An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
You can’t do this alone. You will need lots of help along the way from people who know more than you do.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing LYNN HERRING.
Conceptual Artist, Creative Director & Designer, Lynn Herring’s artistic work is influenced by her love of design, sculpture, and conceptual art.
In 2016, Advertising Creative Director & Visual Artist, Lynn Herring took a break from her Ad career and sold her dream home in Woodstock, NY in order to attend graduate school at SUNY New Paltz. Her desire was to augment her highly accomplished and decades-long conceptual art practice in sculpture and printmaking. Her goal was to find a way to use art and sculpture to help heal our world in some way.
As Herring enrolled in her courses at that time, she felt deeply disturbed by the divisions in our culture and was committed to finding a path forward to help bring people back together in an artistic, healthy, positive, fun and loving way.
During that first year of her studies, Herring crafted brightly colored and organically shaped wooden Xs and Os. She kept asking herself, “Why am I doing this? I gave up my home to make Xs and Os?”. Never one to give up on the artistic practice, she trusted the process and continued to hold the intention of bringing people together through art.
By the time the second year rolled around her research led to devising a beautifully designed artistic game. Strategy, purpose, contemporary aesthetics, a sense of fun, smart rules, and a good challenge were the most important elements Herring was working with. She constructed a complex and wonky-shaped game board to go along with her Xs and Os.
Three years later, she created a sculptural game rooted in the origins of Tic Tac Toe, that was far more fun and challenging to play, and held the interest of adult players. She likes to call it Tic Tac Toe on steroids. Even though XOX! is far more interesting and strategic than Tic Tac Toe, it is easy enough to learn and has appealed to many people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
XOX! Share the Love® is an artistic and sculptural game that people love to look at, touch and play. Now anyone can purchase XOX! and Share the Love with family, friends and community!
“I have been surrounded by people who have supported me with extraordinary kindness and generosity to help launch XOX! The original idea of making an art piece that brings people together in a positive, healthy, and loving way has been mirrored back to me time and time again during the entire process of creating XOX! That positive spirit is now living in each one of the XOX! Share the Love games.” — Lynn Herring
To learn more about Lynn Herring’s art practice visit www.lynnherringartist.com.
To learn about or purchase an XOX! Share the Love® board game set, visit www.xoxsharethelove.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in Chicago, I’m the oldest child of a family with 5 daughters. My dad was a union electrician, and my mom was a stay-at-home mother, as many women were at the time I grew up. I learned from my parents to take initiative and do things yourself if you want something bad enough. I also learned to have pride in my work and to strive for excellence even in the face of adversity from my dad. I was a bit of a dreamer and had a really hard time paying attention in school, so I didn’t do well until I was in high school. My family had moved from the city, where I had attended Catholic school, to the suburbs where I was enrolled in the public school. During the summer before I started school, I had a lot of free time on my hands since we were new to the area, so I taught myself how to draw cartoons. My mom saw my interest in drawing and decided to sign me up for a life drawing class in a woman’s garage. It turned out I was really good at it! I then took art classes for my electives in high school and that gave me a great deal of pride and a purpose for my life at a very young age.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t think I have one quote in particular but I have an inner mantra that I use and that’s — You can do it. Feed your vision and take action!
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Though I love books and films, pop and contemporary artists actually made the biggest impact on me. As a kid I loved Peter Max’s colorful, psychedelic designs. As I went through different stages in my life, I found new artists as inspiration. I went from Georgia O’Keefe to Agnes Martin to Eve Hesse. I also loved illustrators like Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast for their animated, colorful and highly stylized work that connected deeply with people. Most recently I’ve been inspired by Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and other artists that crossed over from the commercial art world into the fine art world and then melded their work into a hybrid of both. As we all know now, these artists became great artistic and commercial successes, as well as icons in pop culture.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
Coming from the advertising, design, marketing world, I didn’t see a problem in making my idea into a product that could be shared with many different kinds of people. Since I developed the idea and the prototype in graduate school, I had plenty of opportunities to get feedback. I put it out in front of people at every stage of development which allowed me to make tweaks or sometimes make big changes in the idea in real time. The hardest part for me is having to do the things I don’t know how to do and allowing the trial-and-error phase to teach me. It turns out that I need to learn everything and then some! For instance, manufacturing was a big blank slate for me. So, I got help from a network of mentors at first. I then found some really terrific manufacturing consultants; it is a really organic process. One thing leads to another, one person leads to another helpful person over and over again. Then came the need for funding and breaking into the retail market — which is totally new, scary, and baffling! The only way to learn these things is by jumping into the deep end, getting good guidance, and listening! I’m realizing that my job is to learn new stuff every day, to figure out things I know nothing about, and to do more than I think I can!
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
Well, once I have an idea, the web is where I start my research. Then I move onto talking to people and trying to find someone who might know a lot more about what I’m trying to do. In particular, I look for someone who has done something pretty close to what I am trying to do and try to learn about their process. It seems that the more people I talk to, the more interesting people I find to help with information, with resources, and with good guidance. Even if someone has already done your idea, don’t quit! Did they do it the way you would? Is there something new you have to add? Are you able to make it better and take something to a whole new level? I then look at who I see are my potential competitors. I research the category and the market that I believe my product should be in. I look for who has come before me and has done an amazing job with their product. Most importantly, I test my ideas with many people. I find that I get really great information by taking a prototype or idea to the population that I believe might want my product or service.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
Oh boy. It was long process for me.
- Graduate school was a great place to develop, prototype and test my ideas with smart people in wide age, cultural and economic ranges.
- Protecting your idea. A patent, copyright, trademark, NDAs are all things that are necessary to protect your idea early on. And all of these things require legal professionals to help with the process and the filing. All of these processes take time and money but without them, you are taking a huge risk with your idea.
- Taking the idea to the public with your prototyping. Getting their feedback. Listening to what they have to say and making tweaks or major revisions.
- Getting the prototype and packaging designed exactly how I wanted the product to look when it was manufactured. An accurate prototype prevents communication misunderstandings as well as design/engineering mistakes.
- Taking the prototype to manufacturing consultants. I needed help. I had never done this before. They helped me find a manufacturing agent who was able to get prices for the molds, packaging, finishing, certifications, inspections, and shipping costs.
- Getting the product made and then figuring out where would it be stored. Learning the best way to ship to customers in the beginning stages. Making sure the product was protected and packaged well so it would arrive in great shape with no damage. Shippers are rough on boxes!
- Distribution. Taking the product to trade shows. Working out the marketing messaging. Hiring a PR firm to get the word out in a broader way. Talking to retailers. Finding new and creative alternative ways to get it distributed.
- Learning ways to get to the right people with the right message in the most efficient way. This is an ongoing process and is always changing.
- Supporting the retailers that have purchased my product. Maintaining relationships and helping them be successful.
- Staying in touch with the people who bought my product and inviting them to share their stories to use as testimonials.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?
- Nothing happens quickly.
- There is always much more to learn.
- You can’t do this alone. You will need lots of help along the way from people who know more than you do.
- Learn to live with uncertainty.
- It’s going to be more work than you can imagine — AFTER — the product has been manufactured.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Start with some drawings and show them to people you can trust for feedback. Make some adjustments if necessary and then get a prototype together. Put it in front of all types of people to see if others find the idea as intriguing as you do. And listen to them!
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
I didn’t do that. I didn’t even know those kinds of people existed. It sounds like it might be expensive to do that but maybe it’s worth it? I don’t know.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
I do both. I did all the design and prototyping myself and I hired legal professionals to Trademark and Patent my idea. I also created my own website, marketing materials etc. but hired writers and someone to help with social media. When it came to paying for the manufacturing, it was beyond what I could do myself. So I got funding from an angel investor who is now a part owner of the business. I think people should do what they can themselves first and then be willing to get help when they need it. When you find you are hitting a wall. Get help right away. Know that you don’t know what you don’t know and be wise about admitting it. Investors are costly but necessary. Know that you either take the money and then give them part of the business or the business owes them money and must repay at a pretty high interest rate.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
The whole idea of my project was born of my wanting to help heal the negative divisions in our world and country. I wanted to find a way to have people come together with art and play which are both proven to help our mental health and necessary for our creativity. I wanted my work to bring people joy, color, artistry, fun and something they could have and bring with them. So I created a highly designed art piece that comes in a pizza box for take in and take out play. The pieces are like little sculptures that you hold in your hand as you play the game.
Here’s a little more about the game itself:
Fire up your brain. Connect with family and friends.
Easy to learn, yet challenging to master, XOX! Share the Love will put your strategic prowess and visual awareness to the test. The goal is to populate as many rows on the board as possible, racking up points while blocking your opponent. Play it one-on-one or in 2 teams of two. It’s perfect for game night at home with family and friends. Or take it with you to parties, coffee bars or anywhere you like to hang out and have fun. It’s made to go!
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am doing events in collaboration with design store retailers, galleries, and museums. We bring adults and older kids together to connect with each other in person! They get to challenge people they know or don’t know to a strategic and fun match. It’s amazing to watch people who don’t know each other connect with each other and with the game. It’s an object that takes away our differences and we stand as equals. It’s so fulfilling to witness.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Ellen DeGeneres. She is a playful person and engages others with joy. She inspires me.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Thank you! These were terrific questions!
Making Something From Nothing: Lynn Herring Of XOX! Share the Love On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.