Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs


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Product, design and life in SF.

Our collaboration forced us to communicate and defend decisions. Ergo, it takes trust in yourself and in the other person. It helps when a good collaboration has a sense of playfulness too.

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Jess: Collaborating on a thesis project is fairly unheard of at competitive graduate schools. MICA does a wonderful job of accepting students from a wide range of backgrounds. Tim wanted to start a business, and I wanted to start a magazine. It was a natural partnership; it just took us a little while to come to the conclusion to take the leap and collaborate.

We knew that we wanted to discuss topics relevant to designers interested in starting their own business—and in order to create something on that scale, we needed each other. Is there a link between your interest in entrepreneurship, design, and collaboration?

Tim: Definitely. Design is the process through which we communicate and create value for others. Entrepreneurship is applying the right constraints on a problem to make it sustainable over time. It is also a lens to understand design through a more objective viewpoint. Collaboration facilitates all of this and allows it to happen on a larger scale. Jess: The dynamic of the collaborators is a key factor to whether or not a business succeeds.

Visual communicator on a mission to do good well.

Opposing qualities—such as a broad approach versus day-to-day details, technically minded versus artistic expression, messy studio space versus an organized desk—add up to form the bigger picture of a working relationship that is balanced by these variances. The success of our partnership has always worked because we are different. Tim and I have different technical skills, priorities, work methods, and stress-levels, but those differences work in our favor because they force us to challenge one another. We love the name Kern and Burn because it represents each of us so well: Jess is the Kern detail and execution-oriented and Tim is the Burn ideation and big-picture.

Entrepreneurship and collaboration are linked through design for us. We believe that designers are perfectly positioned to be entrepreneurs. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and this is, everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, youll never be the same again. I discovered the real opportunity for designers is to not only shape the world and decide its path, but to provide ways for others to do the same.

This book is an ode to creators and builders, those who have found their vision and pursued it with force. What these entrepreneurs have in common is that deep down, in their hearts and bones, theres something a bit spiritual that stirs them. It moves mouse and mind, and it produces pixels and poetry. We put tools into the hands of improbable artists, helping them build communities and connections, and chart paths that encourage creativity and foster influence.

These unlikely makers come from all corners of the world and have diverse backgrounds and upbringings, but the products we create provide ways for them to reach beyond their immediate context and tell stories about the people they want to be not just the people circumstances have decided they are.

Theres a moment when they, too, can come to believe their work might, in some small way, influence how others see and interact with their environment. As developers of these tools, communities and pathways, we get to design that moment and shape the world. In , seven of the worlds top scientists, engineers and physicists set out to convince Robert Noyce a brilliant year-old Midwestern physicist to leave their jobs at Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory and join them in a new business venture.

These seven men were some of the best minds in electronics, and they knew their collective abilities far outweighed the opportunities presented to them at Shockley, a Palo Alto, Calif. They also knew they needed Noyce to lead them.

Entrepreneurial Tips

They were taught to believe in the ideas and vision of their employer. Hierarchy was king and traditional values celebrated loyalty. Risk and entrepreneurship were reserved for the privileged few. When Noyces attempts to convince his colleagues to stay at Shockley failed, he joined them, and the group announced their plans to quit. They received a letter from their superiors that read:.


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You have essentially turned traitor. You have broken what everyone knows is the contract that you make when you start working at a company, which is: Youre there forever. Youve changed the rules of the game and youre never gonna live that down. The groups decision to leave Shockley was unprecedented. They looked for outside financing and charged forward into the unknown world of entrepreneurship, with trust in their brilliant minds and one another. They gave up security and a consistent paycheck to build products and a company based on their own ideas and beliefs and earned a new moniker, the Traitorous Eight.

Sherman Fairchild an inventor, serial entrepreneur and son of IBMs cofounder, George Winthrop Fairchild came to the groups aid as their financial backer. They founded Fairchild Semiconductor, commonly known as Americas first venture-backed startup. In a few short but unpredictable years, under Noyces leadership, Fairchild grew to become the leading producer of technology in what was then known as the Santa Clara valley and nurtured employees who founded more than of their own companies, called Fairchildren, over the next 20 years.

Moore, opened in under the name Intel. Based on Noyces original integrated circuit innovations, Intel developed memory devices and went on to create the worlds first commercial microprocessor chip in Santa Clara Valley became known as Silicon Valley, and our world changed forever. More than 40 years later, we live in what Robert Safian describes as a place where the future of business is chaotic and impossible to predict.

Employees no longer sign up to work for companies for their entire careers they work in uncertain economic times; they watch as traditional institutions struggle to find new structures to fend off disruptors, and they listen to warnings of a dim future.


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There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all of this, it is that there is no pattern. Safian calls those who succeed under the pressures of todays conditions Generation Flux. What defines GenFlux, he says, is a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates and even enjoys recalibrating. The status quo is an obsolete framework for innovation, so there is little choice but to invent new ways of doing things.

And invention is no longer reserved for the worlds best and brightest scientists, physicists and engineers. It took Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory to bring together eight minds that forever changed our world, but today the Internet has connected us all.

Alexander Osterwalder, How to Intentionally Design a (Lean Startup) Culture, LSC15

We have the tools to collaborate, to educate ourselves and to build the things we want for our lives we are the inventors of our day. Online learning communities, crowdfunding platforms and social media outlets have removed barriers and increased the ways people can define and share their stories.

Tim wanted to start a business. He wanted to build a resource for designers to learn about business.

grain editKern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs

He wanted to capture the excitement of today's shift toward entrepreneurship. Tim said, "Let's do it. We met and talked with designers about their lives, their decisions, and their aspirations. We asked them about their failures and successes. We asked them about their hustle and the passion to do what they loved.

We posted interviews, essays, and inspirations on our blog, the Days of Design Entrepreneurship. We asked designers to share their stories with us, and in doing so, we gathered perspectives to encourage others to think about how they too can design a life for themselves. We challenged our peers and ourselves to learn from others, believe in themselves, and think about their lives as a design problem. Throughout the process of running the Days, I learned so much from just talking to people.

It was a constant challenge to craft pieces of writing that I hoped would do justice to the insightful and thoughtful commentary that we received. Beyond the rigors of publishing a daily blog with posts upwards of words a day, conducting and managing interviews, schedules, and timelines, I had to contend with the rigors of collaboration. Tim and I work very differently. I focus on details, and he sees the big picture.

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I refine and edit, and he is more likely to publish before the writing is ready. We both work hard and are passionate about what we do. I am the Kern, and Tim is the Burn. I just ran a crash course in Business , in real-time, with zero business experience.

Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs
Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs
Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs
Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs
Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs
Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs
Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs
Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs
Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs

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