The OMG Friends!

The OMG Friends are a family of pocket-sized adventure plushes that I created, mass-produced, and developed into a product line.

This project represents a very extensive body of work including: Creative Direction, Character Design, Illustration, Print Design, Photography, Marketing, Product Design, Web Design, Logo Design, Copywriting, and many other business-y things.

Project Objective: To create a brand and eCommerce website that delighted, enticed, and introduced the world to a new and beautiful family of wonderful products. 

This was a mammoth project that I worked on full-time with angel investors for two years. Strap in, because there's a lot of cuteness below.

Examples of the eCommerce site where the OMG Friends were marketed and sold.

Brand Identity

The OMG Friends logo was designed to embody the delight and excitement that people express when first seeing the critters. I created a custom typeface for the word "friends" to lend a friendly and handmade feel to the logo.



Sgt. Peepers the Adventure Owl

This is Sgt. Peepers the Adventure Owl. He is a seasoned world-traveler whose favorite means of transportation is riding in pockets. 

Butterscotch the Adventure Bunny

This is Butterscotch the Adventure Bunny. He enjoys candlelit cabbages and long walks along produce departments. He can frequently be heard asking “what’s for dinner?” and “are you gonna eat that?”

Truffles the Adventure Pig

This is Truffles the Adventure Pig. She loves warm socks, pancakes, books about quantum mechanics, and going to the library. It's not uncommon to hear her say things like “Do you have a library card? Let’s go get some books! Oooh! and french fries!”

And in case you're wondering, that is a tiny glass of milk and miniature books that I made. :) 

Shipping & Retail Display

The OMG Friends traveled to their new homes in stylish cardboard boxes, and congregated in retail shops in the beautiful wooden boxes you see below. 

Plushes to Illustrations

Most of my work begins with sketches, but I designed the OMG Friends through a process of iterating hand-sewn plushes. I eventually had to work my way backwards and figure out how to draw 2D versions of what I'd only known as 3D critters.

Scout Books & Postcards

I love finding old journals and getting to review what my life was about back then. That was the inspiration for these OMG Friends Scout Books. Each Adventure Journal has 32 blank pages, that are perfect for recording bits of epic journeys and general life-bits, and they’re high-quality, meaning they’ll be around for years to come. :)

Doernbecher Children's Hospital Donations

I had the opportunity to donate a few hundred OMG Friends! to Doernbecher Children's Hospital on Christmas Eve. Stuffed animals weren't going to cure what was ailing any of those precious wee ones, but love and delight are excellent medicines, and the OMG Friends! had a lot of both to give.

Miscellaneous Cuteness


Related Project

Be sure to check out the OMG Friends' Halloween Mask Activity Sheet project for more cuteness and delight. 

Hug the Universe

Hug the Universe is my blog where I tell stories about my life, share insights that have helped me overcome some extremely challenging life-circumstances, and create cute illustrations.

My contributions to this project include: Creative Direction, Visual Design, Web Design, Squarespace Development, Branding Design, Brand Identity Creation, Illustration, Writing, Copywriting, Marketing Strategy, Character Design, and Photography.


Billy the Flying Elephant


This is a 1-panel comic I created based on the Chinese proverb "people who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."

Behind the Scenes with Billy


A time-lapse video showing the process of creating the flying elephant illustration. 

Super-Buff Unicorn

This is an image I created for my inaugural post and later made into wallpaper as one of several incentives for Patreon supporters. 

Tidal Wave of Joy

Another nugget of delight from my inaugural post.

Bob from Accounting

This is Bob. He's from Accounting.

HTU Brand Identity





HTU Logo Design Sketches

I designed the "XO" in the Hug the Universe logomark to be adaptable to other conventions. This shows an alternate "skull and crossbones" version of the logomark I haven't unleashed on the blog just yet. :)

Drawing Cute Stuff (Time Lapse)

Angry Caterpillar

A stubborn little caterpillar from post 4 of 4 in a series about consciousness research and the hidden determinants of human behavior: Did You Know the Sun Used to Orbit the Earth?

Baby Buffalo

This is the baby buffalo from my post about The Incredible Hidden Gift in Meaninglessness.

Happy World

This is the hero image for the inaugural post on Hug the Universe: Who Else Wants to Live in a Happier World?

Dubious World

This is the hero image for post 4 of 4 in a series about consciousness research and the hidden determinants of human behavior: Did You Know the Sun Used to Orbit the Earth?

Crazy World

This is the hero image for post 1 of 4 in a series about consciousness research and the hidden determinants of human behavior: Why Is the World So Crazy?! The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior.

Donald Trump World

This is the hero image for post 3 of 4 in a series about consciousness research and the hidden determinants of human behavior: Revealing the Hidden Danger in the 2016 Presidential Race.

Confused World

This is the hero image for post 2 of 4 in a series about consciousness research and the hidden determinants of human behavior: How Can We Know What to Believe in Such a Confusing World?

HTU Sign-Off Illustration

This is the sign-off image used at the end of my series about consciousness research and the hidden determinants of human behavior.

The Ne'er-Do-Well

The Ne’er-Do-Well is a literary magazine that publishes what they lovingly refer to as “misfit lit.” The magazine is operated by Sheila Ashdown, a professional writer and editor, and proudly self-proclaimed book nerd.

My contributions to this project include: Creative Direction, Visual Design, Web Design, Illustration, Character Design, and Photography.

Sheila wanted to create a website and brand that spoke to the “oddly universal experience of feeling like the odd one out,” and the challenges writers often experience in pursuit of their craft (things like writer’s block, crippling self-doubt, “get a real job” mentality, and other writerly tribulations).

So, we embarked on a journey to discover how to convey that in a way that was clean, cute, lighthearted, and contemporary (desired traits identified in our discovery phase). 

The concept that hit all the desired targets was that of a black sheep pirate named “Black Baaa.” The concept is literary (pirates), personifies the feeling of being the odd one out (a black sheep), and represents the ethos of “misfit lit” (also pirates). 

Skull & Crossbones

How do you visually combine the pirate theme with the experience of frustrated writers? With a skull-shaped crumpled-up typewriter page over broken pencil crossbones, of course! I whipped up some sketches of this concept, showed it to Sheila, and got an enthusiastic “YES!”

The Birth of Black Baaa

So, what does a black sheep pirate look like? Who knows?! I consulted my sketch pad for the answer. What you see below are some of the sketches that became the final design for Black Baaa the Pirate. 

The Kraken

Every good hero needs a villain, and what better villain for a black sheep pirate writer than a discouragingly critical kraken? 

During the discovery phase, Sheila realized that she's drawn to sites that have “scenes.” So I created a scene for the footer of her website with Black Baaa’s ship battling a discouraging kraken (who apparently only reads bestsellers and thinks Black Baaa’s writing sucks). 

That kraken is clearly kind of a butthead. This was the process of creating him. 

Updated Kraken Illustration

When we updated Sheila's website to launch v.2 I reworked the footer illustration for use as a hero image.

Website Design

Facebook Cover Image


  Sheila Ashdown  Founder & Managing Editor

Sheila Ashdown
Founder & Managing Editor

  Grace Gallagher  Editorial Assistant

Grace Gallagher
Editorial Assistant

Client Testimonial

Before I started working with Ryan, I felt aimless and stressed about my website project. I’d worked with three other designer/illustrators and was never completely happy with the outcome—mostly because I wasn't able to fully articulate what I wanted. (I’m a writer—not so great with the visuals.)

Then I found Ryan, and he totally rescued the project for me. He started with a thorough discovery process that was unlike anything I’d experienced with a designer. He asked all the right questions and had a seemingly magical ability to draw out ideas that I didn’t even know were inside me. And he really listened. The theme he came up with (a literary black-sheep pirate) was totally spot-on. As soon as I heard it, I thought, 'I didn’t know that I wanted a black-sheep pirate theme, but hell yeah, that’s exactly what I want!' I laughed with delight for about 5 straight minutes when he presented it to me.

Honestly, I get a little emotional looking at my website, because I’m just so thrilled and delighted with it, and have gotten nothing but enthusiastic feedback. He put such heart and care into my project, and I feel grateful to have found him.

Sheila Ashdown
Professional Writer and Editor

OMG Friends Halloween Mask Activity Sheet

The OMG Friends love creative projects. They also love dressing up! This is a Halloween activity I created for fans to complete with their OMG Friends adventure plushes.

My work on this project included: Creative Direction, Illustration, Character Design, Print Design, and Photography.

Sketching Ideas

Testing Designs

Final Activity Sheet

Related Project

If you're wondering who the OMG Friends are, be sure to check out this project

Design & Marketing Photography

My contributions to these project: Creative Direction and Photography.

Korakia Pensione

Korakia Pensione is a Moroccan-themed boutique hotel in Palm Springs, California. The client needed to capture the ambiance of the property, showcase various amenities of the hotel, and promote the extensive renovations that had been done by the new owners. 

Core Home Fruit

Core Home Fruit is a pruning and consulting business owned and operated by fruit-growing expert, Monica Maggio. Monica needed photos to use in her marketing collateral, as well as the presentations featured in her popular teaching events.

The Ne'er-Do-Well

The Ne’er-Do-Well is an online literary magazine founded and curated by Sheila Ashdown, a professional freelance writer and editor. The website publishes “misfit lit,” and the branding that I developed for this website features a black sheep pirate called “Black Baaa The Pirate.” 

The image is of a crumpled-up page from a typewriter that I fashioned into the shape of a skull and placed over broken pencil crossbones. This represents the frustrations writers often experience with self-doubt and writer's block. 

View this project

The OMG Friends

The OMG Friends are a family of pocket-sized adventure plushes that I created and developed into a product line. The characters’ personalities and stories include meaningful messages about friendship, courage, creativity, exploration, overcoming obstacles, and accomplishing awesome stuff in the world. 

The product photos needed to communicate compelling things about the characters’ personalities and stories, as well as support things like holiday promotions.