Joto is the Snapchat of printers. Sitting on your wall like a framed print, its output is impermanent – drawn on a whiteboard surface that it wipes clean when you want it to draw something else.
Capable of recreating both line art and text, you could put the Joto in your studio or home to give you different artworks every day (or every hour, for those of us with low attention spans) – or it could sit in a cafe to display menus that are redrawn as breakfast becomes lunchtime.
You can see it drawing artworks by well-known illustrators and designers here (probably after an ad – we need to make a living somehow).
The most appealing thing about Joto isn't the final output, but watching the process it goes through to draw (as you can see in the video above). When its makers first contacted us, they sent us a video of Joto drawing our logo – which really got our attention not just because of the personal touch, but because it's just fun to watch it draw. Even stripped of the humanity of traditional live art – or perhaps because of it – watching what's-essentially-a-robot draw is intriguing.
This is especially true if you don't know what the final piece will be – if someone else in your studio was telling it what to draw, or if you were a customer in the cafe example, or if Joto could somehow provide a 'random artwork a day' service.
“People just stand and watch a pen moving around,” says Jim Rhodes, founder of the design studio behind Joto,
Those. “There's something mesmerising about it that. People seem to have some kind of intrinsic connexion with the pen that they can understand what it's for."
There's a lot of flexibility to what Joto can draw. You can create a vector graphic in a tool like Illustrator and send it to the Joto. You can also draw on your phone or tablet via an app – or get it to write words in a script typeface.
Its makers have also roped in some well-known illustrators to produce works that you’ll be able to download and get the Joto to draw. These include Mr Bingo, Ben The Illustrator, Dan Woodger, Rob Barrett, Sneaky Raccoon, Supermundane and Thomas Hedger.
You connect to the Joto via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth from your computer, tablet or phone (through the Joto app). The app can also let you send designs to someone else’s Joto through a messaging service.
Jim describes himself as "a failed engineer turned graphic designer". He worked at much-missed design studio Airside and in-house at a department store – where the idea of creating a sign writing machine came to him.
"I was fairly bored with doing the same old sale signs, and had this idea for a large drawing machine that we could put in the window and update the window display,” he says. "At the time, that would seem kind of a pipe dream, but then with the introduction of 3D printers, it became much more possible.”
This lead to the development of the Woodpecker – which is essentially a large scale version of the Joto for use in stores. From seeing people’s responses to it, John then wanted to create an affordable ‘home’ version – which became the Joto.
Joto’s prototype was part of the
Design Museum’s Designs of the Year exhibition last year, where it was awarded the Public Vote prize that was voted for by visitors to the exhibition. Up against products and projects from Jonathan Barnbrook’s design for David Bowie’s Blackstar LP to the modular refugee tent Better Shelter, Joto won because, arguably, visitors just liked to watch it draw.
A 30-day Kickstarter for Joto has just started, aiming to raise £100,00. You can back it
£165/€188/US$199 will get you a Joto – though for just £25/€28/$30 you can get a Ben The Illustrator print. For £245/€280/$299 you’ll get a Joto plus a new drawing that you can send to it every day for a year (which its creators are calling 365 Days of Art). The rewards scale from here, topping out at a day with the team behind Joto (plus five Jotos and a bunch of other stuff) for £8,000/€9,200/$10,000.