HANGYAKU is a deck of premium playing cards, combining an AI’s take on Japanese Ukiyo-e style art with modern design, to tell the story of Hangyuka samurai. It prioritize aesthetics, while being practically enjoyable to use. This deck meant to reflect the dissonance between the traditional training of samurai warriors, and the modern temptations /realities that, rightly or wrongly, led them to be labeled HANGYAKU. The Kickstarter was meant as a proof of concept to validate interest in this project, as a method to green-lighting a broader series (tentatively dubed Squad-runs)
While the campaign was unsuccessful in it's first attempt, the work that went into it was some of the most fun I've had. I wanted to leverage the abilities of AI art to make something at scale based on common characteristics, and surround it with a design system that embodied the same. This invariably led me creating playing cards, but also led to me creating a promo video (and scoring it), and creating a whole new font that walks the line between latin and Kanji (that will be released soon-ish). A super fun project, and I hope to give the campaign another try after some hard learnings from the first KS campaign.
The backstory to the project was always going to be a core factor in the creative decision-making. Hangyaku is centered around modern-day samurai who struggle with contemporary society’s values… and opt for the 'dubious' path of being renegades. While Japanese culture is generally defined by traditional values like respect, and honor, these new renegades are more self-serving, and improvisational who are inherently more aggressive in nature. While diving in on inspiration, I wanted to pull from more traditional Japanese design sensibilities, while mixing in more modern and bold elements to create a sense of tension.
I also created this narrative because it's emblematic of my ambitions and openness to leverage new tools like AI art in my work. AI art is a tool in its infancy that is at odds with the traditional (and delicate) sensibilities of many in the design community, as they feel it appropriates other people's works.. but I really see it as another tool in the arsenal to diversify my output. I understand the reservations about it, and while I could dive in deeper, I'll save that for another time. Essentially, the concept is self-aware of the dissonance around the matter without really putting a foot down in one direction or the other. Yea, they're labeled renegades... but at the end of the day, they're evolving with the times. Essentially, I wanted this deck to be a study in how the two– AI art in a traditionally-minded community, and samurai in todays morally bankrupt society– can largely co-existence... albeit no without friciton.
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Where to begin... This project really started with me looking for a way to leverage the generative aspect of AI art, and what could make a good case study for it as a viable tool, nestled amongst other creative skillsets. I really wasn't all that sure where it would go and most certainly flew by the seat of my pants. It was one of those instances where I knew there was substance to be found, but I could not have known where it would lead me.
** The output of this project deserves more of a breakdown... so give me a little more time. If you're reading this, I'm still working through the maze of content on this site, and updating this is of a high priority :)
At the moment, the creative world feels like it is simultaneously thriving and suffering under it’s own weight. With the advent of various creative platforms and social networks, we:
As an unintended consequence of this level playing-field, potentially inspiring work regularly gets lost in the drone of our perpetual creation. To help elevate quality content, social platforms ingrained algorithms as an attempt to dictate substance. It’s a nice idea, but creativity is not binary. With the obvious limitations in algorithmic curation, there are plenty of people trying to make sense of it all through a variety of lenses, and motivations.
Understanding that navigating these filtration systems is a path to creative validation, people have begun focusing on the destination, not the journey. This shift has come with a sharp increase in blind trend-chasing and a general lack of authenticity in creative work. Many people feel an obligation to fall inline with current trends for fear of failure or rejection, even if it’s not where their passions lie. Instead of utilizing these amazing tools for personal growth, they feel pressured by them into conformity.
I believe that creativity lacks a destination and exists as a continual progression; there’s never a finish-line, and everything can always be better. If someone operates under the assumption that they have all the answers, they are doing themselves a great disservice by stunting their own creative growth. To that point, it’s important to continually broaden our horizons to gain a more thoughtful understand of the world around us– taking in the good with the bad. If we look for inspiration in familiar places, we’re bound to miss opportunities to innovate and progress– it can be hard to see beyond what’s already been done to find new or refined perspectives, techniques, or styles. I’ve also found it valuable to routinely challenge my interests and value systems to either validate or refute what I had held to be true. It’s a humbling, yet enlightening process, that others might find useful as well.
The realm of creativity is inherently devoid of absolutes. It’s fluid, and malleable to exist as whatever is most meaningful to you. It’s also confound with the unknown, and thats where it’s beauty lies. Nobody has a definitive answer for anything– no matter how loud they yell, or how big a stage they stand upon– it’s almost all entirely subjective at the end of the day. While I do have a lot of combined experience and exposure to what's out there, I'm still learning, growing and getting inspired all the same... so I don't pretend to be the ones who actually has answers.
Basically, this is what I hope to do:
I'm planning to share work that I find interesting, insightful, or provocative in the hopes of catalyzing creative growth in myself and others. Everything is meant to be taken at face-value where it’s merit is determined by each individual. I'm offering context here, not answers.
I'm not pretending to be the first to have these thoughts– some of them are pretty widely-held beliefs. As common as the sentiments might be, they aren't typically vocalized or actualized since critical (or even alternative) perspectives can be demonized and written-off as counter-productive... and that's just dumb. I understand that I skew to the contrarian side of the spectrum at times (partially why I feel the name is so fitting), but I do so with the goal to positively influence the creative community. I'm not anti-anything, I'm (cogently) finding my way like everyone else and trying to do my part to elevate the creative baseline. A rising tide lifts all boats.
I know that this can’t be all things to everyone. It’s something great to achieve in theory, but attempting to do so invariably convolutes and undercuts any purpose that isn’t explicitly to please others. I have my own values that guide me (and subsequently this channel), and I want to place those at the forefront; even when they don’t resonate with others for any number of reasons. I also understand that this will be prone to personal biases in taste–which tend to be darker, progressive and more provocative– and that might not be appealing to everyone either.
While it might not made for everyone, I definitely want to welcome everyone. Especially those with alternative perspectives to encourage constructive dialog around those differences– we need more of that now than ever it seems. You also don’t have to be a creator by profession for this to provide some value. Everyone is inherently creative in some capacity, and I hope to inspire and involve those individuals all the same.
Part of the reason I wanted to do this, was that I was already doing all of this on my own, but purely for my own benefit. When I design I collect inspiration on Pinterest. When I browse Instagram, I like and collect images that I find inspiring. When I listen to music, I make playlists. I felt these action were very helpful for me on my creative journey, and with a little extra work, I could formalize it for others' benefit as well.
The goal is to provide a source of unexpected visual inspiration by curating/collecting work that is uniquely creative. I believe meaningful inspiration comes from increased exposure to alternate perspectives, mediums, styles, etc, and I'm seeking out those disparate sources where the only predictable through-line is in their quality and authenticity. Everyone is inspired by others, who we ultimately use to forge our own creative voice/perspective/style/etc, and the more informed we are, the stronger our foundation to build upon.
This curation is going to be done on all the visual social channels that I currently use, and that allow for any sort of curation– Pinterest and Instagram. After a lot of internal back-and-forth, I've opted to all curate each channel as I experience them. While I think it would be nice to uniformly increase exposure by cross-pollenating content across the channels, it undercuts the purpose of each's existence. What good is both a Pinterest and Instagram presence if all the content is the same? Each platform also has it's own hierarchy of content, and I'd like for each live within that vs trying to strong-arm it into something else.
As much as I like to bring in varying types of creative work, there undoubtedly will be an aesthetic through-line. I have my own biases that I try to downplay by including so many different kinds of work, but it will show. At a high-level, some of the common characteristics/themes I would expect to see through the work:
For me, music and my creativity go hand-in-hand. I’m almost always listening to music in general, and it's 100% of the time when I'm working. I find it to be a muse that adapts with me and the type of thing I'm working on in the moment. When I want to get after it, I can put something up-tempo on, or if I'm doing more ideating I can shift to something more mellow/ambient, and so on.
Just as I’ve come to appreciate all forms of design, I’ve also come to appreciate nearly all forms music. More recently, I had found myself with narrowing musical interests partially thanks to algorithmic curation on platforms like Spotify, and partially because I didn't know where to look any more. The extent of streaming platforms' catalog can be overwhelming, and unless you spend time at it, you're left with their playlists that tend to be very narrow in focus– either in genre or in a 'mood'. I want this playlist to be a curated jumping-off point for others to discover different types of music they wouldn’t otherwise been exposed to. Hip-hop, acoustic, oldies, classical, techno, motown– it’s all there to open new doors for people to get lost in.
I'm looking at the playlist through the same lens as the visual curation– if it feels creatively authentic, and/or interesting, it has a place in the playlist regardless of genre. I undoubtedly have genres I know better or just favor over others, but I try to keep those biases in check and make it a priority to embrace things I don't typically listen to, but do enjoy. I've never thought of this playlist as something for continuous listening since the range spans most genres and moods, and I realize that lack of continuity might be off-putting. Maybe the playlist isn't for you, and that's all good.
We enable communication between disciplines with the intent to minimize the barriers dividing creative niches. Many creative fields are siloed where casual communication across specializations isn’t encouraged, enabled, or ever really needed. This would be far from the first effort to try this, but I believe the cross-pollination of ideas is a core value to more enlightened creativity. Knowledge-sharing is a self-less act: a value that any successful collective is predicated upon.
We have a home for up-coming creatives to further develop their perspectives by conversing with people who have already worked hard to define their own. Not in search of answers, but for information to better understand the world around them. One’s exposure and experiences play a huge role in refining their own creative voice, and I want to enable those who already show great promise, and help them actualize their potential.
We make a concerted effort to share insights from our own creative experiences, and those we look to for inspiration. This is done explicitly through articles + interviews, and implicitly through the work we choose to feature. This is purely an act of knowledge sharing with the hopes of exposing people to more ideas we believe in. We will never mandate or use the word ‘should’– deductions are the responsibility of the individual. This is not thought-leadership, because you are your own leader.
We have ambitious ideas, but may not have possessed the means or understanding to properly realize them on our own. Collaboration can take many forms: kicking around ideas, getting meaningful feedback, or working together to create something. I'd love to prioritize creation in this effort, but I want people to utilize this network for whichever means they find most useful– there’s no expectation with admission. Within these bounds, I hope that bigger + broader ideas can become realities (both directly and indirectly)
If this strikes a chord with you, I'd love to chat. I still very strongly believe in collaboration and a network of creatives for passion projects, I just need some help getting it off the ground as I'm a bit swamped with other pressing things at the moment (ie. getting independent studio hummin along)