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A Ngo Star is Born
New era of creativity sparks exponential storytelling in a global community.
Ngo Ai is a character who travels through the multiverse on her ship "Deep Dream" with her faithful dog Pixel. She is a positive and versatile character who is used in a number of community collaboration projects.
What’s in a name?
Her name is a combination of "Ngô," a Vietnamese given name, and "Ai," a Japanese given name. Together, Ngo Ai is a counterbalance to the “No AI” sentiment and represents the love of the generative art community.
How do you pronounce Ngô in Vietnamese?
The proper Vietnamese pronunciation of Ngô requires practice of the ŋ-sound. The most common Anglicized version of Ngô is pronounced as "No/Know," which is different from the Vietnamese version.
In Japanese, Ai is a feminine given name written as:
あい in hiragana
アイ in katakana
愛, 藍 or 亜衣 in kanji.
It can mean "love" or "affection" (愛) or "indigo" (藍).
It all started with a joke.
“Midjourney only generates these today,” @blank_horizon laughed, referring to an image inspired by the wave anti-AI images trending on ArtStation.
“That’s not actually a statement against AI, it’s their new mascot, Ngo.AI,” @aiartsplunge joked.
Thus, the seed was planted.
“With all the ArtStation craziness and the big movement against generative art. I started thinking… what about a movement to gather around the opposite sentiment? What if we encouraged generative art?
So, I started working on prompts,” Splunge says.
prompt: character bio and profile for a beautiful young woman named Ngo Ai
Image: the first iteration of Ngo Ai. Courtesy of @aiartsplunge
Greater than the Sum of Her Parts
Generative artists often go through hundreds of iterations, fine-tuning their prompt as they go to achieve output that matches their vision.
Ngo Ai evolved similarly as fusion of ideas from collaboration projects.
“I kept thinking it’d be cool to have the generative artists all feeding the formulation of the prompt that everyone can then use as a base. Though… they may or may not have realized their contributions at the time,” Splunge jokes.
“For example, I did a solarpunk collaboration with @ai.jenny.art with a solarpunk girl. After I had gone through the Wikipedia page dedicated to cyberpunk variants and generated all of the variants as prompts, of course.”
“I really liked the vibe of a positive view of technology and the future [of solarpunk].”
“I had another collaboration with @skie_brats who gave me the ‘band-aid on the cheek’ detail in that image. It always stuck with me as a cool detail, so I included that as well.”
Oversimplified, the iterative process of creating Ngo Ai looked something like this:
Added solarpunk style and bandaid on cheek
Added dynamic poses, purple and gold futuristic clothing
Added glistening skin, adjusted gold for orange, added dynamic poses
“Orange was a way better fit than gold, and this was when I had an idea of what she looked like. A little more shuffling around of the prompt and Ngo was born.”
“In some of the first images, I used 'glistening skin’ because it often generates really nice dynamic lighting and good images that look alive. I didn’t like how the word looked in a prompt I’d be sharing though, so I deleted it. Just the word glistening, though. So, the resulting prompt actually has this weird ‘skin’ in it which everyone nicely ignores.”
GET-A-PROMPT (OG skin version)
character bio and profile for a beautiful young woman named Ngo Ai. Ngo Ai has a solar punk style with blue hair, skin, a big smile and a band-aid on her cheek. She often wears purple and orange futuristic shorts and jacket and strikes dynamic poses. She loves to express her creativity through any tools and medium she can.
Modify this prompt to create your version of Ngo Ai.
Building on Connections and Collaborations
Getting Ngo Ai out to the world was nothing short of hard work and human connections.
“I was doing a lot of collaboration projects with folks, so in my very first post about Ngo, I tagged a bunch of those people in the image. I sent some follow up DMs to see if people would make versions. Someone posted it as a challenge, rather than a tag, and said, make these and tag others.”
“That was the moment.”
“It spread from person to person, each tagging more people. And it wasn’t long before people started making them even without getting tagged because they wanted to join in on the fun.”
The fun didn’t stop there. With esteem, the generative art community began building and adding layers to Ngo’s life.
Pixel the dog, and Deep Dream, the spaceship.
As Ngo gained traction, new elements of her life were brought to the surface.
Splunge says, “@soccos_midjourney added a cute purple German shepherd and we workshopped the name together.”
“I kept grabbing the bits and amplifying them since folks kept pointing to my account in all of their posts, so I could be the distribution source for tacking on pieces. Then there are some other bits and pieces. Like her Deep Dream was in the lore of a post from @nibo.art saying she explores ‘the latent space’ and lots of other AI puns.”
A Village Named Kane.
“Kane Spero has been a giant front-man promoter, he pulled in a bunch of people, made a ton of videos, reels, and posts that raised visibility. The man is full of absolute tireless enthusiasm, and he’s an all-around decent guy,” says Splunge.
“I love this community so much, it’s very fun and encouraging and supportive. The people are always inventing cool new ways to collaborate.”
Kane says he ran into Ngo when someone posted their own version, “It was @liamhartt.aiartist. At the time, I had just started a project called KiraAI where I was using ChatGPT to generate image prompts and text. I loved the community theme of Ngo Ai and I was thinking a collaboration with the two AIs would be neat.”
“That person was like, hey check out Splunge, he came up with Ngo Ai. I went through and saw that a handful of people had made Ngo in their own styles, and I ran into Splunge’s full original prompt. Some folks can be a bit guarded about their prompts,” he says. “So, the open-source nature of Ngo Ai really struck a chord with me.”
“Then, I shared every post that someone made for Ngo Ai that I could find, and I reached out to my contacts with a message to get them involved.”
“I remember when my account was really young, I was excited to show up in a story share, so I wanted to give people that feeling, and it just became a daily thing.”
Share to Instagram story
Talk to people making Ngo and encourage them to share with others
“I also knew Splunge would need someone to campaign for Ngo that wasn’t himself. People can be suspicious of something that seems self-promotional. It’s a normal human response. So, I just kept running that cycle until we switched to the New Year campaign.”
“I love generative art and it brought me back to being creative when I hadn’t really been motivated to do so. The thought of it being taken away by angry artists made me incredibly sad. But, I also knew artists were having a real, normal reaction to change,” Kane says.
“Ngo and her message of love and creative freedom no matter the tools was a perfect counterbalance. Respond to hate and fear with love because artists are our allies, and we are theirs. Their response to AI was like the response to photography. Essentially, people are just going the predictability of the change curve.”
“Ngo Ai is a way to help people through the change curve,” Kane says.
“Provide a supportive way to model a response to the anger, provide direction to the community on how not to respond with anger, and demonstrate how to embrace hate with positivity.”
An Avid Practitioner of His Own Beliefs
“One of my favorite things to do when someone posts something angry on my feed with No AI messages, I’d respond and wish them WILD SUCCESS. Then, I’d go to their art account and find posts I genuinely liked. I’d like them, comment about what I liked, and hoped they continued to thrive.”
Kane developed a guide using one of Instagram’s built-in tools to demonstrate how many ways Ngo Ai could take shape. Check it out here.
Happy Ngo Year
“When we started getting closer to New Year’s Day, some of us were talking about doing an event. We eventually settled on #HappyNgoYear2023 and the idea to make an Ngo version of yourself or post Ngo to your profile in support. At this point, I made a campaign video to hype up #NgoAiMascot.”
“At this point, I had my highlights and a rolodex of every artist that made a version of Ngo… so I pushed up my sleeves and messaged every single one of them individually about #HappyNgoYear2023. Over 200 people, I think.”
Kane made a promotional video for that experience, too.
“When people asked for more information, I’d talk about Ngo, and what it meant, and why they should participate. Keeping the prompt open source was key. Not only did it make it possible for the community to interact, but it also allowed people to learn how to prompt.”
“How you could tell a story with a prompt and modify it to take ownership—it just hit me in one of my core beliefs about this community. We learn and we grow together,” Kane says.
“You might say I’m a Ngo Ai fanatic. And I continue to do my collaborations, and any community I join, I spread Ngo Ai’s message. At this point, it’s just been awesome to see others pick up Ngo Ai projects and I do whatever I can to support, but I always do my best to link them back to Splunge.”
“I’ve also been editing the join #NgoAiMascot video to include all of the prompts that expand Ngo’s story, from Pixel the dog, to the Deep Dream ship. That way, people can have fun with the campaign and most importantly, they can make their own creative visions in their own style while still capturing that joyful essence of Ngo Ai.”
“One of my favorite parts of Ngo has been how she takes on any size, color, or shape. She’s not bound by anything but the limits of creativity of the community, which to me, is pretty much infinite,” Kane says.
“And one thing we really want to hammer home is that every artist, no matter their tools or medium, is welcome to the Ngo Ai movement.”