If this wasn’t already crystal clear, now it’s virtually unmistakable: every move that global sensation and 15-time chess champion Elsa Majimbo makes — along with her multi-award winning team members, Mohamed Kheir and Pepijn Temming, is strategic.
When the dream team launched the book The Alphabet for kids & ADULTS back in April of 2021, as a collaboration with Valentino, they already had NFTs on their minds.
And yesterday, the co-creators of the limited-edition illustrated book released the first drop of The Alphabet NFT collection on Crypto.com, marking the trio’s official entrance into the metaverse. The Alphabet NFT collection by Majimbo, Kheir and Temming brings to life the foundational building blocks of our stories: letters.
The first edition of the book marked the first collaboration in history between a comedian and a high fashion couture brand. The book, which was written by Majimbo and Kheir, was also creative directed by Kheir and Temming, with stunning 3D digital illustrations by Temming as well.
Attention must be paid to the fact that due to the pandemic, they created every element of the book — from conception to final result — without ever having met IRL.
The first collection of the Alphabet Universe will contain 26 unique letter animations, with the first of three drops containing eight letters. The letters will be gamified, allowing collectors to create words and claim rewards. The letters released are O, H, D, L, S, A, E and Y.
(All collectors who own each of the following NFTs “E, L, S, A” by February 15 will be entered into a raffle, the winners drawn at random, to win an exclusive Maison Valentino x The Alphabet for kids & ADULTS book. Fifty The Alphabet NFT holders, also drawn at random, will be eligible to receive a limited-edition hoodie, made exclusively for this drop.)
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While the winners are drawn at random, nothing about this mega project is.
For starters, as a national chess champion, Majimbo has always been passionate about games — including word games. (It’s worth noting that word games are certainly having a moment, as evidenced by the current global fascination with Wordle.)
Although they’re gamifying the book, this dream team did not come here to play — the Alphabet Universe NFT drop is serious business and also opens the door to community and connectivity. It’s less about getting the NFTs into the ecosystem and more about building the community.
I spoke with the team who brought this to life — Elsa Majimbo, Mohamed (Mo) Kheir and Pepijn Temming — to discuss this next chapter in their universe and why owning your own IP is critical.
Karin Eldor: Elsa, I saw this statement in an Instagram post on @metav3rse: “The metaverse is that moment in time where our digital life is worth more to us than our physical life.” As someone who rose to fame thanks to your ‘digital life’ first, can you elaborate on this?
Elsa Majimbo: I think that’s just someone being melodramatic, which is fine. I don’t think our digital life should ever be more valued to us than our physical. Fresh air, good food and a comfortable bed will always beat digital experiences.
Having said that, I can understand how our digital assets, and investments in things like the metaverse and NFTs can accumulate in such a manner as to be our most valued investments and possessions. We are already at a point and time where some NFTs are worth as much as luxury cars or houses.
I think it’s going to be increasingly important for us to learn to balance things and to detach from the digital world every now and again.
Eldor, for Majimbo: Elsa, this NFT release represents the next evolution in The Alphabet Universe. Why did you see this drop as the next step, following the book, The Alphabet for kids & ADULTS?
We knew that we might do NFTs back when we were finalizing the contract for the collaboration with Valentino, so we ensured that we retained 100% IP ownership of The Alphabet book, as it was directly tied into the subsequent universe that we would eventually launch. There are very few ways that we could evolve an alphabet book — it made sense to leverage NFT and blockchain technology, and to bring our gorgeous comedic letters to life. The trick was to do it in a unique way, hence the gamification.
Eldor, for Kheir: Mo, it’s very clear that you are always a million steps ahead of the others – that when you concepted the book, you saw the potential for NFTs, rather than simply creating one-dimensional graphics. Can you speak to this?
Kheir: The goal is always to create valuable IP that can be leveraged to launch numerous verticals. The reason why someone like Pepijn is instrumental in a project like this is because he allowed us to access a much-needed skill base in developing the level of intricate design and approach that we needed to allow for the type of NFTs that we all collectively wanted to make.
Eldor, to Kheir: A few years ago, brands were focused on “the experiential” and building immersive concepts. Now it’s all about the metaverse. Can you share your take on this?
Kheir: Brands jump on fads, whether momentary hype or long lasting. Hype sells, but trends fade. The trick is to invest your time and energy in things that you believe in and can justify attaching your brand, capital and, most importantly, time to.
Eldor, to Temming: With the launch of The Alphabet Universe, it’s about building something that’s comprehensive and gamified and features incredible utilities – it’s not just aesthetic. Any thoughts on this?
Temming: I think that for NFTs and blockchain technology to be adopted into the mainstream, it will need clear use cases. A lot of NFT collections right now function solely as collectibles, which I think leads to a rather skeptical public opinion on NFTs. Why certain NFT collections go up in value and garner amplified value is shrouded in mystery for most people, certainly for those outside of the NFT community. Centering an NFT collection around a valuable user experience, in our case word games, makes much more sense to us as we believe it has the power to appeal to a much broader audience.
Eldor, to Temming: Can you share some details about your design process of the 3D letters for The Alphabet for kids and ADULTS? And how they also work as NFTs….
Temming: I’m a designer first and a 3D artist second, this presents me with a dilemma of sorts. On one hand I always want to try everything that’s possible and push the boundaries, on the other hand there are real timelines and technical limits I have to deal with. It’s a constant battle between working efficiently towards finishing a design but at the same time making room to experiment and successfully iterate and improve on the concept.
This makes the ideation phase in the beginning especially important, and as a result I always approach projects from a highly conceptual perspective. Having a great concept at the start means less changes later in the design process! When we created the letters for the book the idea already was to have them branch out into other contexts. We wanted these to be universal and to also work as sculptures, this made the process of animating them as NFT’s go a lot smoother.
Next to some little tweaks we made one big change — the E now references the Ethereum logo and the animation is symbolic of the way the blockchain operates. From a design perspective working with the alphabet gives endless conceptual possibilities. It’s super fun to keep expanding on this universe and find new spaces and contexts it can branch into.
Eldor, to Temming: Can you share your vision about the technical side of the drop? Both the NFT utilities of the collection and how is it gamified?
Temming: Our current roadmap is broken into 3 Phases, A,B and C. Phase A comprises the first three drops, which includes all 26 letters. Phase B, introduces our token $ALPHA which will greatly increase the utility of the collection. Users will be able to upgrade their letters and it will function as a currency within our community.
For Phase C of our roadmap we aim to release our first word game, AlphaBattle, as soon as possible. During the process we really want to listen to our community and let them weigh in on important decisions in the development. Our end goal is to create a universe of engaging online multiplayer play-to-earn word games that are community driven and hopefully at some point also community maintained.
Eldor, to Majimbo: You’ve always focused on the long game when it comes to chess, your business and your brand. How does this strategy apply to NFTs?
Majimbo: That strategy applies to everything in life. You need to be able to see each move from every angle, and to plan ahead as well as possible.
Eldor, to Kheir: Mo, same question for you, minus the part about chess. You’ve always focused on the long game when it comes to your business and your brand. How does this strategy apply to NFTs?
Kheir: When it comes to putting out NFTs, as it is with building anything worthwhile, it’s all about respecting your craft and committing to the long game. Sure, there are overnight successes and instant sell-out collections, but it can also be a process that gradually develops and builds momentum over several drops.
Our main objective is to create something exciting, to develop NFTs with captivating utilities, and a scalable, expansive universe.