Brothers Sam and Josh Riley work in the creative industries, but being required to be creative on demand left them feeling frustrated. The art school graduates wanted to express their inner child without the restrictions of client briefs.
Together with friend Andy King, they played around with a number of concepts, focused on bringing their art school background into the digital world.
“Today the internet is mainly used as a source book for accessing information, or for voyeurism, or just for banal titillation. Our vision was always to go back to basics and to use it for creation,” they say.
Currently in beta, Monkeys Elbow is a responsive site that provides users with an opportunity to ‘scratch that creative itch’. Project themes are provided and rotated on a regular basis: users are encouraged to ‘choose a challenge, create an image, express yourself’. Using a specific hashtag, the user uploads their photo to Twitter which then gets picked up by Monkeys Elbow technology.
Andy is also the co-founder of ‘Visual Voice’, a real-time social media monitoring platform. The partnership between these two businesses facilitates the operation of Monkeys Elbow. Its technology provides users with a ‘low-friction’ way of engaging with the creative briefs, and gives Monkeys Elbow a quick and simple way of processing the data. User generated content is sorted using hashtags as identifiers, and is approved with a single click from a moderator, before being published to the Monkeys Elbow website.
The team have worked hard to ensure that the themes are open to interpretation, and it shows. Current themes include ‘Selfie+’, ‘Lost Toys’ and ‘Fast Art’ and although still in beta, the galleries are already being populated with interesting pieces of content.
Over the next few months, the team will be building a community of contributors. Later, they hope to secure partnerships with larger organisations, such as the Tate, and to monetise the site through tailored themes with events and brands.
Monkeys Elbow show that not all startups need to be about brand new ideas. They utilise the web for the adaptation of the old and innovation of the new; bringing the freedom of art school into a digital world.