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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Monday randoms.

I miss doing these "randoms" posts. • I moved to Chicago this weekend - got a spot in the Gold Coast. Feels weird, feels good, feels new, but also super comfortable. • Instagram is our LinkedIn - I'm quite thankful for it...s/o to all the random people I've met, super fun. • I hardly listen to any music anymore - only podcast and audiobooks - just finished the Elon Musk book, then listened to it again, unreal. • I should probably star listening to more music though. • Finally got into the bitcoin a while back - saw a great quote from my friend Bryce re bitcoin: "If you believe in the importance of decentralized systems, get involved now and stay involved for the long run." • Do people still use RSS readers - feel like I'm the only one? • Will Hedi Slimane go to Chanel - and will kids (me?!) wear Chanel jeans? • Speaking of jeans, those paint splattered APCs Jean Toutiou...I love them, but quite un-APC no? • Pro-tip: buy fresh cut eucalyptus and keep it in your bathroom/near your shower, etc - incredibly refreshing smell in the morning. • This phone charger battery pack thing from Anker is genius. • Whats the whitest white t-shirt you can buy? Need help on that one - nothing over $30. • I have some new Benjamin Edgar products coming out this week - launching at Notre here in Chicago. • I want to design little single-serving fresh veggie, charcuterie, and cheese combo packs in all paper packaging to be sold at Whole Foods. Wish that existed. • Who would have thought T-mobile might end up being the disruptor...looking that way though. • I'm actually a fan of Mondays...its Sundays that are boring to me. • That'll do it - hope everyone is having a good day. :)

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Thank you have a nice day ❀ Michael Cherman & Chinatown Market!!

Michael Cherman is a fashion & graphic designer from New York who first made his mark with his brand ICNY, a sportswear company that utilized 3M reflective to keep night activities safe while still emphasizing smart, good design. The concept was Cherman's response to an incident in 2012 when he was hit by a car while riding his bike home from work. Sometimes great ideas are born out of shitty life experiences. During that time, he was also honing his branding and design skills with projects for the likes of Nike, KITH, and A$AP Worldwide. Fast-forward to 2016, Cherman's inspiration has shifted from the serious, technical, safety-as-priority ICNY to the opposite end of the spectrum with Chinatown Market, his new endeavor described as "An homage to the spirit of Canal St." So...You pretty immediately feel this is a brand its creator is having a lot of fun with, which honestly is why I wanted to write this post. (That's not to say he wasn't having fun with ICNY, this looks pretty fun to me). Smiley faces, bootleg Gucci kingsnakes, 'Thank you have a nice day' and a rose lifted from plastic takeout bags, the 'SHIRT SHIRT T-SHIRT', which is hilarious to me...all tell a story of someone who found a simple point of inspiration and is having a good time building on it. It's all very New York but still somehow universally wearable, much in the way that early aNYthing was. I was living in the Chicago suburbs when A-Ron got that brand rolling and I never felt weird wearing it - it just felt like a perfect homage to an incredible city that anyone who has ever visited could appreciate and participate in to a certain extent. Check out the Chinatown Market Instagram and the site at the link below. Thank you and have a nice day.

Space Space Space

Space fever / the intersection of space exploration and culture.

I'm not a particularly jealous person...but whenever I hear about kids who were between the ages of 6-18 during the Apollo mission era and how incredibly inspiring it was to be around that...and how it ended up shaping their entire view of what the future could be and that anything was possible, etc, etc...I'll be honest, I get a bit jealous. I, on the other hand, am a product of the internet. Don't get me wrong, still incredibly inspired how us kids could make something out of nothing with a $200 used laptop hanging in our parents was (and continues to be) something I feel super lucky to be involved in. But stuff. I feel like I've had "space fever" these past 2-3 years - for real. Its all I'm consuming with podcasts, books, audiobooks, blogs, netflix, youtube, etc, etc. Feel like its not just me...feels like its swelling in the overall zeitgeist. While there are the big guys, SpaceX, Blue Origin, etc - could call them the Space 2.0 era - there are a ton of tiny start-ups and projects in the space (ha) popping up. I call it "Space 3.0"... I'm having too much fun being active in the funding of kickstarters, being a monthly Paetron of various podcasts, paying member of Planetary Society, PayPaling independent amateur rocket projects, etc, etc. Even taking a personal trip out to InterOrbital Systems this summer. Too fun. Quick, certainly not complete, list of things/projects I'm into, have participated in, etc.

LightSail - kickstarter funded light sail satellite project with one launch under its belt and another one with SpaceX this. So well executed - truly felt like you were able to help something get into space.

Copenhagen Suborbitals - incredibly well-branded amateur, non-for-profit, rocket company doing regular ocean-based launches.

InterOrbital Systems - a rocket start up in Mojave working to get to orbit yet this year and the moon in the next few years!! I'm visiting them this summer...will post about it, ha.

LunarX Prize - incredible.

PSU Rocket Program - amazing what they've accomplished. Still waiting on my mission patch......

StarTalk - classic.

Cosmic Vertigo - podcast with such a different...feel.

Pioneer Plaque Kickstarter - intersection of art kids and space.

Crash Course Astronomy - so incredibly well done. Can't say enough. But Phil never replied to my email... :/

...sure there are some I'm forgetting.

I think we're at this fascinating intersection of culture and science right now...maybe we always were?! Just feels considerably more interesting to the creative kids, innovators, entrepreneurs, designers, etc. Teaser, I have a project coming out in mid 2018 in the space (ha, again)...had to dip my toe in. SPACE FEVER.

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Paolo Girardi!! Heavy metal painter, Italian Instagram romantic.

All I wanted to know was who did the album cover for Power Trip's 'Nightmare Logic', one of my favorite heavy records of 2017. I expected to find a reclusive American painter with long hair who doesn't talk much. What I found was so, so much more than that. What I found was my new favorite Instagram follow. What I found was --- Paolo Girardi. Paolo is a 43 year old Italian painter who seemingly only creates his paintings for album covers of the metal variety. Doesn't matter what kind of metal - power, black, grind, thrash - just needs to be loud and heavy. I've actually seen his work on many record covers over the years but never took the time to find out who the artist was. So far this doesn't sound particularly unique, surely there are a lot of artists out there who do work in this vein. But!! Have you seen his Instagram!? Honestly, finding his Instagram was a bit like seeing a band live who you were only familiar with because of one or two songs, then being blown away by the live performance and leaving with a t-shirt and listening to them on the drive home. I'm really fascinated by this guy! Not only does Paolo post his intricate paintings...Paolo posts videos of himself in his studio lifting weights (he's huge!), in ripped tank tops, denim shorts, no shirt at all, going to bed in his studio on a cot with snowflake pajama pants on. He really is the embodiment of his own work. But none of this is an act or an ironic vibe, this is just who Girardi is and, according to this interview, who he always has been. From that interview: "I’ve never changed my “style” since the late ’80s/early ’90s. That’s all. I am a bit out of date, some people call me a dinosaur, stubborn huge brick wall, or Neanderthal man, actually. Well, Italian ladies hate my old style." Well, their loss. Get lost in Paolo's world on his Instagram, link below.

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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.