What Designers Should Know about NFTs
Mustaali Raj Provisional RGD's first NFT collection called i OF THE TiGER launched on the first day of the Lunar New Year (February 1, 2022). In the first of two articles, Mustaali sheds light on the set-up required for designing an NFT, risks involved, revenue generation, resources and more.
What motivated you to design in the NFT space?
NFTs are exciting new medium that’s putting artists at the forefront and letting them be in control of the entire creative process. I’ve been learning to work in 3D for some time now. When the initial idea surfaced for i OF THE TiGER, I knew I wanted to create something 3D, building off my signature style. It was really fun to explore how far I could push the shapes and patterns to create tigers with abstracted personas.
What was your process for designing the NFT? What were some of the challenges you faced through the process?
Like most projects, the ideation process started with pencil and paper. After finalizing the base design, the 2D forms were crafted in Adobe Illustrator before transitioning into Blender to create the final 3D renders.
The larger NFT community is currently most active on Discord, Twitter and Clubhouse. The main challenge for me was to get familiar with these social platforms, which I wasn’t that active on. The newness and ever-evolving nature of the NFT space is also something you have to constantly keep up with, which can get overwhelming and tiresome at times.
What set-ups do you need in place to launch an NFT? (Crypto wallet, tie-up with a platform, any legalities to be aware of, etc.)
The collection is currently available on Opensea — a popular NFT Marketplace. First step is to ensure you have a crypto wallet that is compatible with Opensea. You can add funds (ETH) to your wallet by either purchasing or trading crypto through your chosen platform. Once your wallet is connected to Opensea, you can use the funds from your wallet (Metamask, for example) to make the purchase. You should always be familiar with the copyright legislation of each platform, which usually assigns full copyright to the artist. The beautiful thing about creating an NFT is that it can easily be traced back to the original creator, making it easy to distinguish between an original and a fake.
You can buy, sell and create NFTs on a multitude of different platforms such as Opensea, Rarible, Foundation and countless more. Some are free and open to everyone such as Opensea while others are curated by an invite-only process such as Foundation. These platforms usually automate the smart contract process making it easier for you to focus on the creative and simply upload your work to be minted (it can be in the form of a 3D file, jpg, video etc). However, you also have the option of creating/coding your own custom smart contracts, which will give you more control and direct ownership of your NFTs. I realize there might be a whole array of new terms such as “smart contracts” that many won’t recognize off the bat. I highly recommend reading through some of the articles I have suggested later on.
Your NFT collection celebrates the year of the tiger. How do you pick a topic/theme for designing an NFT?
As an animal fanatic, big cats have fascinated me since childhood, a lot of credit goes to The Lion King for that. Shere Khan and Bagheera are also some of my favourite characters combining my personal connection to South Asia and big cats. This collection helps bring together elements that I’m passionate about — architecture, geometric patterns and animals.
What are some of the risks involved that one should know about before getting into designing NFTs?
Always make sure you are on the correct url before connecting your wallet to a website — there have been a lot of phishing scams of people posing as other sites to steal your wallet funds. A hard wallet (essentially like an external hard-drive) is recommended if you will be trading in high volumes. There are also a lot of spammers in this space who will try to sell you NFT collections and convince you that they can help market your project to a million-dollar success. Always be wary of get-rich-quick offers anyone might bring your way. Just like any medium, you have to put in the hard work of conceptualizing, designing your idea and then marketing it out to the right audience. Building a community is key in this space, which can only be done through time and authenticity.
You should also be aware of gas fees (transaction fee costs that correspond to activity levels) that are incurred anytime you make a transaction on the blockchain. Ethereum currently has a very high fee, but there are other lower cost blockchains such as polygon or fantom that might be good alternate options.
There are environmental concerns associated with crypto and the NFT space as well. Again, do your research before making any final decisions but there are many ways to balance your carbon offset depending on the blockchain you choose. Crypto technology is getting better day by day and as it evolves so will its implications. For my TiGER project in specific, contributing to reforestation projects was a way to offset my carbon footprint while preserving natural habitats. As forests get restored, leaf litter, water, and wildlife also return, and nature begins to heal. Local communities also benefit from these initiatives.
There is a lot of potential the NFT market holds for creatives to get access to bigger markets, but also for a lot of good to be done: Women Rise is a good example — where they are using the funds to develop virtual schools for girls in low-access areas around the world. The rules are being written right now and I want to make sure to be a part of the conversation to be able to support disadvantaged groups.
Having launched your first collection, what was your experience like? Would you do it again or make it a regular source of revenue?
It was an amazing experience! It was a bit of a learning curve, but it was very rewarding at the end. I will absolutely continue to work in this space moving forward. I view it as another medium — not only for extra income, but also to get my work out there, share my art with others and be an active part in the larger digital community.
NFTs have changed the way we collect art. Do you think the NFT art industry is here to stay?
Yes, it feels like a game-changer making digital art own-able and accessible globally. As more mainstream creatives get into this space, the type of art and design in the space will also adapt, catering to diverse tastes. Everyone will find something that resonates with them. It’s important to note that the NFT space has really blown up so I wouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket hoping NFTs will be your big break. Think of it as just another medium — like art prints, etc. Many are in it for quick money, but an easy rule to apply is that if you like the artist, you like the art, then go ahead and support it, much like the real world.
- NFTs 101
- What is an NFT? Video Highlight
- Crypto Art
- Buying + Selling NFTs
- Climate Change and NFTs
- Smart Contracts
In part two, Mustaali talks about this process for designing the NFT.
Consisting of eight unique TiGERS with multiple editions, collectors get access to bonus unlockable content featuring behind-the-scenes process work as well as a “shadow” version of each TiGER.
Available at opensea.io/mraj
Mustaali Raj Provisional RGD is an independent art director and graphic designer whose focus lies at the intersection of interdisciplinary concept development and visual communication. As an engineer turned designer, his creative process is a cohesive blend between left and right brain thinking. He is a circle, living in a square, drawing triangles.