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The Japanese-inspired lifestyle brand tokidoki, created by Italian artist and designer Simone Legno, started as a set of characters on a personal website and has since exploded into a wildly successful, and internationally recognized collection. tokidoki, Character Illustrator, Creative Inspirations explores Simone's techniques and methods for building some of his popular tokidoki characters using Adobe Illustrator. Take a peek into his sketchbook, and learn how he creates one of his popular skatedecks from start to finish.
(Music playing.) Lynda Weinman: Hello Simone! Thank you so much for coming to Lynda.com. We are very excited to have you. Simone Legno: I am very pleased to be here. Lynda Weinman: So I wanted to talk to you a little bit about your background and find out things like when you knew that you were an artist. Did you know from an early age? Simone: Yeah I think so. I mean, my mother, she is a painter and I always like used to sketch when I was a kid.
I didn't have that much toys and stuff. So I was always sketching and since like the kindergarten, the teachers were putting all my stuff around like the corridors of the school. I realized that was really what I wanted to do even as a job because I started to study something completely different after high school, which was like political science, but I felt that something was missing in my life and so, by chance I discovered like the existence of Illustrator, through a friend that had a brother that was architect and he had like some graphic software so...
After that, I did my best to find some money and go to design school and I started to do this design school and I didn't know exactly what kind of branch I wanted to enter in to or what kind of experience. So during the school, I met some friends and it was the period of the-- there was sort of like explosion in the world of web, especially for Flash. It was like in about 2000 probably, late 90s, it was like the period of Flash 3, Flash 4.
I was just enchanted by the idea that my first illustration could move on a timeline and of course then I will be handling more sophisticated animations. So at that point like I decided not to go in the classic advertisement or classic advertisement agencies and I wanted to like to jump into this internet revolution that was at that time. So I put up like my first website, which is www.tokidoki.it. It started as my personal portfolio and then with my business partners we transformed it into a brand.
That was like the way like I started to find a lot for Flash and the web because it was giving me like my sort of mini TV channel where I could put everything that maybe someone in some corner of the world could see my job, my design, and invite me to do projects or just like make some other artist friends and stuff. Lynda Weinman: So where you in the Italy at this time? Simone Legno: Yeah I was in Italy. Lynda Weinman: Okay so you weren't living in the US yet. Simone Legno: Yeah. Then I was doing like freelance. Like through my website all the agencies were calling me. I worked for major clients like Toyota, John Galliano, MTV, any kind of project.
It could be illustration, it could be web, it could be a mobile phone content. And so a nice day, my present business partners, they contacted me and told me, hey, your style is so unique. You have a cool logo. You have a strong philosophy behind it. Would you like to transform it into a brand? And I was pretty much convinced by them because they had the same vision and passion for my work. Lynda Weinman: You got lucky to meet up with the right people. Simone Legno: Yeah exactly.
I think that the fact that I was found it's luck but it's luck that I worked for. I mean when you have hundreds of thousands of viewers to watch your work, there is someone has to try it. I was mostly where lucky to find two great people that are like now great business partners and friends and then we are like part of like this project and I couldn't grow up so much I think without them. Lynda Weinman: I, like many other people I'm sure, were surprised that you were Italian and not Japanese.
Your work has so much Japanese influence. Can you talk a little bit about what influences your work? Simone Legno: Yeah. Actually recently I was contacted by major Japanese brand, Asics, and they asked me to do a collaboration. They thought that that I was Japanese. For me-- Lynda Weinman: That's a high compliment. Simone Legno: Yeah it's a very, very big compliment. No, like about Japan, it's something that it's hard to explain. For them animation is like showing the real life in lots of them. So you are going to see like the normal Japan, like the trains, the cherry blossom, like when you get it, like the food that they have and what I really love about Japan is like this dual face that Japan has. One, it's like a very like minimal aesthetic as many other things but -- Lynda Weinman: It's a very visual culture.
Simone Legno: Very visual. It's very like minimal, clean, perfect. Every time I go there, it's always like I always find them great inspiration. Lynda Weinman: Is that your main inspiration or do you have other influences as well? Simone Legno: No, but you know like I have to say that at the beginning when I started Tokidoki, it was my real main inspiration. I was like totally-- you know-- it's the first love. You know, you are like just I thought I lost my head. Then you know with the passing of time, Tokidoki became more like the place where I put all the inputs that I have from the world. So then for example the fact that I am from Italy and sometimes when you are in your own country, you get attracted about what's foreign.
Now that I am here, I can get like more somehow nostalgic and I have like a more stronger sense of belonging. So I take elements from Italy and it could be like classic design or could be like just putting in my characters like items that are the icons of my country, like pizza, Spaghetti, Vespa. Lynda Weinman: Latte? Simone Legno: Yeah so that's another thing. Lynda Weinman: So you have so many characters. It seems like there is a lot of storytelling in your work. Is that true? Simone Legno: Yeah, it's like, you know, some of them are just, for me, they are just like visual icons.
They are doing their own part of the composition. Some of them they are important for me and they came behind like a strong concept. So the one that's most popular for Tokidoki is the Cactus Friends. It's like these characters like we have -- Lynda Weinman: This one right here too. Simone Legno: Yeah. This-- yeah-yeah. Lynda Weinman: I love these guys. Simone Legno: Now the concept is that it came actually, like when you asked me about the inspiration, what I always say that the inspiration is not that I-- it's just that all the time like my mind is trained to find some ideas.
So even it's just like how my mind is always researching, because all of this Tokidoki experience it's just like, it's like sort of my life accomplishment so I live into it and it's part of me. Lynda Weinman: Do you have any advice for people who are getting into design? Simone Legno: Any advice? Yeah, first of all, I think that you have to think that you never arrive at the end. I mean that you always have to everyday keep on improving. Now I don't say to be not sure about what you do but a little bit of insecureness and wanting to develop, wanting to improve like-- yeah, like hunger of new ideas and having fun and being humble, that's the key and keep on always working as much as you can.
There is always someone better than you up there. So it's better to aim farther. Then it's-- I think that even to be very aware about like the scary people that there is out there for the artist that are very ready like to take advantage of the artist. But this doesn't mean that at the beginning you don't to have to make compromises. It's even important like to at the beginning like even understand that you have to make some compromises. You can't be treated immediately like a super professional. You have to make some choices that will build up your experience and curriculum.
Lynda Weinman: Are you guys even going to be expanding your design studio where you might have opportunities for other artists to work with you? Simone Legno: Yeah absolutely, yes. I mean like already, now I have two assistants that could help me out for the work. In the end I know that the final decision is mine but it's always good to have someone that, what do you think about this, what do you think about that and so like now we are extremely busy with Tokidoki but even our idea, it's later on to make for other artists what my business partners made for me.
So like start like to discover the young talents, like bring them in and treat them as great as my business partner did with me and fairly. Lynda Weinman: Yeah. We are really honored to have you here and I hope that this video is inspiring to many other aspiring artists and you are fantastically talented. It's really exciting to have you. Thank you. (Music playing.)
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