a primarily online business, you have excellent timing with it comes to making animal species that are currently popular on the web into Squishable form, such as the Narwhal, Unicorn and Wolf. How much time is spent researching the trendiest animals on the internet?
Zoe -Well, we spend a lot of time reading web comics, does that count as research? If so, then LOTS! :)
ZS – I love the voting section on Squishable.com where Squishable enthusiasts can pick the animals they would like to see made into the next batch. Some of my favorite potential Squishable choices included the Gorilla, Velociraptor and Yeti. (Crossing my fingers!) How important is this voting tool to your selection of the next Squishable?
Zoe – It’s the ONLY thing we care about! No, I tell a lie. We still make some designs just ’cause we feel like it, but for the most part, we rely on the fans to say what they want and they don’t let us down. One exception: I will NOT make a Squishable Zombie. I don’t care how high on the list it gets. Zombies creep me out. Eeee.
ZS – Time for the most important question of all: My favorite Squishable is the Baboon, but what is your favorite Squishable?
Zoe – My favorite is whatever I’ve come out with most recently! But of all the recent releases this year the Jellyfish has a warm, squishy place in my heart. That’s some professional pride right there: it takes serious designer chops to make a shapeless, venomous lump of plasma look cute. Go us.
(Go to the official Squishable website to see what kinds of awesome rolly-polly creatures that have bowled down the assembly line since the interview!)