About the Guest
Joey Cofone is the Founder & CEO of Baronfig and an award-winning designer and entrepreneur. His work has been featured in Fast Company, Bloomberg, New York Magazine, Bon Appétit, Quartz, Mashable, Gizmodo, and Print, among others. Joey was named a New Visual Artist and, separately, Wunderkind designer by Print magazine.
He strives to make work that appeals to curious minds—work that’s beautiful, smart, and communicative. He believes that design is the least of a designer’s worries, that story is at the heart of all tasks, and jumping off cliffs is the only way to grow.
- (00:00:00) - Introduction
- (00:01:08) - Wrestling with Skill vs Renown
- (00:02:57) - Why People Would Be Surprised at Joey Cofone’s Daily Discipline
- (00:04:04) - Why Joey Cofone Has Been Tracking His Habits for 13 Years
- (00:05:21) - Joey Cofone’s Favorite Baronfig Products
- (00:07:23) - How Joey Cofone and James Clear Designed the Clear Habit Journal
- (00:10:46) - The Laws of Creativity by Joey Cofone in 90 Seconds
- (00:12:51) - How Rock Bottom Taught Joey Cofone How to Take Risks
- (00:16:07) - Why the Most Important Value at Baronfig is Experimentation
- (00:22:08) - Joey Shares His Favorite Books Including Radical Candor and The Phantom Tollbooth
- (00:23:47) - Joey Cofone’s Favorite Advice From His Barber and Malcom Gladwell
- (00:26:11) - How Joey Cofone Learns From Failure at Baronfig
Joey Cofone shares the lessons he’s learned as an award-winning designer, the Founder & CEO of Baronfig, and the author of The Laws of Creativity, including why he’s fascinated with the juxtaposition between skill and renown, how he worked with James Clear to design the Clear Habit Journal, why experimentation is Baronfig’s most important value, how rock bottom taught him how to take risks, and so much more.
“There’s a stereotype of creatives, which is that they’re just flying by the seat of their pants. I’m here to tell you that it’s absolutely not true. We need to separate that from what creativity is. We need to decouple this ridiculous stereotype so that more people can blossom creatively.” — Joey Cofone
Joey Cofone's Favorite Books
Joey shared his all-time favorite books including:
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
- The Phantom Tollbooth is a children's fantasy adventure novel written by Norton Juster, with illustrations by Jules Feiffer, first published in 1961. The story follows a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth that transports him to the once prosperous, but now troubled, Kingdom of Wisdom. Along with a dog named Tock and the Humbug, Milo goes on a quest to the Castle in the Air seeking the kingdom's two exiled princesses, named Rhyme and Reason. As Milo learns valuable lessons, he finds a love of learning in a story full of puns and wordplay, such as exploring the literal meanings of idioms. While The Phantom Tollbooth is a children’s novel, Joey Cofone thinks every adult should read it.
- Buy it now: Print | eBook | Audiobook
Radical Candor by Kim Scott
- Radical Candor, or how to be a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity, is a business leadership book written by former Apple and Google executive Kim Malone Scott. In the book, Scott defines the term radical candor as feedback that incorporates both praise and criticism. Unlike radical transparency or radical honesty, Scott says the management principle of radical candor involves “caring personally while challenging directly.” Radical Candor is core to how Joey Cofone and his team at Baronfig work together and how they share feedback with one another.
- Buy it now: Print | eBook | Audiobook
Joey Cofone's Favorite Baronfig Products
Joey also shared his favorite products of Baronfig, where he’s the Founder & CEO. They include:
- Squire Rollerball Pen: Joey Cofone’s favorite pen is the Squire Rollerball Pen, which is designed with an underlying philosophy of simplicity, usefulness, and community.
- Confidant Hardcover Notebook: The Confidant notebook is made for ideas. Its premium cloth hardcover, high quality paper, and lay-flat design are just a few examples of the care that goes into its creation.
- Strategist Index Cards: The Strategist index cards are perfect for lists, sketches, reminders, and more. Joey Cofone, Baronfig’s Founder & CEO, keeps a stack of them on his desk filled with all of the ideas that he wants to continue to think about and push forward. He reviews that stack weekly to make sure that every idea is something he wants to continue pursuing and investing in.
- James Clear’s Habit Journal: Joey Cofone, Baronfig’s Founder & CEO, personally designed the Clear Habit Journal with the author of the NYT Bestseller Atomic Habits, James Clear, over the course of 6 months.
If you enjoyed this episode with Joey Cofone, don’t miss our other interviews with creative and design leaders:
- #35 Building Halide, Spectre, and Lux with Sebastiaan de With | Outlier Founders
- #30 Lessons Learned as a Founder, Investor, and Bestselling Author with Scott Belsky | Outlier Book Club
- #132 Ben Blumenrose of Designer Fund: My Favorite Books, Tools, Habits and More | 20 Minute Playbook
- #131 Designer Fund: Building the World’s First Design Centric Venture Capital Firm | Outlier Investors
Go Deeper on Creativity
Joey Cofone explains the two types of inspiration—passive and active—and how anyone can take advantage of them to find inspiration. He also describes how active inspiration works and how it consists of three steps: collecting, assimilating, and combining. If you’re struggling to get and stay inspired, this is a fantastic read.
Creativity and entrepreneurship have a lot of synergies, but they can just as easily work against each other. Joey Cofone walks through how he balances creativity with entrepreneurship at Baronfig. He shares why a great creation does not equal a great seller and why, similarly, a great selling product isn’t necessarily a mind-blowing one.
Joey Cofone shares the highs and lows of building Baronfig over the last decade, including why the biggest challenge is handling the pulls in a dozen directions in any given moment, and how there’s always something that can be created, improved, or fixed. Building a company often feels like a never ending game of Whack-a-Mole.
While the results of creativity are often magical, the process to get there is not. The practice of creativity is as reliable as accounting and as easy as following these four steps: get inspired, research, iterate, and choose to end. Joey Cofone shares why we have to lean into systemization and systemize the hell out of our creative process.
Joey Cofone shares his thoughts on how to know when an idea is good and how to go from an idea to the best final solution or product. For him, it involves what he calls the Grok Threshold, which is when your audience understands an idea profoundly and intuitively—envisioning how it fits into their lives and understanding it well enough to be able to share it with others.
All of us struggle with personal accountability and honoring our commitments. Joey Cofone shares the four strategies he uses to keep himself accountable and use his time effectively. They include having contingencies, giving himself prizes when he hits certain goals, daily habit tracking, and having accountability buddies. He goes on to explain why all of these use positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement.
For more, explore the transcript of this episode.