We all seem belabored in accepting the point, so let’s do ourselves a favor, and make a promise, from here on out, to skip the omnipresent foreplay and accept the unembellished truth: everybody curses.
At times profanity really is the diction of the weak, but most of the time it is just diction—as much a part of everyday conversation as it is a part of our critically acclaimed movies and literary canons. And, as Jason Bacher, co-founder of Good F—king Design Advice sees it, giving advice can be made all the more effective if you slip in an f-bomb.
Bacher was in his second semester of grad school at Kent State University and growing frustrated with the students he was teaching. He was showing the kids the basics of graphic design—InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop—but the students were digging too deep in other areas rather than learning the necessary basics.
“The students, they were good, but they asked a lot of questions,” Bacher said. “The kind of questions that they weren’t really ready to receive yet, and this was a little bit frustrating. It took me about two weeks to the point where I finally broke, and I took my frustration to a colleague of mine.”
That colleague was Brian Buirge, who now is the other 50 percent of Good F—king Design Advice. The two would get coffee regularly, and chat about what happened in the classroom that day as a way of trying to become better at their jobs. They were both green, as Bacher calls it, and were trying to figure out their way around educating students.
Between the two of them came an idea.
“We decided to create a website where, instead of even looking at peoples work, or knowing about them or what they are possibly getting into, we should just provide them with advice,” Bacher said. “But, the advice has to be put in a way that will be memorable—more memorable than any of the advice that your parents, teachers, mentors, or friends had ever given you. And, quite frankly, it’s rare to have teachers that swear at you growing up, and whenever you hear that, you kind of perk up. We went back to the studio that day, took all of our other work aside, and sank our teeth into what is now a full-fledged business.”
He laughed, “At the time, we had no plans for it to become anything than a tool to create a little bit of humor and conversation. It was something we made for ourselves—we really had no expectations.”
That was 2010. Now, five years later, the company has pissed a whole lot of people off—and made a whole lot of people very thankful.
Hate mail came streaming in in the beginning, and it covered all ends of the spectrum—from a college design professor all the way over in the UK, to Brian’s aunt on his Facebook wall.
“Some people had contacted us and said that we had set the design industry back 10 years—like, the whole industry moved back 10 years,” Bacher said. “And, I think at my young age of 29 years old, if I’ve had an impact so deep that I moved an entire industry anywhere, and in a length of 10 years, my God, I’ve been pretty damn successful.”
Bacher and Buirge, who had never been driven by profanity, understood that too much would derail its effectiveness—but in the end, it came down to more about making an impact. “It’s really about answering the question: Are you rocking the boat? Are you creating some kind of movement, period.”
Going into the company with no expectations, Bacher and Buirge weren’t quite prepared for the movement that they had actually created.
There were cheers by way of email—people in the military who had broken push-up records, people who had gotten themselves through medical school, and a ton of letters from CrossFit athletes who had achieved their own milestones—all thanks to the gritty advice of the website, advertised through such slogans as “Stay up all f—king night” and “Find f—king inspiration everywhere,” printed on posters, coffee mugs, and t-shirts.
One of GFDA’s classic posters actually made it all the way to Apple Inc. In the office of Jonathan Ive, the senior vice-president of design at Apple, there’s a poster that starts with “Believe in your f—king self” and ends with “Think about all the f—king possibilities,” according to The New Yorker. Ive liked the poster so much that he bought one for every other office belonging to a designer.
“Our company trades in this ability to sell you to yourself. We want you to be the best version of yourself, whether you’re a designer or any other kind of creator,” Bacher said.
With regard to those questions that spurred the idea for the company, Bacher says that he never made his company public to his students, and he didn’t even really curse that much in the classroom. That being said, it wouldn’t hurt if a teacher decided to do so.
“Swearing is not an answer to your students’ problems, but a very specific infiltration of profanity into any educational conversation that will help to deliver poignant or salient information,” he said. “You really want to get that point in there? Slip the f-word in, grease the wheels a little bit.”
And, although Bacher doesn’t have plans to go back to teaching in a traditional setting, he still feels like he’s teaching every day, just to a larger pool of people—many of whom he doesn’t know. He also sees himself, still, as a student with much more to understand. “The real story of GFDA is riddled with failures—product failures, design failures, website failures—and I think that’s how we learned,” he said.
When the topic of coming to Boston to give a talk came up, Jason laughed. “You have the best brownstones over there.” Jason also made a comment about how parking is just as expensive as New York City, into which he moved recently, away from GFDA that is based in Ohio. “You have a great design community [in Boston], and a great start-up community.”
With the insurmountable stress and workload Boston College students face (the one word to describe the pace of life post-Spring Break has been a loud and unanimous “busy”), GFDA seems to have the right amount of kick to keep people up and running—to remind them of what to what they were driven in the first place. And, along with our own growth, GFDA is still very much in its infancy, and it’s looking to shake things up and keep the spark for the coming years.
Bacher’s voice was full of energy as he said, “That’s really our mission: continue rocking the boat.”
Featured Image courtesy of goodf—kingdesignadvice.com