The Tao of GFDA

The relationship between the mind and the heart is complex. The conflict and settlement between what we think and how we feel are definitive of the human experience. Despite often being at odds with one another, these two forces work in unison to drive each of us toward our destiny.

What destiny awaits the individual is impossible to know. More often than not, even when we’ve calculated all the odds, our best guesses prove to be little more than fevered dreams. What we fear and what we want usually blind us to the abundant opportunities that each moment provides. On very rare occasions, however, there arise a few people that seem to waft the very essence of destiny as they glide along their paths to fame and fortune. Effortless as their ascension may appear to those who look on in awe, the keen observer will perceive the struggle, sacrifice, calculation, and determination hidden beneath the surface.

Jason Bacher and Brian Buirge are two such rare people. They’re my friends of several years, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience, in near entirety, the conception, cultivation, and evolution of Good Fucking Design Advice. I’ve lived with Brian and Jason, and I’ve worked, studied, and taught with them. If I didn’t believe in destiny before knowing them, I certainly would have been firmly convinced afterward. What’s more, for better or worse, I’m that keen observer of the trials and triumphs that have churned unnoticed in the deeper, personal story of how GFDA, an entity unto itself, thinks and feels and remains balanced.

I don’t boast on their behalf, nor do I flatter them, when I say that Brian and Jason are two of the most skillful, driven, and apt people I’ve ever known. Each of them is a master of his craft. Each would, beyond any doubt have reached the pinnacle of his potential on his own had their paths not crossed. But their paths did cross, and converge, and compound, and expand. What were once the two narrow ways of two talented individuals, have coalesced into something almost unrecognizable as a conventional career.

Brian and Jason share a business, an aura of mysterious prowess, and perhaps a common destiny; but it’s what they don’t share, their individual natures and personal struggles, that make their partnership that much more remarkable. Until very recently, their lives have so closely mirrored each other as to often make them indiscernible as individuals to the outside world. Despite that perception, they’re very different in how they find personal success. Accolades aside, Brian and Jason are both dangerous men. Some people are dangerous because of their level of control, others because they are so tenacious that you’d have to kill them to beat them. Brian is of the former, and Jason the latter. The distinctions between their personalities are paradoxical, however, when compared to the roles that each plays in the operation of their business, as Jason is the self proclaimed brain of GFDA, and Brian it’s heart.

Intense passion is a quality not typically associated with the functions of the mind. Jason burns with it. He charges into his work, everyday, as though the flames of his intensity lap at his heels and threaten to consume him should he seek a moment’s rest. The consummate and inherent salesman, Jason engages no one but those whom he would offer some favor, service, or recommendation. So it’s a spectacle to behold when that fire fuels the process of formulating strategy and tactics. I’ve witnessed him, cloistered for days beneath a gray hoodie and headphones, researching an idea to its most extreme vagaries and implications, before ever uttering a word of its existence. He is the single most calculating person I have ever known.

In an uncanny juxtaposition, Brian commands a logic so outwardly collected as to possibly be mistaken for aloofness. The immediacy with which he calls upon detail and articulation in nearly any response has often left me with the impression that he had been rehearsing the answer to my question before I asked. That crystalline lucidity reveals the absence of calculation. Brian summons his energy from deep within his center, the shared, fathomless source of the patience and empathy that allows him to strike a resonating tone in the voice of GFDA. Just as he is compelled to lend warmth and calmness to his friends and students, he lends power and sincerity to the company’s mission and messages.

The two forces of mind and heart, equally strong, equally present, draw forward the body of GFDA. The one looking forward, measuring each rise, plotting the course; the other, gathering strength for every stride, and inviting all who’ll listen to follow along. Strategies are bolstered by message, and the voice rings truer with the advantage of vision. That balance, though sometimes precarious, has brought Jason and Brian across many obstacles, and made accessible to them many dreams. As a future that promises to bring great changes looms heavily, their pace and momentum has become more critical than ever.

In an experimental venture into a new model of operations for GFDA, half of the company’s creative power has moved to New York. Jason’s goal is to expand their reach by chatting, rubbing elbows, collaborating, and carousing with anyone willing to spare the time. What that networking might mean for the next iteration of the company is still in abstract terms. Jason is decidedly focused on bringing together professionals and passionate people in any way that he can. He’s already surprised himself with the rewarding connections he’s helped create, the mission of collaboration and inspiration remains strong, even while the direction is still being determined. Both Brian and Jason seem galvanized by the challenges that have arisen with this exploration of GFDA’s potential, but also a little hollow-eyed as they approach year five.

No great success comes without a cost. Jason revels in his new surroundings. A man with an unquenchable thirst for hustling, he currently seems to be sustaining himself entirely with labor. Being an underdog in New York affords him the greatest test of his life. One that he will, to no one’s surprise, rise to meet, but one that he’ll find has no end. Maybe the city will offer him his first chance to find his limits. Brian is listless. He’s finding limits in good supply in Kent, and he’s eager to discover equity for the company in new places. A college town, the birthplace of GFDA seems smaller than ever now, and concealing of few new adventures. New legions of students arrive every few months. Being stationary in a transient place can take it’s toll on someone who thrives on the strength of his community.

I’ve watched Jason and Brian change in ways that only long hard work and its just rewards can facilitate, and GFDA has existed in a state of perpetual development since it began. Stagnation has never even been a remote threat. At this moment, though, every aspect of the company feels like it’s poised to advance. Jason and Brian too seem to be on the verge of new territory in their personal growth. In their usual style the friends and business partners have opened themselves to all possibilities.

Thanks to Kindred Spirits, Bonnie & Lauren for the amazing on-site photography of Brian, Jason and crew! Be sure to check out their amazing work!

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