Dean Tzembelikos Winner Interview From Hong Kong S.A.R., China

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Dean Tzembelikos

The world viewed through a child’s eyes is one that is full of infinite possibilities, and Dean Tzembelikos unlocks that potential with Kandy’s line of toys seamlessly integrated with the Nanobytes virtual universe!

Interview with the 2021 Vega Digital Awards Winner - Dean Tzembelikos

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

I love all things to do with play, specifically toys, games, and video games. From a young age, I’ve worked in the toy industry, so I’ve been fortunate to be a part of and follow the trends for 20+ years now.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a digital designer/artist?

I see myself as an artist by not a designer.

As for why digital - It’s such an interesting time with rapid technological advances, I felt like it’s time to bridge the gap between toy product and tech.

It’s just so much more accessible and a part of human nature now, and I feel the state of the toy industry has been a bit boring for sometime now.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

Kandy is our brand of toys and games. We create everything from scratch, including NanoBytes and ByteWorld.

My job is to think up or find the next concepts we will create and turn it into reality. Thus far, all products we have released are internally generated.

Kade is our mothership company. We run a toy distribution business here in Asia.

I’m the co-founder and president of the company, so all responsibilities fall on my shoulders. From HR to packing samples, whether it gets done or not is my responsibility.

4What’s your favorite kind of digital design and why?

I’m totally biased but I love our NanoBytes design. I’m a big fan of Voxel art as a design medium and this touches on that, while maintaining the proprietary digital look we created.

5To you, what makes a “good” design?

I only have 1 benchmark when I consider good design: Do I want it? If yes, great - then comes a lot of subsequent questions (feasibility, functionality, cost, etc).

If the answer is ‘no’ then it needs to go back to the drawing board.

6Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

I’m not a designer by any stretch. Ideas and potential experiences come into my head at random. My challenge is to choose the best ones and find a designer who is a muse that can turn the best crazy ideas into reality.

7Tell us about your design process.

The inspiration can come from anywhere. It can be very fluid and happen during waking hours in conversation, in the shower, or by sleep deprivation which can be torturous.

Sometimes I wake up at 4am and cannot get back to sleep. I’ll sit there in the dark drinking coffee on my phone and then voila! A big or small idea pops out - then I can go back to sleep for a bit.

8Where do you draw inspiration from?

Infinite curiosity is my inspiration. There are so many things in nature that are incredible.

Alternatively, I recently mis-took a piece of broken plastic on the street for something completely different, which spawned a new game concept.

I try to stay in an abundant mindset. This keep ideas flowing.

9What current trends in digital design (or really anything digital related) are you most excited about?

I find mobile gaming super exciting and believe with our platform and art style we can game-ify literally anything.

10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2021 Vega Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

Thank you! On behalf of our small, growing team, we are honoured! Looking at the diversity and experience of the judges, I feel very happy that they see the passion and part of the vision we have for NanoBytes and ByteWorld.

To receive this award against that many entrants is very flattering and validating, especially since we’ve been working on this for 2+ years but are really only scratching the surface of its potential.

11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2021 Vega Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

NanoBytes are cubular little representations of all things in the world. I love collectibles, so they are highly detailed, Nano-sized (the size of your fingertip), and all of them contain data inside of them such as Fun Facts, Jokes, World Records, etc.

What ties them all together is that you can scan these physical collectables and characters into a digital metaverse called ByteWorld, use them to grow your world, play games, interact with others, and more!

ByteWorld came to me just before we went into the 1st Covid lockdown. A digital universe that you could grow and enjoy experiences within by collecting NanoBytes.

As for why we entered - we saw some really strong brands championing their Vega Award, which brought us awareness.

Being based in Hong Kong and running a small team, we’re in a bit of a silo and currently not attending any toy fairs due to quarantine rules here, so this was an opportunity to see what other people thought about our concept.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?

Building a physical to digital universe or metaverse comes with a lot of logistical challenges. How will a mid-range or long-term player stay motivated? What new experiences will we provide for them? How do you factor for inflation?

We’ve managed to answer all these questions and will continue to evolve the property, but with a 6-person company, it takes time to implement these developments.

Unfortunately, toy retailers blink super fast. If they don’t see immediate results, you’re history. We’ve had some good results, but are they enough compared to results from industry giants who have polished concepts and unlimited funds? That’s always a challenge as we are iterating on the fly.

13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

We just won so it’s a little early to answer. Hopefully some good awareness comes as a result!

14What are your top three (3) favorite things about the digital industry?

1. It allows you to bring imagination based elements to life right in front of your eyes.

2. Availability - it’s getting to a point where virtually all human beings will have access to some form of digital entertainment.

3. It’s Evolving and growing - super exciting to think about the experiences we will have in just 5 years from now!

15What makes your country specifically, unique in the digital industry?

Hong Kong benefits from a high level of digital penetration and it’s super close to China, but it’s kind of a place where East-meets-West.

Facebook (sorry, Meta) and IG are super popular here, whereas you can’t use them in China.

But WeChat is also widely used and it’s such an adaptable, immersive platform. Many of my colleagues and friends in China pretty much run their whole lives off WeChat. This is both exciting and scary if you think about it.

16Where do you see the evolution of digital industry going over the next 5-10 years?

I see digital game-ifying almost all parts of life. I also see the experiences becoming more tech immersive. Visuals and consumer experiences becoming more 3D with AR, and to a lesser extent VR, becoming more mainstream.

17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring Vega Award submitter, what advice would you give them?

Challenge yourself. Stretch as far as you possibly can - whatever that means for you and your capabilities.

If you’re creating this way, you’ll learn so many things - about yourself, others, the way the world works. You only have 1 life, so why not?

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the digital industry?

Sign up to as many newsletters as possible within the sector you have interest in. This will help you understand the state of technology, key players, and give you context to think deeply about how you want to improve your skills and awareness.

19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.

Sometimes I get down or need to rest.

I used to feel guilty about this but my wife is always telling me that I need to listen to my body.

20Who has inspired you in your life and why?

My father grew up in rural Greece as a shepherd. From Herding sheep through mountains at the age of 6 to emigrating to Canada and building a successful restaurant business with his brothers - that’s inspiring.

My grandfather also had a key impact on my life. He started in the toy business in the 60s and would be my roommate when travelling for years. He always dropped pearls of wisdom, which I miss since his passing.

Apart from that, I am a huge fan of innovation based entrepreneurs like Elon Musk. He took on 2 massive industries in automotive and gas, and through thick and thin created an amazing vehicle brand, despite facing in-market challenges both with his product and external infrastructure - and turned his platform into a mainstream success. Wow.

21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

I don’t believe in chasing success. It’s an impossible definition as it’s so subjective. Rather I would go back to my previous answer and say Challenge yourself.

One of my favourite quotes on this topic is from Viktor E Frankl, who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning:

“Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself.”

22Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?
Thank you for selecting our product! On behalf of my team, we are grateful for the selection. And if anyone is reading this and interested to get in touch, feel free to reach out.

Winning Entries

NanoBytes: ByteWorld | 2021


Nanobytes are a collectible toy universe with a unique, patented, highly-detailed cubular style. Each NanoByte contains a QR code which unlocks DataBytes (Fun facts, jokes, world records, etc) and scans the physical toy into the free APP…
(read more at Vega Digital Awards)

Dean Tzembelikos Winner

The world viewed through a child’s eyes is one that is full of infinite possibilities, and Dean Tzembelikos unlocks that potential with Kandy’s line of toys seamlessly integrated with the Nanobytes virtual universe!