The Bare Necessities: A Q&A with Jason Kinziger

Jason KinzigerSomething a little different for DIYPlanner today. There are a lot of people out there who make products we love, or who have dedicated themselves to subjects that continue to intrigue us. We're going to start to interview some of these people, learn what makes them tick, and perhaps get an inside look at the industry that makes us more productive, or more creative, or that simply disposes of all our disposable income.

In writing my review of the "Bare" line of notebooks, I became fascinated by Myndology's unique approach to design. I managed to snag one very busy Jason Kinziger, the owner of this small company, to discuss the creation of this series.

Tell me, what was the inspiration for the Bare line?

I made this product as much for me as I did for our customers. I felt the current paper and notebook market has become overloaded with glossy and saccharine products. I honestly have a hard time walking into a big box store without feeling a little nauseous, there is just so much cheap paper and plastic.

Not very eco-friendly, is it?

With all of our products, the environment and sustainability is a major consideration, but with the Bare line we wanted to see how far we could take it. This product was intended to be just the opposite of everything else out there. It's very simple, elegant, functional, and true to both the environment and the brand.

Who is the Bare line targeted to?

Our customers are college students and young professionals. This demo[graphic] wants something different, and this is perfect for them.

Bare notebooksCan you take us through the process of creating a new line such as this? -- Design, materials, sending to manufacturing, etc.. (Trust us, we pen-and-paper geeks love this sort of thing.)

The first thing we did was set out to define the product's essential characteristics. This began with a meeting with Duffy & Partners, the creative team behind all of our products. For the Bare line, the primary focus was, of course, 'green' and value. We wanted to create a product that was made with local paper and that was cool, but did not have an abundance of inks, foils, and other media that we usually use to make a product cool. With the Bare line, what made it very different from a design perspective was the fact that we wanted to use as little material as possible.

Seems like a sound business decision, but somewhat at odds with the many all-in-one products flooding the market.

We took an opposite approach and asked ourselves what can we take away from the product, rather than add to it, and yet still make something that stirs creativity and passion in the user. Something all great design does.

Well, the cover certainly demonstrates a "cutting away". I can't say I've ever seen anything quite like that in a notebook.

In the end we decided on a cut-out design that featured a pattern of arrows symbolizing the almost infinite directions the creative process can take you in. The design process at Duffy is an amazing thing to watch. Working with them to design a new product is probably the most exciting part of what I do. It's also is a very time-consuming process, and it's hard to explain how much work actually goes into the creative design process.

One of the industry paradigms is that "creativity costs." Was that a challenge?

One of the issues that repeatedly came up in this project was the final cost of the project. Since Myndology's customers are students and artists we really try to keep costs as low as possible.

Given the nature and quality of the product, I'm surprised that you're able to sell it for the price it is.

From the start, our philosophy was to create an environmentally friendly product that is affordable. We wanted to offer a very high quality paper stock, but the costs always came back very high. So we were seriously considering scrapping the project because one of our top goals was to have a 100% recycled stock. The breakthrough came when we contacted Jerry French, the president of The French Paper Company. He was fantastic. He totally got what we were doing, said that he was on-board and offered us a significant mill discount on the paper. Without him, the Bare line would not be what it is. The stock in these notebooks is very high quality. When you feel it and write on it you'll know exactly what I am talking about.

During my review, I tested it with many types of fountain pens. It was certainly some of the best paper I've encountered in a notebook, certainly at that price point. Tell me, how long did the process last?

From the first day we sat down to discuss the design to the final assembly of the first Bare notebook took over six months. It was at times a very trying process. But in the end, we created a winner and the product has done very well.

I tend to agree. However, many of us DIYers like more options. Are you thinking of expanding this line in any way?

We will have an 8.5x11 and a 2x3 version later this year. Also, we are considering add-ons, such as tabbed folders and a calendar for this line.

Now that's what I like to hear. Thank you for your time, Jason. I look forward to seeing what you come up with next.

You're very welcome.

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