Anaroth: Thank you for taking some time and talking with today. While you may be most known in this space for being the creator and Artist of SupDucks, you have had a lot of amazing life experience that has brought you to this point. To kick us off, could you share a little bit about your career so far to give us some context?
FrankyNines: Yea, about me. I don’t really know how to label myself. I am an Artist, designer, graphic designer who's been in this space from an early time. I started my career around mid 2000ish in Silicon Valley in the gaming industry. Before then my interests started in Street Art, then learned how to build websites, and worked to put myself through college. After college I worked for Zynga and other gaming companies, started building my own apps and do my own development. As I built my own things I also started collaborating, growth hacking, breaking stuff, and building viral Art apps. I've kind of been like a multidisciplinary artist, developer, designer.
Then in 2017 I started to get into blockchain working for a company that was creating identity Layer wallet in the UK. That's what injected me into Ethereum and the Ethereum technology space. I was working in the industry and I saw Crypto Kitties and it made sense to me. I ended up jumping on the NFT bandwagon and started working with Dapper Labs for about two years. Afterwards, I bounced around the space working and becoming a prominent Artist within it, minting things on different platforms. I had done a lot of brand design work for some of the larger projects in the space and the evolution of that brought me to where I am today.
Anaroth: On your website bio it talks about leading design and engineering teams. What are some learns that you had trying to lead two very different types of people to bring a project or design to fruition?
FrankyNines: You know it’s interesting, because I was / am an Artist first. I got into Street Art, graphic design, and taught myself before I really knew what I was doing. This was when I was really young, like a teenager. Back then, having a tumblr, geocities, or a myspace page and being able to customize it was the beginning of teaching myself about design. I've always had a knack for trying to figure out how things work, being talented on the Artistic side, being able to visually communicate what I am trying to express and then code it truly set me apart. The ability to execute on both fronts, being able to work with both types of teams has been a skill. Like you said, an Art team, production, team design, team UX, and even a development team are quite different, and it’s rare that you can find people that understand it all. For me, knowing how to design and code has helped me bridge the gap.
When it comes to designing a product or application you have to have a more logical understanding of user behavior. Once you build up those formulas, then you can start to translate Art into code. I think that’s the beautiful part of why I am so passionate about the things I do. The fact that I can take visual stuff and break it down to a more logical math based complex system, translated through code, and then use different frameworks to be able to achieve that. So when looking at multiple teams I am able to speak both languages and have the best chance to share my vision. When I think about the previous work I did in the space it really set me up with a solid foundation as I worked on SupDucks. The best way that I can explain how I am where I am today is that I have been practicing for a long time. I think with any individual, when you are constantly trying things, learning, and then take that learn and apply it to the next thing. Constantly evolving, constantly changing, and thats the same with SupDucks as a project. I have pieces and experiences from my past that I can constantly pull from. Whether it was level design for an MMORPG, designing app buttons for iOS, all those little tips and tricks that i've picked up along the way all stack into my design thinking and process. It all lends to how I am approaching this project and how I want to move it forward.
Anaroth: Where was the space was a year ago versus where it is now? What did you see the space needed a year ago versus what do you see it needing now?
FrankyNines: That’s an interesting question. Let’s see, a year ago we are still pandemic … ish. I think there was some series of events that happened that escalated this movement. The technology and the boom and stuff, people working from home, the increasing interest in crypto, there's been a lot of different stages of the evolution of where we're at right now. Before PFPs and games and stuff like that there was a really big NFT art community. Art was the big noise, with SuperRare and Known Origin Artists dropping artwork that didn't have utility, function, or license rights. Just Art. Then we moved to a new phase of PFPs and it changed the spectrum a little bit. Now you have people who own this piece of Art, have rights to license it, and are part of a larger community. This change of focus to being able to build something with the community, with DAO’s, Games, and other events has been the big shift over the last year. But that’s also just a small part of the larger Web3 ecosystem. There’s still DeFi, Crypto and a lot that happens that isn’t flashy, but still making a very large impact in terms of the volume, energy and money being moved around.
Anaroth: In your opinion, like what are some of the biggest benefits and I suppose, pitfalls of having a project so publicly tied to you as an Artist?
FrankyNines: This type of industry, where there's a lot of anonymous actors, where that anonymous nature is built into the space as a whole. People like the idea of being able to own Crypto or NFTs and not have their identity be present. You know there are KYC layers, but people that do go to share their identity, or start to be more of a face and open themselves up to be like Yo! This is who I am. I think there's there's a separation there. Now to answer the question about being an Artist in that kind of scenario, it’s tough. I remember I was on a call with some colleagues of mine and sharing that this is a different type of influencer. Being an Artist in this space, being a creator in this space, letting my identity out being associated with my project, there is an amount of caution I have. I don’t know who my fans are, some of them I have made amazing connections with, others will be my friends on IG or Twitter or whatever.
But some of those supporters they don't want their identity shown, so you have this anonymous layer that can be kind of weird sometimes. Like if you look through a big whale wallet on OpenSea, you’re like who is this guy? You don’t know anything about them, but you can see they are moving hundreds of NFTs at a time. So as the person who is the face of a project, I have people supporting me like that and to be perfectly honest, it is a hard situation to navigate. At the same time though there’s this chunk of people that exist in the space that are cool to connect with and build real solid relationships. Then there are other people where I have to say to myself, I just don’t know who you are.
Anaroth: Has the experience of creating and building SupDucks changed the way you think about what you would want to create in the future?
FrankyNines: For me, I see SupDucks as a value that I am building that has evolved over time. First it was here’s this cool character, we’re making PFPs, and we have this cool discord group. Now, it has evolved into a brand, we are making a cartoon, we have community activation and association. These characters we have created are now like digital influencers, and the project as a whole continues to evolve as we go further down the timeline. Reflecting on the past, what I have done is really focus on building SupDucks and SupDucks IP. As an Artist, the opportunity exists to just create a bunch of stuff, I could have gone out and created SupDogs, SupMonkeys, SupFrogs, SupDucks and done a cash grab, but I didn’t do that.
What I have done is hyper-focus on SupDucks and I want to build my Mickey Mouse. I want to build my Springfield and The Simpsons, my Rick & Morty, I want to build THAT! I think that as the industry changes, my level of thinking on where my focus should be also starts to change. I think that’s one thing specifically with me where I have to say I hate roadmaps. Don’t get me wrong, roadmaps are great for putting out milestones of things that you want to achieve. But you don't know what's going to happen, and you need to be flexible to be able to adapt and change to scale. For example, if I thought that the coolest thing was making it so that SupDucks are peoples PFPs and that’s all the focus was. I make an incredible experience for that over two years, but it turns out that two years from now people aren’t looking for that. You have to ask yourself, how much time did I waste by not being flexible? With the IP and understanding of what i've built, being flexible to change, and just being invested in this specific project and keeping my focus here is just really really important.
Anaroth: In the broader vision that you have for SupDucks as a whole did you always want YouTube, music, and media all to be part of the project? Or is that a reflection of what you were just talking about in regards to being flexible over time?
FrankyNines: For me, I think the benefit of understanding how technology works and how tech is built helps me frame things. In tech, when we look at a web3 boom or a mobile boom there’s a proprietary technology that’s developed that becomes very high value. Algorithms, social networking layers, we saw that with instagram and twitter and snapchat. The like button, the face filters, those types of things are what lots of projects and teams focus on. A thought process of we are going to build and secure this technology. I am choosing to approach it differently, because if we are being realistic it is not hard to make an NFT contract. There's youtube videos for it, the reason why people can spin up collections so fast and do rug pulls is because it's not some secret code hidden from the public. It's open source and on blockchain. A lot of contract code is on Etherscan, you can fork it and build a version of it.
So for me, media plays into where I seek to build value for the SupDucks brand. When you think about brands and media, they compliment each other. I think the content that we create whether it's our live streams, skits, educational videos, Art videos, having these things all associated with the brand helps build long term value. I think by approaching a project in that way you don't put yourself in a box, right?
Remember that there were a few years where everyone was on vine, then instagram, these things have waves. So when everyone is “over it” so to speak, not being too tied to the technology as much as being tied to the brand can be good. The idea of building things that have long term value that can scale for me is the approach of how I see the future rolling out. The media and content that we are creating is building the trust and validation of the knowledge and history that we have. Communicating through our content pipelines and media, I think is the right move for me specifically, and just being in LA right? The epicenter of Hollywood, there's opportunity here where the SupDucks IP can become the next generations Simpsons or Family Guy. I think that media content, just training and building those muscles, and not being so tied to the platforms but focusing on building the brand so that it fits into the platforms is the strategy.
Anaroth: How is it that you go about deciding who you choose to give your time to? In collaboration or an interview what are some things that stick out to you that gives you confidence in it being a good use of your time?
FrankyNines: You know, thats really really tough. I try and reach out and respond to as many people as possible, but sometimes I miss it you know? If anyone was following along this past week with my little hiccup things happen, but to be realistic my DMs are full on IG and Twitter, my email is constantly being blown up. I’ll skim through things, and sometimes things catch my eye. I can reflect for a moment and recognize that yea, I have time for this, let me explore that. For me, the type of interactions that I want to have are the ones that are going to be the most positive, that help me understand how to further the innovation that I am doing now. So I can’t get to every interview, or every twitter space, but I try to get as many as I can, when I can, because I do believe it is important. If you look at a person with influence, A Kanye West or Elon Musk, someone who is really at the top of their game, just imagine how many people are trying to get in contact with them.
I do take two to three hours out of my day to respond to DMs and go through my social media and it is work. A lot of big influencers, or large accounts usually have a social media team that is doing all that work for them, because some of it is noise but some of it is value. There’s no algo for going through your DMs to see what’s legit and what isn’t. There's also the security aspect, like who's really trying to have an interview and wants me to click a zoom link, versus who’s trying to send me a phishing zoom link to snatch my wallet. I have to have nine eyes on the back of my head, and on the front, and the side, at all times.
Anaroth: I think every Artist, Writer, Creator, has gotten to a point where they just feel stuck. In your life, when you have been stuck what has helped get your creativity flowing again?
FrankyNines: One of the biggest things as a creator, an Art block, that's the one that frustrates me the most. An Art block is me having paint, I have a canvas in front of me, and I can't paint anything. One of the exercises I do is that I just scribble, I go crazy, I just pretend I am a little kid finger painting. When you have a creative block, or an Art block, really what it is is a frustration or a lack of confidence in what you could potentially create. So you find yourself overanalyzing, overthinking, and not just letting the juices flow. The way that I have found to break that is by making a mess, seeing what that mess looks like, and discovering something really cool in that mess. I see a splash here and it reminds me of x and it inspires me to do something else. Finding ways to inspire yourself to letting go of the state of being in a block where you're overthinking something is important.
Also, just taking the time to breathe. I think I haven't done that this year as much as I used to. Where I would just go jump on my motorcycle and dip off on a freeway and hit the mountains somewhere and disappear for a week. I used to do that all of the time. That was always something that was really healthy for me, sometimes you got to get some fresh air, put your feet in the sand, and touch some grass. You actually have to do that, it makes you feel human. Being outside can do so much for your mental health, but also taking care of your body too. Getting exercise, drinking green juice, not jamming away on energy drinks and fast food. And it’s hard, I know when I am stressed out my eating habits and my health goes down for sure.
It’s important to prepare your body in a physical healthy way, so your mind will open up in the same way. I was talking to my girlfriend the other day and was sharing how if you keep a horse in the stable and it can’t run, that energy just builds up and when you do let it out it just wants to run run run run run. Sometimes you just have to do that, it's like a sore muscle in your back when it knots up, sometimes you just have to smash it and let it out and let it flow. I think that analogy can apply to a lot of different types of frustrations. Whether it's a creative or a development or a product thing or a relationship thing. Sometimes you just have to let it flow to open up and then look for what the best parts within it. You really are attached to your body as much as you are your mind. Working out, releasing that frustration, cleansing your body, and putting good things in it really does help, and it’s easy to disregard that. But it will help you clear your mind as much as clear your creativity.
Anaroth: As we close out could you share some times where you recognized your success over your career, and some of the views you have on what is ahead for you?
FrankyNines: If something gets you down and you give up, you lose that opportunity. But if you just keep grinding through it, and you're like well i'm just gonna take another scar. But once you hit that point, and that reward opens up, you're like “Yo it was worth it!”. I think that with projects or things that i've done in my career or with SupDucks now where I am still in it, still passionate, I know if I keep moving with this good things are coming. I have had this happen to me in the past, this whole NFT thing, and the opportunity that I was given, the knowledge that I was given, and everything that I have built up today was from all of my past experiences.
I learned how to design websites, I learned how to do production Art, I worked for game companies, I worked in media, I did all of that stuff. The time was right when this industry started to really pop, I was already in it, and that was my reward. I was like yo I’m in it, this is amazing. The ten to fifteen years of hard work and I finally figured it out. Those aha moments come, and there will be more of those, and that is what I expect. That’s also a cool thing too, knowing that there will be more aha moments down the line. We are constantly going to be pushing the limit, whether it be tech or creativity or just the way that civilization and humanity runs we are constantly going to be pushing forward.
SupDucks I engage pretty much every day. I'm in the discord or i’m working on it. However I also am advising other projects and teams and things like that. I constantly do that because I think for me personally, having to go through putting myself through school, teaching myself a lot of this stuff, to working in the industry, to knowing what it's like to be an artist or a creative. All the struggles that you have to go and being able to see how locked down a specific thing is. Whether it be the music industry, or fashion there will be an upgrade to these industries, and I have my hands in a couple of those projects currently. That once those are announced, it will be like oh snap! So I think there's that for sure. I don't want to say too much, but I really am passionate about trying to change industries, and trying to empower people and creativity and trying to really push the limits of the technology and upgrade us. That's kind of like my mission, when I try to find my life purpose I am thinking what impact did Frankie Nines have while he walked the earth?
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