BGBS 049: Chris Do | The Futur | Type Is Life
Chris Do is the founder of two seven-figure businesses, the first being Blind, an Emmy Award-winning motion design studio with over $80 million in total billings. The second is The Futur, an online education company whose mission is to teach 1 billion people (yes billion!) how to make a living doing what they love.
We immerse ourselves in Chris’s design journey, from picking skateboards based off of their hypnotic decks, to passionately combing through the same comic books over and over again, to even trying an early hand at editing by manually fixing his grades. Chris is a great storyteller with a vast expanse of knowledge to share, and he worked tirelessly to get here. To become the master that he is today, he had to remove his defenses and submit to his teachers’ harsh criticisms. By letting go of his ego, he was able to absorb as much as possible and ultimately, get ahead. We are moved by this act and begin to ask, how can we all remove our own resistance to become better students of life?
In this episode, you’ll learn…
- Chris was born in Saigon, Vietnam, but his family fled to Kansas City, Missouri in 1975 when the country fell to communism
- Moving every 1.5 years was dreadful for Chris because he felt like he couldn’t establish long term relationships and he had to stand up to bullies often
- Chris found a home in skateboarding because of the mesmerizing graphics and found it to be a “gateway drug” into graphic design. He even picked his decks based off of design, rather than its manufacturing
- Before entering the first grade, Chris’s uncles taught him and his brother multiplication and division. This was just the beginning of his advanced mind. Since then, Chris coasted through school by being the “lazy smart guy”
- When Chris didn’t have many comic books, he would feed his obsession by studying the ones he had front to back, over and over, savoring even the advertisements and smell
- Chris’s early exposure to “Photoshop retouching” was occasionally using his mom’s drafting tool to electrically erase his printed grades and using a blunt pencil to rewrite more admissible ones
- As an ArtCenter student, Chris had many sleepless nights with many unhealthy meals (which he doesn’t encourage), but he learned the power of removing his ego to intake knowledge and get ahead
- Mastering typography is training your eye to see connections and experimenting repeatedly within a controlled environment. It is a wonderful discipline that not many can figure out
- Chris named his company Blind because it is an ironic name for a visual communication company. It was also inspired by Blind Skateboards and its punk spirit
- When Chris got word that his company won an Emmy, he was terrified to learn that he had to prepare a speech. Lucky for him, the show was running long and there ended up being no time for him to speak
- With his platform at The Futur, Chris shares all the information he has, which in some cases has earned him some enemies, but overall, his generosity has earned him many fervent students around the world with a lot of gratitude
LinkedIn: Chris Do
Facebook: Chris Do
YouTube: The Futur
[32:23] My one key advantage that I had over other people was, at this point in my life, I had already developed this mindset of objectivity… I just submitted. I removed whatever little parts of ego I had and I tried to absorb as much as what they had to say as possible.
[34:07] I was trying to win a game with myself. Like, “Can you push past that limit, that threshold? How bad do you want it? How far are you willing to go to get what it is that you want?”
[39:12] Type is life man. Type is thinking made visible. If you can learn how to design with type, you can learn how to design everything.
[59:03] If you’re able to help another human being, and if you’re able to do this at scale, and you’re able to reach so many people, I gotta tell you, that’s that kind of joy that no money can buy.
Chris Do 0:02
She submitted it. And to my surprise, they’re like you win. You get one. And I was thinking this is excellent, until they send you this email saying, you need to prepare your acceptance speech. And it can only be, I think, 30 seconds long or 45 seconds max, they’ll cut you off. And you need to be short. You need to be pithy say something that will make the editors keep you in Edit when this thing airs. And I was struggling with this, because this is in 2010. I had not done a lot of public speaking at that point, and definitely never even thought of doing a YouTube video at that point. So this kind of wrecked me. Like I can be there on stage. I can grab this statue, I can hold it up. But I don’t want to say anything because I’m still not comfortable speaking.
Marc Gutman 0:50
Podcasting from Boulder, Colorado. This is the Baby Got Backstory podcast, we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big backstories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman, Marc Gutman, and on today’s episode of Baby Got Back story, how a shy kid from Vietnam found art and built to seven figure businesses doing what he loves. And today we are talking with Chris Do. If you’re a designer, or designer, let’s say adjacent chances are you know of Chris Do. He has nearly half a million followers on Instagram.
Yeah, like almost 500,000.
The YouTube channel hosted by his company, the future has just under a million. Both of these numbers are at the time of recording this. And I have no doubt if you’re listening to this episode. After this time, the numbers will even be much higher. And before we get into my conversation with Chris, if you like and enjoy the show, please take a minute or two to rate us and review us on iTunes or Spotify, iTunes and Spotify use these ratings as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts. You know what? Better yet? Please recommend this show to at least one friend you think well like it, friend share at Baby Got Backstory, and don’t keep it all to themselves. This spirit of generosity is touched on in today’s episode, as you’ll soon hear, so go out and share the show with someone you love.
Today’s guest is Chris Do. He’s the founder of two seven figure businesses, the first of which is Blind, an Emmy Award winning motion design studio with over 80 million in total billings. The second is The Futur spelled sort of funny with no e at the end, an online education company whose mission is to teach 1 billion people how to make a living doing what they love. He is also the author of a pocketful of dough, which sums up more than two decades of entrepreneurship, teaching, creativity, coaching and learning scaled down in a potent bite sized lessons that can be ingested quickly.
I’m reading it right now. I’m quite enjoying it. 1 billion people. That is a big vision. And I want to be completely transparent. I am a crypto fan. Right around the dawn of the pandemic. I was chatting with my friend Greg about business models and something or other. And he said, Do you know Chris Do, he’s doing something really interesting with The Futur. And after we work through my confusion that The Futur was the name of the company, and not some measure of time, I strolled over to The Futur via the internet. And it was like I climbed a mountain. And as I got to the peak, my aperture opened up to a view I had never seen before.
There were all these creatives, mainly designers, but also what I’m now calling designer adjacent professions, brand strategists, photographers, filmmakers, youtubers instagramers. My mind was blown. I did a little more snooping. But it didn’t take long before I joined his community. And it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my business. So I love me some Christo and even though I’m a part of his community, I really don’t know Chris. I don’t know much about him. And today, we’re going to change all that. We’re all going to get to know Chris Do in this. This is his story.
Hey, Chris, so thanks for joining us today on the podcast and I want to get right into it. What is The Futur?
Chris Do 4:58
What is the future? It’s the thing that happens after today. But if you’re talking about my future, The Futur that we’ve created, it’s an online education platform where we’re where we have this big, hairy audacious goal to teach 1 billion people on planet Earth, how to make a living doing what they love, without selling their soul.
Marc Gutman 5:16
That is a big, audacious goal. And I think that you’re well on your way. Now, you know, now that we know kind of where we’re, we’re at, I kind of want to know how this all started. And, and I’ve heard you talk a lot about invites, not like real specifics, and kind of like bite sized pieces about how you grew up and, and what it was like as a young child. And so like, Where did you grow up? And what was life like for young Chris Do?
Chris Do 5:45
I was actually born in Saigon, Vietnam, and my family as well as many other families fled when it fell to communism in in 1975. So we arrived here in the United States in Kansas City, Missouri, where we live there for a couple of years, and we’re ultimately moved to San Jose, California. That’s kind of where I grew up. I grew up in the valley around computers, but not a lot of inspiration. I know. I hope I’m not offending a whole lot of people. It’s not like a cultural center. And so I grew up like, like a lot of kids in the malleus, skateboarded. I, I sketched I drew, I made things and I was mostly kind of a shy, introverted kid.
Marc Gutman 6:26
Yeah. And what did your parents do for a living?
Chris Do 6:29
Both my parents worked in the tech space. My dad was an engineer for a company called Applied Materials. I think they they do semiconductor kind of things. Beyond that, I don’t know. My mom worked as the designer drafter for IBM until she ultimately retired.
Marc Gutman 6:46
Oh, this is all of a sudden making a lot of a lot of sense that Chris Do I know today, combination of the two Actually, yeah, so you know, I’ve heard you allude to this a little bit. But I have to imagine it, it probably wasn’t all that easy. Growing up as a Vietnamese immigrant in Northern California, especially, you know, coming, you know, on the heels of the fall of Saigon. I mean, there was probably some, some anti Vietnam senate sentiment. I mean, was it like that, or, you know, was it difficult?
Chris Do 7:17
It was difficult for me, and I don’t think I’m sharing anything that’s unique. I don’t know if there was a specific anti Vietnamese sentiment, it was just mostly like, Hey, you look a lot different than us. You’re an Asian kid. And most people just assumed I was Chinese. And that was the go to racial default box that I fit into. And it I didn’t help myself, because I’m a skinny kid. I’m not athletic. I like weird things I like to draw. And I mostly keep to myself, I like comic books, and things like Dungeons and Dragons. And so naturally, the stronger bigger kids they want, they just want to pick on you. Or if you’re in the streets, they just want to establish the pecking order. And it’s a world that didn’t fit into for a very long time. I’m not sure I ever actually fit into that world. And I was bullied. But luckily, I have an older brother. He’s four years older than me, he told me that bullies just like an easy target.
So if you stand up for yourself, even if you get your butt whooped, they’ll leave you alone, because they just want to move on to another target. They’re trying to establish their kind of artfulness, if you will. They’re their dominance over you. So you stand up for yourself. And so I gotta tell you, I mean, it’s almost like literally, like I said, I transferred from one school to the other. Because as a kid, we moved a lot, my parents got increasingly higher paying jobs and ultimately landed where they’re at. So we moved, I calculated almost every year and a half. So it was dreadful for me, because it meant I couldn’t put my roots down, didn’t establish long term relationships. And this is haunted me to this day. And when I would go to new school, and it wasn’t like they, they timed it perfectly, like at the beginning of the school year was kind of school year it started. And I can tell you almost within a day or two, somebody’s gonna pick a fight with me. And I was gonna get into a fight. I already knew it. I was prepared for it. Like mentally, not physically, but mentally prepared for it.
Marc Gutman 9:06
I was gonna ask, like, like, did you learn to fight or like I and I have to like, I mean, look, I went to a school where everyone got picked on for everything. I mean, you know, I had a last name like Gutman, and I had a you know, a father who’s Jewish. And that was enough so I can’t even imagine, you know, Vietnamese and and how that was and how that went down. I could, you know, probably picture some kids doing some Bruce Lee moves are something that taught you or whatever, right? Like, you ever get good at fighting or like, was it something that like you just had to do?
Chris Do 9:37
It just, you had to do it. And you don’t have to get that good. All you have to do is just say like, I’m not going to take this Let’s fight and and then they’re thrown for a loop. Right? And I remember I’m not looking to pick a fight. I don’t want to get into a fight with people but they did things that would draw you I think into a fight like I remember one time on the playground. And this was just a couple days into school. My my brother There was only a year younger was in a grade below me, obviously. And he was playing around. And the next thing I know somebody had kicked his lunch bag and his entire juice in his sandwich was everywhere. And they did that just like a soccer kick. It wasn’t I accidentally stepped on it. And then I had to confront these guys, because, look, here’s the thing.
I don’t get along with my brother, at least back then I didn’t get along with him. But he’s family and you don’t get to pick on family. So my blood was boiling. I’m like, What do you guys doing? And they’re like, it was an accident. Like, yeah, I said, Bs, that’s not an accident. And then what are you gonna do about it? And then pushing happens? And it’s like, okay, we’re gonna get in fight after school. And that’s exactly kind of how it played out.
Marc Gutman 10:38
Yeah. And you know, I don’t know if it’s just kind of my general who I attract on the podcast. But there seems to be this running theme of guests on the podcast that have, they didn’t fit in other places. But the one place they did fit in was escape culture like this. There was something about skateboarding. I mean, that’s how I grew up. I mean, that’s what ultimately drew me to California had these images of Thrasher, and kids and Venice Beach and the Dogtown guys and everything I was like, and then I got there. And I was like, it doesn’t quite look like that. You know, what was it about skateboarding that resonated with you? And that was where you found a place to find yourself?
Chris Do 11:17
Yeah, this the answer to that question is gonna sound horrible. But I was mostly drawn to skateboarding because the graphics on the skateboards just mesmerized me they were hypnotic. I remember going to town and country like inside the mall, I think it’s called time and country, or something like that, or one of these skate lifestyle surf shops. I would go in there and I was like, Oh, this is cool. I look at the T shirts. I look at the back display wall behind the counter and had all the boards laid out there. From visions streetwear the psycho stick man, Mark Gonzalez, his skateboard, Christian Hosoi? The Hammerhead with him just doing the iconic move they was doing.
I was just kind of mesmerized by these things. And I see that people are skating as a solitary endeavor. And I just wanted to learn one of my friends had a cheap skateboard and he was saying like, Yeah, let’s go learn how to ollie together. And we would just practice on the grass on the go. I think I can do this. And it took him weeks. When I just stepped on it. It’s like a worked on it took me a couple of days. I’m like, Oh, this can be kind of fun. And I think for a lot of artists and illustrators and graphic designers, skateboarding is a gateway drug into graphic design. So I was right there with you. Thrasher magazines, Thrasher magazine Transworld skateboarding magazine. And just kind of living vicariously through these images and words, I think is Craig stesiak, who started to, to kind of create this idea and the culture. And he he’s credited for helping to at least create part of this skateboarding subculture here in Santa Monica, Venice. And so yeah, I was drawn into that.
Marc Gutman 12:46
Did you have or do you remember a favorite deck design that that you remember today?
Chris Do 12:52
Oh, yeah. And and so I made the mistake of picking decks based on their design, not necessarily the manufacturing or the shape of it. And I figured that out later on. But I loved almost every design from Santa Cruz. The the choreo Brian, Grim Reaper with a fireball that that thing was awesome Rob Ross cop with the crazy face and the hand breaking through the target. I also loved a bunch of designs that came from from Powell Peralta. So these are like the big skateboarding companies and they, they can afford to hire like trained artists to work on their their design. So Steve Cavalera, the dragon amazing Mike McGill with the skull on the rattlesnake coming out of his head and Tony Hawk skull, skull Hawk or skull bones or whatever that’s called. That thing was awesome.
Marc Gutman 13:38
Yeah, so awesome. I made the same mistake to I think at a vision hippie stick at one point. And that was not the right word. But I like the way it looked. And I think my all time favorite was the Lance Mountain. But I also think, because I thought Lance Mountain was like such a cool name. I was like, Yeah, I was like, I’m Marc Gutman. I want to be Lance Mountain like that’s.
Chris Do 13:56
That is a very cool name.
Marc Gutman 13:57
Yeah. Right. Like, like, Who doesn’t want to be Lance Mountain? So, you know, you’re growing up, like, were you a good student.
Chris Do 14:03
I was above average student. I think I graduate high school with a 3.8 something GPA. And I think I would have gotten a 4.0 GPA, but I just didn’t really care about school and school came relatively easy. And something to kind of keep in mind like, my both my parents have incredibly large family siblings, you know, like my dad has, I think 10 brothers and my mom, 10 brothers and sisters, my mom has an equal amount on her side. So there were no shortage of uncles and aunts around us all the time. Especially in the beginning. It’s like a very typical immigrant thing, right? You live in a relatively small house with and it’s packed with all your relatives. And so I would hang out with them. I lost my train of thought here. What was your question again?
Marc Gutman 14:46
Were you a good student?
Chris Do 14:48
Oh, yeah. Yeah, here we go. So sorry about that. So a little brain fart there. So we I had uncles basically my dad’s younger brother, brothers who who didn’t have a lot to do because they’re like either going to college or something like That, and they would make sure we learned all our arithmetic and multiplication and division. And this is before I even went to first grade. So for a long while I was like coasting like God, America, so easy. Because back at home, it was brutal. It’s like you’re gonna get whipped with a chopstick or ruler if you didn’t memorize these things. And so when they’re doing basic addition, I was like, already into, like long division here, like what is the holdup, and I remember in a couple instances, I think was between third and fourth grade, where because of budget cuts, I went to public high school, by the way, because of budget cuts, they smashed two grades together.
And so while we were teaching the third graders, they would switch every other day or something like that the fourth graders were kind of learning, I was just sitting there listening, and I was just learning so much from the fourth graders, and applying right to third grade. So for a long time, I just coasted I’m pretty late. I’m a pretty lazy smart guy. And so I kind of just figured out like the bare minimum like I could, I could learn the vocabulary words or the spelling words, just the night before and just aced the test, it wasn’t a big deal. I just never really applied myself.
Marc Gutman 16:08
And so in through the description and kind of relive of your academic time, you’re talking all about kind of core academic courses, like what word is like design and drawing? And where’s that residing in your life? Is that like a side thing? Is that a secret thing?
Chris Do 16:26
It’s a side thing. It’s not so secret, but I, I just would pour over these comic books. And I didn’t have a lot of them in the beginning. And so I would just like go over them again and again. So after you read the story, you’d reread it. And then you start looking at the ads and studying every little ads about sea monkeys and growing muscles and standing up to the bully, I would just get into all of that there was nothing that I didn’t love from cover to cover, including the smell of the pulp the paper and just had this sweet smell to it. And I love that and I would draw on I would make my own comics.
Not very good. But I would sit there and practice. And then like many people, I discovered the book How to draw comics the Marvel way. And it was just so mind blowing, just trying to draw, like the way he was instructed in the book. And so this is what I was doing. But in terms of like public high school, or public schools, there aren’t a lot of art programs. But every time there was an elective, I chose something that was going to allow me to work with my hands. So in junior high was woodshop. And then in high school, I took metals and I took commercial art, as it was called back then and yearbook. And so wherever I could apply this creativity because I wasn’t going to take another foreign language, I was not going to be my thing.
Marc Gutman 17:38
Yeah, and but what did your parents feel about this? I mean, what did they want for you? And what did they think about those classes? Were they encouraging you to do more of these hands on Creative classes? Or was that just kind of like something you did? I mean, what was their hope for you at this time? Or even as girl growing up? I mean, I’ve heard you kind of allude to like there’s this tough Asian parent mentality, like, what was there? What would they want for you?
Chris Do 18:03
Yeah, so this is kind of weird, because my mom and dad are the older of their siblings, like my dad is the oldest male, I think my mom’s a second oldest female. And they’re very different than their siblings who are very, very strict with our kids. My parents on the other hand, or setting benchmarks for us to hit, but they didn’t really grind us on these things. My dad pretty much just put the fear of God in us in that we can never get a c a b was barely acceptable. And those those tropes about Asian parents, those parts were true, but they weren’t very hands on, they had really no idea what kind of classes I was taking, they’re just looking at the grades do these grades line up or not. And I remember one time, I won’t admit this, now, I had to forge my grades because I knew I didn’t do well in a particular class. And I got to see and I knew that I had been coming home with a C with my dad was just going to be the end of it, I thought it was gonna get kicked out of the house.
So every day I would check the mail to kind of find it. And back then they kind of sent these things out and it was like carbon paper on one side, you tear it open. And so I got my grant, I intercepted it, thank god ripped it open and saw that I got to see. And so my mom has all these drafting tools like she would initially do it with traditional tools. And then later on using CAD, but in the early days, she had this massive thing was like electric eraser. I don’t know if you ever seen one of these things, you actually plugged it in, and I would sit there and just erase that see away. And then I was take this pre Photoshop everybody out, take a really blunt pencil just to get it to the right stroke with and then I would find on the front of the grade A letter B and I would just carefully trace and change that C to be using the carbon paper smudge a little bit and kind of just disguise it.
Thank goodness my early days as a Photoshop retouch or work because my dad wasn’t any the wiser, but they didn’t really care what kind of classes I took. They just wanted us to be in a good university. Your college afterwards and then pursue something that’s safe, more traditional doctor, lawyer, lawyer, accountant, something like that.
Marc Gutman 20:08
Yeah. So it was that kind of the moment you had your first glimpse or appreciation of typography. Were you like, wow, this is typography can really do something here.
Chris Do 20:17
Now, because I’m dense. I did, I’m like, Oh, this is good. Like, this could be a service, I was thinking more of an entrepreneur and less like an artist, like, I wonder if other kids need me to change their thing for them. But that was that. I, I dabbled in design and art and made things and I excelled at them where I applied myself. But I did not put myself in that mental space that this is something I can do for the rest of my life. Because I also believe what my parents led me to believe, which is a career in design in the arts is one of suffering and starving.
It’s not a realistic career path. I dreamt of being a comic book artist. But I was just like, this is not real, like, you know how somebody is resolved. It’s like, no matter what obstacles are in front of them, they’re going to push past them for me. One person could walk up and say, that’s a crazy idea. You never want to be a comic book artist. And I would say, Yeah, you’re right. And throw that dream away. So the rest did my resolve in terms of become wanting to become a creative person. That didn’t happen until later.
Marc Gutman 21:19
Yeah. And so as you get through high school with your 3.8, and you look to the future, where did you go? I mean, did you head on a path to become a lawyer, Doctor, accountant.
Chris Do 21:33
I tried, I applied to UC San Diego, UCLA, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. And I initially thought I was gonna apply through the regular program, but I was brainstorming with my older brother. And he said, “If you could extend your like art and design, apply there, get in and change your major.” So I was trying the old backdoor technique. And I was really surprised when they sent me a follow up and said, We need to see your portfolio. And I was like portfolio. I have a portfolio. I got these things I did in commercial art class. So I had to go back to my teacher, Mike davita. And said, Mike, Mr. davita, Can Can I have some of these pieces that you held back? And he goes, What do you done? I said, I’m gonna apply for an art program. He’s like, Huh, okay.
So I put it together. I wrote up a pretty lame essay, I’m not a writer. And of course, I got rejected out of every one of those schools. And I think in some ways, my parents were super disappointed. They didn’t say anything to me. But you could just tell. It’s like, I didn’t get into any of the schools. And my mom was like, yeah, of course not. Because you never apply yourself. But coincidentally, between my junior and senior year, I got it. I think it was actually my senior year in high school, I got a job working at a silk screening place. And and this was just pure serendipity. My younger brother’s wrestling Coach Rudy had said, Hey, I think your brother draws right. And and he’s like, yeah, you might want to go and talk to my friend Brad, who does all this silkscreening stuff. And the reason why he knew I drew is because friends would ask me to do illustrations for the school newspaper. And that’s kind of how people knew I drew and I met with Brad who owned a silk screening place. And he looked at my portfolio, random art pieces, you know, the same ones that got me rejected out of school, and a couple of drawings is I get you want to do this job. I’m like, Sure.
So is that you’re hired sit down, and he hired me on the spot. And he said, I’m gonna pay you 18 bucks an hour. And for context, their minimum wage back then I think, was 350 or 370 $5 an hour. So I’m making four to five times as much as I used to make and I was thinking, what do I need school for? This is freaking awesome. I can just do this man’s work. So basically, he made me an inker. So he had all these pencil drawings. And he would say, Okay, here’s acetate. Here’s our video graph pen, just ink these things. And he showed me how to do it. Of course, he’s the master of doing this. And so I’m doing it and he goes home, right. So I’m working on it. It’s like, my hands are all shaky. The ink is bleeding everywhere. I’m like, Oh, this is a nightmare. And I worked on it.
I think three, four hours later, I finished it. And next morning, he comes in, I talked to him. I’m like, this is okay. He goes, Yeah, this is pretty good. And he looked past the fact that it wasn’t perfect. And then he asked me like, how long do you work on it? I did the typical design thing. I pulled my hours just because I was embarrassed. It took me so long. So instead of saying four hours on my dad took me two and a half hours. Is that great? I got more work for you.
Marc Gutman 24:28
Awesome. Awesome. So your your screening, shirt shirts and whatever kind of material and working for real money. 18 bucks an hour just crushing. Yeah, yeah. And you know, the world’s your oyster. And so like, what happens? Like how do you end up leaving that job? And where do you go next?
Chris Do 24:46
Yeah, so as I’m doing that, and I didn’t think that this was going to be a serious career. For me. I’m thinking the man’s drawings right. I’m not even that good at it. And then I quickly realize the play here isn’t to be the guys employee. The play is to be his partner. So I’d ask them, Hey, Brad, how much do you charge do these things like when people give you an assignment, he’s like, Oh, this is what it is, I started doing the math in my head. So I thought, Hey, I’ll go out, and I’ll sell the work. And I’ll do the design myself. And Brad and his team will print the shirts, and I’ll make the money in between.
So I’d even work for him for that long, because I was like, ah, I can hustle. And I can do these things. So I was just working there part time anyways. And so this worked out just fine for me. And I learned firsthand how not to run a business. So I sold shirts. And I didn’t calculate in there, my labor. So if I sold the shirts for 12 bucks, I thought I got him printed for like five and a quarter. And I was going to make the difference between 12 and five and a quarter. So it’s like 675, or something like that. But there was a lot of selling, designing, making going back and forth, and assuming all the risk. So at that point, somehow my mom’s like, your like, your bank account is like, nothing. And so I had to borrow money from her to pay off supplies or whatever it else those buy at a time. So my mom was looking at me like you’re terrible business person. And at that point I was.
Marc Gutman 26:12
And so you’re not? Well, you’re figuring things out, right? you’re figuring out, figuring it out, you’re learning and that’s how we learn. Maybe we kind of make mistakes, or we learned the hard way. But at some point, you kind of move on and you decide you got to go back to school.
Chris Do 26:27
Yeah, I have to go to school. So high school finishes up. And it’s summertime. And my my brothers asked me, Hey, you want to come in? live with me in San Diego. At that point, he had just finished his his computer science degree in, in UC San Diego. So he’s like, come live with me, I’m gonna prepare for grad school. You can stay with me for the year while I work on this, as you can see is great. And my brother is a very special human being that he’s always looked after me, even when I didn’t deserve it. Even when I didn’t know this is the thing that I wanted to do. He isn’t it. His name’s Arthur,
Marc Gutman 27:03
Just wanna give a shout out to Arthur, he’s always taking care of you. Want to make sure he has his proper, his proper credit.
Chris Do 27:08
He’s like my second father. You know, like my dad was busy but didn’t understand the culture. He didn’t want to help. He didn’t grow period is another system here. And so I go and live with my brother. And this is the time for me to go to community college and to actually make a real effort to get into art school. I already decided at that point in time, I’m going to go to artcenter. It’s what Brad, the silkscreen guy told me to do. He’s a go to artcenter. I’m like, okay, so I don’t know anything about artcenter, except for its name. So I’m going to San Diego City College. And I’m taking commercial art classes. I’m looking through the catalog of these two schools, these two community colleges, Mesa College and San Diego city. And San Diego city offered graphic design classes, I’m thinking this is it, I’m going to go do this. And that’s where I kind of gets set on a path. It took me a little while to actually become passionate about design. And eventually I found it and and that’s how I started on my career. I finished my portfolio got into artcenter. And then that was the beginning of everything.
Marc Gutman 28:08
Yeah. And, you know, I admit, I might have shared this with you before, but my wife went to ArtCenter. We lived in Southern California for a while. And like I hadn’t really heard of it. You know, I didn’t know what it was, she definitely did. And I remember the first time I went over to that, that school, that campus, I walked in some of the buildings and there was like, just like rows and rows of like of like art in drawing and material. And it’s very well known for being an auto design program. And you’d see clay mock ups of all these concept cars. And like there was something I just like this. This was a magical portal into this world that I had really not seen. And I loved it. You know, like actually one of my very first jobs I worked at Imagineering, and this like, kind of skunk works in the valley. And it had that same kind of feeling an allure like that there were things being made, and he didn’t really know how or why but it was just, I just thought it was so so cool. Like what was what was your experience when you first kind of got there and and saw ArtCenter? And do you know, did you have the same kind of reaction?
Chris Do 29:09
Yeah, I did. And I I remember it very clearly. It’s a steel and glass building. It’s a long rectangular, it’s referred to as the bridge because it it covers the this kind of like gap where you drive underneath it. And it’s designed for Craig Ellwood, I think, and it’s Stark, it’s blocked minimal. And you walk in there and everything from the concrete, the polished concrete floors to the black and white interior. You feel like you’re an art school. You really, really feel it. As soon as you walk in and you see the gallery and you see all this work from all the different majors from photography, fine art, illustration, graphic design in transportation design, which, which you reference, it’s what they’re known for. You get the sense like, I’m going to be a designer. I’m a creative human being just by stepping in the building and being a part of the program. So I remember when I got in I stepped into my very first class, I just said to myself, like very quietly, like I made it immediate in. And it was kind of like an accomplishment in itself. And I was proud to like, know that I’m an artcenter student. I’m different than everybody else.
Marc Gutman 30:15
Yeah. And were you like an instant star? Were you start? Like, did you just take off the top of your class? Or did it take some time to figure some things out?
Chris Do 30:23
It took a little bit for me to figure it out. But now when I say a little bit, I mean, it took me a couple of classes, like, like two or three weeks into, like, I’m starting to get my bearings here, because we’re all coming in from different sources. And I think back then the average age was 27 years old. And here I am a 19 year old kid. So I’m just fresh out of high school one year in community college, I’m here. And I’m like, oh, okay, everybody’s got more experience that and you can tell because it’s a very expensive school that everybody’s affluent, I’m probably like one of the poor kids going there, relatively speaking. Okay, like, we’re, we’re working class folks, you know, where were people driving in their fancy cars, like, okay, so I’m here. And I wouldn’t describe myself as a star. But I stood out, because I just worked like an animal. I know that people talk about this all the time. And they’re like, No, but I really, really worked like an animal.
So I’ll tell you kind of how a typical day would work for me. You go to school in the morning, and you’re there all day, computer labs, a library, the school closes, and you go home, eat dinner. So maybe that’s like 10 o’clock. So I just grabbed and this is a horrible diet, my diet of jack in the box, grab a burger. And then I would go to my room. And I was living in Pasadena at that time. And I would just work on my drafting table, doing drawings, or whatever it is I was doing. And about one o’clock in the morning, I was really tired at that point. The burger probably helped me at all. And sound like Okay, I gotta go to sleep. And I was just set my alarm for three hours and get right back up. And just keep working up into the manor. Like, I would timeouts like, I need 30 minutes to shower and put on my clothes. And it takes me another 20 minutes to get to school and park and get to class, I would just time it like that I would just work into the very last possible minute. And I was just repeating this pattern. many nights, I didn’t even sleep, and especially during midterms and finals.
So I hustled and I worked really hard. And it started to show because I was starting to get it. And my one one key advantage that I had over other people was, at this point in my life, I had already developed this mindset of objectivity. Like Where were the teachers are handing out some pretty harsh crits people were becoming very defensive. And I could see they’re like resisting the whole time. And I was like thinking to myself, why are you resisting? Aren’t you here to learn from this instructor and master at their craft. So I just submitted, I removed whatever little parts of ego I had. And I try to absorb as much as what they had to say as possible. And if they said, This is too big, okay, I’ll make it smaller. This is not working. Okay, why, and then I’ll just keep working on it. And then I could see pretty quickly by week three, four or five, oh, something’s happening here. They’re starting to fall behind or I’m moving ahead. And that felt really good. There’s nothing like weaning or achieving something to build your own self confidence. And it just began to snowball, I think in the beginning was more like a snowflake. But by the time I was done with third term, I felt like this avalanche of energy and confidence.
Marc Gutman 33:31
And was that superpower and I call it a superpower. I mean, you know, you play that game. Everyone’s like, if you could have a superpower, where would it be mine would be to not sleep or to get by on three hours of sleep because I cannot do that. So hearing you say that is like, like, I’m like involved? now. Is that something that carries on today? I mean, is that just always been your superpower?
Chris Do 33:51
I think so. I’m almost 50 years old now. So nights without sleep take a longer time to recover. And I don’t recommend this to anybody. But I think it was just for me. Like it was a game and it was competition. And it was like trying to to win a game with myself. like can you push past that limit that threshold how bad you want it, how far you willing to go to get it what it is that you want. And that would do that? Now I want to say this and there’s a very healthy asterisk to this. There’s a big caveat to this is that I remember certain periods in school when I had not slept for days. And I’m going like almost crazy. I’m losing I’m literally hallucinating while I’m driving.
I remember one time driving down the street to school at night coming back from dinner or something like that, that I saw the trees the canopy of trees or reach down and I was trying to avoid it with my car and I was like oh my god, I am tripping out. I have woken up and driving on the wrong side of the road. So this is super dangerous. And this is not a badge of honor or courage. I do not want anybody whether you’re just starting out, to put yourself in your body or mind through these extended periods of work without sleep, it’s dangerous. It’s unhealthy. And it’s unproductive, period. I had to learn this the hard way. So take it from one workaholic, super crazy, intense guy, that that is not the path forward.
Marc Gutman 35:20
That being said, I still want it to be my superpower. But you heard him Do not try that. Don’t do that kids. Yes. This episode brought to you by Wildstory. Wait, isn’t that your company? It is. And without the generous support of Wildstory, this show would not be possible. A brand isn’t a logo, or a tagline or even your product. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product service or company. It’s what people say about you, when you’re not in the room. Wildstory helps progressive founders and savvy marketers build purpose driven brands that connect their business goals with the customers they want to serve. So that both the business and the customer needs are met. This results in crazy, happy, loyal customers that purchase again and again. And this is great for business. If that sounds like something you and your team might want to learn more about, reach out @ www.wildstory.com. And we’d be happy to tell you more. Now back to our show.
While at Arts Center, you’re going through and you mentioned that you’re getting some momentum, things are starting to happen for you was there there was there a moment or a period where you really started to recognize or identify where you wanted to spend your career a certain type of discipline.
Chris Do 36:52
Yeah, I thought I love type. And I excelled at using type. And I knew that whatever job I had had to use a lot of types. I was thinking, editorial design, maybe some kind of packaging or something like that. And, you know, best laid plans go out the window. Because in my senior year, as I’m one semester away from graduating had to decide to take a term off, I was feeling a little burnt out at this point, friend of mine got a job in advertising. And she said, Chris, I need a partner, will you submit your your portfolio so that, that maybe they’ll consider hiring you? And I was thinking to myself, and her name is Colleen. And I was thinking to myself, I’m a graphic designer, what is an advertising agency gonna want to do with me? So I put together literally four pieces, four pieces, because nothing else made sense. I put the most conceptual work that I could that was most design driven that could work for for an agency. And to my surprise, I was offered this job. And they knew I was still in school and they hired me anyways.
So I’m like, okay, fine, ces la vie, sayonara. I’m gonna take a semester off school. So, I moved to Seattle, and they put me up in a corporate hotel. It was just awesome. It was way better than where I was living. And I was working in that industry. I was like, this is kind of nice. There’s expense accounts, nice office spaces. And this is pretty cool. And you’re treated like you’re an important person. And I like the feeling of this. But ultimately, advertising didn’t feel right to me. Because all these skills that I acquired this love for typography, I couldn’t use them. Because advertising was like, find the one right image. But that headline somewhere, don’t get too tricky with it and put the body copy where people can read it. And those constraints made me feel like I was an engine revving, but I got nowhere to go. So ultimately, after graduation, I discovered this thing that then became known as motion design. And it would allow me to have a lifetime of learning because there’s so many different skill sets that you have to acquire to be good at motion design. So I thought, This is fantastic. It’s gonna keep me busy. Keep me hungry, keep me curious for a really long time. And it did.
Marc Gutman 39:07
So you mentioned type a lot. They’re like, what’s cool about type?
Chris Do 39:12
Type is life man. Type is thinking made visible. Type a few. And if you can learn how to design, what type you can learn how to design everything. It’s totally true. So I felt like when I was in typography class with Simon Johnston, he gave me the key to solve any kind of design problem. And it felt so powerful that you talk about superpowers. Imagine having a key that opened every lock in the world. That’s how it felt. So I was in love with it, because it was the answer. It was everything. And so all my big breaks in terms of a professional person have come from me having mastery, like soft air quotes here, mastery of typography.
It allowed me to get that job. At cold Weber, the advertising agency allowed me to work at epitaph records, because you know, what their image-makers in the world photographers and illustrators, and then their designers and designers, you got to know your type. And type is the thing that pulls it all together in terms of your layout and making it sing, and communicating the message. So every opportunity, even the early motion graphics opportunities came because I knew how to typeset. And then I barely knew how to animate. So I would just send the typeset over to the client, they were like, Yeah, that’s good. And then an animated minimally. And I made a ton of money doing that hundreds of thousands of dollars working on commercials, where, literally, I was just typesetting and moving things on X, Y coordinates. And that was it.
Marc Gutman 40:41
And so like, what’s, what’s hard about type like, What don’t we see?
Chris Do 40:45
Okay, for all you non-typographers out there, type is daunting type of scary. There are too many options and too many possibilities. What typeface what Wait, what point size? How much letting tracking kerning? Do you apply to any of these things? Do these two typefaces look good together. And so I can see that a lot of people they would even tell me, like, I have friends that are illustrators, like, I love everything about design, I just hate type, I just can’t figure it out. And type takes a certain kind of discipline, a way of teaching it learning and experimenting with very tightly controlled constraints. And this repetition of explore exploration will lead you to understand how things work. It’s training your eye and train your hand or your mind to see things and connections and making things related and learning how to break the rhythm. So it’s that work like if you want to be a composer, maybe a concert level pianists.
It’s like putting in the hours of learning the keys. And, and the things that my two boys practice every single day. It’s boring, it’s monotonous, it’s repetitive, but it’s hard to be great at that thing. Unless you put in that kind of work. And most people aren’t willing to do that.
Marc Gutman 41:59
Did you just feel that? Did you see what happened? Like you just got like, lit up you got like fired up? You started like your body language got all like animated and not everyone can see us as they’re listening in the podcast. But I can tell you Chris just like he like he leaned into the camera. And so I can tell that you truly dig type. I love type type his life. Yeah, type his life. And you mean it? That’s that’s really awesome. Well, in addition to The Futur, that you described, the beginning to show your your kind of best known also for founding the design agency Blind. How did that come about? And like, how did you end up even starting an agency? And, and we can go from there?
Chris Do 42:41
Yeah, the origin story of blind is a little tricky. So I’ll give you the the briefest version of it in case, there’s some other questions you have to ask. I was freelancing in Los Angeles, Hollywood, in particular, doing design, motion design and a little bit of animation. And I got a call out of the blue from our uncle who asked me ever since I can remember, you’ve always wanted to start a business. And now that you’re done with school, is this something you want to do? And I said, Absolutely. He said, so here’s the deal. I’m business partner. He develops hotels all over the world. And he’s interested in becoming a partner with somebody who wants to start a design firm. So here’s what we’re gonna do, because we’re going to be in Los Angeles. And I want you to meet us at the Westin Bonaventure, which I’ve never been to up until that point, and I want you to put together a business plan, how much money do you want? What are you willing to do? How are you gonna make the money?
And so this is like, early dawn of the internet. So I’m calling my friends, my roommates. Father, who’s an investment banker, like, Can you tell me what’s in what’s required a business plan. This is like old school internet, you just call up a human, right? And he told me and I was just writing in my notepad furiously. Now to get on my computer, I started writing this, this business plan forecasting, first through fifth five years of projections, and just basing out nothing. Like we project will lose money for two and a half years. And then by the third or fourth year, we’ll make money and this is what we’re thinking. And so put this together. And true to my nature. I hadn’t slept, and a meeting there for dinner at the hotel. And I go in there, we meet him. His name is Bob and I’m talking to him and he’s and I said, here’s the business plan printed out. Here we go. And he takes his finger looks at it just goes through a couple pages. He didn’t really look at it. And then he just looks at the bottom line the numbers, right? He’s like, okay, and at the end of dinner, he reached into his jacket pocket, pulls out checkbook, once he does paying for dinner via cheque. That’s kind of pretty old school. He writes me a check on the spot for $10,000.
He says, this is a good-faith gesture. He goes, You know what that means? He’s like, we’re gonna do business together. Okay, I am like 22 years old. I’ve just been out of school for like, three, four months here. So it’s like, I think September October, graduated in the summer. And my very first encounter with a business investor venture capitalists like a deals done. And we don’t even know what the terms are. That’s how I started my business basically. And then the place I was working, I said, Guys, I’m wrapping my booking, I’m going to start my own company, I have an opportunity to do this. And I remember my boss, my supervisor at that time, his name is Ian Dawson, who I still know today. He’s looking at me like, like God, they make them really cocky at artcenter, don’t they? Because the kid is just barely working for us. He turns on a full time job offer from us. And then he starts his own company. And he said to me, he smiled. And he’s a great guy. So he smiled and shook my hand says good luck with everything. And I know what he was thinking. Good luck, because I’ll see here in a couple of months when you totally fail. 25 years later, still doing the thing? Same thing?
Marc Gutman 45:45
Yeah. And was it called Blind from day one?
Chris Do 45:47
It was, it was called Blind. And I think it was called blind visual communication. Because my business partner, the investor at that point in time, just didn’t like what I really wanted to call it. Now, a few months into the business, we’re making money, we’re profitable. And he had promised $100,000 in terms of investment to us, he could not produce it. One of his properties was not going well. And he’s had bigger fish to fry. So he basically defaulted his partnership and gave up his $10,000 investment. And so after that had happened, I dissolve Blind Visual Communication. And it just changed it to what I really wanted to call which is Blind Visual Propaganda. I was really still infatuated with Russian constructivism in terms of design. I love the aesthetic. And if you guys don’t know what that is, if you’re familiar with Shepard Fairey his work obey giant that’s basically Russian constructivism kind of CO opted for street art.
Marc Gutman 46:44
Yeah. And did it have that same kind of look and feel that that like, you know, I’ve seen that have a it was a blackout? Is that the type?
Chris Do 46:53
No, no, I know what you’re talking about, like black letter, like black letter. Yeah. typeface? No, it was more experimental in the early days. And we tried all kinds of things mixing serif and sans serif typefaces gather, doing Baroque and Gothic things with it. And it evolved all over the place from from those kind of grungy, the cult of scratch, as some some creative people would call it moving into super clean, ultra modern, just minimalist design. We played around with identity for for quite some time. And, you know, it’s it’s a design company, well, we’ll do whatever we want. Roger called blind, it wasn’t into. Yeah, it wasn’t until the later part of our company, that I had come to this realization that we are one of the early pioneers of motion design in that we were there at the beginning. I think we’re there like one and a half generation motion design, right? The first was like a guy named Flavio akamba, who was doing desktop animation and video. So we’re just right after him. And we wanted to celebrate this. This was something that was unique to us. So I started pursuing this identity design that made it feel really old, hence the calligraphy the black letter. That’s what we were doing.
Marc Gutman 48:07
And then where did the name come from? why you’d said you’d wanted to call it blind. Like, why? What was that all about?
Chris Do 48:12
Well, there’s something that was intriguing about blind in that I love these kinds of I like ironic names, where we’re graphic designers, we do visual communication, the name like blind, provokes dialogue. But I also tell you a dirty secret, which is, I grew up loving skateboarding, right? So vision Street, where it was a pretty big company, it was a corporate company. And there was a company called blind skateboards, who is a faction of x. visions, skaters, and it was kind of a mud in there. I love that kind of punk attitude towards it. So I took the same spirit, I’m like, we’ll call ourselves blind. That makes a lot of sense. We’re doing design. And there’s a lot of really professional firms out there will be professional in our own way, will be the Pirates of design and, and we wanted to kind of have that edge to us.
Marc Gutman 49:01
Yeah. And Blind had a lot of success. I mean, we could we could have, you know, can talk for hours about all the things you worked on. But you know, you were fortunate enough, you you won an Emmy, which is, which is awesome. And super incredible. What was that? Like? I mean, did you even imagine that? You’d be up there accepting an Emmy for your work at any given time?
Chris Do 49:21
No, for a lot of different reasons. Now, we’ve been in business since 1995. And we’ve won a ton of awards. Basically, I would sit there and think to myself, I don’t want I want to win that award. And we would apply and when generally speaking, we would win. And Emmy was not part of like it wasn’t even on the radar for me because it was a whole different world because we make commercials and music videos and Emmys were generally for TV shows, not for theatrical, but for television. Okay, because theatrical Earth theater has the Oscars and other kinds of awards. So one of my office managers said you know, Chris, we’re going to get you an Emmy. I was like, okay, her name is spacing her name now. Sorry.
So she’s like, I want to help you win an Emmy, I’m like, okay, so she went through the entire any kind of submission criteria. And she found a category for one of our projects that fit into that. And this is kind of the art of submission. So, I mean, there’s all another story there. So she found that you could submit an animated work and music video qualified for a special category called Individual Achievement in art direction for animation. This is a juried award, meaning some years of it gives zero awards and some years, they will give several and it was up to the the animation pierburg to decide whether or not you deserve one or not. So she she took a video that we had just done that was very proud of it was for the Raven, it’s called the hardest stone.
And she submitted it. And to my surprise, they’re like you when you get one. And I was thinking this is excellent. Until they send you this email saying, you need to prepare your acceptance speech. And it can only be I think, 30 seconds long or 45 seconds max, they’ll cut you off. And you need to be short. You need to be pithy say something that will make the editors keep you in Edit when this thing airs. And I was struggling with this. Because this is in 2010. I had not done a lot of public speaking at that point, and definitely never even thought of doing a YouTube video at that point. So this kind of wrecked me. Like I can be there on stage. I can grab this statue, I can hold it up. But I don’t want to say anything because I’m still not comfortable speaking. So that was super scary for me.
Marc Gutman 51:35
Yeah, I can imagine. And I think that you mentioned I think I read a post as recently where you were talking about that, that you got kind of bailed out where they were running late. So you were sweating. You’re in your tuxedo, you were like, sweat that hard. What happened there? Now
Chris Do 51:55
You need to understand, like, I could look that part. The facade doesn’t tell you a lot about what’s inside. Right? At that point in time. I was just doing the p90x program. So I was really thin, very fit. Some people looked at me like, Are you sick? So I was wearing his brand new Dolce and Gabbana suit, tie everything I was like ready to go. But inside I was like crying like a child. Because we’re sitting there in the theater. And you know, they’re they’re like, going through all the wards. There’s a lot of awards to get through. And it’s, it’s, it’s like, you know, when you ride a roller coaster, the line and the anticipation of the drop are the scariest parts. When you’re chugging up the roller coaster and you’re about to hit that point where you’re kind of floating and you’re going to freefall for a second. That’s the scariest part when you’re hanging over the top. And that’s what it was like for three hours, sitting in that theater, waiting for somebody to grab me to go backstage. So here’s the weird part to the story. So I’m shaking, my my knees are like, you know, I’m just bouncing all over the place.
My wife’s like, puts her hand on my knee is like, honey, you got to just calm down. You’re First of all, you’re driving me crazy, but this is not going to help you. And the reason why I was so nervous was because, like 30 seconds, what do I say? What do I say? Do I think my mom dad and my cousins or or my teachers like where do I go with this thing? And I had something prepared the night before. But you start second guessing yourself. You start thinking I just don’t like the way that sounds. This is terrible. Let me go all heartfelt No, no, let me be all inspirational. Now, let me tell the refugee story. Now be humble. Like no be boastful. Like, I don’t know what to do. And it’s really weird because we were not sitting with the animation peer group because I was in the title design pierburg totally different group. It’s weird. And so everybody that was gonna receive an award was already backstage. So there’s a page who’s walking down the aisle away, turning left saying Christo turning to the other side, Krista, and my wife’s like, slaps him on the shoulders. Like, I think that guy’s looking for you. Like, nobody’s looking for me. I turn over and I could see this guy. He’s making his way out of the theater. I’m like, shoot, I get up. I’m Excuse me, excuse me. Just moving past the ceremonies still going on.
I run after I’m like, Hey, are you looking for me? Yes. Oh, my God, we are so late. I couldn’t find you in your group. I know, I was sitting over there. He’s like, I didn’t get the note. We got to cut through the front. We’re not going to go the background. There’s no time. And I was like, oh my god. I’m already nervous about the talk. And now we’re racing towards the front. And here’s the interesting part to put all the beautiful people front, you know, when the camera pans and you see all the celebs there in the front. Okay. And so we’re like rushing by I’m like looking past them as we’re going up, like just thinking to myself, don’t fall, don’t fall. My shoes are slippery. They’re brand new shoes. We race right up the stage into the back and waiting in line now, with these other award winners. The guy in front turns over, turns around, he’s like, you know, and he’s angry. He’s like, Oh, you know, they’re running long. They’re not gonna let us do our acceptance speech. And I gotta tell you, it’s like no words that made me happy up until that point. I’m like, Oh my God. And this just called homeless just washed over my body.
I was like, This is so good. And he’s like, you know what? I’m not gonna stand for this. This is wrong. This is our moment. Just because they’re late should not affect us. I’m already gonna do is I’m gonna go talk to the producer. I was like, Oh, dude, just leave it alone, man. Leave it alone. And so now this whole kind of like, emotion of like scared nervous what I’m going to say, dips down to like calm and peacefulness eight goes right back up through the roof, like, Oh my god, I go back to like, rehearsing what I’m going to say. He comes back A moment later, he looks at me like, and I’m like, and it’s like, no dice. Walk up there. You grab your statue and come right back as like, oh, that sucks. I’ll smile. I was like, oh my god. I’m sure my pits were drenched with sweat. And just this emotion of running up there. There’s up and down. Finally go out there. Okay, man, just try to take a good picture. And I couldn’t even take a good picture. My head’s all crooked, my arms all weird, but whatever.
Marc Gutman 56:02
Well, you’ve got the picture. You’ve got the me. I got it. You know, and you have this agency in, you’ve won an Emmy, and you’re serving clients and things are going great. But that’s, you kind of that’s not enough, right? Like so. Another vision starts to creep in and starts to I’m assuming I’m editorializing here, rattle around your head a little bit and starts kind of keeping you up. When does that happen? And then kind of how does that happen?
Chris Do 56:32
Yeah, so for some context here, like I said, Before, we make commercials and music videos, mostly commercials. That’s how we pay our bills for really large advertising agencies. And for us, the peak was a I think, in 2007, when we almost hit $7 million in Billings, right. So the commercial industry, as you now know, is tied to TV. And people were starting to stream content more. And they were able to use a DVR and skip commercial. So I could see the writing on the wall. Like when everybody was talking about TiVo and how cool it was. And I was using TiVo to skip all the commercials. I was thinking, Wait a minute, we’re in a line of business, that’s not going to be around, I don’t want to be waiting for my death, the writing was clearly on the wall. And so I started trying to do different things that would make us less reliant on commercial work. And I tried a bunch of different things. And then we got into doing brand strategy and digital design as an agency. And we had success there. So I was thinking, Okay, I quickly moved us and I say quickly, it took a couple years, moved us away from relying purely on commercial work, to working with clients directly, building their brand doing the strategic work building their websites. And that was really cool. Simultaneously at at this time, my friend, Jose Cabo, and my friend Jose Kabir, was like, Chris, let’s go make videos on YouTube together, because I want to start an education company. And he said, I know you do, too. And it’s true. I did at this point, I was already teaching for 15 years.
So I thought, Yeah, all right, let’s try this thing. And it was really weird. It was super awkward for me, because I’m a behind the camera talent. I’m not in front of camera talent, people know what that means. So just looking into a piece of glass and talking to nobody, that was very, very scary for me, I was still not comfortable with seeing my own face and hear my own voice. And slowly but surely, over the course of a couple of years, I started to find my groove and figure out Oh, there’s an audience here. And they actually want to learn something. And I didn’t think YouTube was used for anything other than like goofy jokes and prank videos, right. And that definitely was not something I wanted to do. But an audience appeared that wanted to learn more about design principles, they wanted to hear from a person who was making business level decisions for with really big clients, and sharing that knowledge in terms of pricing, negotiation, communication, and managing teams, all this stuff. And that’s what I was teaching.
And this is really the thing that kind of excited me because if you’re able to help another human being, and if you’re able to do this at scale, and you’re able to reach so many people, I gotta tell you, that’s like, there’s that kind of joy that no money can buy. And that’s when I started to think I want to build a viable business. So this becomes my primary thing and not an afterthought. It’s not going to be a hobby. Like I would tell people, I’m very clear about the things I do for fun. That’s a hobby like fishing, where I know I will make no money and things I want to do as a business enterprise or an endeavor. So it has to make money. So at this point in time in the storyline, Jose and I, we split up, he goes his way I go my way. In 2016 we start The Futur, we start making money, we’re start making content. And by about end of 2018 my entire design team is now folded into making content with me. So we stopped taking on client work in December of 2018.
Marc Gutman 59:57
Yeah, and you know what? One of the things that struck me about that that story and the the retelling of those events is that, like, you’re so generous with what you do share online. And I think now, it’s still even hard for people to do that today. But I think that’s more of a common message that we’re hearing Hey, give and you will receive give, you know, before you get, you know, be generous with your, your information. But that wasn’t always the way and it wasn’t always the way people did things. And I know like, some of your most popular YouTube videos are ones where you like, talk about pricing, like this thing that like, no one used to talk about, like, it was like this taboo like, yeah, you think what do you think this like idea of the generous gift of being open of being transparent of talking about things that were people weren’t talking about in a way that you were giving like service? You know, it wasn’t it? Was this real kind of giving kind of mentality? Where’d that come from? Because I don’t think that that’s always intuitive for everybody.
Chris Do 1:01:00
Yeah, I think it comes from the spirit of being a teacher first. And I’ve had teachers at artcenter, when they were working professionals, and they would hold back and it always made me feel really weird. Like there was a teacher who taught 3d animation and visual effects. And we would ask, how do you do that, like that shot that you worked on? He was like, you have to figure it out. And so he kept his trade secrets, like, close to his chest. And I was thinking, how you serving your students this way. And I knew, then, I did not want to be that kind of teacher. If you’re not going to show up as a teacher and give everything you’ve got, what is the point, just don’t even become a teacher then don’t really know what you’re doing. And so, in business, people are very tight with their information, because they think giving away any bit of information is going to be to their detriment.
It’s a disadvantage to tell people how much you charge how you charge because well, nobody else is doing it. If you give it out, they’re likely to use it against you. But in this point in time, I was just thinking, you know what, when I’m with my students, I tell them everything. I tell them, the horror stories, the war stories, the trials and the tribulations, and they love it because they want to save themselves from some of that pain. And I didn’t know that you could say this openly, without massive negative repercussions. And so you do what everybody does you try it out a little bit and see if there’s tremendous backlash against you. And I knew I was saying things that my competitors didn’t want me to say that agencies didn’t want me to say, and I was going to risk a little bit. So I was making small Gamble’s at the beginning, not one giant gamble, by revealing this information. And for the most part, people are super cool about it. And they’re thinking to themselves, like Finally, someone’s gonna say it, because we need to know. I think the other reason why people are very reluctant to share this kind of information is because if you’re doing well, they’re gonna think you’re boastful. And if you’re not doing well, they’re gonna discredit you.
So what is the sweet spot? And this is the narrative that we tell ourselves in our head. And I think most of it is untrue. Now, I think there’s going to be a small percentage of people, regardless of what lane you’re in, how, how kind and generous you are there going to always question your motives, because I was see those comments always, just at the beginning. It’s like, you know, what’s the play here? Why is he doing this? There’s something that’s up and they will say it publicly and they would say, in small circles, but I can’t live my life, in fear of what a few people say, while trying to help as many people as possible. So they’re the detractors, the the haters, they’re out there. I know who they are. I know. I know, the PACs in which they travel, and if you will, and they’re there. And I’m going to ignore them for the sake of everybody that wants to show up.
Marc Gutman 1:03:50
So what’s your biggest struggle right now?
Chris Do 1:03:54
My biggest struggle right now is learning how to create a scalable marketing engine or funnel so that more people can convert into becoming customers of ours, I have this big, big dream. In order to fulfill this dream, we need capital, I would tell people, you know, if you have this amazing cause you need capital, because without capital, there’s no cause. And it’s not a small dream. It’s not a hobby. It’s a lifestyle business. I want to hire some of the best storytellers, writers, producers, teachers, people who know marketing and people of different subject matter expertise. And in order to be able to do that, I got to sell more products. And one of the biggest challenges I have right now is I want to be able to approach an instructor, a potential instructor for us and say, make content and distribute on our channel because we’re gonna really support you not only in terms of the production, but also the marketing and you’re going to make money and your legacy is going to be preserved. I can’t do that if we’re still struggling to figure out how to sell courses.
Marc Gutman 1:04:57
Yeah, and in that’s a great segue. into my next question in that, like, what’s the future look like for The Futur?
Chris Do 1:05:06
How far out are we talking about Marc?
Marc Gutman 1:05:08
How far would you like to go? You know, you know, you know, and you can answer it any way you want. But you know, it’s kind of like, you know, what’s next? Or Yeah, what’s what’s the, you know, what popped into your mind when I said that?
Chris Do 1:05:20
Well, there’s two things that popped into my mind my immediate future and the far distant future. So let me answer it that way, then, the immediate future is there’s the curriculum that I’ve sketched out, and there’s lots of gaps that we need filled. Because I was thinking that the first goal for us is to be able to replace what I feel are the important parts that you need to learn from going to a private art school in terms of getting a an education design. So we created a few courses, but we’re far away from where we need to be. And so I need to recruit instructors to be able to teach and make it economically viable for them to do this with us. The distant future is about having pods all over the world where people can come and learn and to gather and social ways and build community around learning about the broader topic of creativity and design, where the master content will be recorded somewhere and then pipe into these learning centers and hubs.
I still, as much as I’m a proponent for distance-based learning, still believe in the value of just being around other human beings. And so we want to be able to do this. And ideally, these hubs would have living spaces, so that people can jump from hub to hub. If you’re traveling through a specific area, and you want to crash there, we’ll figure out some way that it makes sense economically, for both of us, so that you can stay there you can learn with other people. We know that they do programs within universities called What do they call the artists in residence, where they kind of pay for people to be there to make their art to do their research. We would love to have that, but just on a much, much bigger scale.
Marc Gutman 1:06:58
And so Chris, I asked this question in some form to every guest that comes on the show, and you recently released your own video, which I kind of got very nervous about because I think the title of your view, I’m paraphrasing, so I’ll probably get it wrong as something to the effect of advice to my younger self. But I listened to it this morning, just to make sure I don’t think it ruins this question. So I want you to go back. Once you go back to the Silicon Valley time, I want you to go back where you’re you’re perusing those skateboards in the skate shop young Chris. And let’s look the other way. What would he say? If he ran into you today?
Chris Do 1:07:36
Nobody’s ever asked that kind of question before. Well, young Chris, say he would probably be very skeptical. Maybe not cynical, but just skeptical. Like, are you sure this is how we get from here to there? And do I have these skills? Are you sure you’re not somebody else? And I’ll tell you something. years ago, I was watching an early TED talk by Gary Vaynerchuk. Before he became like Gary Vee, the way everybody knows him today. And he was giving a talk and I think was to promote his book, like Jab, Jab, Right Hook or something like that. And he was giving a talk also at, I believe, USC, to a bunch of like, really interested students and in business school, I believe. And here’s this guy who’s just talking, dropping f-bombs and his ability to articulate at the speed in which he’s articulating, and to be able to pull upon references and quotes and authors and ideas and formulas. And these really kind of digestible sound bites. I was blown away. And I remember looking at that video thinking, Oh, my God, how does one become that kind of person? Is this a skill that I can acquire? I’m not sure.
Fast forward many years later. It’s like, Oh, I’m not talking as fast as him. I don’t have these great sound bite he kind of segments to drop on people. But now I’ve learned so much, and that I can reference certain quotes without looking at them and certain key ideas and be able to recall them upon whenever necessary upon demand. And I’m just like, well, this is actually it’s possible. So Young Chris would look at older Chris problem, the same way that I was looking at Gary Vaynerchuk, just a few short years ago.
Marc Gutman 1:09:21
And that is Chris Do of The Futur. I could talk with and interview Chris for hours. He has this unique blend of knowing how valuable his time is. And yet he’s always so gracious and generous. Type his life y’all. You heard it here. I must admit, I’m a closet typography student, and I find it so fascinating. I’m not sure I’ve made it to the level where it’s life, but I’m working on it. The big thank you to Chris doe and the team at The Futur on a mission to change 1 billion lives. I have a feeling it’s going to happen. sooner than later. We will link to it All things Chris Do in The Futur in the shownotes.
They have a treasure trove of amazing content on YouTube and Instagram, as well as their website, www.thefutur.com. No e in future. If you know of a guest who should appear on our show, please drop me a line at email@example.com our best guests like Chris come from referrals from past guests and our listeners. That’s you. Well, that’s the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www.wildstory.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS so you’ll never miss an episode. I like big stories and I cannot lie you other storytellers can’t deny.