Roberto Hoyos, with the ability to sew in his DNA, crafted seven throw pillows in the shape of the Mac OS X icons. The Apple fan couple is no longer an item — but the pillows are.
Pictures of the plush icons went viral after that Christmas in 2007 and Hoyos sensed geeks everywhere wanted to lay their heads on a soft symbol of internet culture. His company. Throwboy, now has computer icon and emoji pillows in more than 1,000 stores.
“We were both really into Macs and I had printouts of the icons on my wall and I was wondering how to make them 3D,” says Hoyos, 33, an employee of an Apple Store during this time. “I knew how to sew and I thought this would be a cool gift. She loved them and her company blogged about (the pillows). The post went viral and all of a sudden, my website crashed.”
Apple culture is populated with stories of users developing creative uses for Apple devices that change their lives and put them on a path to notoriety or career success. This is especially true of designers who make iPhone cases, tech commentators vlogging on YouTube, and software developers who publish and thrive in the Apple ecosystem.
Hoyos, who currently lives and works in St. Louis, did not exactly code his way to a successful tech company. But he understood what appealed to computer nerds – he was, after all one himself – and he knew how to sew thanks to childhood time spent in Seattle in the attic sewing room of his grandmother, who was one of the original employees of outdoor sporting goods retail giant, REI.
Hoyos had pictures of the OS X icons printed out large and taped to his wall when it dawned on him in 2007 that he could transform them into pillows to be faithful to the Christmas present pact he and his girlfriend made.
It took him three months to sew and stuff the dock icons: Finder, PhotoBooth, iPhoto, iChat, Dashboard, iTunes and System Preferences.
At first Hoyos did everything from marketing to cutting fabric and sewing. He launched a website in 2008, right around the time social media started to take off, and quickly grew a following for his brand.
Two events helped Throwboy gain visibility and ramp up production.
In 2012, he created a limited run of a plush tribute doll of Steve Jobs. If a doll can capture the layered personality of a figure like Jobs, his iCEO doll did and all 1,200 dolls sold out in a matter of days.
“When I was working on that doll, I had a white board with a lot of pictures of him so it worked out through osmosis,” Hoyos says. “The doll had been conceived before he died. We donated some of the proceeds to the American Cancer Society.”
A year later, Throwboy waged a successful Kickstarter campaign that allowed Hoyos to get pillows made in a factory and develop a plan to get them into major retail outlets. Today, Throwboy’s most popular pillows are plush emoji, from kissy and wink to, of course, poop.
The only pillow from the original OS X collection is the smiling Finder icon.
While a bigger company takes the sewing out of his hands, he continues to design each pillow. Throwboy is doing more products in entertainment licensing, including pillows based on YouTube stars’ brands.
Hoyos will soon move to Los Angeles to be closer to licensing partners and once there, he will also launch a new line of Pillow Fighters, which are based on original Throwboy characters.
“I knew that I really loved marketing and I also knew I was an artist,” Hoyos says. “I didn’t know how those things would link. Then the pillows happened and it was a perfect marriage.”
Some of the most common buttons we click on the internet are now in a pillow including blue Like, red Subscribe and free follow. There are also pillows in text-speak such as LOL, OMG and WTF.
The tech culture symbol pillows run $19.99.
There are also candy heart pillows and mini pillow keychains.