We love featuring talented artists who re-imagine our adorable home robot. That’s why we were excited when student artist Lily Van shared her whimsical illustrations of Kuri with us! We decided to sit down with Lily to learn more about her as both a designer and a Kuri fan.

Lily Van portrait

Q: You’re currently a digital design student at the University of Colorado at Denver. How does being a student impact your design style and voice?
A: Yes! Being in school, you’re simultaneously impacted by the latest technologies, social happenings in the world, and people from all sorts of different walks of life and perspectives. It’s a really unique environment. As a student, you have limitless access to programs and tools among people whom you’re learning right alongside.

Q: What’s your process for creating an illustration from start to finish?
A: I start with researching so I can get the hang of the feeling I want to create. For me, it’s important to hone the feeling a finished piece should give you. I’ll draft out sketches to get the energy down.

Lily's early sketches of Kuri.
Lily’s early sketches of Kuri.

I like work that feels young, whimsical, and a little childlike. For me, the process of working on a project is really enjoyable. I like to create environments that I can put my whole heart into as I’m creating.

Q: How do you think Kuri’s design helps define her character?
A: She looks really friendly. Her design is round and she doesn’t have any harsh lines anywhere. She’s not odd, disjointed, or boxy. Kuri rolls smoothly, she takes her time, she’s thoughtful, has friendly eyes, and her audio feedback is pleasant and endearing. Kuri doesn’t have any off-putting mechanical sounds that make you feel like she’s a machine. She is always encouraging you during your interactions through positive beeps and boops and endearing character movements.

Robot Pets by Lily.
Robot Pets by Lily.

Q: You’ve shared that one of your goals is to bring playfulness to the world of design. What do you think is playful about Kuri?
A: When I was watching the videos about Kuri, Kuri was interacting with the people and pets that’d be interacting with the robot every day. There wasn’t this sense of distance that I’ve typically seen with robots. The messaging behind Kuri feels fun and youthful; from Kuri telling jokes to people petting her. It just seems like Kuri fits into customers’ everyday lives and she feels like everyone is welcome to use and interact with her. That’s how a tech product should be.

Kuri illustrations by Lily.
Kuri illustrations by Lily.

Q: Which of your Kuri illustrations was your favorite to create and why?
A: I really like the ones of Kuri interacting with little kids. I was inspired by the videos of kids talking about their experiences interacting with Kuri and I tried to emulate that in some of these illustrations. Kuri never looks down at kids. She’s a friend that’s interacting with them at an equal level. Kuri is instantly approachable, and given that kids grow up with so much technology now, I think Kuri is creating a bridge to those interactions rather than making technology feel cold or distant.

Meeting Kuri by Lily.
Meeting Kuri by Lily.

Q: Why is it valuable for people to see a real-life robot illustrated?
A: People are impacted by the things they see. In design, there’s this thing called behavioral nudging. For example, how they put brightly colored candy in the grocery store checkout aisle when you’re closest to making a purchase. I think illustrated robots break down barriers people might have about technology consuming your life. Illustrations create a positive representation of what a helpful, hopeful future of robotics might look like.

Q: Who is your favorite robot in pop culture?
A: I really love Astro Boy! His story is fantastic. His character is this robot that has human emotions and he tries to fight for robot rights. He’s just a friendly kid with this heartbreaking backstory and people should definitely check him out.

Q: What are you doing when not designing?
A: I’m usually just drawing! I have an online store where I make things like apparel and stuff. I try to learn other skills in my free time as well. Right now I’m making pottery, and I have a goal to master homemade pasta making this year! I just really enjoy exposing myself to new things.

Kuri's Best Friend by Lily.
Kuri’s Best Friend by Lily.

We loved the playfulness of Lily’s illustrations of Kuri and we hope you enjoyed getting to meet the designer behind these fun vignettes too. Be sure to check out our other artist collaborations and to subscribe to Kuri’s newsletter for more updates on our adorable home robot.