It was fall 2020 when I first heard about NFTs. At that time I didn’t get what was going on. Fast forward to today. After actively participating in the scene, learning about the industry and expanding my knowledge on blockchain and crypto I’ve created a few collections, helped build a community, wrote some code and dove in head first gaining knowledge and experience.
NFTs, how it all began
I hadn’t initially heard of the word until a friend, who swears up and down by crypto, kept telling me to get into them. Doing my initial research I made the decision that at that time they weren’t something I was interested in. Which was logical since it wasn’t clear to me why anyone would want an NFT.
All I saw were high energy costs, massive confusion and potentially negative stigmas. Brushing NFTs to the wayside it wasn’t until late summer of 2021 when things started to heat up and my interest in the space grew. Headlines were touting massive sales and digital artists were being thrust into the limelight.
Naturally I had to look at what was going on. There must be something there. Firing up my laptop, opening Chrome and beginning my search I hadn’t realized the rabbit hole I was about to go down.
First order of business: what is an NFT?
NFT stands for non-fungible token. Something that is fungible can be replaced by an identical replica. Whereas something that is non-fungible cannot. NFTs are tokens that store unique sets of data which are accounted for in a digital ledger. These tokens contain certified proof of ownership for whatever they hold. Gaining this understanding blew my mind because there’s limitless possibilities.
In my research I saw how artists were using them to create life changing incomes but I also saw how companies were innovating with unique use cases for the underlying concept.
The deep dive
Digital art wasn’t a new concept to me. I’ve been working professionally as a designer in some capacity since 2008. My early career as a graphic artist is where I sharpened skills used to initiate my exploration in crypto art. I thought I’d upload some abstract digital art created in 2012. Unfortunately all I had left were memories and random low-res outputs.
Realizing I lost my artwork there was nothing left but to start over.
Jumping into Photoshop and reading tutorials I figured out my basic understanding of what an NFT was. Wanting to take an art first approach I explored the creative process and created my first collection outlined in the article The story behind He Waited, My first NFT. It was an exploration of an experience that happened in college which in part continued to manifest as I hadn’t fully learned to accept, grasp and move on.
As a result curiosity got the best of me. The further I researched the greater my interest grew. That’s when I began really understanding NFTs and the underlying concepts of the blockchain. It was also at this time that I began taking things more seriously.
By now I had first hand experience in NFTs, created some initial collections, explored generative art and started to see relationships to product design, the product design process and ways that I could enter the market.
NFTs, take a tribe
In my quest for NFT greatness, if there is such a thing, I’ve learned to tastefully shill and it takes a tribe. We’ve all heard in some way shape or form that it’s all about who you know. While this can hold very true in crypto art it also means that community building should be at the forefront of your mind. Not inherently apparent at first.
Reddit and Discord are sites and apps I’ve heard of but never really used. Not until I started investigating the next layer of the NFT onion. Peeling past my first level of understanding and expanding my awareness, what I began to see was how successful projects were formed and themes behind their successes. Making me wonder what it really takes to launch a collection.
Back to research mode.
Scouring the internet for what I could find on marketing NFT collections I began to formulate my own ideas. As mentioned prior, one of the things that was ever present in my research was the similarity collections had with the product design process.
Two things emerged. One, I was able to build a mental model and enough comprehension on what was done in order to write an article on how to market an NFT collection but I also formed an assumption. Which was that the primary demographic hidden behind anonymous Twitter and Discord handles were fellow technology industry members.
Time now was mostly spent on navigating communities and building early relationships.
The biggest highlight during this phase was helping to build a community and an event called SPOOKTOBER with two others. That included learning how to run a Discord server which I can say is way harder than it looks. Keeping people engaged and active is no easy task.
In the end doing so was invaluable as there are some key takeaways that will help future efforts.
It really does take a tribe though. An internal team to build the collection and operate the functions associated with its operation and a group of fans willing to ride along.
Having come to a point of great understanding I thought I had grasped enough information necessary to launch a collection and earn rights as an NFT artist. How naive. In fairness to myself, yes I had collected and comprehended a massive amount of information necessary to create a collection and get the ball rolling.
That was it.
I hadn’t explored smart contracts and was uploading art one by one. Not terrible when you only produce 111 unique variations. Highly inefficient when you create 666 unique variations. I later found out that it’s not manageable nor efficient. Knowing that those large collections of ten thousand or more were using something different I began to explore the technical aspects.
By now my depth of knowledge covered the creation of an NFT, blockchain and crypto in a manner I could easily disseminate to family members and less informed individuals, the value of building a community, the massive amount of work associated with it, the nuances related to marketing a collection and more.
The icing on the cake would be redemption through education and validation of education through uploading a new collection via smart contracts. Which collection though?
Low and behold the one I spent a ton of time working on and the one I thought was cooler than a cucumber ended up being the perfect one. Yep, Warskullz.
It was already riddled with issues and becoming problematic on OpenSea as uploading and editing one by one isn’t ideal. Nor is the system designed for that. This understanding isn’t obvious. As with traditional marketplaces it’s expected to have bulk editing capabilities. Upon further exploration it doesn’t work this way. Sites like OpenSea are merely interfaces for displaying NFTs in your wallet.
Smart contracts, how it’s made
Diverging from my standard route of tutorials I looked for ones focusing on minting NFTs through smart contracts. First and foremost I wanted to understand how it was being done and if my assumption that there was an easier way of uploading art to OpenSea was correct.
Turns out there is. However it wasn’t what I thought.
Smart contracts in themselves are a topic that deserve lengthy discussion from someone far more qualified to explain them. I know my current limits. Therefore I’ll say that my understanding is quite simple. What I found though was highly interesting.
To mine and everyone’s benefit, amazing engineers have made contracts open-source and easily accessible. Which is great because if you understand the underlying principles and watch enough YouTube videos you’ll be deadly enough to publish an entire collection to any network. I chose Polygon.
In a nutshell, and by its simplest definition, a smart contract is typically a compilation of a few files, some basic edits to a main file as well as some configuration in interfaces like Remix.
Once that’s all settled the contract can be compiled, flattened and deployed. Once deployed and picked up by the network it gets written into the ledger and exists on the main network.
In this case I decided to take Warskullz, deprecate the initial idea, fix errors I made in the first collection, remake an entirely new generative art series, create the smart contract, deploy and verify the contract as well as list it on OpenSea as a new collection called Warskullz_Reboot.
By doing all of that I was able to interact with Solidity coding language, Remix IDE, IPFS and Pinata, gain an understanding of how marketplaces actually work, the minting of my own coins and creation of a collection. Therefore I had come full circle in my quest to understand NFTs and how to create them.
From the very onset of an idea, to the development and deployment of that idea, down to the marketing and operational tasks associated with launching a collection my journey over the last 90 days left me with quite a solid foundation in non-fungible tokens.
NFTs, What’s next?
In looking back I always like to ask myself what’s next. Having realized that in a span of several months I completely took on an entirely new understanding of blockchain, crypto, alt coins and underlying their ecosystems as well as DEX, DAO, DeFi and more. Coupled with comprehension of the NFT industry, experience in the space, marketplaces and communities I’ve been able to see ways an artist like myself can take their talents and skills and formulate them into a potential business model.
Although, creating a collection from start to finish over various stages through multiple iterations and alterations of path and process gave me an entire picture of the possibilities. Seeing similarities as a technologist, designer, investor and generally curious individual I find it easy to recognize future opportunity not only in creating NFTs but the industry as a whole.
With a background in product and user experience design the real opportunity is to help sort out a big problem, adoption. Just think about what it’s like to link up your wallet to OpenSea. Now imagine you know nothing of what I just said . . .
So, when I think about what’s next for me and NFTs I land on continued exploration, education and evangelism as I divulge into greater depths of the unknown. I’ll be looking for ways to monetize my efforts as well as align my skills and talents with the industry as a whole.
444, high energy.