After six years as an art director at the acclaimed graphic design studio, 2×4, Glen Cummings decided to start his own studio. MTWTF was born earlier this year, in Lower East Side, New York City, and we’re excited to have a fellow NYC business as our latest New Founder. Aside from running his new business, Glen teaches graphic design at Yale University each week. How does one man do so much? You’ll find out in the interview below. Read on.
Why did you decide to start your own company, and how did you come up with the name?
I’m a list maker. I write down all the things I’d like to do all the time. Since 2002 being an art director at 2×4 was my primary focus. I finally admitted that I either had to stop making my lists, or start doing some of the items on them, and that meant starting my own studio.
The motivation was the same as when I was 18 and moved out of my parent’s house. You learn to cook, clean, pay bills and it eventually becomes clear that you should develop your own community and environment. I guess they used to say “start your own family”. It’s the same with design studios. Time to set up shop and foster my own.
Every calendar I’ve ever had says the same thing at the top: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday. Its hard not to think of those calendars as a letterhead of sorts, so MTWTF, seemed like an obvious choice.
Aside from running a design studio, you teach graphic design at Yale. How do you handle that, and why do you still teach?
Helping designers see the potential in their emerging ideas reminds me to do the same. If you take teaching seriously it is a dialogue not a monologue, so you definitely gain as much as you give.
As far as fitting it into my schedule, I don’t have an answer to that. It doesn’t. Nothing ever really fits, I just kinda do it.
Running your own business is tough. How do you keep ‘business’ from getting in the way of your work and how do you stay fresh and creative?
The challenge is not to stay fresh. The challenge is to be a good manager of the studio’s creative process and time. A process is, by definition, a sequence of steps. Each step is as creative as the others. Research creates the context for everything that follows. Sketching creates visual materials to be discussed and edited later. Discussion of those sketches creates the verbal ideas that can be compared to the visuals, and the gap between the two usually shows how sketches should be developed. And so on. There’s usually no single brilliant moment, just a sequence of ordered steps that each adds something, and results in smart design.
Patience and optimism help a great deal as well.
Why do you need to track time, and how does Harvest help you in that regard?
We track time because its the main commodity we sell. Harvest is fast and clear, so there’s less time spent on tracking time and more on MTWTF.
What do you love most about graphic design, and what do you love most about having your own business now?
I’m a structuralist at heart, I’m interested in how things work in their context, and how you can create communications that muck with that structure.
What I love about the studio is finally crossing things off that list. And I love the feeling of growing something larger than a project, or system. Growing the set of relationships that comprises a studio is far more interesting.
Please share with us 5 memorable things you’ve consumed lately.
- Listened to The Cro Mags Age of Quarrel album / Good to get the blood flowing / this morning 11am.
- Glanced at Chris Marker’s Staring Back postcard / part of a poster subscription I have from Museum Fur Gestaltung, Zurich / this morning at 8am
- Browsed the New York Times online / this morning at 7am.
- Read two texts in Issue 6 of TATE ETC magazine by Peder Anker and Peter Fischli that has been layng around / last night, not sure what time.
- Watched episode two of Fringe on iTunes / Sunday afternoon
Thank you for your time, Glen!
To help companies get on their feet, The Harvest New Founders Program gives one year’s subscription of Harvest time tracking service to a new company each month. Think you might be a good fit for our New Founders Program? Learn more and apply.