Josh Rubin has built Cool Hunting into one of the most recognizable websites and names within popular culture today. Since its creation in 2003, Cool Hunting has managed to reach a broader array of readers than almost any site I know, making sure to cover the spectrum; from fashion, to tech, to design, to streetwear, to art, etc. Cool Hunting spreads the “esthetically fly” gospel. There’s a lot more to Josh Rubin than just what you see on Cool Hunting, he\’s a Senior Partner at Bond Art and Science (a digital services firm he founded). He\’s spent time at Motorola, Razorfish and Upoc Networks. He even holds a Master\’s in Interactive Telecommunications from New York University. Josh went from an interested blogger to a “mover and shaker” within the corporate branding empire. Interview by Matthew Ross.
SXH: A Cool Hunter makes “It their job to make observations and predictions in changes of new or existing cultural trends. The word derives from the aesthetic of ‘cool’.” Do you consider yourself to be the king of Cool Hunting? Or just a Gospel?
JR: Here’s the deal: I started the site 5 years ago as a way to catalog things I find inspiring. As I was the original audience, I didn’t think twice about a name. I had read Malcom Gladwell’s New Yorker piece back in 1997 and the phrase Cool Hunt stuck in my head from then on. Except for me it was synonymous for seeking inspiration. So when it came time to name the site, that’s what I gave it.
To answer your question, I don’t consider myself the king of anything. I just know what I like and am happy to have a place online to share that with anyone who gets inspired by the same kind of stuff as me. And so far as the trend stuff goes, we don’t write about trends. Sure, there are patterns in the things that we cover but it’s up to the reader to see those and interpret them as they wish.
SXH: Initially when you started Cool Hunting, there wasn\’t much else available to Internet readers, what was your initial philosophy and motivation behind the site?
JR: Like I said above, I just wanted a catalog of things I find inspiring. As a designer I’m always looking for new and interesting things to keep my mind going. I love the collision of art, design, technology and culture. I’m fascinated by process and believe that there are no new ideas, just great executions. I used to have a mess of magazine pages, photos, notes, and bookmarks but they were totally disorganized. I’m much better at organizing digitally.
SXH: For all the regular readers of coolhunting.com like myself; there has been an amazing progression of the site, both in content and media… Where do you draw the inspiration? And what does the future hold for you and your site specifically, and the industry of cool?
JR: About two years in the site went from being a one-man show to a collaboration. Today we have 25 contributors around the world and there are three of us who edit the site. Everyone working with us has similar taste to me so it’s exciting to see what they come up with.
SXH: How has the PODCAST changed Coolhunting.com?
JR: For the better! There are stories we want to tell that are better served by video than by written words and still images. It’s awesome to have this additional outlet for sharing what we find. Of course, we’re big on production value. But besides being satisfying it has paid off—we won a Webby award for the video series and have licensed episodes to other media outlets, like CurrentTV for example.
SXH: What category of Hunting do you most like… Music? Art? Tech? Design? Etc?
JR: I design user interfaces. I’m kind of a geek. I get most excited about the intersection of design and tech. That usually means I’m finding gadgets and websites, but it also applies to art and apparel.
SXH: Has the philosophy changed since numerous sites have come into the market?
JR: It was distracting, at first. My instinct was to be competitive. But then I remembered why I started the site and now we just do our thing.
SXH: Taking a step back… how has the world changed since you started the site? Is your target audience the same? How has it changed if at all?
JR: Surprisingly, our audience hasn\’t changed much. We just did our annual survey and it turns out our readers are still smart, urban-dwelling creative professionals looking for a quick inspiration break during the work day.
SXH: Cool Hunting is just one of your ventures, can you tell us about some of the other projects you are working on?
JR: Yeah, I’ve kinda got a lot going on. My main focus these days is Bond, a firm that I started with some former Razorfish colleagues about a year-and-a-half ago. We combine strategy and creativity to identify opportunities for better digital experiences. In other words, we design and build web and mobile applications. Our clients are primarily in the media, fashion and telecommunications worlds. We’re 15 people and growing; we just moved to a great new office; and we eat lunch together every day. We’re very food centric. Cool Hunting is under the same roof so there are some nice synergies there.
We’re also starting a new ad network in collaboration with our friends from Happy Corp and Osmosis. It’s called Largetail and it will combine ad inventory from lots of great, like-minded sites. We also offer customized campaigns for our advertisers.
SXH: If Hollywood were to do the Josh Rubin Story who would play you and why?
JR: I guess Jason Schwartzman because we kind of look alike.
SXH: Do you have an opinion of personal blogs? People showing what they ate for dinner etc. it’s a new phenomenon, what do you make of it?
JR: That’s what blogs are supposed to be for!
SXH: Print and Online media are drastically different, what in your opinion are the main benefits and disadvantages of online media? In the future will CH be in print?
JR: Print has a tactile value that just feels good to the hand and the soul. I don’t ever see that going away. Online has immediacy. We see something and can have it in front of our readers within minutes. You can’t do that in print. Additionally, online we have the ability to get our like-minded readers communicating with each other. We actually don’t do that right now, but it might be coming in the future…
SXH: Do you have any regrets?
JR: Honestly, the name Cool Hunting. It’s so loaded. We’ve almost rebranded a dozen times, now. We actually registered http://www.coolhuntingisover.com !
SXH: Would you indulge us with your favorites?
JR: Sure. Picking just one for each isn’t easy, though…
Artist: Anthony Goicolea
Restaurant: Zuni Cafe (San Francisco)
Museum: New Museum (New York)
Hotel: One Aldwich (London)
Tech Gadget: My hacked iPhone
Clothing Designer: Tim Hamilton
Retail Store: Base (Miami)
Alcoholic beverage: Tito’s Vodka
Non-Alcoholic Beverage: Green Tea
Music Act: Fischerspooner
Architect: John Lautner
Website (other then CH): we-make-money-not-art.com
You can check out Cool Hunting daily of course, even check through their extensive archives. Slam X Hype thanks Josh Rubin for his time and inspiration.