Q&A: How the dweller came to
represent the BSMNT.
It’s not a logo, or a mascot. It’s the Dweller, and it represents the agency’s ethos. Our ECD Noah Sarff [NS] sat down with the agency’s co-founder and CEO, Brian Phillips [BP] to uncover the origins and inspiration for this iconic representative of The Basement.
So, in your words, what does it stand for?
We wanted a name that represented a creative space and the artists, that wasn’t abstract or difficult to remember (or spell). I think they’re closed now, but I always thought The Orphanage had the freshest name of any studio at the time. In addition, it was important that our last names (Leffler & Phillips) were not featured. Our studio culture – and, ultimately, the Dweller – was going to be based on artist collaboration and not the names on the door.
What was the inspiration?
In the mid 90s I found my inspiration for designing characters and initially expressed it through graffiti art. I have books and books of characters, but I can point to Sam Keith’s “The Maxx” as having the most impact on me. I was introduced to “The Maxx” by the animated series on MTV in 1995. The characters had depth and an incredible art style. In the story, the main villain has an army of little egg-shaped soldiers with sharp teeth called Isz that inhabit two realities. Their super-power is versatility. In our world, they can assume an identity by wearing different clothes. That concept of versatility inspired the Dweller’s design and adoption as the anchoring symbol of our studio’s brand story.
I’ve always likened the Dweller to the M in the MTV logo. In the 80s and 90s, the network infused personality and attitude into the mark in so many interesting ways. The simplicity of the shape gave it the versatility to be endlessly reinvented without losing any brand equity.
As an agency, we love coming up with new ways to represent the Dweller. At our tenth anniversary party, we commissioned a delicious Dweller-shaped cake. We even explored creating a giant “Bat Signal” version, but apparently there are rules against such things.
Behind the scenes, the Dweller also plays an important role in our creative team’s R&D process. From old-school stop-motion to next-gen AR, the Dweller serves as a great guinea pig for testing new technologies and animation techniques.
As modern storytellers, we believe in the power of iconic characters. And like the Dweller, we continue to evolve as an agency to deliver engaging and delightful content to audiences around the world.
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