The Brilliance!


We’re really internet and we’re really back. A website about things Benjamin , Chuck , Virgil , and various friends & guests think are interesting. Little-to-no specific focus, a bit odd, speling errors, and incredibly culturally relevant.

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THE BRILLIANCE! - Better shipped than perfect!

When we first started THE BRILLIANCE! in 2005, Benjamin and I were in our early 20's, social media didn't exist yet, and we just didn't think too much about what we were doing, we just did it. There weren't any outlets for people to criticize or comment. When I was 18 and building NoPattern it was all hand coded HTML in a basic text editor, and having my work on the internet quickly and efficiently was way more important than having a "Coming soon" while I crafted the perfect site. I mean - really, I got my career started off the backs of those early sites. They may not have been the most compelling websites but they were perfect in the sense that they did what I needed them to do - show my work off. That's always the thing, right? What is "perfect"? THE BRILLIANCE! right now, in its newest form with a freshly built CMS and slightly overhauled design is perfect, to me, in the sense that its actually live and you're reading this. Is it perfect in the sense that everything that we've brainstormed and dreamt for it is a reality right now? No - but we'll get there. A little behind-the-scenes/"inside baseball" here, but we really struggled over the last year with what to do with this site. All three of us felt strongly it should come back, but how? On what platform? Wordpress? We'd already tried that, it wasn't right. At one point I got a pretty decent version of this site going on Squarespace, a small miracle when you consider THE BRILLIANCE! almost goes against the "pretty websites" that Squarespace seems constructed to produce. But still, it wasn't right. Ultimately we went back to our friend Dennis Eusebio and had him help us build a fully custom CMS because we really believed we needed the writing environment to match the final thing. Anyways - we ultimately found ourselves overthinking everything until after a while we just went with our gut and did what we should have done in the first place.

A question I get a lot as an artist is "How do you know when what you're working on is done?" And I never know how to answer besides - I just do. I can feel that nothing more will help and nothing less will be good enough, and when I feel that I know I'm good to go. And with something as fluid as a website, you have flexibility and room to grow.

An article on Virgil's recent talk at RISD touched on this whole thing succinctly: "...what students should understand is the attitude he brings to every endeavor: Just do it. "It's so simple. It's three words. It's not clever," he says, echoing the age-old Nike adage." So —here we are, live for just over a week now and happy to be here, just doing it.

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The “art” of dining out alone.

Two things, maybe three: First – I’m not really a “foodie” - but I’m obsessed with restaurants. I eat roughly 90% of my meals out and have done so for over 10 years. It’s truly one of my favorite things to do. Second – of all those meals out, many are often solo. Apparently this is insanely weird to most people. I love it. Don’t get me wrong, I love dinners with my girlfriend, friends, etc. There’s just a magical respite to dining alone - for me at least. Third – my top “things” to keep in mind when dipping your toes into this hobby:

Most important rule of them all: Only eat at the bar. Only. Counter-intuitively - the better/nicer the restaurant, the better the experience is dining at the bar…for real.

If you’re not over 55 or wearing a bad “I’m a traveling sales guy” sport coat with big shoulders - most will assume you’re in the service industry – doesn’t hurt to roll with it for bit, you get better service. But you’ll have to come clean if you’re going to eventually be a regular there.

The bartender will pretentiously adjust your quality of service based on what you order. Chicken ceaser and a Captain and Diet will make for less magical experience. Foie gras laced steak tartare and a negroni, with an extra burnt orange garnish, will get you “in” if thats what you want.

Don’t: spend your entire time glued to your phone. Chat with the bartender - but metered by how busy they are. Don’t: be that guy telling them super long, boring, stories. Don’t: try and impress them with your obscure cocktail/food knowledge. Don't: ask them "so what's good here?" Do: ask them their favorite pairing / current favorite on the menu.

An oddly converse nuance to the previous rule - though only before 7pm - its usually acceptable to bring your laptop and do a bit of work while you enjoy a proper meal - even at a fairly high-end restaurant. I wouldn’t try and pull it off at Le Bernardin but its probably fine at Honey’s in Chicago. ***If the dinner crowd rolls in, tuck the laptop...bright screens are a bad look.

I’m not much of a small talker, but don’t be completely tuned-out. I once ended up restaurant hopping for an evening with a fellow solo diner who turned out to be a notable figure in the oil business and wanted a bit of a shoulder to cry on about a recent divorce. Was an oddly entertaining evening.

Go on the slow nights! Sunday - Wednesday. For those of us who live with seasons, snow storms are particularly fun evenings to tuck in.

Don’t get drunk. Don’t treat servers poorly.

Don’t rush through it - enjoy it. It’s great “thinking” time.

Bonus: order a “Ferrari” as your meal ender.

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BRIIIIICK! The cult & culture of NBA memes...

I love the NBA. Always have and always will. As a kid we all perceived the league's stars as gods with an untouchable cool. Making fun of Michael Jordan in the 90's!? Unthinkable. What platform would one even have had for that back then? Players, teams and agents all mostly controlled their own narratives with traditional media chiming in but leaving little impact. That was all before the internet. Now, not only are the cameras always on from every perceivable angle, but the internet loves a good laugh and knows how to take a quick screenshot. Not something athletes think about while on the court of course, but they must know — if they flop and it's obvious? You're getting turned into a GIF asap by the World Wide Wobs/Timothy Burkes of the world. And if its really bad!? Yikes...have you seen this James Harden/Manu Ginobili video? I mean...someone spent some real actual time and energy making that! It's impressive. But it's also weird. Here we have the world's most elite athletes performing night in and night out at the highest levels for our entertainment being reduced to stupid (funny, but stupid) internet memes. It's kind of fascinating! I always think about how lucky pro athletes who played in the pre-internet era were to completely avoid this phenomenon. Just think - if Charles Barkley had played during the Twitter-era, you would forget what he looked like because he'd have had Crying Jordan Photoshopped on his face every game. (Although he's a weird example since he's part of TNT's incredible 'Inside the NBA' which has itself become a bit of a factory for memes and mocking) On the flipside, most players today understand this is simply just part of the way this generation communicates and often love getting in on the fun themselves. Regardless, I find it super interesting that what was once a borderline unfuckwithable institution has, over the last several years, become one of the funniest sources for laughs on the internet.

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Perfectly absurd. My theory on the magic trick of white sneakers.

As a repeat purchaser myself - I’ve always been fascinated with the extremely obvious design flaw with white sneakers. White leather - or worse - white canvas, white soles, white laces, white everything. In a product that is knowingly designed to touch the dirtiest surface of our daily activity - the ground. Dirt, oil, trash, piss, rain, snow, spit, and whatever else you’d never think would be acceptable to get any other piece of our clothing or really any object you own get close to, right? I kind of love it. They’re aesthetically pleasing - yeah - but I’ve always thought it was kind of an incredible expression powered by some genetic desire in humans to be royalty of some sort. Sounds crazy, but honestly?! Is it the appearance of achieving the “impossible” for a short period of time that gives them something beyond just their visual appeal?? Like a magic trick maybe. It’s fairly affordable expression in decadence - for better or worse. I could probably keep rambling - but I’ll sum up white sneaker as: a perfect absurd / paradoxical design flaw that ends up articulating something else entirely about the human condition. ANYWAY…I’m just as guilty as the next. I’ll take another pair of all white Sambas. ***WAIT. They don’t have them on Mi Adidas anymore. Someone at adidas help?!

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Back to basics: The work of Bráulio Amado!!!

Bráulio Amado is Portugese-born, NY based graphic designer and illustrator whose work has been everywhere lately, and with good reason. With the last few years of his career including time spent at some amazing places like Pentagram, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Weiden+Kennedy NY, Amado is now in arguably the best position of his career to seriously flourish as an independent designer. I really geek out over super talented people pouring all their efforts into doing their own thing. Anyways, Bráulio's work has such a cool range of influences and aesthetics. At times you'll find his punk rock background shining through with 80's hardcore-tinged xerox influence, then an almost Milton Glaser-esque/Peter Saville/Factory Records meets some kind of damaged Blue Note Records album cover meets mmparis, but through the lens of someone who grew up with the internet...if that makes sense. What I love about it is it's entirely original and its own, with a nod to his influences but never, ever too on-the-nose. You've probably seen some of his most recent work for Frank Ocean with the cover of the 'Lens' single, one that's been written about all over the internet, with writers pondering if it was inspired by the paintings of Kerry James Marshall and then most recently, the artwork for ASAP Rocky's single ''RAF'. It's fun, very "now", and a joy to see a creative person doing what they love for such great clients. Amado has a new book out you can get here. See more of his work @ the link below.

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The death of FFFFound & the endless pursuit of image collection...

If you use the internet, which you do, you've saved images you've found interesting for whatever reason somewhere at some point. Inspiration for a current or future project, how to arrange the books on your office shelf, inspiration for an outfit, a haircut, a party, whatever. The most primitive way to do this, of course, would be to actually save the image from website to folder on your desktop, or worse, screenshot it directly to your desktop into a sea of tiny thumbnails unlikely to be referenced ever again. Back in 2007, Japanese design firm Tha, responsible for projects with Wonderwall and MUJI among others, launched what soon became the solution to this disorganized approach for many creative types by launching, in their words, a "web service that not only allows the users to post and share their favorite images found on the web, but also dynamically recommends each user's tastes and interests for an inspirational image-bookmarking experience!!" I know a lot of designers whose desktops became a lot neater after FFFFound launched, which if you used it consistently, effectively kept all your 'inspiration collection' in one neat web-based place. Kind of a godsend if you ask me, and consider Pinterest didn't launch until 3 years later in March 2010(!). So - FFFFound was pretty ahead of its time and had a great BRILLIANCE-esque barebones design, very content-first, website-second. Fast-forward to 2017 — the beloved FFFFound will be shutting down 24 hours from now as I write this on Monday, May 15 according to a note currently posted on the site. This A) bums me out, because FFFFound was great, and B) got me thinking about how I harvest imagery from the internet that's worthwhile to me now. I tried Pinterest for a minute, even had the little Chrome plug-in, but it just didn't really stick. It does the job, but...I don't know. It's like this BRILLIANCE update - we painstakingly designed our backend CMS to look and feel just like the front-end. The environment in which you play is important. Instagram recently added a Bookmark feature which you can sort into Collections, which is cool but limited to the Instagram platform, not the web. Twitter...I mean, I just like way too many posts to ever effectively reference anything back. Actually, I realize I often 'like' Tweets simply as an acknowledgement to the author so I don't have to reply...maybe Twitter needs to design an "Acknowledged" icon to live next to the heart icon, lol. Like, "Yup, saw your Tweet. Cool" as opposed to "Wow, I actually love this". But anyways...if you're specifically part of the art/design/creative set looking for something, Designspiration is a solid go-to, but still not quite as all-purpose and easy as FFFFound was. So, I'll hold out hope that FFFFound is resurrected someday or hope someone comes along with another dead simple, brutalist Drudge Report-like anti-design image bookmarking/sorting platform. Until then, it's back to drag-and-drop.

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What if this is the best time in new music, like right now??

Of course we could all be ultra pessimistic and say no, but look at what just happened real quick. My friend Acyde just retweeted "A label without a recording studio, is just a marketing company" - Richard Russell. There's no more barrier to entry to get studio time. An artists own Instagram and friends are their personal marketing agency. So record labels today don't seem like record labels of the past. That legendary Travis Scott Terminal 5 show, Migos touring Coachella, Lil Uzi stage free falling 20 feet, Sampha selling out US shows etc. all feels like music has less gate keepers than before and the baton has been passed to a new generation. I love anything new. We're in good hands. Bless streaming. Remember it was just a second ago the streaming concept seemed "weird". Now we don't second guess it. Your iPhone is the radio. The radio is no longer "the radio". That's wild.

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Start-ups, working in VC, “ideas” and the concept of luck.

The more time I spend in the start-up / business world the more I think a lot of it is based around luck. So I suppose I consider my current situation as a bit of a “hat trick.” I was lucky enough to be in a position in life to be able to start a business when I was very young. Then, I was lucky enough to have one of those business do well - though the majority sputtered into nothingness. And finally…I was lucky to be invited to then work in venture capital as a bit of a culmination of the previous two bits of luck. To help others in their search for luck. Perhaps the Irony in all this is that the venture capital world, or any form of highly speculative or intuition based investing, requires a bit of luck. My definition of luck isn’t simply blindly having things fall in your lap… It’s some sort of 4 way intersection of preparedness, intuition powered by exposing yourself to as many different things in the world as possible, decisiveness, and the luck part…timing. If anyone is familiar with the Damen, Milwaukee, North intersection in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood it looks something like that - but add another street. Quite messy. (And oddly enough in the startup and VC world people tend to dress the same as kids in that area, lol.) It’s a tenuous place to hang out honestly. You either love it or find all the lack of structure incredibly uncomfortable…and honestly, even when you’ve fallen in love with it…its still can be really uncomfortable. I haven’t - or anyone I work with in the VC or startup world - become “wealthy” from the specific projects we work on yet. Would I like to? Yes. The concept of “fuck you money” isn’t one I am against achieving. That said…the value I derive from working in the space is the firehose of new ideas, information, concepts, solutions, and people I get to stand in front of every day. So fun. Shout out to all the lucky kids trying to catch the lucky waves… ***btw, I’m still out there, starting projects/business, looking for those “lucky waves” too…still in the line-up!!

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This Drake album is important. It's been out for like a month and is a soundtrack to the vibe of now. Genius level soundtrack with a "playlist" vibe. Interludes that aren't interludes. Features that are features. Raps! Melodies! Seriously tho. That Moodyman sample is deep before "Passionfruit" kicks off. What I love most about the album is that you can eat listen to it all point of the day. 6 am - 6 pm - 3 am. MURDA ON THE BEST SO IT'S NOT NICE!!



New things, new things! Literally and figuratively on this one…new project, via new objects. I’m feeling really fucking lucky that I get to do projects like these. For real. For the past maybe 5-6 years I’ve been playing around in the clothing space. Last 2-3 years I got super into materials and how things are made. So like, as a hobby I would dream up products in a given material. Sometimes the product came first and needed to find an interesting material to make it in - or the material came first and it was like: “what object would be wild to make out of this?!” Narrative was always like a playful bouncing back and forth between useful and useless. Irreverence can be romantic, no?

So now its a “business” - even though I love eternally calling things “projects” well after they are sorted as a business. Been lucky to take all the learning from previous projects I’ve worked on - some massive in scale, some corporate, some small, some playful, etc - and try and to not only build out a collection and NARRATIVE that makes sense - but a framework on the backend that allows it to be financially sustainable. I’m obsessed with that. Inspired by companies like Margiela and Visvim. Hotels like the Chateau. People like Marc Newson and Olivier Zahm. Who have a clear narrative but a super avant garde end result / product. Maybe no rules?? That sounds kind of corny - but I think its true. Those businesses, places, people are sustainable businesses that reinvest profits to even further remove themselves from rules while totally delighting their customers…you know??? I absolutely love that.

So this is me throwing my hat in the ring. From scratch. Experimenting, taking things stuck in my head and hustling to hold them in real life and see if people like them as much as I do. Yeah man, train has left the station, “AN OBJECT COMPANY” ~ link below.