In our second design blog, we’re diving into the creation story of ‘Puto-chan,’ the fresh face of Crypto Cafe & Bar. Zoe, our super-talented illustrator, is here to walk us through her journey of bringing Putochan to life, both in words and visuals. We’ll also get into how character design plays a huge role in storytelling and connecting with the community.
Who is Putochan?
Putochan is this adorable, slightly chubby, blue character that’s got a mix of mystery and friendliness, made just for the Crypto Cafe & Bar. The name ‘Putochan’ is meant to be a quirky blend: ‘Puto’ from “Crypto” and the affectionate Japanese suffix “chan”. Funny story – we later realized ‘Puto’ in Spanish is a bit of a naughty word, but hey, it adds to the charm! Putochan started as a part of our membership scheme but quickly became the star of the show. Now, you’ll see this cute face everywhere – from coasters to our Instagram feed.
The creative process
Bringing Putochan to life involved five key steps:
- Research: Getting the vibe of Crypto Cafe & Bar just right.
- Concept Crafting: Brainstorming and laying down the foundation.
- Gathering References and Inspiration: Looking at other characters for ideas.
- Sketching: Playing with colors, shapes, and expressions.
- Finalizing Details: Polishing up to perfection.
The goal of my research was to really get what Crypto Cafe & Bar is all about. Since I was new to the team and the place was about to open, there was a lot to catch up on. I dug through old meeting notes and documents to understand the ideas I had to bring to life in my drawings. Making something look good is one thing; telling a story is quite another.
I kept asking myself: What’s the essence of Crypto Cafe&Bar? Why did it start? Who do we want to hang out here with? What kind of atmosphere are we aiming for?
Going through all the old stuff, I picked up on some keywords. As it turns out, Crypto Cafe & Bar is all about mirroring the web3 community vibe in a real space, filled with diversity and inclusivity. Words like “playful”, “young”, “outgoing”, and “collaborative”, along with terms linked to the DAL identity like “Inclusiveness”, “diversity”, “community”, and “decentralization”, really helped shape my vision for the characters.
With these keywords as my guide, it was time to get creative and flesh out the abstract into something tangible. Concept crafting is all about turning thoughts into things – from the personality and quirks to the style and actions of the characters. I pondered over questions like:
What’s the character’s personality like?
- Think anonymous, abstract, non-human, but with a playful and fun edge, appealing to a wide audience. The main character, Putochan, matches the Crypto Cafe & Bar’s neon blue vibe, while the rest are a mix of colors, styles, and expressions, showcasing diversity.
What community should these characters represent?
- A community that’s engaging, always growing, open-minded, and rich in diversity.
What are the characters into?
- Fun but quirky stuff like scuba diving in beer or chilling in a coffee cup. It’s all about being accessible, lowering the barrier, and welcoming everyone curious about web3.
In a nutshell, this was about bringing those keywords to life, making sure each character resonated with the Crypto Cafe & Bar’s ethos, and inviting the audience into this unique web3 world.
When I started looking into iconic characters like Mickey Mouse and Doraemon, I quickly realized how their simplicity played a huge role in their wide appeal. This got me collecting examples of characters who might look simple but have those stand-out features that make them unforgettable. It was all about finding that spark of inspiration for my own character design.
Then came the deep dive into the web and books for more references. When you’re checking out other characters, it’s not just about how they look; you’ve got to understand why they were created. Characters made for selling stuff are usually more in-your-face than, say, characters in a cartoon. But no matter where they pop up – be it on a product, a flyer, or a commercial – they’ve got to have this flexible vibe. These references weren’t just a visual feast; they were lessons in how to make a character that’s not just cool to look at but also really works.
Armed with ideas and all that reference inspiration, it was sketching time. This part was no walk in the park. It involved tons of tweaking – think changing a line’s thickness by just a hair, or re-drawing the same line a gazillion times until it’s just right. When you’re designing a character, there’s a bunch to figure out: the color scheme, the silhouette, the expressions. Sketching is where you play around with all these bits and pieces, trying out different combos until you start to see your character come to life on the page. It’s a process of trial, error, and a whole lot of pencil shavings.
The last leg of character design is all about nailing those final details. This means doing things like tracing over lines to get a crisp, clean outline, ensuring line thickness is consistent, and using grids to check everything’s balanced and in place. A key step before wrapping up is to see how the character looks in various sizes because, believe me, the vibe can really change depending on the scale. And yes, like many designers, I got sucked into the vortex of making teeny tiny tweaks – it’s almost addictive. But eventually, you’ve got to draw the line (pun intended), make those final calls, and present your creation to the world.
Below, you can see how Putochan turned out. The main blue mascot with those big, wide eyes, along with five other characters in different colors and styles, represents this cool, inclusive mini-community. I kicked things off with these characters for the opening of Crypto Cafe & Bar, and while I’m planning to grow the Putochan family in numbers and colors, these were my starting lineup.
My first gig using Putochan was to create membership designs for Crypto Cafe & Bar. With five different membership types, each offering unique perks, I wanted to bring those benefits to life through illustrations. Examples include:
- For cafe regulars who get unlimited coffee and co-working space, there’s a Putochan chilling in a coffee cup.
- Bar-goers with a free drink deal get to see Putochan scuba diving in a beer jug, surrounded by bubble fish.
- The one-day visitor, who gets the best of both worlds, sees Putochan lounging on a green sofa, symbolizing a balance of work, coffee, and beer.
- The friend pass, which lets members bring a buddy, shows pals having a great time with their drinks.
- And for the best friend pass, the top-tier option with NFT choices and event invites, Putochan is framed as part of the community.
Since Crypto Cafe & Bar is all about exclusive membership, everyone needs to grab a membership before dropping by. My aim was to make this first experience as enjoyable and clear as possible with these fun membership illustrations. I believe that the magic of illustration lies in its dual power to inform and entertain. I’m excited to keep the membership designs fresh and interactive, mirroring any changes in the memberships themselves.
I really hope Putochan becomes a beloved part of the Crypto Cafe & Bar experience, helping people express their identity and spark conversations in the community. How? By creating Putochan storybooks, selling cute merchandise at the bar, launching NFTs, and collaborating on events. Also, we’ve been weaving Putochan into DAO illustrations, creating a multi-universe vibe. There’s even a plan for a Putochan storybook to help explain the concepts of DAO and NFT through storytelling. The possibilities are endless!
Asuka Zoe Hayashi is the illustrator at DAL (email@example.com)
Edits: Joseph Park
Illustration: Asuka Zoe Hayashi