It seems like every day you find another website selling t-shirts. Sure, they have this really cool design, but then…. Oh look! You found that exact same design on another site. And another site. Where’s the originality? Where’s the dedication to brand image over “whatever makes sales”? There are some amazing sites out there, but the best of the best seem to be lost in a sea of “more of the same”.
We looked at one such great site before; and now it’s time to look at another – one who mastered the whole “dedication to brand image” thing from Day 1. It’s time to check out Fuzzballs.co and their passion for all things adorably fun!
Whereas most t-shirt sites start out by aggregating a bunch of existing designs and then trying to develop their identity as a brand, Fuzzballs took the exact opposite approach. In 2013, Fuzzballs creator Marc Sach started a small Tumblr page where he could post his work and animations; but the site grew so popular that pretty soon people were requesting his designs on shirts and other gifts. In this way, Fuzzballs.co isn’t a “shirt site”, but rather the home for everything Fuzzballs – whether it be shirts, comic strips, necklaces or any other related merchandise. But what exactly is a Fuzzball?
Well to answer that, all you need to do is simply look at any of the designs. Fuzzballs = balls of fuzz! It’s pretty on the nose right? Designing characters like these were always something on Marc’s mind even before 2013. Originally he had wanted to make a small, round tiger but when he finally decided to put pen to paper, he created a rabbit as the first image. At the time he had rabbits and he knew the overall design/shape would be similar, so it was a good starting point. Though he didn’t just draw the design, but also gave it an animation. Sure it was pretty simple to start, but from there the rest just flowed organically as he finally did his original tiger design and later a regular cat. Since then, he’s experimented with plenty of other animals – squirrels, penguins, giraffes – but the “Voice” of Fuzzballs has always remained the same: “Cute Fun”!
We don’t want to be serious or professional. It’s all about cuteness and the fun that can come from that. [It’s] just like your own pets. They don’t worry about anything; they just do what makes them happy in their own silly way! – Marc
Needless to say, these adorable designs caught on quickly and pretty soon fans were requesting t-shirts featuring these friendly fluffy fuzzballs. So in 2015, Fuzzballs set up a Kickstarter on a whim; but despite doing incredibly well, it fell just short of its goal. Though from seeing how close they were and how much their fans enjoyed the designs, Fuzzballs decided to give it a try anyway for the fans. Sure it would be tough; but doing it themselves without a company to answer to was actually kind of freeing. The fans had been so supportive of them in the past, they knew they had to push forward for them. And that’s another thing that really sets Fuzzballs apart: their fan interactions.
Every item they create either comes about organically (ie: tiger fuzzball -> cat fuzzball) or because the fans request something special. They always love fan feedback and requests because that’s where they started. Despite having a site completely dedicated to Fuzzballs, they still keep the original Tumblr active because it’s the easiest place for fans to Like, Share and Comment on the fuzzy creations. When it comes to Social Media, they see it as a way to keep in touch with their existing fan base. As for making new fans/ friends, that is where conventions come in.
Like Social Media, conventions offer a chance for the Fuzzballs team to meet their fans and get live feedback from their designs. Though the biggest impact is when newcomers see so much attention at this one booth and go check it out. Once they spy one of the adorable little Fuzzballs, a new fan has been born! And this brings us back to what really sets Fuzzballs apart: Branding.
You’re not just buying a random graphic design tee, you’re buying a Fuzzballs shirt. So whether you loved the Tumblr animations and wanted them on a shirt or found the shirts before the comic, it’s because you love the whole thing, not because just one thing interested you.
Fuzzballs isn’t just shirts or images, but rather all about a sense and spirit of the characters. This is the reason why they didn’t just drop everything to make shirts – as well as why there’s still so much emphasis on the comics and animations. Anyone can draw an adorable image, but seeing these characters come to life and have adventures makes all the difference.
A tiger cupcake is cute… but seeing Fuzztiger Timmy get into all sorts of silly little messes just adds more depth and makes it even funnier when you see more pictures of him [being] a little silly and getting into trouble he didn’t mean to cause… It’s the comics that give the [characters] personality. Plus it’s something free to share with your friends to make their day that little bit brighter.
As an illustrator – and sole owner of a site myself – I have tremendous admiration for what Marc has been able to accomplish. Though it shouldn’t be much of a surprise since he has over 15 years of graphic design experience under his belt. Whether it’s making the designs, running the site, getting the shirts or even simply standing behind the convention booths, Marc is there. As you can imagine, it all get’s pretty exhausting but he continues to do it for all the fans that have followed this journey. Thankfully his girlfriend is also able to lend a hand at conventions as well as helping with the social media – because seriously he’s only one man!
So do yourself a favor and check out Fuzzballs! Whether it’s their comics or gifts, there’s something for everyone to share and love. The site and original Tumblr are always there! And when it comes to conventions, as of the moment they do various events in the UK; but who knows, maybe one day they’ll be able to do some in the US – as Fuzzballs has a huge fanbase here. So stay tuned for all the cuteness, all the new designs and most importantly…. all the fuzziness!