Kern and Burn Cliffs Notes: 3 Interviews Worth Reading by Tuesday

I would sound much cooler if I said that I was the kid who put off summer reading assignments until the week before school started, but anyone who’s met me would know that’s a lie. I love reading and I’m a planner.

But this summer, I didn’t make quite as much progress through our chapter’s summer reading pick Kern and Burn: Conversations with Design Entrepreneurs as I’d expected. I’m about halfway through, and every time I pick it up, I find myself inspired and excited by the stories.

These are the top 3 standouts for me so far, and I hope they pique your interest enough to join us bright and early for our Kern and Burn Coffee Talk next Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 7 a.m. Read this post the night before (we won’t judge you) and add your perspective to the conversation (then actually read more of the book because it’s great!).


Kate Bingaman-Burt, p. 44-47
Claim to fame: What Did I Buy Today: An Obsessive Consumption Journal

Quote I loved: “My plan was to figure out how to document my life within the framework of executing a simple task, in a similar way, every day.”

Why it resonated with me: I really loved this concept because I’ve been doing something similar with a question-a-day 5-year journal. Anyone could do something like this, of course, but as someone who makes her living with words, I challenge myself to write something creative more days than not.

I feel like habit and discipline are often underplayed in creative professional development, but we know there’s value in regular practice. I feel like I understood this much better as a student and have to work to make myself more disciplined as an adult. Why is that?


Christian Helms, p.56-69
Claim to fame: Frank

Quote I loved: “I could call [business partner] Geoff in five minutes and say, ‘We’re starting a show store in Waco,’ and he would be like, ‘Fuck yeah we are; let’s go!’ It’s a nice balance between the two of us, where I’m like ‘Slow the fuck down!,’ and he’s like, ‘Let’s run real fast at the wall.'”

Why it resonated with me: Christian Helms’ claims to fame extend beyond Frank (a hipster-friendly beer and hotdog venture), but I gravitated toward this endeavor because it was one of my favorite places in Austin when I lived there. I had no idea a design entrepreneur was behind it, but it makes perfect sense.

This interview (one of the longer ones in the book) made me laugh in public. More importantly though, I admired the energy he felt toward the people he collaborates with. The man is exploding with love for what he does at the same time he recognizes where he needs others to round things out. It just made me want to grab the most talented friends I have and make something.


Peter Buchanan-Smith, p.94-103
Claim to fame: Best Made American Felling Ax

Quote I loved: “To me, the best designs of anything, whether they are digital or physical, are made by people who understand the limitations. I think the digital world has gotten so overrun and cluttered with everyone out there trying to prove that they can do things that medium simply can’t do.”

Why it resonated with me: I work in a digital agency, so it’s rare we create something physical. At the same time, I love printed pieces and I know a large chunk of our AIGA membership does as well. My perspective is that while I love working on the web, I also appreciate that each medium has its own strengths and limitations—and there’s nothing bad about that.

For instance, I wrote about the value of both printed books and e-books recently on my own blog, and it was great to hear someone else with a similar philosophy. Print and digital aren’t at war—they serve a similar purpose in different ways.


Kern and Burn has been lovely weekend and before-bed reading for me, and I’d highly recommend picking up the printed edition for its lovely soft-coated cover. I’m so eager to hear what stories resonated with you—if you can’t join us, let us know what you think of the interviews in the comments below.

By admin
Published September 9, 2013
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