Evan Orensten and Josh Rubin, Founders, COOL HUNTING


The gang is joined by COOL HUNTING creative duo and fellow SURROUND Podcast hosts, Evan Orensten and Josh Rubin, for a dynamic conversation on their journey from curious technologists in early Web2 to being 20 year vets chomping at the Web3 bit. Tune in as we dive into their insights about being early to building in a new space, the implications for A&D helping to design entirely new worlds, and consider rebranding the pod to make it ‘cooler’.

Connect with Evan Orensten and Josh Rubin on LinkedIn!

Moments to check out: 

– “Everything that can be digital, will be” – the origins of Cool Hunting and web 2 (starts at 7:05)

– How A&D will evolve and finding real use cases for web3? (starts at 16:55)

– How you can position yourself for emerging talent (starts at 32:11)

Transcripts, show notes, and links to resources for each episode of Barriers to Entry can be found at surroundpodcasts.com/barriers-to-entry

Connect with our hosts on LinkedIn;

Bobby Bonett

Tessa Bain

Andrew Lane

References and resources:

Discover more shows from SURROUND at surroundpodcasts.com. This episode of Barriers to Entry was produced and edited by SANDOW Design Group. Special thanks to the podcast production team: Hannah Viti, Wize Grazette, Kasey Campbell, Rob Schulte, and Samantha Sager.

Josh: [00:00:00] This is the time to experiment. This is the time to learn, just the time to test. But I think what’s most important for the architecture and design community is to just get in there and try stuff. As creatives are, process is always iterative, right? We can’t wait to have a strong business case that we’re confident is gonna win.

To start that process of iterating.

Andrew: Welcome to Barriers to Entry. It’s the podcast where every episode we get into it with the leaders, designers, early adopters, and influencers who are helping to shape what Web three, the metaverse, and the blockchain will mean for our architecture and design industry. I am Andrew Lane, and as always, I am joined by my nefarious co-hosts, Bobby Bonet t and Tessa Bain.

Bobby: Isn’t that how they described Gru in Despicable Me? Isn’t he nefarious?

Tessa: I thought you were supposed to be complimenting us?

Andrew: No, like, it’s like a cool, like you guys are dangerous, you know?

Tessa: Oh, we’re edgy. We’re edgy. Yeah. Like, ed, like that’s dangerous.

Andrew: I [00:01:00] think that that’s part of being a podcaster is being edgy, right? Like,

Bobby: well, speaking of edgy.

Andrew: Mm.

Bobby: Let’s see what, see what I did there? Yeah. Yep. Let’s talk about our guests today. So, so we’re having on the show Evan Orensten and Josh Rubin, the co-founders of COOL HUNTING, the co-hosts of Design Tangents a podcast. Yeah, I was

Andrew: gonna say, what’s Design tangents? Bobby, maybe you could plug that.

A news

Bobby: podcast on the SURROUND Podcast Network Network coming out, I’m just gonna say late March. But I’m really excited for Design Tangents for one, because Evan and Josh, um, are chatting with some incredibly creative people in the design industry and in adjacent industries. And so we get to go behind the scenes today and learn about Evan and Josh’s journey and chat with them about their perspectives on the Metaverse because just as they were.

Early, I think we referred to them as the OGs of web two. Um, the same is true for web three. They’ve been dabbling on, on the NFT art side. They’re curious about the metaverse and I think they’ll share some illuminating thoughts with us and our audiences today.

Andrew: I think [00:02:00] just the general vibe that they have as people who are early to everything.

It’s really exploratory pair. I’m also really interested in how the dynamic of five people on the pod is gonna play out.

Bobby: Well, should we get into it? Let’s dive right in. Alright.

Bobby: Alright, so these guys are the Web1 and 2 OGs and have managed really to do the unthinkable and keep a media company cool. For nearly two decades.

You’ve probably read their work. You’ve likely seen their work, even if you didn’t know it, and today, you’ll get to hear from them as they make sense of the world of Web3. We’re excited today to have the co-founders of COOL HUNTING and Captain Lucas, Josh Rubin and Evan Orenstem. Welcome to the Pod Club guys.

Welcome guys. Welcome.

Josh: Thanks.

Bobby: Thanks for having us. I mean, that’s a lot, right? Long intro. So can you take us through your collective internet journey and how you’ve taken on design in particular over the last 25 years?

Evan: What a small question. Bobby. Evan, you want that or you want me to start? Let me start just cause I’m [00:03:00] a have a little bit of a head start on Josh on that.

Oh. . I went to grad school in France and I was working in France. Went back to New York for my fifth college reunion, and all the talk was about Clinton who had just been elected for the first time and about what was going on with the internet, and this was still. Predominantly dial up AOL based kind of community time.

But there was a lot of talk about how things seemed to be moving really fast and how the web was really going to start developing in ways that it hadn’t before. So I started down that journey first doing actually interactive CD ROMs. Josh and I actually have a little bit of that in common, but very quickly, when we’re talking early nineties, this started migrating into.

Talking to companies and helping them figure out what the web was and how they could be on. And that started a really big journey.

Andrew: This might be the only Clinton administration reference we’ve [00:04:00] had. Yes. On the pod

Evan: so far. That’s how far back we go. Right. When you think about the development of the web, not just the internet, not the backbone, but the development of the web itself really wasn’t early nineties thing and really a mid nineties thing before it became even reasonably accessible in the late nineties thing before it was accessible to most people or commonly used for people.

Yeah. I think

Andrew: everyone knows that. Somewhat famous Bryant Gumbel, Katie Couric, Today show clip where they’re like, what’s that little loopy symbol around the a? And that video gets dusted off every 10, 12 years now I thinks. Where,

Evan: where is the web ? Yeah, . It’s like, where’s the metaverse today? It’s the same.

Exactly. Question. So Bobby, it’s funny when you say 20 years of doing COOL HUNTING, um, it does really take us back to the very earliest days of having content. Online and doing it in ways that were really different. So having a quote online magazine or a blog or whatever people called their own publications or creations, there weren’t that many back then.

and we were [00:05:00] one of the very first in any category to have a dedicated online only publication.

Bobby: Do you remember the first story that y’all posted to COOL HUNTING.com?

Josh: I know the really early one was a brief review of a book by Max Berry called Jennifer Government. Hmm. And I feel like that was probably within the first couple weeks.

But you know, when we started COOL HUNTING, it was the very beginning of 2003. Evan and I had been together as a couple for four years. We had worked together at Razorfish for most of that time, and then when we left Razorfish, I was working at Motorola building a user interface and user experience team.

because phones were at a point where the screens were starting to get big enough where design really mattered. And Evan was doing some work with Oprah and we would come home and compare notes and we’re both very curious people and [00:06:00] we were learning about all different things, and we were excited to tell each other.

About the new things that we had learned. You know, I would talk about some interesting development in the future of touchscreens and Evan was doing a lot of food stuff. So he would come home with a story about a new family that’s figured out a better way to make a gluten-free cracker. Just random stuff like that.

And we created the website as a place to capture those little stories more for ourselves as a way to take notes and record and archive. And in our heads, it was the equivalent of how we used to tear pages outta magazines. Actually, in the beginning of 2003, we probably were still tearing pages outta magazines.

Mm-hmm. . But it was just a way to keep track of stuff. So we weren’t writing for an audience, we were writing for ourselves. And you know, if you go back to those earliest stories on COOL HUNTING, they don’t read like stories on COOL HUNTING today because they were more like writing notes than they were sharing [00:07:00] stories.

To people who were interested in learning about the things we’ve discovered.

Andrew: what was the thing that made you believe in the power of writing online in particular? I mean, I’ve got a notebook here that’s always accessible, but what was the thing that made you wanna do it online?

Evan: I think a lot of it actually came from, as Josh mentioned, we both worked at Razorfish and our tagline at Razorfish was, everything that can be digital will be.

And when we started thinking about the content, By then, we’d obviously seen a lot of advancement, right? So the web had been around for several years. Businesses were using it in all different kinds of ways. Artists were using it in interesting kinds of ways, and yet from a content point of view, it was not very present.

And these were days when certain very large global publishing entities had magazines and they were like, how do we go online? And maybe we shouldn’t even call it the same thing. Maybe we should call it something else altogether and create a whole new brand. There was all this kind of insane experimentation and [00:08:00] creation around what that was, and it became really clear to us as we were archiving.

We knew two things. One, we were digitally more organized than we were physically. So yes, there’s value in having a beautifully printed magazine, but from a news point of view, whether it’s a magazine or a newspaper, you’re getting old news. It’s yesterday’s news or last month’s news. And in the case of magazines, sometimes they’re working on it a couple months in advance, and then it comes out and you’re looking at stuff that they wrote three, four months ago, and the web was this place where you could have that immediate delivery.

And I think what we found was that especially creative professionals, people who were subscribed to the face and all kinds of trade publications had to wait a month before there was more news. And it was like, what do you do? You get those magazines or whatever and you’re, you’re so psyched about it, and then it’s you wait a month.

And we eventually just started realizing that news happened every day, and the ability to communicate that and those stories just seemed [00:09:00] like it needed the expediency. Of what the web could deliver back then.

Bobby: Can you talk about the design of the platform early on? How much has it evolved and what were your inspirations early on?


Josh: As a digital designer, it was not only an opportunity to share things that we found. It also was my playground to design different versions of the site. In the very beginning, COOL HUNTING was on movable site. If anyone remembers that as a blogging package, it was something that I could download and install on a server and then tweak the template.

And as a first a CD ROM designer and then a web designer and then mobile, I was early to a point where, um, I need to know how to build stuff. I couldn’t just design and then hand it off like I needed to be able to design and then actually code things so I knew enough to do damage any. Developer would look at any code that I’ve ever written in my entire life and laugh at me, but [00:10:00] it worked.

The very first design was inspired by Joshua Davis, who is still a friend. He goes by Praise Station and he has been a digital artist for his entire career. Like skate punk, kid learns, code, makes art, and his portfolio site was a really
simple, black, white, and gray design with I think three columns in a slightly isometric extrusion.

And it was a container for the artwork that he was making. And that was probably the strongest reference for the first version of COOL HUNTING. But we’re in the middle of a redesign right now, and I think it’s probably our. It’s our eighth or ninth in the last 20 years. So it’s something that’s important to us to constantly explore and evolve the design of the site in a manner that doesn’t distract from the content, but also gives us a chance to look at what emerging technologies make sense to deliver a better user [00:11:00] experience for content consumption.

Evan: We just practiced what we had been preaching for years with big clients, and one of those things was display ads suck. They suck, then they still suck, and yet we still have them. So building this site around display advertising was something we just were never really that interested in. So a couple things happened for us really early, and it was in 2005.

I remember the conversation we had with Absolute that said, we wanna buy, I won’t say the number, but it was like for us at the time, a huge amount of money. We wanna buy this huge ad package on COOL HUNTING in display. And we were like, wow, this is the first time a big brand has offered us a lot of money.

And we were like, we couldn’t even fill. With our display and we realized that the opportunity was, how could we talk about what absolute wanted to talk about or wanted to share or explore and do that maybe through content instead of through display. Now, printed magazines, of [00:12:00] course, had been doing advertorial content of sorts for a long time, and we just were like, this is the obvious way that we should be doing it.

So we pitched content. and they were like, wow, wow. We’ve never really done that before. And that was when we started our creative studio and when we realized that the power that we could deliver to talk about brands in a lot of ways was through, whatever you wanna call it, native content, sponsored content before it had labels and before companies knew how to manage it or buy it, or what department it belonged in, or what agency might manage it or how you might measure it.

I mean, it was a really big uphill battle. So to me, like thinking about a better experience for readers was one of the things that generated why we should have branded content experiences that allow us to do better reporting, better photography, better video, and deliver that experience to readers instead of having shitty advertorial content.

Josh: we made infinite scroll before we ever saw anyone else. and there are others out there that claim [00:13:00] to have invented infinite scroll, and I think it more likely was a moment where people realized that there were asynchronous technologies for loading content onto a webpage that could be used in a interesting way.

So once we’ve learned about Ajax, that asynchronous technology, we’re like, oh, we don’t have to paginate anymore. We can just load the next page as someone keeps scrolling.

Andrew: You’re, you’re telling an interesting story of kind of the confluence of thinking a lot about the audience and your customer effectively from a design standpoint and the way that new technology is intersecting, and that’s really what we love to try and hit on here.

Can you talk a bit about that mindset where you might adopt something that. Is a benefit or has utility for your audience, but yet the tech maybe hasn’t quite caught up or the world around you in terms of knowing what to do with that.

Josh: In 2005, the iPod had a slightly larger color screen and Apple was pushing this notion of [00:14:00] podcasting as both audio and video.

and pretty heavily on the video side. Yeah. And someone from Apple reached out to us and said, we really like your content, and we think that your storytelling would lend itself nicely to this short form video format. If you were to make a video podcast, we would maybe feature it Apple never. makes promises or commitments, but they’re very encouraging

Evan: and they were also like, by the way, if you could do that really soon, by this date, we’re launching this whole thing , so that would be great. Maybe you might, maybe we’d like it if you were to do it really soon. Yeah,

Josh: That’s when we launched our video series. They were short form documentaries, visiting artists studios, going to events, visiting labs, and learning about process and innovation and creativity. We delivered initially just through that podcast channel that, yes, Apple did choose to feature it, but then [00:15:00] as other video innovations rolled out, we started putting on those channels as well.

We were making online video content before YouTube existed. Which again, well, I guess we kick this whole thing off acknowledging how old we are. But yeah, one of the things that we’ve accepted is that we’re often too early. Like we can see that an innovation is coming. We can take advantage of that innovation.

We can do something interesting with it, but actually making a great business model out of it is not necessarily our strength.

Evan: and shameless plug for that. Most of that content is very evergreen. Like Josh said they’re artists studio visits. They’re talking to creators of all kinds musicians, and it was very global.

We had the opportunity to leverage where we might be for an editorial trip or some kind of ad campaign and create video content for that podcast. So we have hundreds of episodes. They live, of course, on COOL HUNTING, but on all the channels. You can find ’em on YouTube, on Vimeo on daily motion. [00:16:00] Some of our

Josh: favorites are also on Design tv.

That’s right. You know. Nice. Plug our SANDOW friends here.

Evan: Yeah. Thank you for that. Yep. I think one of the things that sets us apart is it’s not a first person storytelling experience. The notion of COOL HUNTING was always our audience are creative professionals, and we like to say people who make things for other.

and they always want to feel like they’re the ones bringing the ideas to the table, right? You’re going into a meeting, you’re pitching it is what I think we should do for this project, or here’s my concept for this campaign, or this season’s fashion show, whatever. They don’t wanna be like, I read this somewhere.

It, it was about the discovery. So the way we write and we still write, hopefully feels like it’s something that you are discovering on your own and then you own. This isn’t COOL HUNTING says, you have to know about this. We’re just presenting things that we find interesting in our survey and scan of what’s going on and we think are relevant in some

Josh: way, shape, or form.

Tessa: How do you think that the world of architecture and design is going to evolve [00:17:00] into web3?

Evan: I think that Timmy’s the most exciting part of this. We’ve had this conversation with a lot of people in the community and they’re like, we’re not there yet. Doesn’t make sense. All these things. And I’m like, listen, the Metaverse is just another expression of being online, right?

It’s another way to be online and it’s a new way. And just like we all went through many years ago as a design firm, almost everyone struggled with how do we represent ourselves in Web1? What does our webpage look like? How do we showcase our work and make it meaningful for people? And. Many of us have been through lots of painful conversations with our own companies or firms or clients of how to do those things and think where we’re at today is thinking about how do we explore and what’s appropriate.

There was big news with Walmart launching a big presence in the Metaverse, and that’s one way to explore. Bigger brands have these kinds of budgets to explore and see what makes sense for them. I think what is also really exciting was [00:18:00] Microsoft’s big announcement about how they’re forming a Metaverse services group, you know, for industrial and professional applications, not for consumer stuff.

And I believe that the bigger, probably more interesting opportunities lie in. More really unsexy industrial, commercial businesses to business side today than they do on the consumer side. Outside of specific things like; gaming situations and maybe some social environments it’s working for, but I feel the bigger opportunity is commercial, so to speak, or industrial today more so than interpersonal.

Andrew: Do you think that there’s parallels between the way that’s developing and their kinds of tech that you’ve seen before? Like, you know, it’s interesting that these new things come out. We always want them to be world leaders, but sometimes it’s really just about finding where they fit. Yeah.

Josh: I think that the Google Glass example is a great one because Google had the time, the space, the budget to experiment, and they were able [00:19:00] to invest a lot of money and make a bet on glass being a consumer success and consumers weren’t excited about it. Some people were, but a lot of people weren’t ready for it or weren’t interested in it, or didn’t understand how to use it. There were so many barriers to broad consumer adoption of glass as a, as an augmented reality solution, and when Google shut it down, they didn’t fully shut it down.

They recognize that there was a meaningful opportunity in warehouse management. In production line management in a, a lot of industrial applications similar to what Evan was just describing, where you’re dealing with a specific task where you need information, where you are potentially repeating or you need an answer quickly and glass makes sense in that context.

Evan: Yeah. We had friends who were working on it then, and I remember sitting down at, you know, dinner in San Francisco talking about this, and they were [00:20:00] like some of the most passionate communities using glass. are educational use by estheticians. So obviously if you’re cutting someone’s hair and you happen to have glasses on, that’s a really great way instead of using your phone while you’re trying to cut someone’s hair to talk about the methodology and what you’re doing.

To be able to do that remotely, whether it’s recorded video or live video in some way, to be able to share that was actually a huge innovation and improvement and opportunity for people in that very specific segment. And then quickly, I. There were a lot of stories about medicine and surgeons and how people were doing that as well.

Why? Because everything worked really well to provide those very specific use cases of how this could be an extremely meaningful technology, but that’s different than wearing it and going out to a bar and thinking that you look cool. Because you have this technology,

Andrew: Wasn’t that community referred to affectionately referred to as ‘glassholes’?

Yes. Back in the day. Yeah. And I wonder how much of what we’re seeing right now is just a bunch of [00:21:00] ‘glassholes’ who are out there wearing their wearables in the bar so that people can see that they’re doing it as opposed to trying to find those,

Evan: their use cases. What’s exciting about this whole category, we would lump metaverse into one of the web3 disciplines is it’s early days and there really hasn’t been anything since the coming of Web2, if you will, that has generated so much excitement where there’s so many different people exploring so many different ways of doing it.

I think it’s interesting, but Tess, I wanna get back. Your question really was like, how is this exciting for designers and architects and simply anything that’s a space needs to be designed, right? If you are designing a house or a meeting room, or a convention center or an art gallery, it has to be designed and you probably need some furniture in it.

Why would you just buy off the shelf 3D rendered generic things when you could have something that’s designed by one of your favorite designers or maybe did something that you could design, and that’s the consumer [00:22:00] perspective.

Josh: But the other side of it is architects and designers are working in CAD already. Before their expressions come to life in the physical world. They already exist in a digital world. So making that leap to an object or a space in a virtual world is not so hard. The challenge is really, why are you doing it? What do you want from it? Do you want to be in multiple virtual worlds?

Do you just want to be in one? Do you want your consumer to own the object? Yep. There’s many layers of complexity. as the next step, but the first step of making digital objects and spaces is already happening.

Evan: And it’s happening with a lot of constraints, right? You’re automatically starting. You have this great, here’s our big brainstorming meeting, and we have all these huge ideas.

And then at the end of the meeting, they’re like, can’t do that. That’s gonna be too expensive. Can’t put it there can’t be this much square footage, whatever it is. And I think when you graphic design, architecture and problem solving with [00:23:00] enormous constraints around them for any. Project.

Right? So what happens when you can design a space, but all of a sudden you say, actually, there’s no one coming. We don’t need to get any approvals on this space. The engineering of it doesn’t have to actually support a hundred thousand people on the dance floor. All that stuff is meaningless. Right now we’re free.

Our ability to design is unbounded by regulations, by budgets, by all these things because we can design the purest expression of what we think is an interesting solution for that opportunity or project. And that’s where I think it’s really exciting and scary as hell for a lot of people.

Bobby: I was gonna say that’s it’s intimidating, right?

To have a totally blank slate against what you’re designing. Yeah.

Evan: We’re so used to judging people’s work. The constraints we know, I always give an example, we write about hotels. We stay in more hotels than most humans on any given year, and I instantly know where the budget went. The budget’s almost always similar within a [00:24:00] category.

You’re spending a hundred thousand dollars a room and you’re spending X amount on the bed area and X amount, maybe on a workspace, an X amount on the bathroom, and every brand does it differently, and that’s how they differentiate. We’re gonna spend all our money on having the most amazing bedroom. We’re gonna spend most of our money on having the most amazing bathroom, right?

That’s how they differentiate, and I think we’re starting to see ways that those kinds of opportunities can express themselves through the design of these spaces.

Tessa: I really love that you see that opportunity, and I think we’ve had some very hot and cold opinions depending on the practice. Someone might love that.

They work every day in constraints, and we’ve heard from people that really see the value and the opportunity.

Josh: There’s certainly the notion of digital twinning and the desire to have a mirror of your physical world in your digital world, and, that’s interesting, but I get much more excited when this is what Evan was starting to speak to before, when the constraints are [00:25:00] different or they’re lacking and we don’t have to worry about physics.

I want a virtual world where physics is. I don’t need a virtual world to mirror the world I already walk through. Fortunately, I’m grateful for that. I don’t need to. And a lot of what the Metaverse provides is escapism, and I think that there is opportunity for commercial designers and manufacturers of objects and spaces to become more accessible to people.

On the consumer side, a lot of people can’t afford a lot of these beautiful chairs and sofas and things like that, but if there’s a way you can have it in a virtual world, that’s really compelling. I’m not gonna label what part of my head it comes from, but I’m excited about virtual worlds that don’t make sense in the physical world.

Tessa: Have you come across anything that’s like an upside down metaverse? I haven’t seen it yet.

Josh: Not fully. I have very mixed opinions about it, but I think what Bjarke did for the vice headquarters in Decentraland starts to touch on that. [00:26:00] The first time I went to go see it, I ran around. You couldn’t get in like five times.

I couldn’t figure out how to get in. I’m like, where’s the door? And there, there isn’t really a door that’s already starting to break rules and I, I respect that it was breaking rules. I respect that it was creating a very different experience from other things you would see in Decentraland at the time.

But no, I haven’t, I haven’t seen anything that’s really pushing. The boundaries creating an Inception-like experience.

Andrew: Yet, I think there’s the bearer of what has been and is being created, but then there’s also thoughts around the technology itself, like people’s belief that to be in the metaverse, that means you need to put on the Oculus headset or the idea of.

Cryptocurrency being somehow tied and wallets and there’s all these different areas. What kind of advice do you guys have for the A&D community? The people who are looking at starting to use these tools to do something that advances their business or finds utility.

Josh: This is the time to experiment, this is the time to learn, just the time to [00:27:00] test.

I think right now it’s not about, Figuring out the next game-changing business model for a lot of these brands. Some of them will do that, and there are other innovators out there that will do that. But I think what’s most important for the architecture and design community is to just get in there and try stuff.

As creatives, our process is always iterative, right? We can’t wait to have a strong business case that we’re confident is gonna win to start that process of it. We really just need to get in there and and test stuff and try to figure it out because the big barriers that are keeping larger consumer populations away from these spaces right now will come down eventually, and it’s best to have a point of view by the time that happens

Evan: And different communities are gonna approach this problem solving differently.

The Giants of Design talk, one of the things we talked about. Why you need to start paying attention. One was that big building for Vice in [00:28:00] decent land. Another was Nike had recently bought artifact. So here you have a company that made physical things really well. Mm-hmm. for a long time. Mm-hmm. buying a company that only makes digital things, but they’re the same things.

Right. At that point, artifact is mostly making shoes, so they mm-hmm. bought it to get that heads up on it. So from an investment point of view, for Nike, not a huge investment, but thinking about how it impacts the decision making within that entire organization around the future of their physical and digital products, I think really incredibly smart and it doesn’t take you long as a designer to look at

here’s a company that makes great physical things and is used to selling physical things in multiple channels to thinking about digital things and the way people still want. I still want cool shoes when I’m online, right? And I can maybe have ones that I couldn’t otherwise find or afford in real life.

So why aren’t furniture companies, design companies, object companies, architecture companies thinking about the same thing? Here’s a wave for [00:29:00] everyone to have something that’s more accessible. And I think that’s really exciting and that’s why companies do need to be thinking about it big and small. Not everyone can spend, I don’t know, tens of millions Walmart spent launching big metaverse platform.

But everyone can and needs to invest a little bit of time, a little bit of money, otherwise you’re not moving your business or your practice forward.

Bobby: Josh, when you were talking about COOL HUNTING, you focused much more on the design of the platform and the way in which y’all were thinking about designing the brand rather than what you were covering from a design perspective.

And similarly here, there’s this idea of the design of the technology versus designing for that technology. Where would you start? If you were either at an architecture and design firm or at a manufacturing firm and you wanted your best designers to take on this challenge, where’s that place you start?

Do you think about trying to create the spaces or creating for the spaces?

Josh: I think it all starts with who you’re creating it for. We asked our audience at the end of last year where they wanna see [00:30:00] us in a palette of web3 options or metaverse options. Where do you wanna see us? Our existing audience isn’t interested in experiencing COOL HUNTING.

in any kind of virtual world or on discord or in any of the more emergent channels. So what we realize is that those channels are an opportunity for us to reach new people, and I think that’s the most important first step. Mm-hmm. . Before picking a platform, before designing a space, who are you doing this for?

Are you trying to help your existing customers, your existing audience, your existing users, fans, friends, whoever that community is? Are you trying to bring them in? or are you trying to reach people who were already there, or people who are going to be there soon and be present and relevant to this new audience that might not overlap with your existing community?

I think that’s absolutely the most important first step. And then once you have some clarity on that user group, that audience, then it becomes a lot easier to [00:31:00] decide. Where and why and how to execute.

Andrew: From the standpoint of talent, bringing in the best designers to your firm and having the top talent there to show and signal. The fact that you’re always looking forward and pushing the boundaries is something that we’ve talked about with a lot of our partners about how it could be a really exciting way to position just the work of your firm and the way that your firm is presenting themselves in the world and looking forward.

How much experience have you guys had? With companies or organizations around positioning themselves for talent by being out there on the edge?

Evan: That is a very good question. So I think one of the things that holds back architecture and a lot of things in the furniture space, is maybe we’re not thinking as much about having people who are bringing completely new things to the table who aren’t as attached or know this industry or this experience as well.

And I think we need more of those companies to hire people who are bringing new skills and talents from a [00:32:00] coding point of view. From a conceptual point of view, into the practice of what they’re doing in order for us really to make the leap. Because what we’re seeing is a lot of stuff that’s designed by people who have the technology skills to do these things.

They’re, they’re really techy focused and they aren’t really considering a lot of their solutions from a design or an experiential design focus. And I think that’s changing, but there’s still more new people that need to come in to these conversations, I think to really move it forward, who have a different perspective.

We were very smart, very outspoken punks in a room, and we were typically competing against things. Big companies like Anderson and other huge consulting companies didn’t have those offerings really. So companies were like, we think we needed internet presence and web presence, but we don’t even know who to go to.

And here’s a bunch of these punky kids who are in their twenties who are saying words and phrases that we don’t really understand, but we find that really threatening and really scary, And by the way, they’re asking for a, a shit ton of money to build these things. This wasn’t like, invest $10,000 on [00:33:00] your ford.com website.

We’re talking about millions of dollars that were, that were being spent then. And so we had this opportunity because we were. Technologists first, but new and thinking about what was new and in that world every day, working with other people in that world, talking to schools, talking to teachers, talking to students, and figuring out how we all could push it forward in whatever way we could.

And I think that’s where we’re just starting to be in this kind of web3 space where it’s been dominated by techie people or finance people. And not yet dominated by, I don’t wanna say creative people, but people who make things for other people and make them better experiences. And I think we need more of that to see the kind of evolution that we all want.

Bobby: Sort of a challenge too, right? To design minded folks to start to think about the user experience and the beauty of a space as opposed to just focusing on maybe the possibilities open by technology that can be overwhelming as a. I don’t know how long I would run in circles around a [00:34:00] headquarters in the Metaverse before. I’m like, I’m outta here.

Evan: Yeah. I also think it crashed a couple times along the way. , I think sand out’s a great example of this. You know, we’re all dealing with limited budgets. Bobby, I’m sure the list of the positions you would love to have filled as you think about growing your business are many and.

All of a sudden you’re like, wait, I want someone who maybe can’t directly do anything but they’re just thinking about stuff and exploring with stuff. Then wow, I have to make this decision between hiring that person or hiring someone who’s like the podcast, the technical staff or whatever, who’s doing something really concrete designed today to help stuff out.

And the answer is, well, you kind of need both. Like you need to invest in offering these roles. Or parts of people’s time to allow them to grow and evolve the opportunities for your business. So how can you really think about, how can we be at the forefront of serving our community? And the answer is you have to experiment and you have to find some budget and some mindshare [00:35:00] to be able to do that, to learn along the way and help evolve this for the whole industry, the whole category.

Bobby: One thing you said, Evan, going in at the start of web one or Web two to a big business and using words that the executive leadership team you’re meeting with aren’t familiar with, and I’m sure plenty of times that team would look at Evan and Josh or the punky 20 year old internet dudes and feel either intimidated or roll their eyes and start yawning and stop paying attention.

I’m curious through your lenses, Andrew and Tess, how you manage that when you’re chatting with a manufacturing firm or a design. Where this is all new to them without going in and giving a 30 minute lecture on why you need to listen to us about the metaverse.

Andrew: We had the real benefit of is we had some friendlies where we really started out with a couple of companies where we could just have a little bit more of a safe space to lay things out and to stumble in a little bit more of a private setting, which really helped us.

What Evan and Josh were talking about in that example was really about the very, very beginning of all of this, and I think [00:36:00] that there was a bit more of a leap that people had to make. I think that everyone is aligned at this point, that there’s digital technology that helps our business in many ways, every single day.

And so I think what we try to do is stay more focused on outcomes and stay more focused on some of the things that are really core to the way the business is speaking about themselves, like sustainability, like authenticity, and really make that key and core to our narrative.

Tessa: I think we’ve appreciated that. The industry’s been very open-minded.

Evan, you said before people are curious and curiosity is a really good thing, and so people want to talk about it. Companies want to learn about it right now, and I think that’s really important as we move forward and think about taking our first steps as an industry.

Bobby: Josh and Evan, can you talk to us about Captain Lucas? I’m sure most of the folks listening have heard of COOL HUNTING, but maybe they’re not as familiar with Captain Lucas.

Josh: So Captain Lucas first off publishes COOL HUNTING, but the other big piece, which is really relevant to what we’re talking about today, is [00:37:00] our consultancy where we work with brands to really channel the access and insight we have through COOL HUNTING to help these partners.

With strategy, with narrative, with partnership development, and we also do a lot of trend and futuring work with our clients. These conversations around the metaverse and around web3. Are very frequent and common with the brands that we’re working with and helping them navigate it is a big part of what we’re up to.

And when we started Captain Lucas, we actually published three different online properties. So we felt we needed to have a name that wasn’t dependent on any one property. That gave us the ability to have a portfolio, and that was our naming strategy. And then we found that sometimes it was great and brands wanted to say, we’re working with COOL HUNTING on this.

but other times within the organization, they wanted to have a more hard line

separation between what might be considered an editorial point of view versus what is a [00:38:00] more consulting point of view based on all the things that we view in our business and have done for 20 years. So for us, it works really well to have that divide.

But the consumer facing brand obviously is COOL HUNTING. And I think from a commercial point of view, our work has always done as Captain Lucas.

Bobby: Josh, can you tell us about your collection on Foundation? Oh, yeah.

Josh: So we don’t want to just talk about the Metaverse and Web3 and NFTs and all that kind of stuff.

It’s important for us to be participants in the community. So we collect and we create and we support artists and we follow more collectible type projects as. Someone who spends a lot of time on airplanes. If I have the chance to look out the window, I’ll often take pictures. A long time ago, I started turning those pictures upside down and the first putting ’em on Instagram with the caption.

There is no right side up. I think this kind of goes back to my thoughts about defying physics in the metaverse, right? It’s really important to recognize that we don’t all have the same perspective, and when we look at the planet, we think north [00:39:00] is the top, but really what does that even. At the bottom of the planet could be the top of the planet.

There is no right side up. So the images that are on Foundation, and I’m just Josh Rubin on Foundation, are a bunch of photographic NFTs that are these upside down window seat photos because there is no right side up and its a chance for me to experience the world of Web3 as a creator in addition to also being a collector and a community participant.

Evan: and we’ve thought a lot about what are the opportunities for COOL HUNTING, and we just haven’t landed on anything that we’re really excited about to create yet in that space. I think those things will come, must be fine, what’s right for us. But I also really wanna plug, putting up your shade when you’re on an airplane and looking out the window.

It makes me insane that people get onto the plane, they don’t lift their shades, and they get on their devices and they’re just on screen from the minute they get into their seat till [00:40:00] they leave, and I’m like, please put up the blind. Please look out the window. I travel and have traveled for decades, so extensively.

Almost every week I’m on an airplane and I’m never not mystified by how magical it can. That I can get from one place to the other pretty quickly, and the things I can see when I look out the window. And I think it’s so important to take the time to do that. And it’s one of the few places where I think you still can just gotta look out the window and enjoy.

It’s like being on a train and not being tethered for a moment or two. And taking that opportunity is really enlightening,

Josh: I think,

Andrew: and to hurry before we’re all in the metaverse first and we teleport everywhere. Yeah.

Tessa: Josh and Evan, thank you so much for your time today, for your stories and all of your insight in this space.

You are fantastic resources. I’m gonna plug. SANDOW Design TV one more time, because I think it’s a really great place to see where you presented at Giants, and you did a very good 101 for the industry. Beyond that, for our listener group, what resources would you share with anyone [00:41:00] who’s just looking at this space or looking to understand it a little bit better?

Josh: I think that publications like DECRYPT and NFT NOW are doing a good job of reporting on what’s happening in the space. I also think that I had taken a long break from Twitter, and now I’m back on Twitter because it is a really valuable platform for learning about all things Web3, and it doesn’t take long to tweak your Twitter algorithm so that you live in web3 Twitter.

Mm-hmm. . And then of course, it’s a matter of cutting through the noise to find the good stuff, but it’s usually pretty clear what’s good.

Evan: Same with Discord. Discord I find personally extremely challenging. But there are nuggets there. There are communities there that I think once you find yours, I think can be really helpful.


Bobby: you had a reaction when he said discord?

Josh: I know. Yeah. I love and hate discord. I’ve learned a lot in various discord channels, but to Evan’s point, it’s just such a challenging user experience.

Evan: Yeah, I agree. The community is there, [00:42:00] the experience isn’t, so you just have to go along with it and hope that it gets better.

Or there’s a different community where those people start to aggregate. Other things too are, are real life. We have attended lots of different conferences regularly over time. and South by Southwest was one of those, and it’s something we felt like we lost interest in for many years. And last year we decided to go not just for a day, which had been our typical experience in more recent years, but to actually.

be full in like on it. And we did that because we had so many conversations leading up to that where many people within the community were planning on going. And that to us was really surprising. It wasn’t a new conference, but it was one that the community had really started rallying around. Web3 and we actually got a lot out of it and we’re really happy about our, our week that we spent.

One other thing we haven’t actually talked about yet is the fact that we are launching the COOL HUNTING podcast. It’s called Design Tangents, conveniently on SANDOW SURROUND podcast network. We’re really [00:43:00] excited for the conversations we’re having there. It’s not in any way focused on Web3, but we do touch on that in several of our conversations.

Andrew: And if you’re looking for guests, you know where to find.

Bobby: Subscribe wherever you get your shows. Yeah. Cool. Josh and Evan, thank you so much for today. We appreciate it.

Josh: Thanks for having us. Thank you all. This was great. Take care.

Andrew: Yeah. Thanks guys. Cheers.

Bobby: Well, good news. I was informed by our nefarious executive producer, Sam Sager, that Design Tangents premieres tomorrow.

If you’re listening to this episode of Barriers to Entry on its release, March 28th, tomorrow, March 29th. Design Tangents, hits the SURROUND podcast network and your favorite podcast platform. So I would suggest to go ahead and slam that follow button if you want to hear more really interesting takes and conversations hosted by Evan and Josh, who I think did a really nice job for us of weaving that path from web2 to web3 and provided some great perspectives as it relates to where they think we’re [00:44:00] going.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, I think one of the things that, that has always struck me, even before I had the pleasure of meeting Evan and Josh is that brand COOL HUNTING it. It’s just such a disarming way to bring people into new things. Like everyone wants to be cool. And you know, one of the biggest challenges with Web3 right now is we have terms like blockchain and things like that that sort of repel people in, give people skin crawling a little bit.

If we just say that it’s cool and you know, maybe we need to rebrand for the pot. I’m not sure. Barriers to Cool btc, you know, I just think that that’s such, such a,

Bobby: Ooh, that would’ve been good. Btc, right,

Andrew: but smart. It’s just such, it’s just such a, such an easy way to bring people into new ideas is to say, Hey guys, like this is exciting and we’ve done the legwork for you. And it’s no wonder that they’ve had such an enduring brand for so long because just the way that it’s set up is to make it an easy entree for people to understand new things. And I think that that’s so powerful and I’m, I was so happy to hear kind of how they did that.

Bobby: Well, and speaking of [00:45:00] understanding and being introduced to new ideas, Tess, I know there’s a resource out. From Josh and Evan that you think our listeners should go check out after today’s episode.

Tessa: You’re right, Bobby. It’s on Design TV Network by SANDOW, which is a super exciting resource. I love checking it out personally.

This video in particular, they do an excellent job at the Giants conference of breaking down a lot of definitions and really cool terms. I mean, Andrew said that they’re super cool terms, things that we all want to know. Still today, a really great reference and super applicable to our industry. So I think everyone should take time and go take a look on Design TV by SANDOW

Bobby:, design tv by sandow.com.

Search COOL HUNTING, and you’ll find that presentation well before we go, the Metaverse Architecture and Design Awards. In the spatial metaverse. If you haven’t gotten an invite yet, ping Andrew, Tess and I on LinkedIn. We’ll give you the details so you can create your avatar and enjoy the inaugural MAD Awards.

We’re really excited for that.

Tessa: Big thank you to our production team, [00:46:00] Sam Wise and Hannah, and of course our new chief researcher, Kasey. And the entire team at the studio by SANDOW Barriers to entry is part of the SURROUND podcast network. Make sure you go to surround podcast.com. That is podcasts with an S, and of course, smash that follow button.

Join us next time as we continue to break down the barriers to entry.

Andrew Lane Host profile picture

Andrew Lane

Andrew Lane is Co-founder of digby, co-founder of Interior Design Magazine’s (MAD) Awards and co-host of the podcast Barriers to Entry.

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Bobby Bonett

Bobby Bonett is EVP of Digital and strategic growth at SANDOW DESIGN GROUP and co-host of the podcast Barriers to Entry.

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Tessa Bain Host profile picture

Tessa Bain

Tessa Bain is a digby co-founder, co-founder of Interior Design Magazine’s MAD Awards and also co-host of Barriers to Entry.

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