Design Review: Rick Totem

I used the psychedelic aesthetic for my upcycle project, and I am interested in exploring it further. I am planning to go to a music festival this summer that uses a similar theme, and I am planning to create a piece to bring with me.

There is an artifact known as a Totem that many people brings to music festivals. A totem is generally an art piece that is fastened to the top of a long pole, that is carried around at festivals. Totems have the added function of helping groups of people stay together among the many thousands of other festival-goers as they move between stages.

Here are a few examples:

Image result for edm totems

Image result for edm totems

Image result for edm totems


I enjoy watching a TV show known as “Rick and Morty.” One of the main characters, Rick, is a mad genius who takes his grandson, Morty, with him on adventures across universes, dimensions, and even time. I am planning to make a totem with a plushie Rick at the top that is decorated in LEDs. In the final version I plan to make the LEDs on Rick respond dynamically to sound, however, I am not sure that I will have enough time to complete that portion of the project by its due date.

Below is an image of a scene from “Rick and Morty”:


I began by searching online for Rick plushies. While I found various “Rick and Morty” characters, including a Rick head plushie, on a website, Etsy, I could not find an artifact for my totem that I considered suitable. I am currently working on creating my own.

Below is an image of the head, torso, arms, and legs pieces that I have created so far:

The entire Rick plushie from head to toe is a little under 3 ft. I am planning to use two 16-LED neopixel rings that I am going to mount in some glasses for Rick. I am also planning to use around 150 other LEDs, taken from an addressable LED strip, fastened all around his body and clothing. Since the festival is around 12 hours long overnight, I am planning optimize Rick’s electronics to be able to function on battery power for that amount of time.

I have also begun prototyping where to place LED strips on Rick, and below is one example layout:


Festivals, that allow festival-goers to bring totems, outline a number of technical constraints, and additionally, because of the function and aesthetic I am attempting to achieve, I have outlined several constraints in these areas for the totem as well.

Technical Design Constraints

Some of the relevant totem guidelines that the festival outlines are listed below:

  • Maximum height can be 10 feet
  • Totems must be made from a lightweight material (e.g., foam, PVC / no solid metal)
  • PVC, light wood or aluminum poles must be no thicker than 1 inch in diameter.

Aesthetic Design Constraints

  • The totem is attempting to fit within the psychedelic theme, and within the style and aesthetic created by the show Rick and Morty. (IMDB & Images reference)
  • The totem overall needs to be decorated with vibrant colors, in order to fit within the defined aesthetics.
  • From a materials standpoint, I would like to design the Rick plush figure to be squishy, and without any potentially dangerous protruding elements. Along similar lines, I am planning to contain as many electronic components as possible within Rick, and to waterproof any elements that are exposed to the exterior.

Functional Design Constraints

  • The project requires powering a total of 182 LEDs, including a microcontroller and microphone driver (to allow the LEDs to be sound-responsive), and needs to be operated for approximately 12 hours at a time. This constraint mainly relates relates to power management for the light output (intensity) for the LEDs and technical complexity that can be used to animate the LEDs.
  • The totem has a “dancing” functionality that is manually operated by manipulating poles attached to the figure’s hands, feet, and head. Accordingly, the plush figure needs to be built so that the arms, legs, and head can move freely without interference. Additionally, the wiring and components need to be set up to accommodate the same.
  • The size of the overall totem (including the weight of all electronic components) needs to be around 5 lbs or less, and the weight needs to be appropriately balanced so that the totem is not overly top-heavy.
  • All of the electronic components need to be able to be controlled by an Arduino microcontroller.
  • I am aiming for the project to cost at or under $150.


I am always open to new suggestions and ideas! Please leave a comment if you have any! 🙂


Here is a video of a presentation for this project:


References (In order of appearance):

  1. 1st Totem Image:,d.cGc&psig=AFQjCNHAwi7BS4JjZ1fA3YHLOhh-ewwwBw&ust=1488433920182711
  2. 2nd Totem Image:,d.cGc&psig=AFQjCNHAwi7BS4JjZ1fA3YHLOhh-ewwwBw&ust=1488433920182711
  3. 3rd Totem Image:,d.cGc&psig=AFQjCNHAwi7BS4JjZ1fA3YHLOhh-ewwwBw&ust=1488433920182711
  4. 4th Totem Image:
  5. Rick and Morty Scene Image:,d.cGc&psig=AFQjCNGjaqGBcyHBVe5xD56AIeUNqzPvuw&ust=1488434955508762
  6. Rick Body Plushie Image: My Own
  7. Rick Body Plushie with Prototype LED Layout: My Own
  8. Rick and Morty IMDB page:
  9. Rick and Morty Google Images page:
  10. Design Review Video Presentation: My Own
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10 Comments. Leave new

  • […] theme, modified to fit within the Rick and Morty themes created in the show. Please see my Design Review post for more […]

  • Jimmy Speedy
    April 24, 2017 3:34 pm

    I love Rick and Morty! I think its great you decided to embody your project around the show. Seems like you’ve got a good idea as to how you are going about the project by doing some preparation of design like placing LED strips on the characters before actually gluing them on. Excited to see how the project turns out!

  • […] I have made a lot of progress in creating my project so far, and I estimate that I will need about a week to complete it. For more details about the project, please see my design review post. […]

  • Scott I am so excited to see what you will come up with next, because you are so creative. I like that you have a very detailed prototype, which resembles the actual thing you would like to bring. I also like that your inspiration is from something you enjoy watching. It is great that you will be able to take this with you to your concert!

  • Avery Anderson
    March 19, 2017 10:55 pm

    Its awesome to see this project come together a little bit at a time. I think you’re awfully close to being able to pack it away for EDC. I would focus primarily on the LEDs and the Rick aesthetic before you attempt to tackle the sound responsive aspect to this project. That could be a massive headache and I could see you getting bogged down with that, but at the same time, that would be unbelievably awesome. Great Job!

  • Emily Pearson
    March 19, 2017 9:29 pm

    I am loving learning more about you through your projects. It seems like music is a real passion and I love that your final project will incorporate the lifestyle. I also think totem is a unique choice. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  • Jeremy Parsons
    March 17, 2017 12:29 pm

    It would be informative to the audience to understand what the “Rick and Morty style” is. We discussed this in person so you get it. We discussed how you could cannibalize the microphone drive to translate the sounds into the input for your controller. You may consider how timelines will impact the scope of this project. Just in case things get tight, you may have to make a contingency plan and prioritize certain features.

  • This is a great project and I can’t wait to see the outcome. I feel like this project is electronically heavy and could take up a lot of time if you are unfamiliar with it. Also the high heat at raves could cause overheating to some of the electronics. Great aesthetics and idea though.

  • Sam Van Dreser
    March 17, 2017 12:27 pm

    Its great to see a project that you are very passionate about. I love the your aesthetic and I defiantly fit into the theme of raves. You mention having the arms and legs moving around, could you do something with the sound that also controls the movement of the legs and arms?

  • Rick and Morty is fantastic, love the idea. The embroidery is great, super unique way of making it. LEDs will be a good touch for people to find you in the crowd. Sound responsive would be great. This is extremely well planning out.


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