I’ll be joining a killer lineup of folks next week to talk about design entrepreneurship, which is totally a thing now. The panel will include Peter Buchanan-Smith (Best Made Co.), Kate Bingaman-Burt (Daily Drawings), Tom Gerhardt (Studio Neat), and myself.
Thursday, May 16th | 6:30-8:30pm
Kern & Burn: A Conversation with Design Entrepreneurs
"Today’s designers realize that they have all of the skills necessary to create successful businesses and build careers without clients.
This panel will feature candid conversations with leading design entrepreneurs who have founded startups, channeled personal passions into self-made careers, and taken risks to do what they love. Join us as we discuss whether the client-service model is a thing of the past and discover how these pioneers push the definition of design.”
The discussion will be co-moderated by Tim Hoover and Jessica Karle Heltzel, authors of the book, Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs. Leave with your own copy of the book, which will be available for purchase at check-in and during the PostScript after the talk!
This was written for the forward of Kern and Burn, a Kickstarter funded book of interviews and essays from design entrepreneurs, including Aaron Draplin (Field Notes / DDC), Andy McMillan (Build Conf. / The Manual), Peter Buchanan-Smith (Best Made Co.), Ben Pieratt (Svpply / Lookwork / Varsity Bookmarking), and a load of other amazing folks.
I graduated from design school with boundless optimism, jumping from the bubble of university life into a post-recession real world, where hope was a rare commodity. I believed that design could induce change — that it could shape the way we understand and interact with our world.
I moved to New York for a lead design position at a two-person shop and considered myself lucky to be employed, even though we didn’t have a single client. We filled our time with small-scale side projects that we hoped would land us paying jobs. The projects did lead to new clients, and the cash started rolling in. For the first time in my career, I felt like a legitimate designer—but I wasn’t challenged; I was comfortable.
We put a lot of work into making it easy to share your day with anyone and everyone that you care about. Got a cousin with a old motorola razor? grandma only does email? A little sis that refuses to acknowledge anything but a text message? Days makes it easy to share your life across email, text, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. YOur friends and family will see a nice preview of your day, and they can then click through (on both mobile and desktop) to see the whole day in detail.
Happy sharing. Happy days!
Today, we introduce Days, a visual diary for the iPhone that lets you capture each day of your life as it really is: sunny or dark, exciting or tedious, exceptional or mundane—and always unfiltered.
Days is a product I am an incredibly proud of from a team I am lucky to work with. I could write for days (hehe) about what we’ve built. In the near future I’ll post some thoughts about the process, learnings I picked up along the way, and some of the cutting-room-floor stuff that we all like to get a peek at.
But for now, I just want to express a feeling that is hard to put into words. This app feels like something much bigger than the sum of our small team’s efforts. I had my hands in every corner of this app. I know it in and out. And yet I continually find myself surprised. It is thoughtfully conceived, well engineered, and carefully designed. But what gets to me are the unexpected moments of small but meaningful connectedness. It’s been something I’ve been chasing in my product design work and I can say, with humble confidence, that we’ve begun to touch that beautiful feeling.
My dream is to have people working on useless projects. These have the germ of new concepts.
—Charles Eames (via howtowork)
An old illustration found again (courtesy of Build.)
Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.
—Susan Sontag (via stoweboyd)
Days is coming soon and it’s going to be awesome! You can enter your phone number and we’ll send you a text in a couple weeks when the app is ready. Enjoy the extra surprise when you enter your number :)
The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera
—Dorothea Lange (via bijan)
No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time.
While working on an app icon I decided a companion evil version was in order.
I’m guilty of quickly clicking when someone calls design theft. It’s the closest thing to soap-opera-esque drama that an industry full of type and color obsessed kern-wads will ever get to. When we see the fight, we come running like it’s a schoolyard brawl where we’re all secretly hoping for things to get really crazy.
But much of the time these brawls have little substance. If no one has ever told you this, learn it now: YOU CAN’T OWN STYLE. Your job is not to develop a signature style. Your job is to match appropriate solutions to problems.
The decision to apply a specific style to address a specific problem is unique and ownable. Downloading free fonts from (the amazing) Lost Type Coop for a retro rebrand is a lot of fun, and you may be able to make some money in the process, but you don’t own the style. You own the decision that you made when you said “hey, this hardware store brand would look great in a post-war era retro style." And you weren’t the first to fit those pieces of the puzzle together (and from the look of things, you won’t be the last).
The more we try to mark off a little territory, to claim a little bit of the creative process as our own, the more we limit others — especially those young ones who are newly exploring all kinds of wild territory. Encourage creation, share freely, and add enough value in your process that you don’t have to piss all over some tiny little spot in a world of possibilities just so you can claim it as your own.
Design is slowly developing a community of open source minded folks who freely share those useful but non distinct little bits. To be comfortable passing along your files, sharing your secret layer styles, and revealing how the sausage is made takes confidence that you add value at a higher level than the execution layer of a project. Execution is technical, it can be learned, shared, and repeated. The product level decision coming into that execution are where the real value lies.
You can’t own style. Style is commodity. Own an intelligent process for making decisions and you’ll have a defensible and competitive advantage.
* I wrote this a month ago but thought it was timely in light of the Layervault thing. Layervault has been beautifully executed, but Kelly and Allan are also brilliant product guys and that is where they are creating real value. Hopefully this fight doesn’t distract them too much from continuing to create something really valuable.
** Sadly, real design theft does happen, and community support in those cases is awesome to see: Aesthetic Apparatus, Varsity Donuts, The Fox is Black.