Featured on Jun 10, 2011
"It's amazing what happens when you decide to unplug the internet, take out your headphones, and see where the quiet takes you."
I'm the design co-founder of Magnetism Studios — my job is to come up with interesting products and then figure out how to get them built and in the hands of real people. We've made a lot of iPhone apps, built a t-shirt company and a wrote a book.
- Title: Designer + Entrepreneur
- Age: 30
- Location: SoHo
- Contact: @JoshuaKeay
Your bio on Twitter states that you are a wearer of many non-literal hats. Give us a summary list of the types of hats you’ve had to wear while founding and working at Magnetism Studios. Do you like wearing certain hats more than others?
I studied design in art school, though I was never good at staying in one program. I wound up taking furniture making classes, making animations and doing lots of side projects. My natural tendency is to go wide, explore all sorts of things. For years, it was hard to explain what Magnetism does — are we a t-shirt shop, a software company, or are we book authors? I’ve answered the “What do you do?” question in all those different ways, and in the end I realized that there’s no right answer. All those roles are a part of me, they’re all things that I’m really passionate about. So the new discipline for me is to stay the course, to work on a project for more than six months, to sink my teeth in and see where it takes me.
Why do you choose to be in New York?
I love San Francisco, and I’ve considered moving out there. But the thing that keeps me coming back to New York is it’s scrappiness. Historically, it’s always been a city made of outsiders. People who left where they were from because of a wild dream and a sense of optimism. I feel like New York represents the old idea of what America stands for, possibility and promise. We New Yorkers are like pioneers, either us or our ancestors were willing forsake the place we came from for the potential of a new place. And that ethos is pervasive. I think you see it a lot in the two-man startups, the zines, the food carts, everywhere. We don’t need to be a card-carrying member of an organization, we don’t need approval. We’re achieving our dreams by grit and enthusiasm and whatever else it takes.
All your projects seem really playful, lots of graphics and humor. Do you think that’s the future of software?
At this point everyone’s heard of the TED conference, but it’s not so well known what TED stands for — it’s literally an acronym, all about the intersection of Technology Entertainment and Design. I always loved that idea, of mixing the disciplines together, and we’re gonna see a lot more of it in the coming years. How can we make technology more soulful? How can we make it more fun? Apple has a very specific aesthetic that they’ve embraced in recent years, very austere and sleek. Lots of companies want to imitate Apple, but there are lots of different ways for technology to be appealing. You’re starting to see some new companies inject more humor into their apps, to remind you that the little error dialog box which pops up on the screen was actually written by a human being. I think that’s really exciting, to add more personality, more nuance and quirk to our software. Better yet, to create software that’s not just about you playing a video game, but about you interacting with someone on the other end of the screen, or better yet, using technology to connect with people in real life. Basically, I want to use computers to make people smile.