Discover more from BURN AFTER READING
024 - Entering LIMBØ, with Ø
Our journey to creating a (friendly, we promise) bot
As regular readers will know, MØRNING has a bot-shaped bun in the oven. Our bot, Ø, is MØRNING’s more-than-a brand mascot, creative partner and accomplice on our mission to help the world be less shit. And, we’re getting closer and closer to their birth! As of today, baby Ø has entered a new stage of incubation - aka LIMBØ.
But how the hell do you go about creating an otherworldly creature to help us figure out a more mutual human x machine relationship? (Clue: not very easily, but we think it’s worth it). In this week’s BAR, the team dive into the creative process that led us to Ø - ft the BTS scoop on ‘AI’, animation and everything in between. Keep on reading to find out how to create your own bot, from the people still learning how…
Before we start, let’s get clear: What is Ø?
Ø is an experimental creative technology project led by the MØRNING hive mind. MØRNING and Ø’s joint mission is simple: to help the world Be Less Shit.
Ø represents all of our internal brains, and it will invite you all to become part of the MØRNING hive mind too. Soon, Ø will live in an interactive microverse. But from today, you can begin interacting with Ø while they’re in LIMBØ.
How we came up with a creative concept for Ø
A little psychology for you: Part of what makes non-human characters so captivating is their appeal to our baby schema - AKA our cuteness radar 🥺 The term refers to “a set of facial features (e.g. large head, round face, high protruding forehead, large eyes, small nose and mouth) commonly found in both human and animal infants”... CUTE 👽
Speaking to our baby schema can lead to increased attention, willingness to care and the promotion of nurturing behaviour - a recipe for success for our bot. But we couldn’t forget MØRNING’s punk positive mindset. This is why we chose to embrace the power of contradictions to create Ø as a CUTE but GROSS character.
Towards a more mutual human x machine relationship - in collaboration with AI
We chose to create Ø as an exploration of the entangled yet evolving relationships between humans and machines, through the perspective of an otherworldly creature. At every step of the process, we've experimented with how to involve interaction and create value exchange between MØRNING and machine - collaborating with various technological tools and partners to help us test and iterate ideas along the way.
This project has also encouraged us to create space for more conversations between MØRNING and our audience, to help us and Ø actively explore a more mutual human x machine relationship together. That's why we're creating a chat function for Ø that will live in Whatsapp. Repurposing an existing platform that people have access to globally, so that we can start an open conversation to learn from our audience. By leaning into our hive mind, welcoming and embracing our audience on the journey with us, and nurturing MØRNING’s mission to help the world Be Less Shit.
The project will eventually evolve into a unique generative ‘AI’ tool that helps MØRNING explore our own biases as an agency. But the first step for us is to invite our audience into Ø’s world so that we can learn from each other, evolving Ø’s mission and impact together.
Creating Ø the character - in collaboration with Jae Yeon Kim
To resurrect Ø from the ashes of a failed human x machines relationship from the past in a new ‘physical’ form, we collaborated with the incredible 3D designer Jae Yeon Kim. Below, we chat with lovely Jae to understand their experience of creating Ø’s character…
Could you please tell us a bit about your creative process behind creating Ø?
When I first received the brief from MØRNING, I was really intrigued by the concept they described. I felt a sense of creative curiosity and immediately began thinking about how to bring their vision to life. I wanted to make sure it had a friendly, charming vibe that also aligned with MØRNING's fierce identity. As I started designing Ø, I focused on finding the right balance between these different features. It was a bit of a challenge, but I really enjoyed the process of experimenting with different approaches and seeing what worked best. We were able to create a character that effectively blends the friendly with the fierce. It was a fun and rewarding project, and I'm glad about the final product we produced.
How did you find creating a non-human vs a human character?
I've noticed that when designing non-human characters, I tend to approach the task from a human-centred perspective. Even though the characters are not human, I find myself trying to understand and depict them in a way that is relatable to humans. I think this may stem from my subconscious desire to reflect my own ego onto the creatures. In some ways, this approach could be seen as an anthropomorphised perspective. I interpret things in a way that I already understand, and try to illustrate them in the best way possible. However, I also strive to implement more fantastic imagination into the design process, especially when creating non-human characters. I think it's important to strike a balance between human-centred thinking and truly imaginative design. By combining these approaches, I believe I can create characters that are both relatable and awe-inspiring.
How do you think non-human characters can help us be less shit?
Designing Ø as a ‘brand mascot’ provided an opportunity to break free from the constraints of traditional design. I wanted to create a symbol that conveyed the brand's fierce and forward-thinking identity. This was a departure from the conventional approach of emphasising a polished and ideal facade in brand symbols. We deliberately made Ø look different and unique, with a striking appearance that would capture attention and convey MØRNING's values. By intentionally deviating from the standard design approach, we were able to create a mascot that stands out and perfectly encapsulates the brand's values.
What challenges or difficulties came up when exploring the character design?
I always try my best to make the character not look flat-layered. Creating multi-layered characters is quite complicated but is essential for making them thought-provoking with an interesting narrative. Characters that are one-dimensional or straightforward in their behaviour tend to fall flat and fail to arouse deeper levels of curiosity or attractiveness. To achieve a sense of complexity, I focus on implementing the intricate aspects of human behaviour onto the characters. However, finding the right balance can be difficult. The hardest part of my practice is bringing together elements that don't seem to fit naturally. Despite the challenge, I am committed to continuing to develop my skills in character design to create compelling and nuanced characters.
If you could choose 3 words to describe Ø, what would they be?
Non-human-centred, Alternative, Being
How to create your own bot
Have you got an appetite to make your own bot? A little advice from those still learning how…
Give your bot a reason to live: There’s no point making a bot for the sake of it, no techno-determinism here please. Could a bot help you, your project or brand be better? Think purpose, not technology first. That’s a good place to start. We created Ø as an evolving project exploring how technologies can support our mission to Be Less Shit, while starting a two-way convo with our audience and imagining an extension of our world for all of this to happen within.
Get weird: For us, Ø was a chance to set our imaginations free, to embrace the opportunities that some technologies provide to dream up better worlds. Celebrate the chance to imagine alternatives to our world, welcoming the supernatural and otherworldly as more-than-human agents to help set us free from our human-created prejudices.
Be good: The scariest thing about technology? The humans making it. Technology isn’t inherently bad, but it’s too often in the wrong hands. If it truly speaks to and supports your audience, then don’t feel shy to utilise technologies to build your brand world and connect with your audience in more mutual ways. This is about world (not just bot) building. With Ø, we’re making an attempt to show how technologies can be good for the world, and help us be better, too. Up for the challenge?
Say hello to our baby Ø They (almost) feel ready to enter our world but, as an otherworldly creature resurrected from a failed human x machine relationship from the past, it’s a little daunting… Ø will remain in their fetal phase, LIMBØ, for a little while longer.
Ø would love to chat to all of you whilst they’re in LIMBØ, nurturing their curiosity over how humans, machines and the more-than-human world can live more mutually together. So don’t be shy, come and chat! <3
3D designer: Jae Yeon Kim @itsmejae_creator
Creative Director: Rhianna Cohen @rhiannacohen.tv
Creative Lead & Technologist: Kes Inkersole @kesinkersole
Creative Researcher: Alisha Brocklebank @alishabrocklebank
Words: Kes Inkersole
Editor: Letty Cole