The story of a brand, a mascot and the evolution of a species.
“What’s a Dwunny?” Short question; longer answer. In fact, to do it justice really requires the defining of a number of different constructs encompassing our brand, roots, passions, craft, our proclivities as storytellers and, perhaps more than anything else, the absolute regard and respect we have for the relationships we’ve been able to forge with our client partners. Sorry you asked?
So, What’s a Dwunny?
The short answer: It’s the personification of The Basement’s “Dweller” character and inspired by the 3-inch “Dunny” figure created in 2004 by urban artists Paul Budnitz and Tristan Eaton and produced by Budnitz’s company Kidrobot. Resembling an otherworldly rabbit and made of vinyl with distinctive tubular ears, the original Dunny is an amalgam of street slang and “Devil Bunny” swagger, style and attitude.
Devil. Bunny. Dunny.
In the decade and a half since its introduction, the Dunny has paid homage to artists from Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat to Sharon Park and Chris Booker (aka “Squink”). But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with limited edition originals, licensed versions, movie-inspired designs and even blank, create-your-own “Munny” figures literally taking the world by storm. Inspiring thought. Providing an immense, tiny canvas for artistic expression. Creating an entire world of relatable, indefatigable and adorable characters. Who would have thought you could fit so much onto – and into – a 3” vinyl figure (though, admittedly, some have been produced as tall as four feet)?
Our own version takes the concept of our “Dweller” character and combines it with all that the “Dunny” embodies. The result is a 3D-printed plastic figure that we customize, client brand and give as gifts to our client partners. It suddenly occurs that this is supposed to be the “short answer” and also that we’ve just spoiled the surprise. Oh well, so much for that.
Dweller. Dunny. Dwunny.
It’s only fitting that we would choose something like the Dwunny as both mascot and client gift. Like the work we create for our advertising clients, we wanted them to be unforgettable. Beyond that, like our Dweller character itself, we wanted the Dwunny to be reflective of who we are and where we came from. CEO and founder Brian Phillips is quick to remind one and all that, like the Dwunny, the inspiration for our own logo and brand – and the origins of many on our team – has its foundation in street art.
“Street art and animation,” says Brian, proudly. “We started as a 3D animation and motion studio more than ten years ago. I started out as an artist and moved from there to the interactive space and digital advertising. The rest evolved organically until, today, we’re one of the top agencies in the Midwest.”
The intervening years have seen The Basement grow from a traditional studio, design and animation company to a full-service advertising agency.
“It’s what our clients were asking for. It’s what the industry itself was moving toward,” says Brian. “We went with it, but worked really hard not to lose sight of where we came from. That means we’re still artists at heart. Anarchists, even. It’s just that we’re older, wiser, a little more civilized and very focused, connected and a lot more organized.”
For Brian, the Dwunny represents that story, that journey. And since the job of The Basement is to shepherd customer journeys and bring brands and their stories to life, the Dwunny and it’s creation just made sense.
“Plus, we’ve had a lot of fun with it in the meantime,” concludes Brian.
The Making Of A Dwunny.
A Dwunny begins with a design concept that’s specific to a client and its brand. We’ll take a client’s logo, for instance, and anything else iconic about their product or brand, and we’ll deconstruct it for inclusion on that client’s figure. Since we don’t want to presume to take liberties with a client’s brand standards, the Dwunny become more abstract and representational than literal. The Basement design team convenes and reviews the Dwunny in production, with each designer taking on a different client’s design. They then come back together and collaborate to refine each Dwunny.
“It’s a point of pride for all of us,” says Senior Computer Graphics Artist Joseph Cross, whose 3D designs were used in the fabrication of the Dwunny composite figure. “We each do our part, but just like we would working on a client project, we then come together and make the finished product greater than the sum of its parts.”
The Dwunny, itself, is fabricated at the 3D Laboratory at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Technology Center. Instead of vinyl, they’re made from a sustainable, edible corn-based plastic. In fact, organic plastic is among the most environmentally friendly options as a 3D printing substrate. It takes about 12 hours to 3D print two Dwunny, which then have to be assembled, sanded, sealed, sanded again, primed and then hand-painted and finished.
According to Robert Lastinger, 3D Lab Coordinator and Zebulun Wood, Co-Director of the Media Arts & Sciences program at IUPUI, these were a first for the IUPUI lab and proved to be an interesting and enjoyable challenge.
“We mostly do student and faculty projects and various production experiments and equipment tests based on our own designs,” says Robert Lastinger. “So to have The Basement bring something like this to us was something we really enjoyed tackling.”
It probably helped our cause that The Basement’s own Joseph Cross teaches in IUPUI’s School of Informatics and Computing and that Brian Phillips also once taught there and served on the school’s Advisory Board. But the IUPUI team assured us that nepotism had little to do with their desire to work on the Dwunny because the project itself was “so cool.”
The Basement currently has Dwunny in the works as unique thanks for existing clients as well as hearty welcomes for new partners. So progress, while deliberate, has been slow and steady. Ten Dwunny, so far, have come off the 3D printers of the IUPUI Tech Center lab and are ready for customization, with another 10 in planning.
“It’s really satisfying to be able to express who we are as creatives and as a creative partner to our clients,” says Joseph Cross. “It gives us a chance to really show how we think, how we work, and allows us to offer a hand-made token of appreciation to our clients that’s truly personal and a little more intimate than, say, a fruit basket. Not that there’s anything wrong with fruit baskets.”
From original idea to white board to final concept to the final printing and design of each Dwunny, The Basement works to tell individual stories that reflect the intention, thinking and craft we bring to the real work of delivering for our clients.
“The Dwunny really are a reflection of who we are, what we are, what we do and, most importantly, why we are,” says Brian Phillips.
In agency terms The Basement calls that “delightful content.”