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Academy Graduate JR Fabito Finds Success With Compelling Final Project

What started out as an Academy of Art University Final Project has turned into an addictive Internet phenomenon. Recent graduate JR Fabito’s Papercritters.com project is rapidly spreading through the Internet and has been featured on highly trafficked sites such as CNET’s Webware blog, Digg and  Killerstartups.com, and has won Favourite Website Awards (FWA) Site of the Day. JR owes much of Paper Critters’ success to the well-rounded education and training he received from instructors and fellow students in the MFA program at the Academy’s School of Computer Arts: New Media (CANM).

JR enrolled at Academy of Art University because he wanted a program that focused heavily on commercial applications with new media. He found that other schools tend to focus on fine art with new media, which was not something he was interested in. Within the Academy’s CANM program, he found a challenging and supportive environment.

“I got to work with many great instructors and talented classmates that pushed me to reach for higher levels as a designer,” he recalled.

His final project prospered thanks to the classes he took from different departments to fulfill his degree requirements.
“I was able to take a class in the CA3D department where I learned some 3D modeling and animation, helping me with my final project,” he said. 

JR wanted to combine the skills he learned in the CANM program with the concept of viral marketing – something that is promoted through word of mouth via the Internet and email.

"I'm a big fan of 'lowbrow' art forms such as cartooning and designer toys and the culture surrounding the two," he said.  "Although I didn't have a strong grasp of the concept at the moment, the ultimate goal for it was to exhibit a way to effectively merge ‘lowbrow’ art forms with new media and viral marketing techniques."

There are four different categories of critter features: Cute, Loyal, Evil and Rebel. Users can pick a combination of various features and colors to make their very own, individualized critter. The critters can be printed out and folded into unique desk decorations.

Paper Critters took JR about a year to complete. Six months were spent planning and developing the concept while the rest was spent designing and making the website. JR contacted various websites that he thought would be interested in his project. Since its launch, JR has been tracking the progressively growing number of websites that have featured Paper Critters.

It has only been a week since graduation and JR has already been contacted by agencies to develop projects similar to Paper Critters. While he’s weighing his options, he’s considered some enhancements to Paper Critters, such as adding more art or updating certain components. He has also received offers from companies interested in purchasing Paper Critters. For now, JR is content with watching his experiment unfold.

“When you think of a critter, it is something invasive, like ants or rats in your house. The underlying scheme of Paper Critters and the metaphor behind the name is to invade the world by presenting people with something new and hopefully they would in turn tell someone else about,” he said.


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