Day 59

Day 59

What defines the entrepreneur is his or her ability to recognize a problem, a need, or opportunity in the world and have the conviction to want to solve it.

— Mimi O Chun

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Mimi O Chun is an all-around wonder woman. She embraces the designer entrepreneur spirit and has always led a life driven by dual interests. As the daughter of a computer scientist (her father) and a painter (her mother), she “felt torn between what she assumed were two very distinct directions: design and science.” But, her separate interests came together fully when she landed her current job as the design director of General Assembly (featured on Day 07).

General Assembly (GA) is a campus for technology, design, and entrepreneurship located in New York. We spoke with Mimi about how she landed at GA and if she thinks entrepreneurship can be taught to designers. In terms of teaching entrepreneurship (one of GA’s main initiatives), she says:

“I think the entrepreneurial instinct is something that transcends disciplines. What defines the entrepreneur is his or her ability to recognize a problem, an unaddressed need, or opportunity in the world and have the conviction to want to solve it. One of the things that we try to do at General Assembly, (aside from partnering with top practitioners—people who have been out on the front lines and whose points of view have been shaped by their own experiences) is provide a construct for a community of like-minded people with shared interests to learn among and from one another.”

GA’s mission is similar to the way we view the Kern and Burn community. We feature designers who have had a range of meaningful experiences (either career-related or life adventures) and who are willing to share what they’ve learned so that others can benefit.

Mimi is an advocate for branching out to gain experience in many fields, but she also believes in the benefits of mastering a single craft. She said, “Entrepreneurship should certainly be part of the discourse within design programs, but I don’t believe it should usurp the fundamental skill-building or the exploration of craft. For graphic designers, there’s great value in learning the finer points of typography, hierarchy, scale, composition, and pacing. The more mastery one acquires over his or her own craft, the more adept one will be in understanding how to create products and experiences that are mindful of—and resonate with—end users.”

We have much more to share from our conversation with Mimi in our upcoming book, but for now, we’ll end this post with her fantastic answer to our question: “Pick one: Kern or Burn.”

“Hands down: kern,” she replied. “Kerning is essentially a metaphor for life—for learning what works and what doesn’t and making small adjustments along the way. I’m a big believer in the notion that details make all the difference. Ideas are cheap; execution is what matters.”