Milady Maker: Notes on the Design Process
Discussion on the Motivations driving Milady Maker's design.
Milady Maker is a collection of 10,000 generative pfpNFT’s in a neochibi aesthetic with randomized cosmetics inspired by 00’s Tokyo street fashion. Under the vision of digital artist Milady Sonora, Milady’s are designed to be fashion-minded and genuinely good social media avatars, and an invitation into their personal aesthetic world.
I helped Milady Sonora conceptualize and design the Milady Maker project into something suitable for a pfpNFT, a practical execution on my thoughts on a profile-first pfp project described here. This write-up will walkthrough the thought process behind our design.
Milady Sonora’s Neochibi Style
Milady Sonora is a digital painter who has shown works in galleries both physically and digitally through Remilia Collective under this psuedonym.
They’ve developed their distinctive take on the Chibi Anime style in a portraiture series over the years, one which invokes a calming, ethereal, white-hearted angelicism in a blend of Western and Japanese aesthetics.
We were interested in approaching the generative art space from an angle of sartorialism, by using the Milady as a template for fashion accessorization.
The thematic “Cores” were chosen around a loose narrative of throwback Tokyo street fashion, as seemed suited to Milady’s fusion neochibi aesthetic. Fruits magazine was a primary reference.
We chose to place the emphasis in rarity generation on cosmetic accessories rather than the base “racial” traits of the avatar, achieved by having even distribution for most facial expressions/hair/race, etc.
Sidenote on Race
The initial plan was to have an even distribution of skin tone - pale, peach, brown and black - with extra-rare ‘species’ - elf, vampire, etc.
However, noticing that this was a standard in other humanoid pfpNFT projects, and that it resulted in a racist price floor with the black-skinned NFT’s being valued lower compared to NFT’s of same rarity (see: Cryptopunks, Meebits), we decided to buck the trend and make black Milady’s a rare trait. This was also because they do simply look good, accentuating the iconic ganguro aesthetic.
Defining the Cores
We began by defining the 7 Cores to be covered under our thematic accessories:
A final core for “costumes” was added - Halloween-style outfits mostly of professions; we chose the costumes for ones that were fun but remained aesthetic, with the items plausibly working standalone in other fits. This was done to add some gonzo eclectism to the mix.
We gathered up a moodboard of inspiration for each Core, mainly of street fashion shots, and then had Milady Sonora simply draw up 5-10 fits on top of a base Milady template under each core. All the items were prepared on separate layers, so it was trivial to then pool together the complete set of accessories.
Next we individually went through each accessory and gave it a 1-5 grade by its drip; a gut feeling: is it eye-catching, is it cool and is it either expensive or take a lot of confidence to pull of?
This drip grading was then used to apply the rarity distribution for each accessory, such that the most dripped cosmetics = most rare = most valuable Milady.
Solving pfpNFT Problems
An interesting, unplanned development in generative NFT projects is buyers using the works as profile pictures on online communities. In retrospect, this makes sense, as the field operates almost entirely by word-of-mouth from digital networks. Unfortunately this is not something that most of the earlier generative NFT projects have designed with in mind. Mainly, they are too far zoomed out and have minimal background generation. While a user can manually crop their NFT and create a transparency to add a background, most do not; maybe out of lack of knowhow, or because its a violation of their NFT art - like drawing over a painting.
Milady’s were designed to be great profile pictures from the start, with a higher vertical ratio so that a square crop will be a perfect zoom to convey emotional expressiveness, while still retaining the space to show off accessories. The design of the accessories also intentionally lent high-value rarities to larger or more distinctly colored pieces, with the intention that a valuable Milady can be read as such even as a thumbnail.
This is also why an optional NFT header add-in is planned as the gen 2 production, to cement our recognition of the unique relationship between generative NFT’s and online spaces - perhaps as an early, organic structure for Ethereum based identities!
The Chain Algorithm was designed to lend the generated works towards more aesthetic coherency, something that seemed missing in earlier generative NFT projects which followed more traditional RNG.
Intuitive Value: Rarity <-> Drip
A major motivating factor for this design was also the desire for relative value to be intuitive; without knowing the ‘meta’ of the Milady market, one can ascertain higher or lower value Milady’s at a glance by appraising their drip. This is achieved understanding the direct relationship between rarity and secondary market value; distribution rates were decided by first assessing each accessory by its “drip”, making the highest drip accessories most rare and thus most valuable.
Sidenote - Specs following the Standard
We chose to follow the standard and proven formula of generative NFT art so we could place focus on our design innovations described above: 10,000 units, ERC-720 NFT, fair single drop with price to mint, and reserves set aside for marketing & community management.