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Franky Aguilar, also known as FrankyNines, is an American multidisciplinary artist and mobile developer working in the Blockchain Industry. Based in Los Angeles, CA, he incorporates technical design, digital illustration, interaction development, hand-painted works of art, and more in his creative work.
Aguilar began his formal design career studying Web Development and Multimedia Design at the Art Institute of California – San Francisco. Though he has always been a visual, creative individual, he arrived at the Art Institute through an untraditional route. As a teenager, he painted trains and sprayed graffiti in Northern California, while teaching himself graphic design in his spare time. Designing his own business cards, he began creating logos and stickers for small businesses and realized there was a whole industry around graphic design waiting to be broken into.
During his time at the Art Institute, Franky began working with gaming companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, doing design, art, UI, and prototyping. After graduating, he began working for gaming giant, Zynga, where he developed mobile applications that earned millions of downloads.
Aguilar founded YoShirt Inc. in 2016, a VC-backed venture infusing digital-to-physical clothing distribution, manufacturing, and consumer e-commerce into one platform. The success of the app sparked collaborations with clients such as Snoop Dogg, Steve Aoki, Major Lazer, Fox Digital Ent. Group, Grumpy Cat, and many others.
Aguilar began translating his skills to the emerging blockchain space in 2018 by working with Cryptokitties developer, Dapperlabs. Since then, Aguilar has extended his design expertise to conceptual and technical art development, user interface design, and product design fields. As the artist and designer of SupDucks, he created its incubator MegaVoltCorp to provide a space for fostering and encouraging creativity within the tech and financial industries.
We sat with Aguilar to chat a bit about his POV on the WEB3 space.
You’ve had a somewhat nontraditional route to your success in design, beginning as a graffiti artist in Northern California. Could you speak a bit about how you began painting street art and how that influenced your career as an artist today?
When I was younger, my parents split up and I would spend my summers visiting my Dad in Southern California. Summertime in Los Angeles was filled with hip-hop and streetwear. One summer when I was 12 years old, my cousin gave me a Jnco shirt that had some graffiti on it. I wore it to school on the first day of 6th Grade where I would spend a lot of my time doodling and scribbling. That eventually graduated to spray painting. My cousin and I would paint on cardboard boxes in our backyards. Towards the end of middle school and into high school, I started to collect books on Street Art. I remember there being this one train that would run through our small town north of the Bay Area, and we’d always drool over the art painted on it. All of the money that I made mowing lawns throughout high school went to fund spray paint. We’d get paid, buy paint, and hit the trains and tunnels. I was also collecting AOL Online CDs that allowed me to browse websites like 12ozProfit and BombingScience. This only drove me deeper into my passion for street art. There were a couple of small businesses around town that would even let us paint murals on their buildings. But for the most part, my backpack was always filled with markers, a blackbook, and spray caps. Any chance I got to paint I did! Then, during 10th Grade, I saved up enough money to buy a faster computer. We were still on dial-up, but I was able to start building my own graffiti websites on Geocities. This introduced me to coding. I also had Photoshop, which changed everything for me. I now had the ability to make high visual art with no mess. The combination of my love of art and technology really did set the groundwork for my career today.
What inspires the art and design work that you are doing today? Are there particular artists that have impacted your work?
Today, I am making NFTs. I am building my own “Mickey Mouse.” Although my vision today could not be clearer, I didn’t always know what I wanted to create.
I’ve made a lot of art in the past and I’ve approached many design methods. As an artist, I’ve always contemplated the question, “What makes Picasso, Picasso?” or, “What makes Shepard Fairey, Shepard Fairey?”
As a fine artist, I always found it hard to find my own style and struggled with focusing on one subject or style without my work resembling that of existing famous artists.
Subject matter has always played a role in my creative process: “What am I painting? What am I designing? What message am I trying to put out?” The overthinking I would do only complicated my work more. I found myself creating these extremely vibrant, graphical pieces of artwork that didn’t feel natural and that I couldn’t connect with.
Then, I took a note from Walt Disney’s book and created a character that lives in an art world. Everything that I create in this new world is subject to its own style.
Through this discovery of self, I have been able to break the boundaries of what I think art and design should look like and do it my own way.
The artists that inspired this were the creators of the Springfields and the South Parks. Creating my own universe with its own story and characters has ultimately given me the creative freedom that I had been seeking for so many years.
You’ve worked with incredible artists and musicians like Steve Aoki and Snoop Dogg. Can you tell us how those collaborations arose and what you created together?
Back in 2012, I started developing iPhone apps that offered users the ability to purchase digital content and customize photos that could then be shared on Instagram and Facebook. These apps were unique at that time. This type of functionality wasn’t available anywhere else yet. Emojis, stickers, and gifs weren’t options in applications like Instagram and Snapchat. My apps inevitably reached the Top Charts of the App Store, sparking the interest of many brands and reputable people who wanted me to replicate my apps for them. I developed apps for Snoop Dogg, Steve Aoki, Major Lazer, Fox, and Universal Music.
As you continue to create at the intersection of technology and art, what excites you about the future and the developing DeFi industry?
I think DeFi is a very important utility in both crypto and blockchain. It provides us with new ways to manage investments and gives users an opportunity to contribute to the overall ecosystem that makes up the blockchain. Whether you are an artist, developer, or investor, the developing DeFi industry is providing a more trustless tokenomic system, which Fiat lacks. It doesn’t even compare. Deflationary staking models can also help prevent economic collapses that we’ve seen happen in the past.
I personally think that the advancements we are seeing now aren’t fully dependent on technology either. Rather, I believe that we are now learning from failed economic systems of the past and are finally focused on building an economic system that will be able to support the expansion of data and digital ownership.
What was the inspiration behind SupDucks? Why ducks? And how would you explain its concept to those outside the NFT space?
I love ducks. They are one of the most loyal birds in the animal kingdom. No matter how far they travel, in both the air and in the water, they always find their way back home. Sup Duck was a character that I created on a napkin sketch in late 2016, but it wasn’t until 2018 that I minted my first comic on an iOS NFT application called Editional. After working with Gary Vee on VeeFriends and seeing the potential of launching my own project, I decided that it was time to build a team. Together we developed SupDucks, which launched July 2021.
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