Perspective, Hustle and Passion with Kern and Burn

Let’s Talk Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs

We’re big fans of Jessica Karle Heltzel and Tim Hoover here at Go Media.  Designers, writers and publishers, we are super honored to have Jess and Tim on our list of WMC 2013 Speakers this year. 

Jess and Tim

We had a chance to chat with Jess and Tim about their recent success with Kern and Burn, a recently released online and print publication that curates discussions, interviews, and essays about design entrepreneurship.

Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs is a beautiful two-color book that features candid conversations with 30 leading designers who have founded startups, channeled personal passions into self-made careers and taken risks to do what they love. In this book they share their failures, successes, and perspectives.  Kern and Burn’s hope is that you, the reader, can learn from them — not to follow in their footsteps, but to chart your own course in parallel, one that allows you to thrive, add value to the world and love what you do. Dedicating the book  to “those who kern, those who burn and those who embrace the risk of failure daily,their book is available online now on


The Interview

Go Media: Kern and Burn started with the 100 Days of Design Entrepreneurship, a daily blog that curated discussions, interviews, and articles about design entrepreneurs—those who pursue self-initiated projects, think for themselves, and channel personal passions into self-made careers.  Tell us a little about how you decided to begin on this journey.

Kern and Burn: The blog started out as a process. A daily commitment for us to formulate our thoughts on all of the essays, interviews, and blog posts we were reading in school. It was a way for us to figure out what we were interested in—and we centered our thoughts around all things business, design, and entrepreneurship. When we started to gain an audience we slowly realized that the blog was our project and then we made the decision to focus solely on curating and posting the best content we could. The 100 Days was amazing. Every day we were able to reach someone new and that person would inevitably bring something valuable to the discussion and point us in an unexpected direction for a future post.  

For us, the blog is also a literal map of the places we traveled, the design communities we met, and the experiences we had over the year. We were fortunate enough to successfully Kickstart the book which led us to where we are today with Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs. It’s been a great journey.


Go Media: You talk about breaking rules in order to follow your passions.  What is one rule you broke that paid off in dividends?

Kern and Burn: We collaborated on our thesis project. That’s fairly unheard of at competitive graduate schools. MICA does a wonderful job of allowing students to pursue their goals full-force with thesis and thankfully they didn’t have a problem with us working together.

The success of our partnership has always worked because we are different. We have different skills, priorities, work methods (and stress-levels) but those differences work in our favor because they force us to challenge one another. We love the name Kern and Burn because it represents each of us so well. Jess is the Kern—detail and execution-oriented—and Tim is the Burn—ideation and big-picture focused.

We self-published our book. That’s another “rule” that we broke when we decided that we wanted complete control over the layout, the paper choices, and the content. Looking at the end product we know we made the right decision.


Go Media:  What advice would you give to designers who are drawn to entrepreneurship and are dreaming big, but are struggling at the beginning of their career?

Kern & Burn: You don’t need new ideas. You need ideas executed extremely well.

Many designers, ourselves included, can get stuck at the beginning of projects under the pressure of needing to come up with the newest or greatest idea that no one has ever thought of before. We came to realize that the idea itself doesn’t have to be new, it just has to be done in a new way, and executed in a great way. As designers, that’s where our opportunity lies to use our expertise and skill sets to create businesses that rise above the competition.

Go Media: What do you love most about what you do? 

Kern and Burn: We love that we created an experience that asks people to think about and define their perspective. We curated 30 perspectives in the book so that readers can discover what they think about the topics we discuss. We want to encourage designers to think for themselves. There’s no better way to do that then start a conversation and a dialogue and that’s what we hope people do when they read the book.


Go Media: What is one word of wisdom you heard from a fellow designer that you now use on a daily basis in your career?

Kern and Burn: Definitely Christian Helm‘s: Ask For Advice.
The interviews in our book were our way to ask for advice—for ourselves and for our readers. For the most part, people and especially designers are super nice. Ask them for advice, wisdom, or just out for beers. Meet people and start projects. So many amazing projects are the result of one person asking another person for advice.

Go Media: What’s next for Kern and Burn?

Kern and Burn: We’ve been thinking a lot about what our purpose is as a business, as a platform, and as a resource. We landed on Kern and Burn: For Design Entrepreneurs.

With the blog, Kern and Burn was a place for people to stop by for daily inspiration. With the book, readers can pick it up once and find insight in an interview and read that same interview again later—at a different time, in a different place in their careers—and still find meaning in the interview because they have new life experiences to bring to it.

We want to continue to grow and build a set of tools and resources that positively influence people’s paths. Whether that tool is a book, a workshop, or a conference we want to design experiences that benefit others and build communities.


Want more Kern and Burn?  Stay tuned for our upcoming podcast with Kern and Burn – to be posted right here on the GoMediaZine!  Also, don’t forget to purchase your ticket to this summer’s Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2013 where you can see Jess and Tim speak about their journey and the success of their new book, Kern and Burn: For Design Entrepreneurs!

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