#2 • Stories & Lessons of Founding Baron Fig
I’ll never forget the night we decided to make notebooks. It was a brisk January evening, quadruple layer season here in NYC, and we were at a Thai restaurant in midtown. There were these odd red-checkered tablecloths that made the place feel like we were at a picnic. Except in Thailand.
It’d been two years since we started our Rock&Co project. Adam, now my co-founder at Baron Fig, was sitting across from me. Our good friend and collaborator Scott was with us, too. I was waxing on about how there was something missing from notebooks — heart. At the time I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what that meant or how to solve the problem (it took a long while before I could), but something felt off.
I was still in art school at that point. During my time in the design department I noticed something that I’d later describe as a key observation.
My fellow students were using two primary tools to make work: their laptops and their notebooks. The laptops were always the same (Macs), but the notebooks were always different. Even my own shelves were filled with different brands with all kinds of sizes, shapes, and paper types.
“I can’t find a notebook I love,” I said, in between bites of chicken pad thai.
Adam and Scott had heard me go on about this several times over the past couple of years. The whole time it never dawned on me that this was a problem I could fix. It seemed almost obvious, but that’s only because I was intimately familiar with the people, processes, and products involved.
“Let’s just do it ourselves,” Adam said. For some reason it clicked. He meant it. I was ready. Scott agreed. We’d found Rock&Co’s third project.
Since then I’ve realized that being a user of the product we’re creating — as opposed to doing research to learn about something I don’t have knowledge on — helps tremendously. It allows me to weigh in my own experiences with every decision. Instead of asking, “Is this something our customer would like?” I am able to ask myself, “Is this something I would like?”
The problem wasn’t theoretical, it was personal and tangible. I know what it’s like what a notebook doesn’t open flat or when the sizing feels unnatural. My own experiences fueled the design of our flagship notebook, the Confidant — and it resonated with thinkers around the world.
In solving a problem of my own, I ended up solving one for others.