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AMA: The Great Discontent Team (Ryan, Brad, Tina)

4 years ago from , Editor in Chief of The Great Discontent

Hello, Team TGD here. We are Tina Essmaker (Editor in Chief), Ryan Essmaker (Creative Director), and Brad Smith (Publisher). If you aren't familiar, The Great Discontent is a print and online magazine featuring inspiring conversations with today’s artists, makers, and risk-takers.

The three of us have done a variety of work over the years before teaming up. Prior to pursuing creative work, Tina earned a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work from Wayne State University in Detroit and spent twelve years working with runaway and homeless youth. After leaving Michigan to move to New York in April 2012, she transitioned into freelance copywriting and served as Community Manager at Crush & Lovely for one year before focusing on TGD full-time.

Ryan previously founded and ran a small design shop in his home state of Michigan for several years while pursuing music ventures on the side. In 2011, he and Tina started publishing The Great Discontent online, which opened the door to amazing opportunities and eventually led him to New York. There, Ryan worked as creative director and product designer at Crush & Lovely for two years before focusing on TGD full-time.

Brad is a New York-based entrepreneur. Most recently he was the CEO and co-founder of Virb, a DIY website builder, which was acquired by GoDaddy in 2013. Prior to Virb he was the founder of a design studio named Neubix, which later merged with Boston-based UMI to co-create a mid 00's hit—a music social network named PureVolume. Brad is survived by a pair of running shoes, a novel he never published, and more Post-it™ pads than any human should ever own.

In January 2014, Ryan & Tina quit their day jobs to focus on TGD full-time. In October 2014, they joined forces with Brad, a longtime friend and colleague, to form Wayward Wild, an NYC-based publlishing studio and TGD's parent company.

Ask us about our past experiences, our current work with TGD, or anything at all. We'll be answering questions today, Fri. Nov. 13th, beginning at 1pm Eastern.

59 comments

  • Gerald LlorenceGerald Llorence, 4 years ago

    How did you guys gain traction with your project when you first started?

    6 points
    • Ryan EssmakerRyan Essmaker, 4 years ago

      Consistency and quality. We published a long-form interview every single week for a very long period of time while it was still very much a passion/side project. Over time, more and more people started taking notice and following along.

      5 points
  • Frank ChimeroFrank Chimero, 4 years ago

    Brad: Best Ryan Adams record?

    Ryan: What cool hat should I buy?

    Tina: How much does Jackson weigh now? Does he still like me?

    5 points
  • Daniel GoldenDaniel Golden, 4 years ago

    Why is it called "The Great Discontent"?

    4 points
    • Ryan EssmakerRyan Essmaker, 4 years ago

      In our opinion, creativity is something that's never really satiated or content. There's always a desire to do more, create more—do and create better—it's never-ending. And it's that desire that pulls us forward into greater challenges and opportunities. So, in a manner of speaking, that is "The Great Discontent".

      7 points
  • Denny LuanDenny Luan, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    Ryan, Tina - my cofounder and I were dating years before we started, and we have an internal secret that we always come before the company. How does that work for you two? How do you work out conflicts, and how do you juggle being a strong cofounder and strong partner?

    3 points
  • Teodorik MenslTeodorik Mensl, 4 years ago

    A day in the Life of Tina, Ryan, and Brad?

    3 points
    • Tina Essmaker, 4 years ago

      It's not very glamorous. Wake up, check email while still in bed—bad, I know—roll outta bed, drink coffee, and head to the computer around 9-10am. There's a lot of producing, which translates to lots of emailing. I try to set aside chunks of time during the day to transcribe and edit. When I edit, I close everything and turn off notifications. We have some remote team members (Tammi, my editorial assistant, is in PDX), so we use Slack to communicate throughout the day. I usually end around 7-8pm.

      On the more exciting days, I have interviews, which are done in person when possible. This means meeting up at a coffee shop, bar, etc. and conversing with amazing people, or sometimes going to an individual's home or studio. That is even better because I get to see where the magic/work happens!

      1 point
    • Ryan EssmakerRyan Essmaker, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

      Well, things kinda vary depending on whether we're deep in the middle of an issue or just doing our everyday duties, but any day can consist of the following:

      • Lots of coffee
      • Responding (or not ;) to way too much email
      • Lots of Slack convos, Google Hangouts, and Skype calls
      • Design/dev for articles on the site
      • Editorial convos with Tina about the site and mag
      • Business discussions with Brad and Tina
      • Being photo editor and reviewing/deciding on selects
      • Finding, managing, and working with photographers
      • On location for a shoot, directing and/or assisting
      • Laying out/designing issues
      • Work on secret projects when time allows
      • Proofing and press checks when we're near time for an issue's release
      • Moare emails
      • Whiskey
      • Not enough sleep

      head spinning

      1 point
    • Brad SmithBrad Smith, 4 years ago

      A day in the life. Hmm. I will forego today as an example, as I didn’t put on proper pants until well after noon.

      This tweet I shared last week might lend some insight to how I spend my days: https://twitter.com/brad/status/661950670979907584

      95% of my role at TGD/Wayward Wild is behind the scenes. Wizard of Oz man behind the curtain type stuff (minus the bad hair and dominant ruler of a mystical land shit).

      I’m responsbile for keeping the business running (and growing): generating all revenue, growing brand presence, partnerships for strategic placement of our magazine, PR, bookkeeping, payroll, spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheets, whiskey, etc. The non-glamorous side of TGD, or any business for that fact. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it thoroughly.

      1 point
  • Lawrence LyLawrence Ly, 4 years ago

    I took part in #The100DayProject and it opened up new paths for my future work. However, there are many opportunities in the design industry that are just as compelling, even recommended by others.

    How do you get over the fear of missing out and narrow your focus?

    3 points
    • Tina Essmaker, 4 years ago

      That's awesome to hear, Lawrence! It's sooo easy to feel like you're missing out. There will always be more opportunities than you can say "yes" to. I'd say to focus on what you're interested in, what is most unique to you. Do what you do best and pursue the work that you enjoy. Don't try to follow someone else's path. Create your own.

      4 points
      • Lawrence LyLawrence Ly, 4 years ago

        Thanks for your reply, Tina! It's great hearing that although you publish inspirational talks, you still advocate for creating my own path. I'll admit to being tempted by your interviewees to emulate them to achieve success but now I know better.

        Keep up the great (dis)content!

        0 points
        • Tina Essmaker, 4 years ago

          Of course, Lawrence! You'll find what works best for you. There's no "right" way. That's the great thing about creative work: there are a million different paths to get there. Best of luck!

          0 points
  • Katherine Diemert, 4 years ago

    What was it like asking to interview people for the first time? Did you have previous experience, or ask people you already knew?

    2 points
    • Tina Essmaker, 4 years ago

      I can only speak for myself, but I was totally nervous. We emailed people we didn't know and asked to have an intimate conversation with them—the questions we ask aren't light and fluffy. The more interviews I did, the more confident I felt, and the better I got. It takes time. Everyone we've interviewed has been personable and gracious with their time, so that helps. And, no, we didn't have experience and we didn't have anyone to ask. We just started doing it! Sometime you just have to jump into the deep end and figure it out as you go.

      2 points
  • Josh Long, 4 years ago

    Love you. I know that's not a question, but I do.

    2 points
  • Jason GrafingerJason Grafinger, 4 years ago

    What mistakes did you make early on with TGD? Anything you look back on and regret, or just bumps along the road?

    2 points
    • Ryan EssmakerRyan Essmaker, 4 years ago

      Don't really have any regrets. I do wish we had started it sooner and hadn't put the project off for years.

      3 points
      • Jason GrafingerJason Grafinger, 4 years ago

        How long did you put it off? And as an aspirational project, was it going to be something different?

        Thanks for the reply! Your magazine is really great!

        1 point
        • Ryan EssmakerRyan Essmaker, 4 years ago

          ~5 years—It was always going to be a magazine with a focus on creativity, but it really came together when we decided to make it a priority.

          3 points
        • Tina Essmaker, 4 years ago

          Ryan and I talked about doing a creative project when we were dating. Six years later, we still had nothing to show. We worked day jobs and chilled in the evening. We read The War of Art be Steven Pressfield, which made us get off our asses and get to work. We turned our living room into a studio (got rid of the TV, furniture, etc.) and started working on an idea, which ultimately became TGD.

          3 points
  • Anastasia Tumanova, 4 years ago

    How did you three find each other? How did you know you wanted to work together?

    I'm asking because I have dreams of someday owning my own business, but I am still seeking the right partner(s).

    1 point
  • Max LindMax Lind, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    Thanks for joining us on DN! -

    • Any specific plans in the works for TGD films? Any chance a future interview might be recorded/produced?
    • You've met / interviewed some pretty amazing people, do you still keep in touch?
    • (Sorry, I have to ask the ultra obvious question... :) What was your favorite interview and/or most memorable?
    1 point
    • Tina Essmaker, 4 years ago

      Thanks for having us, Maxwell!

      Lots of ideas for film project, but nothing scheduled right now. There is a chance that we'll do audio from interviews in the future. Also a chance of a podcast. We're definitely going to diversify the way we share content in 2016!

      We do keep in touch with some people. The interview process is pretty collaborative, so we've ended up with many new friends throughout the past few years.

      My all-time favorite interview is Cheryl Strayed!

      1 point
    • Ryan EssmakerRyan Essmaker, 4 years ago

      For personal reasons and not because they're any better than the rest, my favorite interviews that I've conducted we're with David Bazan and Elle Luna.

      2 points
  • Jesse BrackJesse Brack, 4 years ago

    First, love love love TGD!

    Second, at what point did you all agree that it would be a good time to go full-time?

    1 point
    • Ryan EssmakerRyan Essmaker, 4 years ago

      Thank you! Honestly, when we couldn't balance full-time jobs + TGD anymore and keep our sanity. Also, it just felt like the right time to throw everything into it. Some things you just know in your gut.

      1 point
  • Jesse C.Jesse C., 4 years ago

    No questions, just thank you for TGD!

    1 point
  • Erin Hartmann, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    How do you decide who to interview? I saw you (Tina and Ryan) interview Ric Grefe from AIGA at Design Exchange Boston - will you be doing any more events like these? Also, is there any way to get a physical copy of the first magazine?! I bought the second and third ones already :)

    1 point
    • Tina Essmaker, 4 years ago

      We have a huge list of people we want to interview. It's a mixture of input from the team, suggestions from readers, and people recommended by those we've already interviewed. For DxB, we were asked to interview Ric, which was an exciting opportunity, so we said yes. We will definitely be doing more live interviews in 2016. They are a fun way to meet readers and have more dialogue via Q&A afterward.

      The first issue is sold out, but we may do a reprint in the future.

      2 points
  • Robert Deniszczyc, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    Do you (TGD) feel creatively satisfied? What inspires you to (continue to) be creative?

    1 point
    • Tina Essmaker, 4 years ago

      I don't feel creatively satisfied. I feel extremely thankful to be working on TGD, but there are always more ideas I want to work on, but don't have the time for yet. I'm a curious person by nature, always asking questions—I've been that way since I was a little girl—so I think that keeps me inspired to explore.

      2 points
    • Ryan EssmakerRyan Essmaker, 4 years ago

      Never. There's never enough time to do it all.

      1 point
  • Cory Lawrence, 4 years ago

    I love TGD! What do each of you wish you knew before starting/joining a content-driven company?

    0 points
  • cliff nowickicliff nowicki, 4 years ago

    I'm working in Downtown Detroit as a UI/UX Designer and I'm wondering with the huge creative movement that has been happening in the past few years, is there any interest on moving back to the Detroit area?

    0 points
    • Tina Essmaker, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

      Hi, Cliff! We love Detroit and have spent more time there recently. Stopped by The Empowerment Plan and met the team, went to lunch with the cofounders of Floyd, toured Ponyride, went to John K. King Used & Rare Books, had the BEST chicken and waffles at Gold Cash Gold.

      Never say never, right? We're loving New York, but we have roots in Detroit, so, regardless, we hope to spend more time in the city. And we'd love to do a Detroit-based project in the future. We're proud of the city and excited to be a part of its creative community in whatever way we can. Hopefully we'll have a chance to say hi next time we pass through.

      2 points
  • Bryson Coles, 4 years ago

    Will you make shirts available again? Hope so!

    0 points
    • Brad SmithBrad Smith, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

      Bryson– In light of our TGD toddler apparel line not gaining traction (it seems the human brain is rather quite content prior to age 5)... shirts will return. Not a question of yes or no, just when. Spoke with a screen printer only a few weeks back.

      1 point
    • Ryan EssmakerRyan Essmaker, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

      What do you want to see on a TGD t-shirt out of curiosity?

      2 points
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    0 points
  • Daniel De LaneyDaniel De Laney, 4 years ago

    You’ve talked to a lot of people who have managed to go it alone and be successful doing creative work. What’s the recipe?

    0 points
    • Tina Essmaker, 4 years ago

      I don't think there's a one size fits all recipe. The people we've talked to have shared what works for them, which many of them have discovered along the way through trial and error.

      1 point
    • Ryan EssmakerRyan Essmaker, 4 years ago

      Success is subjective, but I do think that Mark Twain said it best when in it for the long haul: “The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.”

      1 point