åApril 2013

How did the project get started?

  • background is in architecture and design from Iowa State
  • graduated in 2006 and worked at Gensler in Santa Monica
  • while he was there he got into this problem of putting together a lot of presentation boards
  • wanted to use graphics to visually communicate these ideas
  • when he was doing a lot of sketches in college he hit a rut where he couldn’t find a subject-matter to draw that inspired him
  • so decided to draw the simple things that inspired him when he as a child
  • started drawing sequoias, trains, trucks, combines
  • in 2008 he got laid off
  • then decided to try to get this idea off the ground
  • the workflow in architecture is very fragment: you design everything and then you build it
  • he tried to bring this same mentality to build a website but found that it works very differently
  • with a website you start small and build from there, and you correct along the way
  • it’s much more user-centric



  • at the beginning they sold these “noun shirts”
  • one of the problems when you’re just getting off the ground is inventory
  • if you stock a lot of inventory, the cost is lower, but if you don’t sell you lose
  • if you stock too little and a lot of people but, you’re out of stock and you lose that momentum
  • with Kickstarter you would know how many people purchased and then you’d get the stock, thus removing all the risk
  • the backers that invest in your idea are really invested in your idea and really want to support you
  • an amazing brand-building exercise and an amazing community-building campaign


When you wree initially building the site were there a lot of suprises, things you didn’t anticipate?

  • initially he was building a solution for a problem that he experienced
  • but right after he launched he got a lot of emails from educators and doctors, saying that they were really helpful for their work
  • that excited them to changed their mindset from it just being a graphical resource
  • they wanted these symbols to become more of visual communication tools and social objects and not just visual objects


Where do you see some of this graphic language going as a means of communication? What symbols do you feel are really new?

  • it’s one thing they’re not doing as good a job as they could and that’s why they’re trying to develop this API system
  • they want to allow their symbols to be shared like that
  • through the api they’re going to create some games that’ll test user comprehension


One color icons? Do you think of ever introducing color, or animation, or dimension?

  • as a a foundation, they’ll always have it as black and white
  • they want to allow people to give their visual interpretations of these concepts
  • and through technology they want to offer up the one that’s most popular


Do you ever kick anyone out?

  • struggled with what their threshold is
  • they have a pretty hands-on curation process


What happens if you receive a symbol that means something somewhere else in the world, do you accept it?

  • they see where the symbol comes from first and then might ask the person to explain it a little bit
  • they do want to accept icons like that


Did you build your own platform? What technology is it built on?

  • used a lot of web standards at the beginning but built it back in with django
  • Scott knows these things better



  • redoing that at the moment
  • right now they have a noun paired with an icon
  • but they want a one-to-many relationship
  • they’ve creating a tagging system


4 Lunchtime Conversations          

Just love this.

4 Blog          

The fund

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Designer Founders is a book series that interviews designers about the path they took to create tech startups. Our first edition features the designers who founded Pinterest, Behance, fuseproject, Slideshare, and theicebreak.
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4 Blog / Resources       J        

I spoke about this experience in class, but thought I’d share some photos from the Stillwell Book Collecting Competition, where I was one of six finalists.

View the competition entry here.

4 Finished Proposals / Outline      b 1       

There are 2.5 weeks until the last Call for Proposals class. We’ll have a final review with outside critics on May 14. Representing the viewpoint of business and fundraising will be Owen Johnson (Betaspring) and Greg Victory (RISD Careers). We’ll have one or two GD critics as well. If any of you have other critics or guests that you feel are appropriate, let me know of feel free to invite them to your final presentation.

As far as course requirements, I have maintained that I expect three proposals and one final project. These four pieces may overlap in terms of what content they are working with and for whom they are targeted.

I’ve posted a video of Guy Kawasaki talking about the 10 mistakes of entrepreneurs. One being the mistake of not prototyping when you can. I think that’s good advice. His talk is about 35 minutes, then the rest is questions. You should all check it out.

I want to meet with each of you individually on Tuesday to help assess what you should be presenting and bringing in on the last day of class.
There is a sign-up sheet on the class website. Edit the post and put your name in. Note, early meetings are longer. You only need to come to class for your individual meeting and the lunchtime conversation. This week we’ll have Edward Boatman, founder of The Noun Project, via Google Hangout.


4 Emailed          

9:00 – Carly is the werst(bratwerst)
9:20- Justin Chen
9:40 – Mr. Anther Kiley, MFA
10:00 — Break
10:15 – Carlos
10:30 – Elie
10:45 – Jen and Anne
11:00 – Kaveh
11:15 – Daniel
11:30 – Jay

4 Blog          


Work for Hire

  • herman miller gave them a brief and they had a design fee
  • they worked with their design and engineering team with a solution that they had already developed
  • the paid them upfront and they owned the results of it
  • this is a different model from licencing



  • licensing is a form of IP exploitation
  • relationship between licensor and licensee
  • the licensor maintatins the intellectual property but gives the licensee exclusive use of it
  • as the licensee makes money off it the lincensor gets a cut of the profit
  • certain companies are open to licensing deals
  • consignment is a different model where you have a good to sell and then a retail partner
  • licensing is a way to focus your time the way you want to, i.e. design
  • more risk than work-for-hire but more proactive and less risk than trying to produce and market the thing yourself


Who is a licensing partner?

  • different ways you can think about it
  • it happens in a lot of different industries (e.g. movies often license songs)
  • it’s a company that produces and sells the product
  • but it might not be a company that manufactures, they might just market and hand off the production to somehone else
  • a lot of brands are also licensed out to producers (e.g. Tommy Hilfiger)



  • compensation works through royalties
  • a percentage of each sale
  • in his industry you can expect less than 8% royalty on wholesale
  • it’s small because the company making the investment is taking on a lot of risk
  • ideas are cheap; implementation is expensive


The Manila Notebook

  • likes doing furniture and product work that he feels personally connected to and invested in
  • as a designer it’s tough to earn a living from one product
  • in addition to work he’s passionate about, he has a side hobby of things he’s not connected to but finds to be a fun challenge
  • began working on this series of notebooks
  • tried to spend as little time as possible on it (really want to expedite the process)
  • just wants to get it out there and see if it stuck or not
  • started in september of 2010 with silly brainstorming
  • all these ideas are working toward this pitch model so they could go to trade shows
  • created this formula of pun-like objects (e.g. tap measure shaped like a roll of tape)
  • wanted to just get things to the point that they could have a conversation around it
  • January 2011 was a trade show at the Jacob Javitz center in new york
  • presented several ideas


Is there any fear about stealing idea?

  • there is a little bit but they’ve developed enough of a relationship with these companies so they feel like they can trust them
  • the companies asked for specs after the trade show (March 2011)
  • the specs weren’t precise since the the manufacturers are more or less going to do what works for them so they’re just trying to get the specs in the ballpark
  • prefers that in agreements with these companies his name isn’t associated with the product
  • doesn’t want his identity being so bound up in the work
  • the manila notebook idea isn’t really patentable so it’s mostly based on trust more than anything
  • in general trust is still stronger than a contract since contracts are only as good as one’s ability to enforce them


Other than going to the gift fair, are there other ways to approach companies?

  • email is problematic because these companies are already getting tons of emails and it’s a really hard way to get noticed
  • it’s better if you have an in
4 Lunchtime Conversations          

(made me think of Jay, Carl, & Daniel’s Proposal)

4 Blog          

The Free Art and Technology Lab is an organization dedicated to enriching the public domain through the research and development of creative technologies and media. The entire FAT network of artists, engineers, scientists, lawyers, musicians and Bornas are committed to supporting open values and the public domain through the use of emerging open licenses, support for open entrepreneurship and the admonishment of secrecy, copyright monopolies and patents.

4 Blog          

w Google Eyes
Tue, Apr 16

This is the final proposal that I’m sending out to people I’m interested in interviewing or getting involved with my project to explain what I’m doing. I’m blogging about it over on why-we-make.com with vague plans to make a book in June.

why-we-make pdf proposal

4 Finished Proposals          

A new permanent work by Berlin-based artist Aram Bartholl at the Thomas Leeser-designed Museum of The Moving Image in Queens, New York bridges the gap between digital and physical space, challenging the intangibly of today’s world of cloud computing and instant downloads by adding a sense of materiality to data-transfer. Engaging a medium that is quickly becoming as outdated as the Laser Disc, DVD Dead Drop, a slot-loading DVD burner embedded in the exterior wall of the museum is ready to burn you a hand-picked digital art exhibition, media collection, or another piece computerized content curated by Bartholl. Just insert a blank DVD-R and let the art begin.


4 Blog          

The archivists requested a donkey, but what they got from the mayor’s office were four wary black sheep, which, as of Wednesday morning, were chewing away at a lumpy field of grass beside the municipal archives building as the City of Paris’s newest, shaggiest lawn mowers.


4 Blog