RethinkDB understood the power of storytelling and character development within the evolution of a brand, but being an open source database startup, they knew that there weren’t many examples yet to draw from. Where should they start, they wondered? Together, we crafted an experience that would be exciting and unique to their community of developers.

My role: Illustrator, brand manager.

Whilst there were some companies in the tech space using art, the Database sphere was cut and dry, and most developers preferred the no-nonsense approach. We didn’t want to veer too far from what the standard was, since the community’s voice was so important to us, but we did want to introduce a new world, a character, and RethinkDB’s values, one illustration at a time.


We landed on a character that embodied an “idea”. He was ephemeral and amorphous, without much definition in his body, the perfect character to convey the fact that RethinkDB supports developers in building apps based on their own ideas and values. We named this character “The Thinker”.

From there we started using him to communicate abstract API commands and install processes with metaphor and fun scenarios.


Because the open source community crosses platform and celebrate lots of small projects, we used art to announce RethinkDB’s collaborations such as new drivers, or partnerships with other companies. The docs on RethinkDB’s website also received treatment to convey some of the complex commands.

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Social media was a huge factor in sharing news, discovery, and growing the community. We used one panel comics, often playing off of inside jokes, to start buzzy conversation.


When communities fall in love with a brand, they want to take it home with them. So…shirts!

Developers loved the thinker, and wanted t-shirts, stickers, and anything they could get their hands on, with their beloved Thinker design. We developed a program called “shirts for stories” where we gathered case studies in exchange for a shirt, gifting ourselves useful research data while giving back to the community.


With each software release we used a classic film and blasted out a poster parody for our users. Sometimes these were printed a given away as swag at conferences and meetups.


RethinkDB is still open source, and has transferred hands to the Linux Foundation. You can follow them on Github and Twitter.