[CONVERSATION] Interview with eBoy.com

eBoy (“Godfathers of Pixel) is a pixel art group founded in 1997 by Kai Vermehr, Steffen Sauerteig and Svend Smital.

Their complex illustrations have been made into posters, shirts, souvenirs, and displayed in gallery exhibitions. They were founded on May 2, 1997. “We started working with pixels because we loved the idea of making pictures only for the screen. It’s the best way to get really sharp and clean looking results. Also, handling pixels is fun and you are forced to simplify and abstract things, which is a big advantage of this technique.”

eBoy is based in Berlin (Germany) and Vancouver (Canada).

Their influences come from: “Pop culture… shopping, supermarkets, TV, toy commercials, LEGO, computer games, the news, magazines…” Kai grew up with Nintendo to inspire him, the rest of the eBoys lived in East Germany where video games did not exist. Their work makes intense use of popular culture and commercial icons, and their style is presented in three-dimensional isometric illustrations filled with robots, cars, guns and girls. Now, most of their designs are printed and not used solely for computer screens, allowing images to get more complex with details. “If we don’t work on other projects at the same time it takes about six to eight weeks to finish a very detailed cityscape, three eBoy’s working on it, nearly full time. But, if we have to do it in our spare time, which happens often, it could take years to finish a picture since we can’t spend so much time on it.” Their style has gained them a cult following among graphic designers worldwide, as well as a long list of commercial clients. Their latest project are plastic Peecol toys with Kidrobot, and a line of wooden toys are to be produced under their own label.

eBoy has worked with brands and companies such as Coca-ColaMTVVH1AdidasGola and Honda. They worked on creating the album cover for Groove Armada‘s 2007 studio album Soundboy Rock.

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please introduce yourself to our readers, and tell us the beginning of Eboy.

We’re three guys that met in Berlin in the 90’s. We work together and are mostly known for our pixel art. Steffen and Svend still live in Berlin, I moved to Vancouver in Canada.

what’s new at Eboy?

San Francisco is our current Pixorama project. We’re also looking into 3D and gaming tools.

to me, and most of my designers friends in local design scene, Eboy was one of the biggest inspirations since we were very young. you guys are our pixelarts heroes. and the best part, it still is, up until today. now the question, how and why? how you guys survive, and why you keep doing this?

Oh that’s very kind of you. 🙂 In a very traditional way, we’ve been trying to get better at what we do. This does include all the aspects of our workflow. We try to incorporate new technologies, new tools and new artistic concepts too.

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why pixel?

At the beginning we wanted to work on and for the screen only. And pixels are the smallest part of a screen. We had 100% control working with pixels. It turned out that it was huge fun and very easy to play with pixels – probably because of their modular properties. And because it forces the artist to find an abstraction (if used at low resolutions).

when it comes to pixel art, people will easily point out that Eboy is the pioneer. according to you who was the true inventor of pixel art?

The many artists that created assets for video games. But if you look back further, you see that modular art has been used forever. The early mosaics are pixel art with coloured stones – the tools changed, but that’s all.

when you first began doing pixel art, did you ever think it would be so popular years later?

No! We just had a lot of fun! 🙂

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pixel art was so hype in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. and then the trend slowly disappeared. what do you think about it?

To be honest, we didn’t notice, or maybe cared, too much about a hype. Our reasons to work with pixels have their origins in technical aspects and concepts of the emerging digital world we were living in. Also i don’t think it has disappeared as an art form. What is true though, that displays have so high resolutions nowadays, and computers are so powerful, that pixels are technically not a visible issue anymore.

what is the largest and most complex project you’ve ever done?

Probably our Peecol Toy collaboration with Kidrobot. There were many new steps involved. 2D sketching, 3D visualizing, prototyping, packaging, etc.

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you’ve worked with lots of major companies. which one is your favorite clients/projects?

It’s impossible to pick out a favourite, but our collaboration with Paul Smith was a great experience as we got to work with him and his team and also had a couple of exciting trips to London and Tokyo.

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ever thought about making your own video games?

Yes! I’m currently looking into it. But who knows – it takes a lot of time – and our pixel city projects don’t leave us too much room.

in term of design, is there any possibilities that you stop doing pixel art and start doing something totally different?

Oh yes – it’s very possible. On the other side, it’s possible we stick with pixels for many years to come. I think both directions would make sense, as long as we keep enjoying our work.

have you ever done a non pixel art project?

Yes our Peecol toy collaboration with Kidrobot for example. Personally I’m more interested in modular concepts than specifically in pixels.

is there any specialization between the three of you? who do which part of the pixel works?

There are some differences, not everyone codes, and everyone has a different personal approach. But when possible we try to work together, share the work on all files and blend our profiles.

where do you collect/store all your pixel objects? how many of them as of today?

We have a library with 8484 items as of today. And that does not include current and forgotten parts.

do you see yourselves more as and artists or graphic designers?

We’re an art group that also does commissioned work.

Other than The Wire and The Sopranos, what’s your favorite tv shows/series?

The IT Crowd and Monty Python come to mind.

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Do you still work remotely between Vancouver-Berlin? how do you manage working like that?

We use Apple Messages and Google Hangouts and connect 2-3 times a week. When I still lived in Germany, Steffen lived next to us and we connected the same way when we needed to discuss work. The only difference is the time zones.

how is your average day like?

Emails in the morning. Short Lunch, short siesta. Creative work in the afternoon and in the night. No email if possible.

is it me, or these days designers are no longer superstars? i remember those days when i idolized YOU, chuck anderson, thomas schostock, Gemma gura, etc. we treated you guys like heroes back then..

I don’t know, maybe you are right. There are so may options to circumvent traditional media nowadays. You might fall in love with a unknown girl running a crazy Tumblr blog out of India. Information is not organized so hierarchically anymore.

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is art and design still fun?

Haha oh yes!

any big plans for 2014?

San Francisco. And new tech knowledge.

If there had to be soundtracks to your works/office, what would it be?

  • Rosa Y Mayo, Andres Landero
  • Kowboyz&Indians, Gonjasufi
  • Full of Fire, The Knife
  • Polkadot Blues, Hudson Mohawke
  • Cryin’ Like A Baby, Jason C. Frank
  • Lefty Dog (Run, Caper, Run), Melt-Banana
  • Inverted, Lorn
  • S*per Fuck Quelle Chris
  • Discosau Siriusmo
  • Cri, Debruit
  • Brillant Corners, Thelonius Monk
  • Lying, Factory Floor
  • Horse Steppin’, Sun Araw

and so many many many more … 🙂

Thanks ing!

Thank you very much, Kai, Steven, and Sven! 


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