Good Fucking Design Advice

Jason Bacher and Brian Buirge have created a resource for no-BS design advice and kick-in-the-gut motivation

Business by Design + Community + Stories We're Obsessed With
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April 9, 2014
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Great ideas are born out of genuine stories, whether it’s a life-changing experience or a friendly conversation over coffee. For designers Jason Bacher and Brian Buirge, their story began with a 14-dollar domain name that has now made a huge mark on the design community. What at first was a funny idea shared between two guys has turned into a movement for courage, creative pursuit, and living a life wrought with passion and inspiration. Sprinkle that with a few choice words and you’ve got Good Fucking Design Advice.

 

GFDA is a thousand steps away from your typical design business firm. A resource for no-BS design advice and kick-in-the-gut motivation, it aims to encourage designers and creatives to get up and take action on their creative gifts. To dig deeper, Jason shares with us the premise and core mission of their brand:

“What are we trying to create? What is our goal? I speak for Brian when I say that we’re trying to make people realize that they have more than capabilities, that they have gifts and they should identify those gifts and they should take action on those gifts. If there’s something you’ve been thinking about or wanting to start, we hope to at least be the fire in their ass to get things going, because it’s a shame to live a life where you’re not doing the things you love. As cliché as that sounds, everyone should at least have one goal at living a better life, a life that they are pursuing their passion.”

The site’s inception back in September began with 25 pieces of design advice grounded on the fundamentals. Make it bigger. Make it smaller. Make it red. But instead of settling, they took it one step further by using the eye-popping F- word as a way of capturing people’s attention and gaining traction. Who knew that such an idea would soon gain so much attention online. 500 visitors grew to 70,000 visitors, eventually reaching 320,000 visitors and 3.1 million page views by the end of its first month.

“It was pretty shocking to us to have made something out of nothing, and more importantly to have made something out of such a small opportunity, a problem, that was presented over the conversation and a cup of coffee.”

Indeed, GFDA didn’t unfold with a 5-year plan or at a fancy design studio in New York. Working from their basement in Ohio, Jason and Brian did all they could to turn their unique idea into reality while juggling graduate school, client work, and teaching classes at Kent State University.

“Being partners in crime, Jason and I sort of had a sit-down moment and we’re like, ‘Okay, there’s no way we can do client work, teach classes, finish grad school, write our theses, and run GFDA at the same time. So we had a good handshake agreement, and in the Fall of 2012, I took over everything except writing Jason’s thesis. He graduated in December and then we switched. In the Spring of 2013, he took care of everything else and I wrote my thesis, and I graduated in May. That was just the only way we could figure out that we’d both manage to finish grad school.”

Their partnership and loyalty to the cause is absolutely admirable. In fact, we think GFDA would never have happened without it. Today, the brand is 50% retail, 50% content as it continues to grow into a valuable “resource within the design community.”

Dipping Their Toes in Retail

Lots of people reached out to Jason and Brian about the possibility of selling products.

“There was one person in particular that kind of propped [the idea] up, “ Jason recalls. “She reached out to us (she was a photographer) and she was like, ‘Where are your fucking T-shirts?! Where are your fucking posters?’ and we’re like, ‘Well, uh, we don’t have any.’”

The decision was certainly a step away from their comfort zone, but these guys saw it as an opportunity to learn something new. And rather than just printing and selling same old inspirational advice, they made sure to keep the product line’s focus on GFDA’s unique style and voice.

“A lot of the products are derivatives of our advice. We try to keep our product line very curated because it’s too simple in an inspiration state to see a promotional company that’s just printing advice on everything. We try to make sure that our products are usable and relevant and can be something that designers and creatives and anyone looking for inspiration can fit into their everyday lives.”

While the idea did spark interest and excitement, setting up the store and conceptualizing the first round of products was far from easy-peasy. They initially didn’t have the money to invest, so they did a pre-sale for Photoshopped JPEGs of what the actual product would look like. Bottomline: the overall experience wasn’t a pretty one.

“We learned a valuable lesson that you can’t really build a store in one night. Like that’s a freakishly idiotic thing to try to do. And that just shows you how much ignorance we had and how much we thought we could take on, and how hungry we were to try to turn this into something bigger.”

And that’s what we love about these guys—their brutal honesty about the challenges of running a business and their own shortcomings as founders. How often do you meet successful entrepreneurs who aren’t afraid to tell both the good and the ugly? For sure, they’re not gonna let these bumps on the road stop them from doing what they do.

Comfort and Security: The Anti-Creation

Getting into the heart of the conversation, we asked Jason and Brian for their insights on their biggest successes and failures.

For them, there are no rules that will tell you exactly what or how to do things. “I see how people do things often and then I go home and do it my way own way, and they still work out or they work out better. There really are no rules to the way things need to be done.”

It’s all about keeping an open mind and “reinforcing that in your own mental process.” It’s being willing to take risks, even if it scares the pants out of you.

“Those risks got you somewhere and it would be a mistake to take a few risks, and then be comfortable, and just stay comfortable. That’s how you kind of get stagnant.”

Finally, it’s never allowing yourself to feel and remain comfortable. You gotta push yourself to the limits, to do things that will allow you to broaden your perspective and gain experience.

“Comfort and security is the anti-creation,” Jason shares. “If you’re in those situations, you’re not putting yourself in the right place to do your best work. Whenever we feel that we’re getting comfortable, we open up the door to possibility and try to find ourselves a solution to shaking up our environment or changing the way we’re doing something in order to stay fresh and agile.”

How they are able to survive the pitfalls of their business is a testimony to this. From a 3-day poster-printing marathon over Thanksgiving to broken mugs in transit, Jason and Brian have had their share of catastrophes and failures.

Despite it all, they remain steadfast with the cause to continue to inspire people to take action and live a life pursuing one’s passion. They’ve changed lives and helped people realize their dreams, and that in itself is a huge success for GFDA.

“The fact that people never gave up on our cause, that to us is a major push to keep waking up everyday. Because a lot of times, when you’re working online solely and you don’t see people everyday, it’s easy to get motivated and grow uncertain about direction and objective of what you’re trying to do. So, keeping in touch with people on social media, email, phone calls, all that stuff is so well appreciated. That’s a big motivating factor for us.”

Their advice? Don’t sweat it.

“Everything seems to work out as long as you’re doing the right thing and you’re working for a good cause, don’t sweat it. It’s definitely going to come together.”

The Pledge + What’s Next for GFDA

Besides extending their retail reach across Europe, Jason and Brian hopes to further develop their brand into a reliable resource for people drawing from different branches of design. In short, a lot more content creation and collaborations with other designers around the country. They’ve also got new products for their store and a few crazy ideas in the works, so you’ll want to stay tuned for that.

The Pledge is another exceptional way you can contribute to the cause. Inspiring people to participate in the movement, the pledge is you owning a part of the GFDA brand and taking a stand for your value and uniqueness as a creative. If you can take that first step towards believing in your gifts, for sure “no one would ever fucking look at _____ the same way again.”

You can download, print, and sign the pledge and submit it for the entire community to see.

Love this story? Be part of the conversation and share some Good Fucking Design Advice!

If you’re looking for great books to jolt your creative and entrepreneurial spirits, Brian suggests The Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. “It’s a book that I constantly return to for light inspiration and advice at various times. Every time I pick it up again, I learn something new and the world around me.” For Jason, he refers to Burn My Portfolio by Michael Janda as a way of digging deeper into the design business and validating his own ideas. Finally, you’ll also want to check out Design Currency by Jenn and Ken Visocky O’Grady, a great book for creatives in need of solid advice on how to define and promote the value of their work on both the aesthetic and entrepreneurial level.

There’s so much you can takeaway from Good Fucking Design Advice, and so we’d love to continue sharing more of the good with you! For more awesome stories on Business by Design, sign up for our newsletter for weekly email updates.

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