Original Interview: February 2015

Kevin Finn

Today we chat with the Brisbane design king himself, Kevin Finn and learn all about his awesome side project DESIGNerd. Kevin has collaborated with some big names…Sagmeister and many more. There is even an awesome free app so you can buff up on your design trivia on the go or play it at #TDKtuesdays!

How did you come up the the genious idea for DESIGNerd and how has it developed since its birth?
I had been thinking about a graphic design trivia game for many years, right back to when I was Joint Creative Director of Saatchi Design, Sydney. So in 2010, when I moved to Brisbane from Kununurra (a remote town at the top end of Western Australia and where I had lived for three years) I decided to develop and produce a design trivia game. But I knew it needed an appropriate name. I settled on DESIGNerd, because it reflects my own design enthusiasm and I felt it would connect with other enthusiasts. But rather than develop a generic graphic design trivia game I decided it would be more interesting, more educational, more valuable and more beneficial to approach significant designers and ask if they might consider creating their own signature volume. To provide some structure I settled on 100 questions. I also felt including bonus questions would be fun, so the name 100+ was born. It was also incredibly humbling that Stefan Sagmeister, Steven Heller and Lita Talarico were very enthusiastic about DESIGNerd 100+ and they created the first volumes. (Volume 3 by Sagmeister; Volume 2 by Heller & Talarico.)

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Can you share with our audience how you mange your time between your studio and your side projects, and how have you turned them into businesses of their own?
It’s always a juggle. The time I can put towards my initiatives is often dictated by my client work, and sometimes when I am busy with client work my initiatives have to take a back seat. My design journal Open Manifesto is a good example. The upcoming issue (#7) is almost complete but, for various reasons, it is nearly a year later than I had originally hoped to publish. It has been difficult finding time when also running an independent design practice, and considering each issue of Open Manifesto is between 250 and 300 pages.

In terms of making initiatives business ventures, Open Manifesto has been going for 10 years but I never really considered it as a business initiative, in terms of creating a viable revenue stream. It has always been about seeking knowledge – and sharing that knowledge with readers. However, I am currently looking at ways to make Open Manifesto more financially viable and I’ve also approached DESIGNerd with the same mindset. I believe both initiatives offer immense value and I am determined to continue them both. But in order to do this in a sustainable manner, they need to provide a return on the time and investment they require. By making them financially viable I will be able continue them, but more consistently. And I would advise anyone with a personal initiative, which they are passionate about, to look at ways they can monitize it. There is nothing more rewarding than pursuing an initiative you are passionate about and having a revenue stream that allows you to do it for a living.

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Wow, you have collaborated with some seriously talented international designers! How have you created and maintained these relationships?
It is incredibly humbling for me to have been able to genuinely connect with some of the worlds most influential and significant designers – and many global thought leaders, as well. I never imagined this would happen. It is my nature to be as genuine, authentic, humble, and honest as possible, and this seems to resonate with people. But I also know that if these people didn’t truly see the value in Open Manifesto and DESIGNerd, they wouldn’t become involved. So it is incredibly important to look at the value you offer people and then to foster a genuine relationship around this, rather than seeking a quick outcome. I am also a big believer in having good manners.

Who are your next range of collaborators and what can we expect from them?
Open Manifesto #7 will include contributions from Ji Lee, Creative Lead at Facebook; Edward de Bono, whom I believe is the father of Design Thinking; Adam Grant, author of the incredible book Give & Take; Dan Everett, an American linguist working with a remote Brazilian Amazonian tribe; and Helen Palmer, a cultural tourism expert; among others.

For my latest initiative, DESIGNerd Presents, I was also hoping to bring Ji Lee to Australia for a speaker tour, which was due to happen next week, but we had to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances. However, Ji and I are planning another date later in the year and we still hope to make this happen.

In addition, we are working on new DESIGNerd 100+ volumes with Vince Frost, Debbie Millman and Lucas Lopez, an Argentinian designer who will focus on South American design.

The original DESIGNerd 100+ volumes were created as collectable volumes in printed tins and they are aimed at the advanced player. However, none of the new volumes will be developed in a collectable tin as we are now focusing on the app versions, which have multiple choice options, hints and Did You Know? facts.

Website: www.designerd.info
Kevin’s Studio: www.thesumof.com.au
Facebook: /DESIGNerdTrivia
Twitter: @TotalDESIGNerd

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