Whatever Happened to Kioken Design?

By Deane Barker on June 26, 2003

A friend asked me today about a design firm that was very flamboyant at the peak of the bubble — Kioken Design. They were based in New York, and they did sites for J. Lo, Puff Daddy (as he was named at the time), and others (I would link, but the think the sites have changed in the intervening years).

CNN did a bit on them where it seemed all they did was sit around and play video games (the company was named after a move in some fighting game). They claimed that none of their designers made less than $100K.

Adobe did a piece on them, though it’s undated:

“If you poke your head into New York’s Kioken Design around 9 a.m., the only people you’re likely to find are the ones who have been up all night. In a dishevelled room full of PCs and empty Coke cans, you’ll stumble upon bleary-eyed staff members sitting enraptured in front of a wide-screen TV, locked in various stages of virtual combat as they frag their way through the video game ‘Street Fighter.’”

They were so cool, that I emailed the CNN article to the development group I was working with at the time as an example of what we should aspire to be one day.

Alas, Kioken appears to have gone away. kioken.com doesn’t respond, and I can’t find any recent information on them. Does anyone know what happened?

What Links Here


  1. I think Kioken could still be alive — it’s just their Web site isn’t kicking right now.

    http://www.kiokenuk.com — their UK counterpart is in operation, and the domain name kioken.com is still valid through 2004. The phone book still has them listed too.

    I notice there was a Usenet posting in March from somebody @kioken.com. Nothing since then though.

    Anybody else have any insight?

  2. Folks,

    All I know is, that Kioken was and still the best. Saying they did beatufil work is an understatement. I can’t understand why they aren’t around any more, but I am determined to find out. I am also determined to intern with them. But I fear that I may be too late.

    And when I do I will let you all know, call me if you know anything about them 917 607 5509 Dwayne

  3. They had talent, but their usability was pretty horrible. J-Lo’s first site, in particular was garbage. It was this little box o’ Flash swimming in the browser window. I visited once and I couldn’t figure out how the hell to work it.

  4. I don’t know about the UK co. either. Half the “past projects” examples are dead links and they still have a link to the defunct kioken.com on their front page. Looks deserted to me.

  5. Hi, just stumbled onto this, and when is saw the hope in dwayne’s post i thought it would be wise to help him out :)

    Kioken is dead. They went bankrupt somewhere in 2001. There were a damn good company, and still there work is one of the best around (motown cubixrobotsforeveyone.com are the only two that are still online)

    One of the original founders of kioken is still kicking ass (i’m not sure if he’s still working with the other founder) but you can check out his freaky actionscript wizardry at http://www.joshuadavis.com/ and there you will also find his old work from his barney’s days.

    The kioken UK sucks btw,let it be.

  6. I found this in a cached page on Google:

    “At Kioken, $350,000 will buy you a homepage and five templates – nothing close to a full site; Sony is billed $100,000 a month for a yearlong project.”

    On another:

    “And in the graphic design corner, wearing the greyscale trunks, weighing in at 500K per site (that’s dollars, not bytes)… Kioken(oken-oken-oken), firing clients left and right, and wielding Flash as if the plug-in itself were built into Joe Newbie’s genetic makeup.”

    Still can’t find anything about them filing for bankruptcy.

  7. hi – thought I’d jump in.


    don’t believe everything you read – we didn’t make, nor charged the type of prices people thought we did – barney’s was made for about 50k I think.

    anyway… this story is very long, but I hope I can clear up some small points without writing a novel.

    1. I wasn’t a founder, just an employee.

    2. Kioken was owned by Peter Kang and Gene Na – and they Sold Kioken to a larger Ad Agency (epb) – so kioken was a studio under an umbrella of other companies.

    When the dot com crash hit – we were the only company under the umbrella that was making money, because of this we were supporting all the other companies under the umbrella that were failing – so you can see how over a period of time all the other failing companies would eventually drag us down.

    the final moment was Sept. 11th – the economy came to a stand still and we could no longer support everything and all companies closed.

    1. kioken UK was started by 2 former kioken members, ant & otto, and I think use the name kioken UK as a separate company – having no ties at all to the original kioken.

    2. most original kioken members have disbursed to new projects…

    Pete and Gene worked on a documentary film on the Street Fighter Video Game culture called “bang the machine”.

    Mike Sheppard (who I did motown with) – http://www.baseinc.net is now working at http://www.wddg.com.

    Erik Wysocan (who I did barneys with) – has been jamming freelance stuff – http://www.anyorganization.com

    my assistant – Futaba Hayashi – http://www.futabita.com now works at RockStar Games – http://www.rockstargames.com

    my other assistant – Alex Chen – runs tons of kick ass work off of his site at http://www.carbonatedjazz.com

    And I started my own studio with Branden Hall – http://www.joshuadavis.com | joshua davis studios.

    and there you have it.


  8. WOW, from the man himself!!

    Thanks for the info Joshua, I have myself for a long time wondered what the deal with Kioken was….You guys inspired me so much to learn flash and push it to the limits….even though I am not at that level yet :)

    But all things in due time :)

    BTW love your site, and your concepts

  9. Going through all of the former Kioken employees’ sites drove me nutty. I couldn’t figure out how to naviage any of them. Granted I didn’t spend much time trying to figure them out but why would I? I think all of these people are great artists, and would do great print work, but as far as creating usable websites go, they’re pretty worthless.

  10. I didn’t mention Kai Pham because he left years before Kioken closed. ( I can’t remember how long, but maybe 2 years before kioken closed ).

    and since the thread was about what happened to Kioken — meaning what happened at the end, why did the studio close ? it doesn’t make much sense to mention Kai who hadn’t been at kioken at the end.

  11. I didn’t mention Kai Pham because he left years before Kioken closed. ( I can’t remember how long, but maybe 2 years before kioken closed ).

    and since the thread was about what happened to Kioken — meaning what happened at the end, why did the studio close ? it doesn’t make much sense to mention Kai who hadn’t been at kioken at the end.

  12. Josh is a great designer. I have been following his work since 99′. I met him (heavily tatooed) at a party in nyc, a long time ago (4 years back), I told him that I was attending Pratt, and he mentioned himself as a alumni, and that we were both fellow Long Islander’s.

    Well I dropped out of Pratt (00′), because the internet, and the entire design world was just boring me (along with everyone else). Half of the design world never had a clue about quality design; and got famous from medicore sites, thanks to k10k.net. Since; I attended NYU’s audio engineering program and graduated; enjoying myself as an engineer at ‘the hit factory’, and ‘lobo recordings’.

    As for kioken goes…well there site was NEVER updated! The work they did was pretty solid, but nothing to go ballistic about. I interned at Razorfish which I thought did better work; for 2 weeks untill I quit the whole industry.

    Great designer’s: http://www.gmunk.com http://www.chapter3.net

  13. I love the old Jennifer Lopez site! and all the other Kioken sites! They’re sites were incredible. Too bad Kioken is gone.. :(

  14. Yeah, when I was working at Kioken, a typical day involved browsing through Comm Arts and Print magazines, and then finding stuff to copy. Then we’d sit around drinking Zima all day, and chillin on the phone with designers talking about hip-hop and spinning. It was great, a little b-ball late in the day and then back to getting hammered. Ya know, smoke a little crack too.

  15. kiokenuk site looks similar to hugeinc.com, another NY web dev company of the same ilk (who now has p-diddy as a client – coincidence?)

  16. This is amazing I’ve been a big follower of Kioken and Joshua Davis since 2000… I used to type in http://www.kioken.com everyso often to see if the’ve returned, never knowing what happened to them. I saw that on Joshua Davis site that he had started his own studio, but i also kept wondering what happened to that studio company that inspired me so much to get into the web. Ive uploaded the CNN interview on Kioken to my server so heres the link to it..




  17. Well it’s been a long time,

    Thanks to Joshua Davis who shared some inside insight.

    Listen folks true they may not have been the most usable … but let me tell you i am mainly a designer..not a flash expert like u folks… im talking about their graphic design was incredible (i still use their screenshots as inspiration)…and lets be honest folks, I think I’d rather look at a kioken site than something by pdev…their hot with the flash but not with the design. BIG DIF

    I am also grateful to know other people were as moved by Kioken as I was. Incredible, sure there was a lot of hype and things not being true….but they still contributed alot of I stuff I see.

    Nothing but respect. Thanks to every single one who posted..sorry I’m still stuck on the past but its worth finding out what happened. I also called up Kang & Lee Advertising who couldnt help me out.

    • And I will take that tip “browsing through Comm Arts and Print magazines, and then finding stuff to copy”… if it will make designs as hot as them…

    Take care and thanks to all of u including the opposers..

  18. KIOKEN was the best design studio I ever seen… Joshua Davis was/is my favorite [web] artist. Sometimes I am sad when I am going to kioken.com and it’s down… It’s so sad to me…:(

    Hope I will meet you in a near future Joshua…

    Regards, Vahan [www.avgn.net]

  19. This is probably many years old, but I was quite curious as to what actually happened with Kioken.

    I loved Bad Boy – The Timeline was fantastic.

    Kioken pushed the buck, because someone had to, if the entire world was painted grey “I might like it”, but it would be pretty boring wouldn’t it? :)

    Glad to see your still doing well Josh.



  20. Just to add to this albeit late in the discussion, Kai Pham was the original design director that designed J-Lo, Puff Daddy and Brandy Online which were basically the first projects to get Kioken in the game. He left due to poor management and false promises made to him when Kioken was able to command the type of budgets it did, big duckets and beaucoup dollars never made it to his pocket eventhough he was the man behind the kick-start design. Sounds all too familiar. I looked at the monkey clan site and it looks like they’re still doing some interesting work. Check their news section. http://www.monkeyclan.com

  21. Let me start off by saying, I think it’s pretty sad that kioken is now gone. I’m a graphic designer and have always found their work amazing. Sure, not ALL their sites were “easy” to use at first glance, but I think that was also often their point. They were innovative and really helped push the boundries of web design as we know it. If it weren’t for them (back then), I may have never thought about starting up my own firm, which I am now doing. Sure, we’ve all learned a lot since the days of kioken, and we should remember, they were one of the first to say “The hell with your standard text page and boring layouts, let’s go a little crazy.” Design is exactly that, to push it further, make it something you’ll remember. And that is exactly what they managed, even though many hate their useability, everyone remembers them. Goal achived. Case closed.

  22. Hi, I have always been inspired by kioken.com and I was happy to find this posting. I founded EchoMedium.com in 1999 and always referred to Kioken for inspiration. What are some the better sites out there now??? Any new ones? I hate the 2adv want to be’s. Adam

  23. It was very inspiring to visit barneys.com, badboyonline, motown, and that robot site… i forget the name… i think all you that are denying Kioken of its worth of work don’t understand what pushing the envelope means. This stuff was done when Flash programming was all new… you can’t compare what you’ve seen in the last 2 even 3 years to this… which, at its time, and still today i think, was truly innovative and experimental work being used for client sites used by everyday people… unheard of back then… it’s not like revisiting old flash sites that really suck… you can look back at this work and actually appreciate the design, interaction and development.

    Why knock down such a company just because they’re not around. And whoever brought up Razorfish is just a plain idiot!! Razorfish appeared to be a great company in 1997… but it surely went the route of less creative, let’s make more money and go IPO side of the web… you know, the ugly side… until their bubble popped… Kioken, on the other hand was truly an full on innovative interactive media design company… professional and working with clients that actually mattered to the general public… not some silly start-up dot com uselessness, obviously major industries were taken them seriously.

    Companies go out of business all the time for whatever reason. Usually it doesn’t even matter why, it’s just sad, and it’s also sad that the work sometimes doesn’t last.

    The web, for all its greatness, has a history with an eraser.

    My two cents…

  24. I truly believe that web design and flash development would not be the same today if Kioken had never existed. Name another firm that impacted web design to their extent.

  25. I love it when I see old links =P

    Anyways just adding 2 pennies here for the discussion:

    1- this is Peter Kang, cofounder of kioken 2- Gene Na was/is one of the, if not the best creative directors / interactive designers ever…period. When you move an entire generation of designers onto this thing called ‘futuresplash’, that’s pretty cool. He’s working on insanely amazing stuff with old Mike from Kioken…I hope they make a bajillion dollars 3- we made a movie…it will be out one day 4- Kioken part (2) will be, and is in the works as I type this…keep yer eyes open


  26. Dear Peter,

    Sorry to hear that things didn’t work out. Looking forward to seeing your next project. I heard about your company through your ex-gf’s sister, R.P.. The stuff you guys did was very bleeding edge. The web is changing..everything will go wireless. I hope your next project will incorporate that.

    Tom C.

  27. i just can’t believe that this thread has been going on for so long :)

    kioken must have been an awesome place to work – i have been planning to start a small operation along the lines of advertising – the reputation and level of creativity of the former kioken emloyees puts my plans to shame – i fret not – it raises the bar for my plans

    i’m sure the new kioken will be widely accepted among the creative community and i wish you good luck – even though joshua davis is running solo [to my vague understanding]

  28. kioken is dead! move on! somewhere on the net I saw : ” the best way to predict the future is to create it!” copyright to the designer who said it, dont ask who!

  29. hi im a web designer and i have been inspired by the work of kioken! anyway the official j-lo site by kioken used to be my favorite site! but now http://www.jenniferlopez.com is chainging again and this time i have saved it to my site for future use. i was thinking if anyone had a screen shot or even the whole j-lo site by kioken on theyre computer and would they be kind enough to upload it/them to the web. please i am desperate. thankyou. kioken 4eva!

  30. For readers of this lovefest, I just wanted to disabuse some of the above historical documentation:

    /start quote/

    Kioken was owned by Peter Kang and Gene Na – and they Sold Kioken to a larger Ad Agency (epb) – so kioken was a studio under an umbrella of other companies.

    When the dot com crash hit – we were the only company under the umbrella that was making money, because of this we were supporting all the other companies under the umbrella that were failing – so you can see how over a period of time all the other failing companies would eventually drag us down.

    the final moment was Sept. 11th – the economy came to a stand still and we could no longer support everything and all companies closed.

    /end quote/

    True, Kioken was sold to epb. True, Kioken was a studio under an umbrella of other companies. But to hold out Kioken as the martyr supporting the whole organization is a demonstration of the mutant egos that were bred in that shop.

    Why does a company sell to a larger organization? Especially when it’s at its supposed peak in the industry? Not to make the company greater, but to get out while the gettin’s good. Smart leadership at Kioken saw the end of playtime coming and sold out. Like many companies before and after.

    The fall of EPB can be accredited to poor executive leadership (and the coup de grace of 9.11, even though EPB forged on for another year and a half afterward). The organization was supported, primarily, by traditional accounts (TV, print, etc.). The money-making accounts were coming from markets in DC, Philadelphia, New England, and Florida (Orlando), with NY dragging down the business. But, they were determined to compete in NYC and funneled the lion’s share of assets that way. The only profitable interactive component of EPB (EPB Digital & Direct) was sold to Arnold Worldwide in October 2002.

    So, to quote the author quoted herein, “Don’t believe everything you read.”

    Kioken was a great design shop. Undoubtedly. But they weren’t keeping the US economy afloat.


    that is the link to the old if you had my love version of jennifer’s website.. which up until i think a couple years ago, you could still access by going on to Kioken’s site..which now… doesn’t have any of those links… someone PLEASE bring it back if anyone knows how to…it was a great website and i’d love to see it up and running again….please and if somehow..this reaches any of you from Kioken… PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE bring this website back… it was one of your best works and i’d hate to see it just disappear!!!

  32. Kioken was an awesomely inspiring place to work at and I was honoured to be a part of it, being asked to set up their UK office was anunbeleivable, we inherited alot of the kioken work, Otto and I tried our best but i had to return to greece to finish my military service so Kioken UK ceased to exist, however Otto is jammin bog time at Vodaphone on top secret interfaces of the future.

    Having set up Onyro now in Greece i can tell you all that the “core” team at Kioken is still working with each other on various projects. Gene and Mike are a very close team and in my honest opinion they are simply the best visionaries at what they do.

    There is still a great chance that many of the team will work on a more permenant basis, but the magic and connections we all had during those years was unique and i don’t think any other company has offered that much to the Online design world the way we did back then.

    Its sad what has happened but with business things like these can happen.

    Since then, many companies continue to produce outstanding work and in my honest opinion the web is becoming a more beutifull place by the day.

    lots of love to all and many thanks for keeping the Kioken memory alive.

    Anthony “Ant” Kyriazis http://www.onyro.com

  33. What a f*cking great thread! Ant wussup dude…it’s Peter – nice to see you posting =P

  34. My memory is a bit foggy but here it goes: Close to 8 years ago I was at 3rd floor cafe, NYC and it was in this cafe a few floors down from a space Kioken used to rent, that I met one of the owners. Even, I forget which one.

    We struck up a conversation, he gave me his business card, asked one of the assistants to bring down a company brochure, met his gf at the time who I beleive was a hostess at the bar, had a few laughs…and that was that. Im not about to get into the company itself because back then as I am now, am not too interested.

    If anything, to that aspiring young man I met years ago, Im sorry that to hear your company did not fair well after the bubble bursting as you came across to me, as a very cordial individial. Much success and happiness in all your future endeavors.

  35. Kioken was full of shit. Their sites was unusable Flash crap for douchebags. Good to see this crap disappearing from the Net.

  36. Okay I’m a bit late to the thread but… Kioken was a great source of inspiration and also envy. I remember wondering “why didn’t I come up with that?”; hoping my clients wouldn’t see their stuff and and ask me the same question. I wasn’t even sure how they did it.

    NO ONE was doing that kinda stuff way back then. I have nothing but respect for you guys!

  37. When I was about 12, I’m 19 now, I asked my cousin what he did for work, and he said, “I own a company with my friend called Kioken.” Then I asked him if he was a millionaire and he said yes. I had a pretty good laugh up until I saw him on CNN.

    Kioken was pretty awesome, but like someone else said on here.. “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” I am sure he is currently working on another innovative and visionary project. I’ll be sure to ask him the next time I visit.

  38. This might be years after the fact, and any other post to this, but Kioken presented to us, V3 World at the time in London, and I was utterly amazed by what they did. I will never forget what they said…. We build platforms, and then expand from that. ait was 2001 when we met, and the Flash “Platforms” they created was years ahead of its time. I have yet to find anything today that could rival what they did back then. True genius.

    At the time I was a developer, and still am, and I couldn’t amagine creating what they did in any technology then and now. You guys really rocked!!!

    With all that is done today regarding WebOss’, if you used the platforms you had then, and used it in this space today…. You would still be leading by leaps and bounds…

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