TADO is made up of Mike and Katie, graphic designers from England. What do they do? The more apt questions is “What don’t they do?” From pillows to custom Mega Munnys to custom Mini Coopers, TADO have had a part in pretty much any medium you can think of. And they’re quite possibly the first to blend designer toys with night lights with their upcoming Chuppi line. Hit the link for our interview with TADO.


Tell us about yourselves.

Hi! we’re Mike and Katie, 2 graphic designers / illustrators from Sheffield. We work from our tiny studio above our house and make all kinds of stuff. We set up TADO in 2002 after finishing our course at Leeds Met Uni.

How do you come up with your ideas? What’s your workflow for translating your ideas to vectors drawings?

It’s hard to pinpoint where our ideas come from exactly. We find that working in collaboration leads to a constant morphing process where the ideas shift as they go along – both of us will add our own input into things and react to each others so things can sometimes end up in a very different place to where they started from!

The initial spark can come from anywhere really – whether it was a funny looking dog in the park, a snippet of over heard conversation or some random oddness that crawled out of the internet.

Our workflow usually consists of either very rough pencil sketches or sketching straight onto the computer, then bouncing things backwards and forwards until we’ve finished squabbling and we’re happy with the end result.

What are your tools of the trade? What do you use for your vector art and what do you use for you motion graphics?

We have a very simple set of tools, just Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and some pencils and paints. We started out coming from a Flash background and this probably affects the way we draw a little. We still use Flash for animation work now, along with After Effects. 

You have a vast assortment of clients, from Kidrobot to McDonald’s. How do you get such a diversity?

The diversity of the clients and the work that they let us do is probably the thing which drives us most. We love being able to work across a really broad spectrum of stuff. In terms of how it came about, we’re not entirely sure! We certainly never did any strategic planning or set any long term goals, we just consider ourselves very lucky to have worked on some amazing briefs with great people. The other thing that continually drives us is never knowing just what will land in our inbox next. 90% of our work comes in by email and it never ceases to amaze and delight us, the way that people on the other side of the world can get in contact and commission work so easily. 

You’ve worked in a huge range of mediums. What’s one medium you’d like to work with that you haven’t been able to yet?

We’d love to do some really BIG stuff! Like public-art BIG. We’d also love to get a bit more hands on with stuff like fibreglass to create limited runs of bigger things. 

A lot of your work features characters and animals popular in Japanese culture – octopi, the kappa, etc. Where does your love for Japan come from?

We’ve both been fascinated by the whole visual culture of asia as long as we can remember.  Everything just seems so much brighter and more exciting. One of the things we love about Japan is the work ethic and enthusiasm that people have for everything. Everything is done 110% and with a pride.  


What is the collaborative process like between you (Mike and Katie)?

We work pretty much in syncronisation – these days we draw very much alike and when we work on projects the other one is usually one step ahead and knows where to take things. Theres a lot of file swapping and to and froing that goes on! 

What’s next for TADO? Is there anything in your pipeline you’d like your readers to know about?

2012 is stacking up to be a pretty exciting year for us, we’re busy putting the finishing touches to our new studio and we’re off to Japan and Hong Kong in a couple of weeks for some adventuring. Work-wise we tend to work quite far ahead so always forget what we’ve got coming up, but we know that the Autumn / Winter 2012 Gola by TADO range is probably our favourite one yet, and we’ve been working with Lucas (Star Wars) and the guys at 2000AD on some really exciting stuff that should start to surface before the end of the year. We’ve been planning lots of fun things with the guys at Creo Design and Together Plus as well so hopefully we’ll be showing more sneak peeks at  toy projects soon. We’re very excited about the first UK Toy Con that will be happening early next year so we’re hoping to push the boat out a bit for that one and make some really fun stuff. Its also our 10th anniversary this year so we should probably be doing something for that… or maybe just having some relaxing time to celebrate! 

What work are you most proud of?

We can’t really pin down certain projects we like best – we like them all for different reasons! We’re probably most proud of the way that we’ve been able to make a living from doing something we enjoy so much together and that we’ve managed to not get bummed out or burned out with it. 

Who of your contemporaries do you most admire?

That’s another impossible question for us – again we pull our inspirations and admirations from so many different people and companies. The ones who inspired us most at the start were people like Sheffield based The Designers Republic, and the work of famous Japanese artists Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara and Chiho Aoshima. We began collecting toys very early on, and people like Pete Fowler, James Jarvis, Junko Mizuno, Devilrobots and Eric So were a huge inspiration to us, and continue to be so, both in terms of their work and what they achieved as individuals. The same is also true of people like Matt Pyke (Universal Everything), Rinzen, Jon Burgerman, Nathan Jurevicius, Kid Acne and Kozyndan. We love that all these people produce incredible stuff, the majority of which comes from bedroom studios, sheds and laptops.

Does a Pigga-phunt prefer peanuts or apple cores?

Maybe a peanut… but she’d kill for a banana-end!

What’s your secret weapon?

The ability to fit into very confined spaces.

What tips would you give aspiring artists and designers?

Work hard, enjoy your work and make sure you go outside plenty times a day!

Tell me about the process of developing the Chuppi – how did the collaboration with MATHMOS come about? 

The original idea for Chuppi came from the guys at Mathmos – they were keen to develop a new character based product and had a technology in mind that they wanted to use. We’d worked with Mathmos on several previous occasions so were delighted when they dropped us a mail and asked us to pop down for a chat. After playing around with the prototype we were very excited to get cracking on some ideas and directions.

How did the Chuppi being both a light & art toy effect key design decisions?

There were a couple of technical considerations that had to be taken into account, such as fitting the lighting unit inside the body and also the charging point acess.  However the main consideration was keeping in mind Chuppi’s purpose as a night light. We liked the idea of him being a stoic little companion who would always be there when you woke up – hence him sitting patiently. We wanted to come up with something that people could easily customise to create their own unique Chuppi, so this meant trying to make something with the right balance of personality and ‘blankness’… if there is such a word!  

Has the Chuppi maybe you think about bringing any of your other characters to life using light?

It’s something we’d love to develop further – infact we’ve already been chatting with Mathmos about future plans for Chuppi and the technology that is used. We’d like to further explore how lighting can be used to change the personality and character of the toys. We really like Chuppi’s dual purpose and the different audiences it will appeal to.

Huge thanks to TADO for the interview. For more info, check out TADO.co.uk.