Stage 1 — Idea conception
We came up with the idea of Hashmasks together in mid-2020. We wanted to build a product that did not merely focus on a financial application but instead used blockchain technology in a fun and artistic way. Since we were (and are still) both fans of Cryptopunks, we wanted to create our own set of collectibles which built on similar ideas. After a period of active research, we identified an essential gap in the collectibles market. All collectibles are based on a scarcity system and follow a strict value hierarchy determined by the creators. The community around them purchase the collectible but have very little input in forming the value hierarchy; this applies to physical and digital collectibles.
We wanted to be different. We wanted to create a collectible where the value hierarchy is not determined solely at the creators’ discretion. We wanted the community to be an active part of the decision-making process. Based on one of our previous (failed) projects, the initial idea was to let the community participate in the art itself. Since the entire collection had to be hashed on-chain, this proved not to be feasible in any obvious way, so this is where the NCT came into play. By allowing users to change one significant part of the collectible, we have successfully handed the community a robust tool to contribute to the value hierarchy formation. Everyone has a name, everyone has a username, and the concept of naming resonates with everyone regardless of your culture, age or background. It works.
To hand over even more power to the community, we decided only to provide general guidelines on each collectible’s rarity and omit many others. As a result, it provides users with other dimensions of scarcity to play with. Whereas most digital collectibles focus on individual collections, Hashmasks allow for group collections based on creative combinations of traits and names. We will explain this further later on.
Stage 2 — Token model design
Hashmasks has two primary uses for the Ethereum blockchain and tokenization:
#1: NFT token to represent the ownership.
Every single owner, transfer, sale, bid, and other interaction with the Hashmask artwork is transparently recorded on a permanent and immutable record. In an ever-more digital economy, NFTs allow easy verification of ownership.
#2: NameChangeToken (NCT)
One of our earliest ideas for the whole project was ‘naming’, and it has since formed the core of the project. It was natural that the ability to name the artwork on-chain would be one of the unique selling points of Hashmasks. However, instead of providing the ability to name arbitrarily, we envisioned making it a scarce resource.
Then came the ‘NCT’. The idea is simple but represents a powerful concept. We designed NCT to commoditize the ability to change names of Hashmasks. By designing it as an ERC20 token, it opens a wide range of possibilities thanks to composability offered by Ethereum. For instance, if you wanted to gift your friend the ability to name change their mask, you can simply transfer sufficient NCT tokens to them.
Stage 3 — Decentralized Artistry
Once the general idea was formed, we began the art generation phase. During this phase, we started ideating and developing a conceptual art framework. We used the help of our artist friends who specialized in traditional art forms.
Once we had an early concept ready, we gave the mandate of producing all individual components to the artists. We sourced the artists from our network, external platforms and via social media. Each artist was given a specific task. Some only drew masks, some drew backgrounds, and others drew items, for example. At this point, however, the final product was not yet fully fleshed out. For instance, it took more than eight different artists to finalize a male base character we were satisfied with — all of them, part of the concept development and ideation phase.
Once all the pieces were produced, collected and mapped out, the rigorous due diligence process began. Since only we had the whole picture, many works produced did not fit together and were not included in the final product. Many of the pieces made needed small adjustments to fit perfectly; for example, since we had different base characters, many masks had to be adjusted or excluded since they had been designed with a single base in mind.
Even finalized parts needed additional designers to generate variations which helps explain why the art generation phase took over half a year. This process, the multitude of artists, the different components of each artwork, the dynamism, the lack of singular input for the finalized pieces is why we believe Hashmasks represent a truly unique example of digital, decentralized art. Decentralized, nameless, and at the same time, unique and unattributed.