Last year, Adam and Joey, the guys at Baron Fig, did a project on Kickstarter for a run of their beautifully designed notebooks. The project was wildly popular, and the books are now being produced. We caught up with them to hear about how it’s been going since then.
What are your backgrounds like, and how did this lead you to the idea of Baron Fig?
Joey: I’m a graphic designer. Before Baron Fig I did design for other people, which was always a delight — but at the end of the day I didn’t own what I was making.
Being a designer has given me a huge appreciation for process. The magic doesn’t happen in the beginning or the end, but in the middle — and only if we’re open to it. Baron Fig is about celebrating this process.
Adam: I’ve had a wide variety of influences in life. The year before college I spent volunteering with Americorps in California. In college, I studied both computer engineering and business. A summer internship at the Corvette factory showed me physical products being made. After college, I worked in the stock market for [awhile]. While I found great mental engagement, I wanted to create something.
I’ve known Joey for a number of years and we often talked about paper, notebooks, and theories of creativity. I have scores of notebooks on my shelf, but always used pieces of each and then moved on. There was never quite the perfect notebook. We thought we could take all these small improvements and transform it into a physical, tangible product that hasn’t seen much innovation in years.
You explain the meaning of your name on your site with the ideas of discipline and impulse — Baron stands for Apollo, and Fig for Dionysos. So, who’s who in your company?
Joey: Great question. I can honestly say we both balance discipline and impulse pretty well. There is no crazy half or stolid half. It often happens that we’ll have opposite reactions to the same thing, which allows us to balance each other out in discussion. Sometimes I jump up and down, sometimes Adam does. Except maybe on launch day — I’m pretty sure we were both jumping then.
Adam: Joey is about 60% design and 40% business. Meanwhile I’m about 80% business and 20% design. Product we jointly work on designing and producing. Joey is amazing at design and does all the primary work on the website, design campaigns, marketing, and social media. I focus on the manufacturing, distribution, finances. One of our biggest strengths is having a variety of influences and examples. We’re able to draw on our backgrounds and experiences we’ve had in the past from design to finance to manufacturer and marketing, so we’re both able to give input all areas of the business.
How important is design to you, in the everyday sense?
Joey: For me, design is an ingrained perspective. The curiosity in wanting to know how things work — and understanding how they work in action —was never something I woke up and decided to assimilate. I just love it. I can’t get enough.
On an everyday level, the design of objects and processes is something I’m constantly paying attention to. And I have a perpetually nagging desire to fix or create where I see design lacking.
Adam: Design is something I always loved from being a kid. It always amazed me how a mass merchant like Target could take a lamp selling for $20 and make it look beautiful. There’s something to the design aesthetic that makes a product much more accessible. In my life, I greatly appreciate that.
Who is your audience, and how did you connect with them?
Joey: We spent a lot of time and energy on designing the notebook, which included a lot of back and forth with people around the world. They all answered one simple question: “What do you like in a sketchbook or notebook?”
What’s happened since the end of the Kickstarter project?
Adam: We finished the Kickstarter in the beginning of October and delivered the books to our 4,242 customers worldwide in the beginning of February. While four months may seem like a long time, it was an extremely busy and interesting period.
I strongly suggest to all potential Kickstarter campaigns, that they do a lot of preliminary cost work before launching the campaign. We got quotes on production and shipping before we even launched. Its essential to make sure you price your item appropriately. We met with a potential Kickstarter campaign in our studio last week. While the person had thought through the reward tiers, there was much less thought put into what the actual costs of delivering those rewards. That’s crucial if you want to be successful beyond the campaign.
What are you working on next?
Joey: We’re actively taking feedback from all of our users and moving forward accordingly. From the beginning we’ve said that Baron Fig makes “Sketchbooks and Notebooks designed with an underlying philosophy of simplicity, usefulness, and community.” We stress the last part —community — because we’re very much dedicated to being open with our users and making products that are truly designed for people.
Adam: This is just the start. We are a very early and young company. Our mission statement is “To champion thinkers in their journey to create and inspire the world.” We have plans to go along with that.