An Interview with Benjamin Edgar
For our next interview we chimed in with creative maker Benjamin Edgar to chat about the “internet”, space, and exploring your imagination through material.
Where are you now? What are you currently working on and most excited about? Chicago, home, at the moment – just got back from getting a starbucks and it was a fairly chilling walk. Working on too many projects! But I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to work on all these random things that often feel so unrelated—but have accidentally turned me into a bit of an "expert generalist" in a way. If I really peel everything back, I'm most excited about the same thing I was excited about 20 years ago in high school...using the internet to make things more accessible, more beautiful, and generally better. And absolutely anything to do with space/the space industry, ha.
Tell the people who you are and why you're important right now? I've actually asked this similar question of other people before...never realized how uncomfortable I might have made them, ha. I'm not sure I'm "important" and you'd have to ask anyone who thinks that of me for a more clear answer as I don't have one. As for who I am...still sorting that out everyday. I find myself in the projects I work on, the friends I make, and the experiences I have in whatever random city. But a more literal answer would be that I'm an "creative entrepreneur" that uses design, technology, and current culture to try and solve problems.
In an interview you gave over 10 years ago you said your eponymous brand "Benjamin Edgar" was based on three elements; simplicity, imagination and exotic travel. How have these core principals evolved over the years? The love for simplicity is still very much there..but now I'd say I'm more of a reductionist rather than a minimalist. Graphic tee's would have never been part of my "collections" years ago...now I love them as a communication tool or a canvas to make someone smile a bit. As for imagination, I'd say I've swam into even deeper waters with that one...Benjamin Edgar is a literal and figurative playground for me to learn new materials. 10 years ago I wasn't as interested in materials and how things were made nearly as much as I am today. Now the marble, concrete, slipcast ceramic, carbon fiber, leather, wood, aluminum, etc...I love that I have experimented with those materials and landed at truly finished products...but more so that I now understand those materials, their benefits, their limitations, etc. Benjamin Edgar is the most fun form of education I've ever experienced, ha. As for the exotic travel...I'll chalk that one up me being considerably more aspirational back then..."or whatever."
It seems that everything you associate yourself with is synonymous with good taste. Whether it's your website "The Brilliance" with co-creators Chuck Anderson and Virgil Abloh, your product design brand "Benjamin Edgar, or whatever" or your work on Boxed Water, good taste seems to permeate through all mediums. Do you believe "good taste" is an objective or subjective concept? What does good taste look like to you? This is a fascinating question. Thinking steadfastly about things like "taste" that are hard to fully define when compared to the sciences, like medicine, etc—is dangerous thinking. You have to be incredibly careful as things like prejudice, and worse, can evolve from that. I personally believe its subjective. For example something we deem beautiful here in the US may be offensive somewhere else and vice-versa. Good taste, especially as I get older, often is summed up by some form of elegance/simplicity in how something solves a problem.
You have recently launched a mobile website "th-oughts" that was built on the colloquial request: Can-I-pick-your-brain where creative experts give their opinion on education and other topics. Why did you find it necessary to create a platform for innovative people to share ideas?
Everything I do starts something like:
Idea—Experiment—Project—Business—Profitable Business (if you're lucky!)
And with th-oughts, its transitioning from experiment to project right now I think...thats where it's living right now currently. I started it because I believe kids can intuitively pick their educators far better than we assume they can. But getting them in touch with someone they'd like to learn from is often very cumbersome as these people are not traditional educators. I wanted to take a stab at helping them in a more efficient/elegant way. Lots to learn still.
You're currently working on a collaboration with us based around Mies Van Der Rohe and his influence on Chicago. Can you tell us how this project came about and elaborate on what all the project entailed? I’ll admit that I was a bit late to appreciating him. Only recently did I really “get” his work. For me it’s this combination of technology (steel at the time), his consistency, his refusing novelty, all the wild quotes he had over the years, but the whole time having a sense of poetry in his work. As for the t-shirts and the crazy I-beam keychain...I loved thinking how his work could be applied to the whole “graphic tee” approach to design...thinking how would the designers that did all the old school Powell Peralta, Bones Brigrade, t-shirts might have done a MVDR t-shirt, etc. It’s obviously about playing with contrast and less about what he himself would have done with a t-shirts. Which is a funny thing to think about...