The Design Messengers | 481 | Something New about Something Old Times TWO!

I’m Josh Cooperman, host and publisher of Convo By Design and this is a new series of the show called The Design Messengers. A Monday episode of the show sharing design trade info you need to know. I have three items of interest for you. The loss of another design industry brand, a new Booklook. Call this something old and something new, about something old.

First up, the loss of another iconic brand. Kelly Moore Paints. The global design business doesn’t have enough brands. Think about it, let’s just look at paint… Sherwin Williams, Farrow and Ball, Benjamin Moore, Behr, Valspar, Backdrop, Rust-Oleum. It sounds like a lot but it’s really not when you think about how many residential, commercial and industrial projects need to be served. When one is lost, you have to wonder why and what the ramifications will be.

As of this writing, Kelly-Moore has not announced its closure on the website or socials, which I find disappointing. If you are going to bail, tell your customers first, as loudly as you can. Yes, you will lose sales, but it’s the right thing to do. Thank goodness for good journalism. On Friday, January 12th, Kelly-Moore Paints in Irving, Texas let hundreds of workers go and in a press release, announced what they call a “… Plan of r Orderly, Ou-of-Court Wind Down of Company Operations.” The company pointed to a decades long legal struggle stemming from asbestos litigation. Kelly-Moore estimated legal liabilities in excess of $170 million. A number, they apparently could not overcome.

The company was founded by William Kelly and William Moore in California, 1946 and acquired by Flacks Group in 2022. Tis is a company that was founded on fair value, fair pricing and offering a designer quality paint to the masses. They were one of the largest independents in the country with over $400 million in annual sales.  

From the press release in September 2022, their goals and aspirations were big. “The purchase of Kelly-Moore Paints is part of Flacks Group’s multi-stage investment thesis around industrial companies with strong manufacturing footprints and global distribution. The acquisition, when combined with its existing portfolio company Germany-based Pleuger Industries, puts Flacks Group’s industrial vertical on track to exceed $1 billion in revenues in the next two to three years.” That presser did not age well. 

I have a BookLook for you. A new book by Elizabeth and Ethan Finkelstein. They are the founders of @CheapOldHouses and hosts of HGTV’s show by the same name. I am not a huge fan of the made for TV shows about design these days for one main reason, the are not authentic. They aren’t real when it comes to taste, style and design-build. But i’m not a hater, I just want better. And this show is a favorite of mine. I believe Elizabeth and Ethan, I believe in them. I love old houses, renovations and road trips. All of this is incorporated in the show and when I received the book, I found something more to love. The book is a series of short tories about… cheap old houses. The places, people, kids, dogs and how much these homes cost to buy and restore.

This is a big deal and I will tell you as someone who left LA for a smaller town, lives in an old home and one that is in the process of being reimagined, as you can see through the Tulsa Remote Design House segments on the show and videos on our IG feed. I can tell you, leaving the big metropolitan city for a smaller town, in a bigger and older home has been an incredible experience that pre-pandemic would not have seemed like a real possibility. This book is inspirational, aspirational and it is, above all else, authentic. 

We live in a time of high housing costs, high mortgage rates, congested, hyper-competitive cities and it doesn’t have to be that way. I think the next 5-10 years is going to provide a fundamental shift in not just how we live, but where we live. The pandemic created the opportunity for us to work and live where we choose. There will be those who say, “I love nYC and I’m never leaving.” There are people like me who love LA… I mean, I LOVE LA. But I’ve moved before, I might go back. Might not… But the idea that now, technology has caught up with the wanderlust of those, like me who love roadtrips and discovery. This will shine a light on quality of life and crafting your environment to suit life instead of the other way around and this book provides story after story, real world examples of this happening. The joy of finding amazing, old, well-built homes in uncomplicated, simple cities and towns that you have never heard of. And, if you’ve never heard of it, how do you know if you will like it, or perhaps even love it.

There is residential gold in small cities and towns dappled across the country and this book is not just a showcase but a how-to through the eyes and experiences of those who have done it. I do love this book, I am a fan of the Finkelstein’s mission and I am going to try and book them for the show so you can hear from them. Until I do, get the book, because it’s a keeper. It’s published by Clarkson Potter. Check the show notes for a link.  

This is The Design Messengers, an audio essay crafted to get your week of to a great start by sharing ideas to launch you into being the best you can be in all your endeavors but specifically, as a creative in the design and architecture space. Thank you for listening. If you are not already a subscriber, please consider subscribing to the show so you receive every episode of The Design Messengers and Convo By Design automatically when they are published. If you are listening to us for the first time, you can find Convo By Design everywhere you find your favorite podcasts. If you are so inclined, please also consider following on IG @ConvoXDesign with an “X”. Thanks again for listening. Be well and take today first. -CXD

Introducing The Design Messengers | 470 | A New Series Designed to Change the Way We Think About The Design Industry

I’m Josh Cooperman, host and publisher of Convo By Design with something brand new for you. A Monday episode of the show, called The Design Messengers. I think you’re going to like this for a number of reason not the least of which is that this is going to make your design business stronger because together, we are going to start thinking differently about this industry and ways to do it better, faster, smarter.

Let me remind you, I’m a journalist, not a designer, and certainly not a consultant, I have interviewed some of the very best in the business and have shared techniques, strategies and ideas that allow you to execute better on your design business. Or, if you are a consumer, of which I hear from many who listen to the show, you know this helps you select the right creative for you, interview designers with a keen understanding of what you want which allows you better to select who is going to be your best partner. 

I have said this a few times and that is one of the main drivers for launching this new brand extension of the podcast. Podcasts are fantastic for learning, entertainment and companionship. What do I have against consultants? Nothing at all. I think business advice is one of the most valuable things you can do to grow a strong and healthy business. Why would you take the advice of a marketer/ consultant who doesn’t really know the technical side of your industry? A former designer who couldn’t make it in the business but instead decides to host a podcast to tell other designers what they couldn’t do or starts a consulting business to share the in’s and out’s of a business that has dramatically changed since they were in the game? Does this sound mean? It’s not intended to be. It is intended to make you think about the information you consume and the purpose it is intended to serve. Let’s be clear, Convo By Design is about storytelling. I am a mirror on the industry with an opinion. I will continue to share my ideas with you, but I don’t:

  1. Tell you what to do.
  2. Tell you what to buy.
  3. Tell you how to think.
  4. Tell you who is not getting the job done.
  5. Tell you how great I am, or all of the wonderful things I have done to make you believe me.
  6. Tell you to believe what I share with you. If you do, you do and if you don’t, that’s cool too.

I will tell you about my experience and share it in context. That context is to position the next story. As a journalist, I’m not here to sell you anything. Not products, services, trips, club memberships, subscriptions. Nothing excepts stories. Stories about our incredible business researched and crafted to help strengthen our industry. Stories that I hope you find interesting and help you think differently about what it is you do. I present a thought and you have a reaction to it.

Why is this important?

I have told you about my time in radio broadcasting. When I first started, it was the early nineties, I was fresh out of college with bright eyes, a curious mind and wanted to succeed. Shortly after, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was signed into law. This law deregulated cable service, made some technical changes with regard to censorship options parents could use on individual TV’s but the big thing for me that I did not understand at the time was lifting of the cap on the number of stations radio operators could own. I’ll go straight to the last page and share the ending. It killed local radio. the radio that was local, special and truly unique to your city. If you look at radio in any of the listenership ratings in major markets, medium markets or even most small markets, you will find the same 5 or 6 companies O/O the top stations in each market because they O/O almost all the stations. Radio was once a vibrant, diverse and varied group of individual operators who could be creative in their presentation of the music playlist, personalities in each daypart, the amount of time DJ’s could talk between songs. That is not the case today and if you would like to know why, you can draw a line to the Telcom Act of 1996. I think it stifled creativity in a meaningful way, limited the type of new music we were exposed to and irrevocably changed the future of music by making way for Napster, Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube amongst a host of others which is why we use media differently these days and why radio is what it is. How many of you listen to over-the-air radio? Depending on your generation, it probably drops precipitously. 

Industries change based on business climate and appetite for what they offer. The design industry has lost a number of incredible titles over the past years and it’s not just here in the US. This is not just a design industry issue, every category of print is suffering and as both a journalist and lover of design, it saddens me. The pressures on the industry have been caused by a number of factors that includes the cost of paper, printing, paying good writers and the proliferation of digital options. And the outlook for print is not improving with the latest in AI, ease of digital content creation and the subscription squeeze. 

The purpose of The Design Messenger series is to keep you abreast of new developments, the latest media and business ideas. Yes, I am a mirror on the industry but I also have a take and I plan on sharing this take with you measured against facts, opinion and results.

Would you really want a former stock broker telling you what your clients want and how you should specify your work? I wouldn’t. So, if you want to know how to better keep your books, find a great content hosted by an accountant. There are many truly amazing podcasts hosted by lawyers about contracts, hiring managers share best practices about hiring and recruiting. With only so many hours in the day, why not prioritize the “free” time you do have and make that information count. Please understand, there are also a number of wonderful shows hosted by actual working designers sharing their strategies with you and that is amazing. Those shows should be in your queue.

This is also a living, breathing idea that has changed in real time, because that is the new reality. Over the years, I have shared business ideas with you. Not the blocking and tackling of your day to day, but what is happening in the world of creative businesses and what others are doing, perhaps in other industries that you might be able to use to execute better on your day to day. Monday’s on The Design Messenger episodes of Convo By Design, you will find actionable ways to start your week, perhaps thinking a bit differently about this vibrant and diverse industry of ours. Perhaps we will be talking about AI, stock market financials of some of the biggest companies in the design space. Why, because you can learn a great deal about what the clients are spending on by the performance of these companies. The Design Messenger episodes will also be sharing trending ideas in the business that allow you to know whats coming well before they become the trends that the trade pubs tell you are the next “must haves”.

What’s the point? Have you ever heard of Evolutionary Adaptation? Evolutionary adaptation is what organisms do by way of adapting to  the changing circumstances of their environment to improve their chances of survival. In the wild, the attached article demonstrates how birds eyes are getting smaller to account for light pollution. Have you noticed that most schools have perimeter fences where there were none 5, 10 years ago. We all know why that is happening. But we rarely think about it. This is not about a color for this year, but an adaptive change that designers, architects, landscape architects can use to do more, better business. On the show, we have been talking about the multi-kitchen household. Conventional design thought had one kitchen in the home and some form of exposed fire for cooking outdoors. Look at what the industry has done with the outdoor kitchen, working kitchens, butlers Pantry and scullery. Many a landscape architect are now experts in the outdoor culinary pavilion.  That should be the domain of the interior designer. That is a business extension given away because it happens to reside on the other side of the threshold. If you could add an $80,000+ room to every project you design, would you? You can listen back some episodes ago where I share the story of the record companies vs. radio. And radio vs. Apple. Same exact thing but it happened in the 1990’s. As Mark Twain said, “History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” We will certainly be exploring more of these ideas.

Think differently about what you say.

In November of 2023, I produced the programming lounge at the WestEdge Design Fair as I have for many of the 8 editions of the show.  In preparation for casting and while ideating new and different programming concepts, I did a great deal of research and if you are a designer, architect, showroom owner, manufacturer or anyone else that i would consider for the programming stage, its an interview for which many don’t even know they are being interviewed. And, I am not alone in this. As a journalist, every contributor, editor, publisher should be looking at the social media of those with whom we might want to work. I have been watching the social media feeds of many creatives and I think it warrants mentioning that your social media feed might be costing you opportunities.

It doesn’t matter what you think about wars around the world, when you take a side, you are offending those who believe the other side of the conflict. This not only affects the usual third-rails like politics and religion but everything… The false consensus effect is the idea that individuals are predisposed to the idea that their own beliefs and ideas are correct. It’s a cognitive bias.  It’s the idea that others believe what they believe. 

You might very well be costing yourself, your firm, your brand by posting the non-endemic commentary. By endemic, I refer to your company goals, ideals and values. You will rarely see in the “about” section of any website what a firm or individuals “values” or “morals” happen to be. Many I have spoken with say that they limit what they share in their “about” to be vague. As not to offend or limit who might be interested in what they do, potential clients,, editors, etc. Yet, their social profiles scream of things many would never discuss were they on a programming stage in front of a live and engaged audience. 

I will tell you that as a programmer, I will not cast someone who has the tendency to veer off course and potentially derail a focused conversation. The biggest problem here is that the individuals who do this have no idea that there were consequences for their opinions. If you have a business profile, use that to promote your business philosophy. Save your personal views for your personal or your burner profile. 

There is a showroom owner I follow on social media. I don’t follow this individual because I like their commentary. I do like much of what they produce, and no, I will not be sharing the name of this individual here. I use them as an adverse example. I “what not to do” sample, if you will. When speaking in person with creatives to demonstrate this idea and this particular showroom owner is the perfect example of what NOT to do. Why? First, they live for lists. We have spoken about “lists” before and why I dislike them as much as I do. They use big name designers in these lists in the hopes of getting said designers to repost. It’s marketing, yes. But it’s pedestrian and purely click-bait. This individual also takes shots at other showrooms. This is a terrible idea for a litany of reasons not the least of which is that it just makes you a jerk in the eyes of those specifiers who use that brands product in their work. If you were to stand in front of a group and simply trash brands because you don’t like them, the odds are not in your favor that you would exit that environment with a positive outcome. And while vague, that can mean a number of things like diminished reputation, loss of sales and or influence within the design community. Free speech you say. We all know that free speech has consequences. You can say it. But, you then have to live with the consequences. Life is hard enough as it is. Don’t go out of your way to make it more difficult. I read an article called, Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid, by Jonathan Haidt from the May 2022Issue of The Atlantic. Haight makes reference to the tower of Babel. It’s a great read and makes some interesting points about how our ideas, language and deployment of our ideas has become an incomprehensible mess. 

Thinking differently about your words and context is vital to not just your success, but the success of our industry. I have mentioned my days in radio before and that is the perfect industry to use as one that had it all. For decades, radio enjoyed a monopolistic rarity, still does for those companies that own radio frequencies on the AF and FM bands. Same for TV.  But, they took this for granted, lacked vision and imagination. Now, they do not enjoy that same exclusivity because you can watch, listen and publish anytime, anywhere on so many different platforms, they cannot all be mentioned here. Same story for the record labels and General Motors which could have had the absolute exclusive on electric vehicles for decades which might have meant on Tesla, no Rivian, no Fisker, no Prius. Do you think if they knew then what they know now, they might have done things differently?

This is The Design Messengers, an audio essay crafted to get your week of to a great start by sharing ideas to launch you into being the best you can be in all your endeavors but specifically, as a creative in the design and architecture space. Thank you for listening. If you are not already a subscriber, please consider subscribing to the show so you receive every episode of The Design Messengers and Convo By Design automatically when they are published. If you are listening to us for the first time, you can find Convo By Design everywhere you find your favorite podcasts. If you are so inclined, please also consider following on IG @ConvoXDesign with an “X”. Be well and take today first. -CXD