When Josh Rubin and Evan Orensten met twenty years ago, did they ever imagine their partnership would result in the inception of the iconic media brand COOL HUNTING? This episode offers a glimpse into their journey of evolution at the intersection of the internet, content, and design—not to mention the twenty-year partnership of the men behind the helm. Explore the captivating world of digital design in our latest episode. This episode was recorded in the NeoCon Podcast Studio, powered by SURROUND and Sponsored by SnapCab.
AJ: [00:00:00] Hi, friends and listeners. I’m back with a special episode to prelaunch season two of our podcast, Once Upon a Project. We’ve been working really hard over here at Surround Podcast Network, putting together a second season that will knock your socks off all things design. In the meantime, we recorded this little gem with our good friends.
Josh and Evan from Coolhunting. We were all at Neocon, so we thought it would be fun to record live in the Surround podcast studio. If you were at Neocon, you might have seen us recording the interview on the first floor. Evan and Josh have an amazing podcast called Design Changes. Together, they explore the creative processes and inspirations that drive legendary designers.
With a behind the scenes look into their careers, challenges, and philosophies. And, as you likely [00:01:00] know, I host Once Upon a Project. So we’ve done a bit of mashup, and it’s resulted in a very heartfelt and entertaining conversation. We also thought this was too good to make you wait. So lucky you, we are releasing this episode as a prequel to our upcoming Season 2.
I’m Ajay Paran, Design Futurist with Sandow Design Group, home to many of your favorite brands like Interior Design, Metropolis, Think Lab, and I’m excited to say, Design Milk. Once Upon a Project doesn’t just celebrate The pretty pictures of a finished design project. Instead, we dig into the nitty gritty to understand the story behind the project.
And that includes why people design, what inspires them or what drives them to create. Today, my good friends, Josh Rubin and Evan Ornstein, the founders of Cool Hunting. Share the story of their design passion and [00:02:00] ultimately the business they built, not to mention their epic love story. Cool Hunting is a digital media company that focuses on all things design, from bespoke creations, to unique artisans, to next generation cars.
Both Josh and Evan come from design, so they do get into some pretty interesting design projects. The media brand focuses on anything and everything. Cool. From cutting edge technologies to exquisite historic crafts from remote areas, if it’s inspiring, they cover it. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll let Josh and Evan tell you their origin story.
Evan: I’m Josh Rubin, and 20 years ago, started an editorial platform called Coolhunting with my husband Evan. And today, editorial’s still the backbone, but we do a lot of studio work. Evan and I had been together for 24 years. We weren’t married at the time. I don’t know. [00:03:00] We kind of felt like we were married within the first
Josh : week.
We met through a mutual friend. Josh was interested in working at Razorfish where I’d worked and he was just graduating grad school at NYU. And as a courtesy to my friend, he’s like, you know, my friend’s really interested in working at Razorfish. Would you meet with him? And I was like, you know, I’m in New York five days a month.
It’s not my priority, but of course you’re a good friend and I’m going to meet your friend. I’ll give this person an informational interview. And Josh walked into my office and it really was love at first sight. I mean, we connected on a level that was just like the big bang in my office. Um, um, Um, But it really was love at first sight and, you know, we had a really instant and very deep and profound connection.
That materialized pretty quickly. Well, and there’s part of the story we don’t often tell. We were in Chicago when this happened. So we had lived in New York and loved it. We went on a brief stint in Chicago. And we’d been there a little over a year or so when this was started. Lesson number one, [00:04:00] we didn’t start GoHunting as a business.
We didn’t start it as a public platform. It literally was an archive of design research. So you have to go back to 2003. And blogging software had kind of just come out and was pretty, like, pretty much a new thing. It was also free to use. And there just wasn’t a lot happening so much on the web from a publication point of view.
And if you were someone who was really creative… You lived for that day of the month when you went to the mailbox and your favorite magazine came in and then you cherished it and then you had to wait a month to hear what else was going on. Yeah, it was easy to get sports and other kind of like daily news, but a lot of other publications hadn’t figured out how to use digital media.
That really wasn’t on our mind though. What we looked at was, hey, blogging software is here and it’s a free and easy way for us to archive our research that we were doing every day at our jobs. And I think [00:05:00] if Pinterest was around then, we probably would have used Pinterest. But it didn’t exist yet. So
Evan: it’s really easy to look back and realize that we wanted a way to digitally archive stuff that we were excited about.
And other creatives and other designers probably have that same wish. So instead of just making one thing for us, we could have, should have made.
Josh : Pinterest. And that was a lost opportunity, Josh, it really was. There’s a whole
Evan: other episode we could get into about being too early to things and, and maybe our joint autobiography is called Too Early.
We tend to show up really early. We want to find the new and the interesting and, and we get excited about it before the world really even understands it.
Josh : So we’d sit in our kitchen, we’d talk about the day and the things that we found, and we were very both engaged in that. And then Josh was like, let me just kind of write this down.
And so he would do it in blogging software and it was like Josh Rubin slash cool hunting. And I think it was like three or four weeks into [00:06:00] it, I was getting really annoyed because I was so excited to just talk to him about what my day was like. And he was like, stop. I can’t do anything until I sit down and write this down.
You know. And it literally was like a matter of weeks when I was like, if we don’t do this together, if this isn’t a journey that we both go on, it’s going to drive us apart. And that’s how we kind of started both collaborating. What we realized is that we were both more organized. So, we weren’t like bulletin board people posting stuff up.
Evan: being kind. I make tons of piles and am pretty messy physically. Evan actually is really well organized physically. More, okay more so. But my, yeah, my folder structure on my laptop has always been… Peckable.
Josh : Yeah. Better than mine. My desktop’s a mess.
Evan: P. S. My background is in digital design, and [00:07:00] I was spending even more time, like, redoing the templates.
Then actually writing stuff though that was mostly happening on the train to and from work
Josh : But anyway, and if this was not again, this was a very personal thing This was not intended in any way to be a magazine or a publication or a blog It was just a personal archive of design research And we never felt
Evan: a need to, to hide it.
So it was always just out there on the internet and people started to find it. And through word of mouth, it developed an audience and we had the opportunity eventually to start to build a team around it.
AJ: Now remember, back 20 plus years ago, digital platforms were in their infancy. Blogging was the inception of creating influencers, but in a much more authentic and organic way than today’s TikTok stars.
So how did a passion project? That emerged to feed their creative souls, turned into a real business.
Josh : When we started Quill Hunting, we were in Chicago at the time, and we moved there [00:08:00] from New York City. Evan was
Evan: working for a media company based here in Chicago. I was at Motorola building a design team focused on UI UX because it was at a point where phone screens were starting to get large enough where layout really mattered more than ever.
Josh : And in fact, Josh got to work on some of the very first, like, larger screen, touch screen based phone. And this is 20 years ago. CoolHunting was born
Evan: as this way for us to capture things that we were inspired by. And it continued to be a side project for many years. It was a side
Josh : hustle. It was, I mean, it wasn’t even a hustle.
Evan: It was just like a side output. It wasn’t, like, we weren’t thinking about it as a
Josh : business. But there were these moments we had when, you know, I remember, I wasn’t that long into it. When Josh was like, oh, wow, there’s, there’s a hundred people reading this and we’re like, what? Who are these people? How did they find it?
[00:09:00] Why would they come here? And those moments of like, then it was a thousand people and then it was ten thousand people and it was a hundred thousand people and we’re like, Wow, it was such a, a barren landscape for people who are interested in what was happening in the design world because everything else was just a print edition that came out once a month or once a quarter.
Evan: as it developed an audience really quickly, we realized that it was a valuable source for Other creative people to be informed, to be inspired, and to learn about things they may not have ever seen before, or designers they’ve never heard of, or places that they might wanna visit one day.
Josh : So we moved back to New York in 2003 and we brought on an intern, and that intern had come out of journalism school.
And she was awesome. And then we find out, you know, someone knew what they were doing. And we [00:10:00] did a lot of ways, and she’s like, Hey, let’s structure it this way, let’s talk about these kinds of things. And then things just kind of blossomed from there. And that intern became a full time employee. We, we started to have a much bigger audience.
Some advertisers called us and they were like, Hey, would you want to, you know, do something? And we’re like, yeah, that’d be great. And we started down this journey looking back over these 20 years that in so many ways was really pioneering, right? We came from a company called Razorfish. Where we had met through Razorfish.
The tagline at Razorfish is still one of my favorites ever, not just because I had a hand in writing it, but everything that can be digital will be. And I think that’s a mantra that’s still true today, right? If you think about the last 20 years how so many industries have changed completely and we knew that we could have some kind of publication online that was digital first.
We never intended to have a print magazine or [00:11:00] newspaper or whatever. It was like this is only gonna be digital. And the future of digital publishing is not display hats. Like, we projected in 2003 the future of advertising was going to be online. And we knew then that it was never about display advertising.
We kind of predicted every single milestone that’s happened over the last 20 years. We just knew there were better ways to have a digital only publication and to monetize that. Given
Evan: that we had entered this world of media not as journalists and not as media professionals, but as designers and strategists, we just looked at it really differently.
And one of the first big brands that approached us to advertise was Absolute. And they wanted to buy banner ads. And they wanted to spend a lot of money. And we’re like, well, we understand banner ads. We. We don’t have enough inventory to give them as much as they’re looking to buy. And we [00:12:00] also think there could be a better way.
So we responded to them proposing that we make content and call it out as, as
Josh : sponsored. And in particular video, and we had started doing a lot of video work in 2005, we got a phone call one day from Some went at Apple. Everyone was loving this thing called the iPod. The new version of it had a screen in it.
And they said, we, we have this thing called podcasts. And if you made a video podcast, and it was good, and we liked it, we’d like to include it in the, in the content area of
Evan: iPods. And there were no promises, there was encouragement. So we started making a weekly series, it was just simply called Coolhunting Video.
They were mini documentaries. We thought of them as four minute long features. And each one was [00:13:00] visiting an artist or going to a factory or meeting people in a design studio and telling their story. And this was our first podcast. It was a video podcast and we were very fortunate that Apple liked it and featured it and promoted it and that was the beginning of one piece of the puzzle that created our content studio and our overall studio work and it wasn’t long after we launched that video podcast that we received an RFP from Absolute wanting to buy banner
Josh : ads.
And it was the biggest RFP we’d ever seen.
AJ: So Josh and Evan were now thrust into the world of digital advertising, and they fully admit they had no idea what they were doing. But what they were very good at was looking at what other media companies and magazines were doing, and I mean big name consumer magazines, you all know the names of, [00:14:00] and seeing how awful their sponsored advertising was.
For those of you that don’t know, Sponsored content means the brand is asking the media partner to write it and create the content, and they pay for it. Sometimes it can look great, and other times it can look pretty awful. Josh and Evan knew they could do better than most of the sponsored content they had seen.
That became their drive and their opportunity to build their
Josh : business. And Josh and I talked about that a lot. We’re like, if we had money from a partner, our content, which looked good, It could be even better because we could take that money and hire a better photographer or we could get on a plane and go somewhere to shoot it.
We could actually spend that money and invest it to make even better looking content that followed the same style and had the same level
Evan: of, of editorial integrity. [00:15:00] Again, we did not come from the media world. The whole idea of a wall between edit and sales, we learned about later. We just didn’t know that that was a thing.
We didn’t have backgrounds in journalism. Like there’s so many foundational lessons and philosophies that people who come up through the traditional channels in the media world learn. We didn’t have those. We didn’t know. Yeah.
Josh : So we were making videos. We get this RFP and we went back to them saying, and this was headquarters, this wasn’t just like the local New York media agency.
This was a headquarters RFP. Coolhunting was always international, by the way. We’ve always had a very global audience of creatives. And um, we went back to them and we said, Hey, absolute, you, you’re such pioneers in advertising and marketing. You do such interesting things. We don’t want to do, you know, display advertising.
We want to do custom content for you. And because this was controlled [00:16:00] by them and not layers of media agencies, they were like. Hmm. Interesting. You want to make videos that are sponsored by Absolute? We’re like, yeah, we do. And we think we can make some really compelling content around that. And that was how we started down that path.
And it took us years of so many meetings with so many brands when they said, let’s work together. And we said, great, we should be doing custom content. We can do that in so many ways. We can do events. We can make products together. We can do product collaborations. We can make videos. There wasn’t a web supported publication team.
It was like, well, we have PR. And we have advertising.
Evan: And advertising was all about filling out a media plan and completing the spreadsheet.
Josh : And the agencies were totally agnostic. So it was like, well, the PR agency only dealt with free content, earned media. And the advertising agencies were focused on the kind of media that they could measure.
Outdoor, [00:17:00] TV, radio, magazines, print, right? So this was so early on in this ecosystem where no one knew where digital media. Advertising, if you will, or paid media lived and who owned it, who owned it within the organization and for these larger companies who had multiple agencies, like what agency could the PR agency have paid content to?
Like that funny to talk about today, but 18 years ago, these questions were not resolved at all. So it took us years of meetings and pitches and explanations to say, this is why we think content is a great way for you to get your brand messaging across. Our audience loves it. Our team loves it because they get to go even deeper and have more resources to do an interesting story because the budgets were bigger than they would be from an editorial perspective.
And from the beginning,
Evan: we’ve always been transparent with the audience about when something is paid for. [00:18:00] You know, that’s, that’s, that’s been super important. We were hosting an event for a brand partner, you know, maybe our fourth or fifth year in and someone afterwards came up to me and said, Oh, by the way, I just want to let you know That sponsored piece you wrote about, I don’t even remember what brand it was.
Like, I loved that. I love your sponsored content. It’s really amazing that you’re doing such great work. And I was kind of floored, I’m like, put you up to this. Do you work at the brand? What’s your agenda here? Like, that doesn’t make sense. It does not compute. It’s great. We left our jobs working for other people within the first couple of years of cool hunting, having an
Josh : audience.
We realized that the market had matured enough that we could live off, we could actually have a salary. Which we hadn’t ever taken from CoolHunting if we just went and went all in because digital advertising had kind of matured and the audience was big enough that we could actually earn money that way.[00:19:00]
Evan: world of online advertising was constantly changing and sometimes in ways that we were excited about and other times that we were not. And it was a good idea for us to diversify revenue. So the studio work that we were doing sometimes for our advertisers, we started doing for brands. Even if they weren’t advertisers, we started doing a lot more product collaborations.
We started hosting travel experiences. We started selling those product collaborations.
Josh : Our point has always been like what’s needed and what’s needed is not probably what. Everyone else is doing so if you are at design week or art week or fashion week and everyone is throwing a party or whatever Why do you want to throw a party when five or ten of your competitors are doing the exact same thing looking for the same?
Exact people to be there and a lot of times what’s needed or interested or desired by the people who are there It’s different and by sticking out a little bit and not just [00:20:00] replicating what everyone else is doing, I think is really interesting.
AJ: When working with big clients, there’s always an interesting story or an interesting ask that is made of you.
So I asked Josh and Evan, what’s the craziest thing a brand has ever asked you
Josh : to do? There’s one story
Evan: from the early days of making videos for brands. It still was a world where everyone in the ecosystem was trying to figure it out. And there was this one situation where we made a video and did all the proper steps to get Permissions and releases and what have you from the people and the places and all that, but there was a shot
Josh : with ducks.
And what happened during the time between like when we started the project and when it was like ready to be reviewed, there was a new legal team at this very large international company. And the legal team had a note and [00:21:00] the project manager there at the brand called and said, Please don’t, I’m just a messenger.
Um, we need a release from the ducks that are in this shot. There were ducks flying by and ducks in the pond. And they were like, are those owned ducks? Do they belong to someone who has that pond? Or is it a municipal duck pond? Um, if so, we need a release from the municipality. And then we need a release from the ducks.
And we just laughed, and we’re like, is it April 1st, like, what are you talking about? And then the lawyers were like, no, we need a release from whoever owns those ducks. We’re like, they’re just ducks that live in the wild. We don’t know who their manager is. It’s not gonna be so easy to get a release. And this went on and on and on, and where it ended was like, for some reason, it was kind of a pivotal moment in the video, and everyone loved it.
Evan: were in the background. And what was in the foreground was critical for the storytelling. So we
Josh : couldn’t cut the shot. And so where we ended up after a lot of negotiation was the brand said, we’re just going to pay for this. We think it’s great. Take our name off of it. [00:22:00]
AJ: So if you’ve been wondering what’s so cool about cool hunting, I mean, Josh and Evan sound pretty cool, but come on, we’re all getting old here.
What are they doing now and what makes
Josh : them cool? There is another pivotal moment for us and for cool hunting. One day we get a phone call from our friends at Ferrari, and they say, Hey, we want to talk to you about something. We’re like, sure, what’s up? Is it a drive? You’re hosting a drive? You know, let’s talk about it.
And they’re like, Nope, this is something different. Um, can we meet up in New York? So they say, Hey, let’s set up a meeting and we’re going to bring the head of design, you know, who we’ve met before, named Flavio Manzoni. So just to set this right, this is in mid December 2019. This is right before the holidays.
We’re in New York City. We are in something we didn’t know a whole lot about, we had written about previously when it launched. It was Ferrari’s customization program or customization studio called TailorMate. [00:23:00] And they had three studios, still have three studios around the world. One is in New York. One is in Shanghai and one is in headquarters in Maranello in Italy.
Ferrari asked us
Evan: to push that tailor made program further and harder than it had been pushed before. They wanted to give us the opportunity to design a car. We got to pick which car. Not the physical exterior design, but color, material, and finish. And gave us a lot of room and a lot of opportunity to come up with a concept and a direction that we were going to be excited about.
Josh : at first, we were like, why us? You know everyone. Why would you ask us? And they said, you know, if we went to a typical automotive publication, we could close our eyes and tell you exactly what the car would look like that they wanted us to do. And not that it wouldn’t be nice, but it probably wouldn’t surprise anybody.
And, by the way, it would also kind of piss off other platforms in that category, right? If one title got it, they’d be [00:24:00] like, hey, why’d you give it to them? That’s such a big thing. And they said, you guys have a different experience than everyone else. From the design side, you know, you probably know more about cars than any other design publication does.
And this is really a design project, more than anything else. You could really push us. But we
Evan: responded to this opportunity, you know, obviously we were super excited, you know, said yes right away without asking very many questions. We’re like, yes, we’ll do it. This is incredible. Because you can’t
Josh : say no.
Evan: I can’t say no.
A no is my word. You’re the yes man. Um, but. I’m working on it. Um, yeah, you’re getting better with the nos and I’m getting better with the yeses. We had just come back from hosting a trip in Japan where we brought 24 guests to meet different artisans that we’d collaborated with on our last product collection.
So we made a bunch of different things, I think a dozen different things with artisans in different parts of Japan and we were selling those things for the holiday. We’re still very excited [00:25:00] about that project and our time in Japan and introducing people to that place.
Josh : And so we’re sitting around the table and Flavio looks over and he’s like, so taps the table.
What are we going to do? What’s your idea? What do you, what would you do? And we kind of look at each other and we’re like, Japan, we just came back from Japan. We have, we know a lot about what’s going on in Japan right now. We spent two years researching and producing this trip and making products with all these artisans and we were wearing, we were both wearing denim that day.
We love real indigo products. So we were like, what would you say if we wanted to work with Japanese artisans and indigo as kind of a key starting point? For this collaboration and Josh, I believe right then and there was like what if we did an Italian and Japanese love story? And and we kind of just came up with this But then we realized the more we got into it and discussed it that both cultures while they express these things incredibly differently Have an incredibly deeply rooted [00:26:00] Historical, national passion for design, for craft, for tradition, for honor.
And they execute it differently.
Evan: Very, very
Josh : differently. They both believe in it. And everyone looked around the table and they were like, this is actually a really good idea. We weren’t sure what that meant. We weren’t sure how we’re going to pull it together. And it took a long time. Two and a half years.
Evan: It took a little bit longer because of the pandemic.
Josh : That made the face to face time that would have facilitated these things. Much harder, but where we ended up with was working with the tailor made team based at headquarters in Maranello we spent a lot of time with Sylvia Cavallaro who’s head of color materials at Ferrari and Pretty much oversees all the custom products or custom collaborations that happen within the tailor made program So we started coming to them with some pretty crazy things [00:27:00] One of them was a weaver friend of ours In Japan, when
Evan: a kimono has met the end of its desired use.
It’s often disassembled and cut into strips and rewoven with new cotton or silk in a process that’s called succiori. And that resulting material is, is quite durable and it looks great. But it’s much more of a utilitarian element than a celebratory element like a kimono may
Josh : have been. Right. And historically, I would say, not a precious or premium material at all.
This was just reusing. It was upcycling because why would you ever throw anything out? If something has more use to it, find a way to use it again.
Evan: And we were really excited about introducing this idea of upcycling and reuse to the luxury automotive world, to a Ferrari customer, and being able to celebrate that.
And the fact that it is a more durable material meant that we could use it [00:28:00] for lining the entire interior of the car. And there was a, a lot of back and forth to figure out how to make it automotive grade. So instead of reweaving it with silk or cotton, it ended up getting rewoven with automotive grade nylon.
And that Sakiori material, which was created by one person and one loom in Amami, Yoshima, south of Okinawa. It took Hajime three months to weave. To make
Josh : 30 meters or so of fabric. And as Josh said, you know, it didn’t take weeks to figure out. This was months and months to figure out how to make it. There was a ton of tests about making it.
They have to be viable enough, strong enough to meet all of the production requirements for having a material inside of a car. And I think this is a really important thing for people to understand. Ferrari has this long history. They’d always customize their vehicles for their owners. You bought a car in the 1950s, it was like custom made for you basically, but they weren’t used to…
[00:29:00] using a whole suite of things that had never been done in a car before. And we wanted to make things really special, and every part had to have a story to it. And it was this marriage of, how do you take the best of things that are happening from these craftspeople in Japan, how do we, if necessary, bring them to Italy to do something else to them, to make them, you know, work in the car, and then how do we get them viable or certified to be used in the car?
And that’s actually what took a long time. Like, the idea was pretty easy. The design was pretty easy. The engineering of it was a bear and took a really long time. And the result, pretty much two and a half years later, this car rolls out that, to me, is incredibly emotional. And when we premiered the car in New York at Design Week, we brought out several of the artisans who had worked on it.
And, like, many of these… People were running the family company that had been around for hundreds of years or multi [00:30:00] generations. And we brought them together. And I think another really great example of this is real indigo, plant based indigo, is pretty rare today. It’s more common in places like Japan than it is in other countries.
But we worked with a specific farmer who makes indigo there. And there’s one person we know of. If anyone knows of another person who can do this, please let us know. Um, there’s a guy in Kyoto who actually can dye… Leather hides in real indigo. It’s incredibly complicated. In a manner that
Evan: doesn’t look muddy.
There’s, there’s plenty of indigo dyed leather out there, but it looks, it just looks really bad, and he’s able to do it and create vibrant
Josh : blues. And other people do it with chemical indigo, not necessarily actual plant based indigo. Yeah. And modify it to be able to create patterns and splatters and all kinds of stuff on this material.
So we loved what he was doing and Ferrari fell in love with this stuff. And so we were like, Hey, you [00:31:00] know, let’s just kind of experiment with stuff. And it was actually Sylvia and her team who said, Hey, let’s just try something as an experiment. You know, we kind of knew the color of the car. We tried at first to actually make real indigo paint and that didn’t work.
That was very unsuccessful. It shut down pretty quickly. It was a fun idea. Because You know, she’s like, hey, let’s do something. Let’s have this artisan do a hide in a color that we think is pretty close to the color of the car we want for the exterior. And then let’s have him experiment with the art styles that he does on these hides.
So most of these different kinds of artistic expressions are done through resist dyeing. And that’s when basically you, you apply or paint on some kind of wax so that when you dip the hide into the indigo or the fabric, the indigo doesn’t go.
Evan: And Roketsu is a, a style of resist dyeing where there’s multiple rounds of application of the resist material and dyeing. [00:32:00] And it has a very, you know, kind of painterly look to it. So one hide was dyed using Roketsu and the other was dyed
Josh : solid. And then we shipped those hides over to Italy and Sylvia and her team said, we have an idea.
They said, well, woven leather. is, is something Italy is known for, right? So she’s like, this would be so Italian if we were to explore weaving it. Are you supportive of that? And they went to one of their suppliers who is a, a house that does weaving for most of the fashion brands. And we did, I don’t even know, more than a dozen variations of weaving leather, specifically weaving these two hides together in different thicknesses until we finally came up with something that it was like breathtaking.
We couldn’t believe how interesting it was. And the application for it ended up being the ceiling inside the car. And we just
Evan: love that that, that kind of craft mic drop for this collaboration is something that you can [00:33:00] only see if you’re in the car. It’s there for the driver and the passenger
Josh : and that’s it.
And, you know, this is a Ferrari, it’s not an SUV, so you can’t walk up to it and look up, right? You are bending over and like getting in and looking into it to see this headliner. So it’s so personal and so intimate, it is something that’s only experienced by the driver and their passenger, right? And this car is just full of those things.
You know, we were so happy with the way this turned out, and of course the storytelling was easy because if you say things like, there was a weaver, he spent three months weaving old kimonos that by the way were 75 years old, give or take, and that was part of this was celebrating the 75th year of Ferrari, it made it really, really exciting.
AJ: you understand by now that Josh and Evan aren’t just in the media business. They are true designers. The love and care they showed finding such beautiful bespoke ways to create a unique experience for the driver and their passengers was exquisite. It’s all the small [00:34:00] details that build up to create a total experience.
And interior designers do the exact same thing. And after years of ideating, creating and being diligent about the process through some very difficult covid years, how did Josh and Evan feel when their Ferrari was complete?
Evan: When we were in Marin to see the car for the first time, when it came off the line was a moment.
of such joy and satisfaction and wonder and disbelief and it had been a long process. It was this incredible opportunity and it was done and we were pretty floored by it and not, I mean, like it’s not like we were impressed with ourselves. We were, I mean, we’re kind of impressed with ourselves. We’re like, wow, we actually made this happen.
This was, this is amazing, collective efforts and [00:35:00] passion that went into all of the different Creating this car was so satisfying to see it in person. We’re inspired by the story behind stuff, the people behind stuff, the process behind stuff. And this was a case where we got to work with incredible collaborators
Josh : and be part of the story.
Yeah, we were excited to do this for Ferrari, but we were equally excited to do this for the artisans. Traditional craft is dying all over the world. There are fewer and fewer people doing this. Every one of the artisans we worked with in Japan is part of, you know, rapidly dying industries. There are very few people making the kinds of, you know, basically couture kimonos, because there’s less demand.
There’s less demand for natural indigo because chemical indigo is faster and works great. So celebrating craft is so important to us. And The car is in New York for the debut, and before it happens, the [00:36:00] weaver is there. Now, the weaver spent three months weaving the fabric for the car, and I opened the door and I said, Just close your eyes.
I’m going to bring you to the car. They hadn’t seen it. Of course, it’s a pandemic, right? None of them were in Italy to go see anything happening. They’d not seen it in the car yet. And we had him close his eyes. We bring him to the door, Josh and I do, and we open up the door and we say, Open your eyes. And every time I tell this story, I just start crying.
He looked, and he just had this, this overwhelming look on his face, and he started to cry. And he had this moment, and he was like, I can’t believe it. One, it’s beautiful. Just, it looks incredible, and there’s a, just a moment of beauty to share. But he’s like, No one would ever imagine my humbleness sitting at my little loom on my little island doing traditional [00:37:00] weaving could ever be in a Ferrari or could ever be this beautiful.
And we had this collective moment of just, you know, release and appreciation.
AJ: When you look at something beautiful, especially when there are rich, intricate details, you might wonder, how was it all put together? Was it by a human or by a machine? I think we’re now walking into an age, just think of chat GPT, where we’re constantly asking, is this machine made or human made?
And if it’s made by a human, we wonder how, what tools did they use? Where did they live? Are they treated fairly? Do they love their work? I’m more fascinated looking at items that have a human story behind their making. I want to know it all. And that makes it all the more beautiful to [00:38:00] me. So the car is done.
It’s a one of its kind. What happened next?
Evan: The car was officially named the Ferrari Roma, tailor made, specially crafted for cool
Josh : hunting. And that went on to then appear as part of the 75th anniversary celebration at the Concours d’Elegance, which is the most important antique car show.
AJ: And no, it’s no longer for sale.
There was a series of applicants that were allowed to make an offer, and one lucky Ferrari loving customer was able to drive the cool hunting Ferrari. I, of course, told the guys. To put me on the list to buy the next one. I mean, right? Who doesn’t want a Ferrari? Obviously, this was a unique project from an iconic brand, which let Josh and Evan take all the design inspiration of their past [00:39:00] and put it to good use.
So how do they find inspiration on a consistent basis that fuels their love of
Josh : design? I think in the early days,
Evan: we were inspired by stuff, by products, by places, by cars. And just the nature of our curiosity is that we pretty quickly transitioned To digging into who made the stuff, who is the architect, who is the designer, who is the photographer, who, you know, who is, who is the artist, the strategist, who are the people behind this thing?
This end result is super interesting and inspiring. How did they get here? And today the inspiration is mostly about the people. We see really great stuff and we get excited about it. It’s only once we get to meet the people who are behind it and hear the stories of it being made, or the [00:40:00] reason that it’s made, or the sacrifices they made, or the commitments that they held on to to actually follow through with a certain element of the design of the thing or place.
That’s where the inspiration comes from for, I
Josh : think. And there’s another thing, you know, our, our lives can seem really glamorous to people who don’t really understand that we actually have a publication and we do this for work. Like if you just happen upon our feeds, it could look like some kind of crazy influencers who are just jet setting around the world doing all these glamorous things.
Um, P. S. we don’t pay for that, we’re hosted 98 percent of the time to go to these places and do these things and have these experiences and no one would ever comprehend the volume of trade shows that we go to. Um, we’re not just covering fashion and going to three fashion weeks a year, you know, we cover art, um, food.
Music. Yeah. Everything. And each of those [00:41:00] industries has a series or circuit of trade shows or trade events that happen. And we’re here at one today, right? And if you’re in the design world, everyone knows what Neocon is. If you’re not, you probably have never heard of it. Um, we go to a lot of trade shows and we kind of came up with a formula which was the most expensive real estate at a trade show is generally when you walk in or in kind of the center, right?
That’s where the big brands are and the big booths doing stuff and in between going from one of those to another appointment or another part of the, the floor, you happen upon the lower rent districts. of the trade show. And what does that mean? Well, that’s generally smaller brands or new brands. Those are brands without big budgets, so they don’t have a lot of fancy display stuff going on.
They may just literally have a card table and a banner. Um, and they probably don’t have PR or comms, especially if they’re a startup. And we all of a sudden found that, you know, our method for doing trade shows is outside in. And [00:42:00] it’s paying more attention to those small things because that’s really where you’re finding the true innovation a lot of the time.
Bigger brands are honing that in and bringing it to market in a beautiful way, but a lot of times those core ideas or initial kinds of stabs at it are happening by these very small companies who are maybe at their very first trade show. And for us, that’s where we always start. Like that is our way of finding things that tend to make it on the site really frequently.
We were talking to Patricia Urquiola earlier today, and we asked her about where she finds her inspiration, and she told us some really great things. And she was, we also were asking
Evan: her where she finds her calm. Right. Like, how does she, you know, she’s such, she has so much going on, and she’s so high energy.
How, when, when do you exhale? Where do, how do you take a break? And for her, the answer was music. And, and, um, I don’t know, for me, it’s, it’s, like, one of the things is our dog. I like [00:43:00] to call him my Xanax, you know, it’s like, I don’t need to take a pill, I can just hang out with the dog. We’re
Josh : like, we like to go on a family walk or a pack walk, you know, the two of us and the dog.
I can totally picture
AJ: them in my head. Walking down a road in the glow of a sunset, their dog running around them and Josh and Evan in deep conversations about their day. They really have a lovely relationship and are one of my favorite couples. So of course I had to ask them. In design, there are a lot of people.
Who are business and life partners. What’s their recipe for a successful relationship?
Josh : Evan and I work well together
Evan: firstly because we’re really good communicators with each other. Communication is key and foundational for every aspect of our relationship. And, I think we can be creative collaborators because we do have a very similar aesthetic.
Walk into a room [00:44:00] and we both immediately see what’s wrong with it. We have a very similar and a very shared point of view.
Josh : We always think of it as this intersecting set of circles. There’s what Josh is good at, there’s what I’m good at. And there’s not just a thin wafer of intersection, there’s a pretty hearty overlap in our little Venn diagram.
We’re big believers in the Venn. Yet we have enough of our own thing where we bring our own perspectives. We remind each other of other elements in whatever it is that we’re doing or inspired by or working on that are important. Yeah, it’s
Evan: always, it’s always fun when we catch each other off guard. So like, Oh, Hey, why don’t we do this?
It’s like, Oh yeah,
Josh : that’s a great idea. I hadn’t thought about that. And often there’s a lot of stuff that I really like. And then sometimes I’m like, this is so not working for me. How could you not have known these things? Because you know me so well, we’ve also over 24 years, just really developed. Some kind of shared brain and telepathy where we kind of have our own language and it’s little tiny little eye movements, you know, and things.
We always have to remind people that don’t know us, [00:45:00] if we’re in a room with them or a meeting, that we’re married. Because sometimes people are like, what’s going on? And it’s like, that little look, that little side eye. It means one of seven things, and Josh knows exactly which one I’m saying at that particular moment if I give him the side eye.
I think there’s, there’s two,
Evan: two great lessons or, or philosophies or things. One, one was from your mom. One was from my mom. Right, my mom said just don’t talk about work over dinner, which was a really good one. And the other is, like, we just, we’ve always felt strongly about not going to sleep angry. It’s got to work, work through it before going
Josh : to bed.
We try to laugh and, you know, Josh gets into bed and within 30 seconds he’s usually asleep and it takes me about half an hour. But if there’s any kind of tension, It takes me longer when you’re
Evan: like scrolling through Instagram videos, but anyway.
Josh : You know, I will just make Josh laugh and sometimes I tickle him or I just convulsively start laughing because I’ve seen something silly and, you know, we have this good laugh and it’s a really good release too.
AJ: [00:46:00] next for our dynamic duo and for cool hunting a little birdie told me they have a very important Anniversary coming
Josh : up. We’re sitting around like our 20th anniversary of cool things coming up. What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do and we’re like we’re gonna do this great Installation, you know an exhibition of sorts about the previous 20 years and we’re gonna celebrate it and we’re gonna do a book And it’s going to be great.
And then, you know, I remember one day just saying, God, I want to be inspired by our past. And I want to acknowledge our past and honor it. And all I want to do is think about the next 20 years. I’m not so interested. And by the way, what are we going to do? Show like a bunch of posts from 1995? No one gives a shit.
So, we were still working on this installation, and then it became all about future, future, future, commissioning all these artists to do stuff, and writing, you know, about the future, and then just having a wall of like, here is where we came from. And then ultimately, we’re like, you know what, this isn’t about a party, this isn’t about celebrating the past 20 years, it’s about kind of, just moving forward and evolving, and, and [00:47:00] to be honest, we’re at this point where, when we started Kuwanting, it wasn’t a business, it became one.
It became an incredible component of the creative content community in the design space, in the design world. We were never the largest publication around, um, we were pretty persistently, um, specific in what we felt was going to work, because it was the way we felt we wanted to consume content. And here’s the reality, 20 years later, almost no one goes to a website every day or that frequently, regardless of what it is, unless it’s directly related to your work.
So this concept of having a web page based publication today just doesn’t feel like it’s sustainable. It doesn’t feel like it’s the future because people are experiencing content in lots of different ways. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it and it shouldn’t be part of what you’re doing. But it’s maybe not the core part anymore like it was for us 20 years ago.
Uh, I don’t know that we’ve found the answer yet but we’re really interested in thinking [00:48:00] about the different kinds of ways that storytelling still happens. It’s been an incredible 20 years and we’re grateful for all of the opportunities that we’ve had and for creating this incredible brand and platform for us to share how people make things and why they do and why that’s exciting and why people should care about it.
Evan: forward, it’s exciting to imagine what the next 20 years are going to hold.
Josh : How things will change. Over the years, we’ve had
Evan: such access to really, really interesting people, right? We’re inspired by people and their stories and how that leads them to create the thing that they are known for creating.
And we get to sit down with them and we get to interview them and that’s usually to write a story. And. A while back, we realized those conversations on their own are very entertaining and engaging. So we’re really excited that this year, and we’ve just finished the first season, we have [00:49:00] launched a new podcast.
And it’s called Design Tangents and we have partnered with the Surround Podcast Studio from Sandow and they’re bringing us the production value that we’ve always dreamed of for having a podcast and it’s what kind of held us back from doing it sooner.
Josh : And it also gave us the community, right? Instead of just doing it on our own, we’re in a design community.
of other expressions of design being talked about using podcasts as a medium for design and having conversations around it. And AJ is someone we’ve liked and admired for a really long time and become friendly with over the years and we’re really honored that she asked us to be here to be part of this live pop up that’s happening at Neocon in Chicago.
Evan: We might not be talking about the design of an adult entertainment space or a public toilet kiosk, but I don’t [00:50:00] know. It’s fun to hang out with you AJ. Thank you. I love you guys.
Josh : We love you too. Thanks for having us. How
AJ: can you not love Josh and Evan? They are true design explorers, on the hunt for all things cool and where to find them.
When I talk with young interior designers. And they ask me, what do I need to do to become a better designer? To make their mark on the world? I always tell them, if you can afford it, travel as much as you can. And if you can’t, or there’s a pandemic or something happening, let your curiosity be hungry and explore as much as you can.
Art, science, technology, crafts, build something, work with your hands. It will drive you to create the next thing. Josh and Evan are perfect examples and role models for us all. And lucky for us, they have great hunting skills. So all we have to do [00:51:00] is follow them. You can find them at CoolHunting. com or at CoolHunting on all social channels.
Thank you for listening to Once Upon a Project. You can check out Josh and Evan’s podcast, Design Tangents with Cool Hunting, the same place you can find us, on the Surround Podcast Network or wherever you like to get your podcasts. As you heard, Season 2 of Once Upon a Project is coming soon! We will be covering a whole array of diverse design stories, and there are some juicy stories.
Make sure to follow us and subscribe so you don’t miss the launch of Season 2 this fall. Once Upon a Project was produced by Surround, a podcast network by Sandow. A special thanks for our amazing production crew, Samantha Sager, Wise Grosette, Rob Schulte, and Hannah Vidi. Thanks for listening, and I can’t wait for you to hear our next story.