As founder and President of Kidrobot, Paul Budnitz has surfed the rising crest of the limited-edition art toy and streetwear wave. Not only is he the co-designer of Kidrobot's signature Dunny toy and Munny, he also art directs, co-designs, and collaborates with many of today's leading plastic and vinyl toy artists including Dalek, Frank Kozik, and Gary Baseman to create the majority of toys sold by Kidrobot. The son of a nuclear physicist and a social worker, Budnitz grew up in Berkeley, California. By 15 he was writing computer code for video games and safety analysis programs for nuclear power plants. He studied photography, sculpture, and film at Yale University, graduating with honors in Fine Art in 1990. In 1997 he founded Minidisco.com, a digital recording website for which he wrote back-end software enabling him to run the multimillion-dollar business out of his home. He sold Minidisco in 2002 and immediately founded Kidrobot which in five years has grown from a single online store to a multi-million dollar creative corporation that runs three store-galleries in the United States--San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City (with more on the way)--wholesales its line of twenty toys and clothing to over 250 stores worldwide, and maintains a staff of forty. In this interview Steve Heller talks to the designer/entrepreneur in his New York office, where surrounded by vinyl and hoodies he reflects on the state of this burgeoning art the status of his business.
Edited by Randy J. Hunt.