Rocket Science: Stu Constantine
Stu is the co-founder and managing partner of Core77, a New York-based publishing company focusing on the design industry.
What’s your favorite wall decoration in your home?
There are two posters in my office from the National Park Service with a vintage feel. They’re silkscreens, one’s from the Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood, and the other’s from the Grand Canyon, and I like them a lot. My kids like them too.
I also have two paintings, both done by friends, in the living room. One is kind of an abstract of rhododendrons and the other is an abstract seascape my neighbor did. She was an art teacher for 30 plus years, and then in retirement has become a successful painter.
What’s a dumb trend in design?
NFTs would be the thing I’m most critical of right now, more so than crypto. The way they’re currently marketed and implemented is distasteful to me personally. There are a few interesting examples, but usually, it’s just banal. NFTs for the sake of NFTs, which makes the whole movement more confusing than anything.
Have you been tempted at all to buy one?
No. I usually live through my sister, who goes all in on that kind of stuff. I egg her on and say, “Yeah, you should totally buy one. Let’s see.” And if it turns out she makes a million dollars, I’ll have learned my lesson. I haven’t been able to figure out how to effectively make an NFT part of Core77 yet – so maybe that’s why I’m a little down on it.
An entrepreneur has a great idea for a product, what should they absolutely not do as they’re starting off?
I would say pursuing blockbuster financial success right from the get-go is not a great idea. This sounds boring, but instead look for sustainable growth, sustainable production processes, and responsible supply chain fulfillment.
Financial success then follows. Thinking your idea is going to be a smash hit and make a million dollars, almost like a get-rich-quick scheme, is not a good idea. The rare examples of that happening just fuel the bad behavior.
One idea in ten million will hit, and of course, every founder sees their idea as that one. But it’s not good for anybody, really. It’s like investing. Low and steady and continual investing leads to success, versus meme stocks. Shoot to the moon and you get rich. Except 99.99% of this approach just flat out fails.
Who’s a creative person you really admire?
There’s a Dutch designer named Frank Tjepkema who’s always doing interesting projects. A lot of interior work, some jewelry work.
He had a well-known piece of jewelry that has been converted or reissued as an NFT. That’s an example of an interesting NFT project because it took an earlier work and kind of deconstructed it, then made all the parts available for sale. It came with some physical stuff as well as the digital piece.
What would you like to see more of in the startup community?
Services that provide actual, meaningful value, versus a product just trying to reduce friction at all costs. So many services and apps have the sole goal to make consumption as easy as possible. Complete lack of friction is not necessarily a good thing, and some amount of resistance and some amount of effort is good for people.
I’d like to see services provide value while still leaving some effort in. It’s kind of hard to define, but one example is meal planning services. They deliver the ingredients in the recipe and everything, and then you make it. You still get to do the good parts, the actual cooking and bringing people together, versus hitting reorder on Uber Eats.
What’s your favorite outdoor space?
Well, I love the outdoors, so it’s hard to pick a single spot. We’ve done a lot of hiking in the White Mountains and the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. The White Mountains are pretty accessible to big cities on the East Coast, yet at the same time remote and dangerous. It’s wild, these real wilderness situations that are only a couple of hours away from major metropolitan areas.
Name a place in the US you’ve never been to but want to visit.
Never been to San Antonio, and I hear it’s a cool place. Big Bend National Park is another place I’ve never been to, and now that I’m thinking about the national parks, I’d like to go to Death Valley in California and White Sands in New Mexico. So, a big western road trip. I would just love to take two-week road trips repeatedly.
We need new music. What should we listen to?
Well, I feel bad, because a couple of people I’ve started listening to recently have been around for a while. My kids are all either in (or about to be in) their early 20s. So, there was a period of time, about 20 years ago, when all this great music was happening and I didn’t participate.
Now, I’m like, “Why didn’t they see these bands when they were in their heyday?” And I was like, “Oh yeah, because I had all these babies at the time and didn’t get a chance to.” Jenny Lewis, Nicole Atkins, Courtney Barnett, Kathleen Edwards … I’m very into the singer-songwriter space right now.
What’s one of your favorite smaller museums?
I went only one time to the Peabody Museum in New Haven, which is a natural history museum affiliated with Yale. It’s kind of like the greatest hits of the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Excellent exhibits. You can get through in two or three hours and see a lot of highlights.
Keeping with the Peabody theme, there’s a great museum in Salem, Massachusetts called the Peabody Essex. They consistently have an impressive range of exhibits.
Have you picked up any surprise hobbies over the COVID era?
I’ve just done my existing hobbies a lot more. I do a lot of bike riding. I’ve ridden more miles in the past two years than ever in my life, by far. I just try to get outdoors as much as I can. I’ve got a lot of bikes. You need about four bikes.
Sure you do.
First, you need a road bike. And you need a gravel bike. A mountain bike of course. Then a kind of city-banging-around bike. I have multiple examples of those four. There is a garage out back full of bikes. It’s sort of like collecting guitars, right? You need a couple of electric guitars with different tones, plus an acoustic guitar and a bass guitar.
My collection is getting pretty good! I have a specialized Sequoia gravel bike that’s just super comfortable. I can ride it all day, it’s really versatile and goes over anything. I have a Lynskey, which is a titanium road bike. Comfortable, light, and you can ride for hours and hours.
A lot of people follow Core77 to keep up with design. Who do you follow when you just keep up with design news?
Well, in all seriousness, the Small Planet Observatory on Fridays is really good, and one of the few content roundups I enjoy.
There is also a great newsletter called New Atlas, They do a pretty good job spotlighting technology and design items. It’s not necessarily all design news all the time, but of course, everything is design, you know?