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Compelling & Visually Addictive – There Are No Rules In Creativity – Only The Realization Of Human Potential – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Blake Brinker, Publisher & Brad Thomas, Editor-In-Chief, Creativ Magazine

June 3, 2015

“How it all worked out was we were seeing so many dynamic people and so many amazing creations and these great efforts in curation and sharing, but we thought, it’s still not enough. We wanted to propagate it further in a way that was almost sacred to people and we thought that magazines were in that category.” Blake Brinker


“I get motivated every day when people come up to us and say, creativity is the most important thing we have and you’re putting it into this beautiful print publication that I can get on a monthly or bimonthly basis. Just wow; what you’re doing is so inspiring and the world needs this, with the things that are happening in the world today, we need something like this to give people hope and optimism. With all the negativity that we hear every day, this is an incredible amount of positivity showcasing people doing absolutely amazing things.” Brad Thomas

Creativ April-1 (2) What can you say about a magazine that literally takes your breath away? One that is so visually and design prolific that your reaction each and every time you pick it up is nothing short of amazing?

Creativ is a concept born from the minds of Blake Brinker and Brad Thomas, publisher and editor-in-chief respectively. The magazine is an extension of their global online network that is serving to integrate print and digital to the acme of their intertwined possibilities.

A showcase for the creativity of the Creativ community; the magazine celebrates the human imagination and originality in tangible form, cradling creativity of all kinds. With every spread between the magazine’s covers, links are offered to the featured artist’s individual portal on Creativ.com. It’s a unique and ingenious gratuity that conjoins the tangible with the conceptual.

I spoke with Blake and Brad recently about the inspiring and wonder-filled magazine and about the celebration of human potential they offer with every issue. Gracious and fun-spirited; the two men offered a glimpse into the Creativ world and their hopes and expectations for the brand’s future.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Blake and Brad; the powers-that-be behind Creativ Magazine as you open your mind and let your ‘Creativ’ juices flow. And be sure to watch the two Creativ videos embedded in this blog by the Creativ team… I will not spoil the surprise, but I know you would thank the Creativ team for creating them and me for embedding them in this Mr. Magazine™ interview.

But first, the sound-bites…


Brad Thomas  (left in blue) and Blake Brinker (right in black)

Brad Thomas (left in blue) and Blake Brinker (right in black)

On the Creativ story: (Blake Brinker) Early in my life and pretty much early in Brad’s life, we just developed this fascination around the human potential. And around what makes good people great. What makes some people leave lasting marks on the world? What is it that makes up their character? What are the things that they do and what are the thoughts that they have that enable them to push further and look at the world differently and create things which ultimately make a difference; things that create inspiration and wonder?

On being a bit crazy to start a print magazine after being a digital-only entity first:
(Brad Thomas) (Laughs) I believe we’re just crazy enough to try things that make other people want it. Cheers to the crazy ones, right? (Laughs again) Creative jobs are a little bit crazy; otherwise, we wouldn’t have the iPhones or anything else creative, so I think being crazy to a certain extent is a good thing, because doing what we’re doing, and not even just what we’re doing, but just being an entrepreneur in general, is really a scary thing. You have to be a little naive and a little crazy to even go forward with it.

On why they decided on a print component:
(Blake Brinker) How it all worked out was we were seeing so many dynamic people and so many amazing creations and these great efforts in curation and sharing, but we thought, it’s still not enough. We wanted to propagate it further in a way that was almost sacred to people and we thought that magazines were in that category.

On a major stumbling block they’ve had to face:
(Blake Brinker) The execution; the actual publishing side of it has been a huge stumbling block, a lot more than it was, but thankfully we have a very tendered gentleman that has helped us. He has a lot of history in manufacturing and working with tradesmen and he’s really came in here and helped us take this dream of making this magazine and turned it into what you see today, which is this ultra-high quality piece.

On the decision to start out as a monthly magazine:
(Blake Brinker) We chose to go monthly mainly at first because we really wanted to see what the market opportunity was. Where I think strategically what we realized was, one might be the best idea for us to do in all reality considering the fact that we are attempting to create impact, but bimonthly is actually probably better for us for a certain period of time because it allows us to propagate awareness about each issue much longer, instead of running into that distribution triangle problem that we have for the last month or two.

On the most pleasant surprise they’ve encountered along the way:
(Blake Brinker) Seeing people’s reaction in 2015 when we hand them our quality publication that comes from a company that has a social media platform, seeing that reaction to a tangible product is great. People say: oh, I get it. People who may not have gotten what we were doing before who get it and say: there are 72 pages here; I can see who you guys are and I can see what you’re doing. That was a very pleasant surprise.

On whether they’re stronger believers in the power of print now that they have a print component within their brand:
(Blake Brinker) I think that to some degree we are, but I would say we always understood the power and the beauty of print. And as students of history, we look back at how the printing press changed the world so dramatically and it’s such a special thing to humanity, so I think that it’s on par with this mission that we have.

On what motivates them to get out of bed every morning and say it’s going to be a great day:
(Brad Thomas) I get motivated every day when people come up to us and say, creativity is the most important thing we have and you’re putting it into this beautiful print publication that I can get on a monthly or bimonthly basis. Just wow; what you’re doing is so inspiring and the world needs this, with the things that are happening in the world today, we need something like this to give people hope and optimism.

On what motivates them to get out of bed every morning and say it’s going to be a great day:
(Blake Brinker) I just wanted to say Brad did a really good job of expressing some really good examples that are contextual as to why we wake up in the morning. I’ll just say this from my own level; as entrepreneurs and creatives and as humans, we’re not remembered by how we projected ourselves to be; we’re remembered by the stories of our own paths and by the paths that we’ve forged.

On whom Creativ Magazine would be if they had a magic wand that could turn it into a human being with one strike: (Blake Brinker) Honestly, I would say a combination between Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandela.

On anything else they’d like to add:
(Blake Brinker) Just how everything is so all about digital. It makes me think of a science fiction movie where the future is really dark and people are scared and depressed, but there’s an underground movement where people are holding onto art, because it’s so sacred and real. It’s funny how accurate sometimes science fiction can actually be.

On anything else they’d like to add:
(Brad Thomas) Getting people out there to buy the magazine and to support this movement, to support all of these people who are really putting their lives on the line to do something that matters, to realize that they can be a part of effecting change and a part of inspiring curiosity.

On what keeps them up at night:
(Brad Thomas) All of the unknowns. It’s knowing that we feel we have something so incredible here that the world is craving. And it’s the worry that you have something so beautiful and something that you believe people truly want and you just want it to succeed.

On what keeps them up at night:
(Blake Brinker) I think about people who haven’t seen the light. I think about people who are living their lives in a way that they’re being told to and they’re living their lives in ways they don’t even understand because they’re not awake. I think about how good it would feel to help be a part of something that brings them to the light, so to speak.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Blake Brinker, Publisher and Brad Thomas, Editor-in-Chief, Creativ Magazine.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on the magazine. It is just beautiful.

Blake Brinker: Thank you very much.

Samir Husni: Blake, allow me to quote from your publisher’s letter; you write: curiosity drives imagination, imagination sparks creativity, and creativity manifests solutions, inspiration, and wonder. Creativity is the realization of human potential.

Tell me the story about Brad approaching you with the idea and how, after two hours in a hot tub, it really began to take shape. And also have you graduated yet; are you an M.D. now?

Blake Brinker: I actually dropped out of medical school to build this company with Brad. It’s one of those choices that you can’t necessarily look back from.

Early in my life, and pretty much early in Brad’s life, we just developed this fascination around the human potential. And around what makes good people great. What makes some people leave lasting marks on the world? What is it that makes up their character? What are the things that they do and what are the thoughts that they have that enable them to push further and look at the world differently and create things which ultimately make a difference; things that create inspiration and wonder?

We just believe that when we look at the attributes of the human condition, that pathway quote that you just read from the publisher’s note; you encounter the pathway to finding ourselves and connecting with each other in a way which breaks down borders, creeds, religion, and race. It connects us in such unique ways; creativity is this invisible cord between people.

When you look back at history, which is something that Brad and I like to do often, you see what happened as a result of the Renaissance, in Europe and throughout the world. You see what happened when a few key members of society engendered artisans and creators and encouraged them and gave them venues for expression. It ultimately connected them and had a real economic impact.

We looked at this new era, with this huge technological boom and we saw the opportunity to create a similar catalyst as was done with the artisans in Italy back in the day. We wanted to create a place that further catalyzed that primal element of ignition, which was the tie between curiosity and the manifestation of imagination, which was creativity, and which is the most powerful tool that we have.

And I will say lastly that we see so many people in this world who are doing great things. There are a lot of them that are focusing on the problems and that’s great, we need people focusing on the problems to provide solutions, but we look at the world a little bit differently. We said, OK, there are a lot of problems, we get that, but who are the people who ultimately create solutions? And who are the people who ultimately inspire solutions?

And when you look at that, you look at the population, which is overtly creative, the ones who are carving their own path and we ultimately just wanted to provide a resource and a catalyst for them to see that they’re not alone and that it’s a really good balance.

Samir Husni: Brad, I know this was your idea and your brainchild. I always I tell my students that you can’t be creative unless you’re crazy. Are you crazy to publish a print magazine in today’s digital age, after beginning on the digital front first?

Brad Thomas: (Laughs) I believe we’re just crazy enough to try things that make other people want it. Cheers to the crazy ones, right? (Laughs again) Creative jobs are a little bit crazy; otherwise, we wouldn’t have the iPhones or anything else creative, so I think being crazy to a certain extent is a good thing, because doing what we’re doing, and not even just what we’re doing, but just being an entrepreneur in general, is really a scary thing. You have to be a little naive and a little crazy to even go forward with it. (Laughs)

There is so much uncertainty with everything, but I don’t think we’re crazy. I consider ourselves smartly creative and we’re just going for it. We’re trying to do something that’s different. Whatever direction everyone else’s path is going in; we’re trying to go in a slightly different one and to show that there are a lot of amazing people out there, doing a lot of incredible things using all types of creativity.

Samir Husni: You started with digital; the first four issues were digital-only. Then with issue five you moved to print. Why?

Blake Brinker: Our thought was to get the word out about what we were doing. We had been out in the world at a few different conferences internationally and we had brought some sample issues with us that we had digitally printed, because we wanted to get reactions to the concept.

Another thing to remember is we started this company by building an online social media platform first and we really started when it was the foremost current of the digital realm.

How it all worked out was we were seeing so many dynamic people and so many amazing creations and these great efforts in curation and sharing, but we thought, it’s still not enough. We wanted to propagate it further in a way that was almost sacred to people and we thought that magazines were in that category.

So, we wanted to test it out. We printed the copies and we took them to the conferences at different places in the world. And the reaction was great. People were asking; what are you doing; is this like a brochure? It was really amazing to see the reaction of people who were covered in our social media platform and people who were sharing on social media, because many of these people had never even thought about being published in a magazine. And when it happened, it was just different for them. It was different from being featured on a blog; it was different from someone sharing a Facebook post about them. It felt different; it felt real.

It was then that we said you know what; what the heck? Let’s see how far we can get this thing out there and bring physicality to what we’d been doing all along.

Samir Husni: What has been the major stumbling block that you’ve had to face, from the point of conception to the point of delivery?

Creativ May-2 (2) Blake Brinker: The execution; the actual publishing side of it has been a huge stumbling block, a lot more than it was, but thankfully we have a very tendered gentleman that has helped us. He has a lot of history in manufacturing and working with tradesmen and he’s really came in here and helped us take this dream of making this magazine and turned it into what you see today, which is this ultra-high quality piece.

So, publishing definitely would have been a lot bigger stumbling block had we not had him, but it’s still challenging, because there are so many pieces to put together, from the creation to the binding, to the palletizing and shipping for distribution.

Ironically, we didn’t even realize it, but living in Phoenix, there are some very high-tech training platforms about 30 minutes from our office. When we started investigating how we would create these magazines, especially the covers, and have the quality be so high, we started realizing that we could now do something extremely different in terms of the design and the quality and we could do it at a cost that wouldn’t bury us and we could sell the magazine at a good price and still make a little money.

And the second thing is we got a major distribution deal two months ago, which is the reason why you saw the magazine. And we got it on our first print issue. We were placed in all the Barnes & Noble’s in the country and lots of other stores, around 300 stores initially. Now we’re double.

I’d say the biggest stumbling block for us now is trying to put the pieces together and create the whole circle. We want to create a really valuable and meaningful magazine on top of extending our distribution in intelligent ways and commanding exceptional ad prices for the publication and also extending into the digital platform that we have. So, the challenge now is really to put all those pieces together and turn it into a viable and self-sustaining project.

We consider ourselves a media company, so the print publishing is one side and the digital side is the other; we have this huge online community. We also have a whole development team in Vietnam that’s currently working on the version 3 of our community platform, which is going to be really exciting because we’ll be making the whole experience online very cohesive with the experience of the magazine.

So, that’s the other challenge. We have all of this stuff going on with the magazine and then we have this huge platform that we’re building. We have 20 or 22 employees that are solely tech. And one thing that we’ve realized, all the conferences that we have gone to all over the world, especially last year, what we have realized without a doubt, between the publication and the platform online, is that we’re serving a recipe that everyone wants. We have the dish; but what’s the most effective way to get it out there so that people know it exists. We can’t tell you how many people have said: this is what I’ve been waiting for. And that’s validation for us.

Samir Husni: Where most of the new magazines that are coming out into the marketplace, which I might say, have much less creativity and much less production value and the expensive look than Creativ, are published four or six times a year, you’re publishing monthly.

Blake Brinker: It’s interesting; I think because we started in a space that we probably really shouldn’t have been in, there are no rules for us, which is kind of invigorating, right? We don’t have to abide by a certain set of rules that are handed down by a big multinational company or something.

We chose to go monthly mainly at first because we really wanted to see what the market opportunity was. Where I think strategically what we realized was, one might be the best idea for us to do in all reality considering the fact that we are attempting to create impact, but bimonthly is actually probably better for us for a certain period of time because it allows us to propagate awareness about each issue much longer, instead of running into that distribution triangle problem that we have for the last month or two.

You’re working and working, turning things out and you take a day off; then you’re working doubly hard again for the next 26 days trying to get the next one out. We realized that our team may be a little too small still to be able to knock out that exceptional quality of a magazine every 15 to 20 days and make sure that we obviously focus on the rest of the business at the same time. We don’t have any rules on this, but we’ve strategically decided now that for the time being we are going to go to a bimonthly, so that we can really make sure that every future issue is better than the least. Not only better, but also equally important, making sure that every issue has, at least with the size team that we have, making sure that every issue is properly marketed.

As soon as we got this last one done, we actually just finished up what would have been the June issue, we realized we really hadn’t spent any effort in trying to figure out how to effectively market the May one or any future ones. We’re just spinning in circles here. We need to slow down a little bit and really figure out how to let people know we have the dish that they want. How to do that takes time to learn. So, we’re going to slow things down just a bit, at least until the end of the year. Our intention is to be monthly again and we’re going to be doing a weekly newsletter digitally too.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant surprise that you’ve had during this experience?

Blake Brinker: The reaction of people when they receive something that is beautiful like this; the reaction, especially of young people, because again, it’s almost foreign to them. I’m 31 and Brad’s 35 and we grew up with National Geographic on our coffee tables and TIME magazine and it was sacred to us, almost as sacred as it was to our parents’ generation.

Seeing people’s reaction in 2015 when we hand them our quality publication that comes from a company that has a social media platform, seeing that reaction to a tangible product is great. People say: oh, I get it. People who may not have gotten what we were doing before who get it and say: there are 72 pages here; I can see who you guys are and I can see what you’re doing. That was a very pleasant surprise. You see 17 year-olds who get a copy of it and their eyes light up and they’re intrigued and want to know what it is. We actually had someone tell us last week that their young kids couldn’t put it down.

Samir Husni: Are you now stronger believers in the power of print than you were before you brought the magazine to print?

Blake Brinker: I think that to some degree we are, but I would say we always understood the power and the beauty of print. And as students of history, we look back at how the printing press changed the world so dramatically and it’s such a special thing to humanity, so I think that it’s on par with this mission that we have.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed each morning and say wow; this is going to be a great day?

Brad Thomas: Well, I could give you a million examples. Recently, we were in Las Vegas at a major tech convention. Our tech company is being showcased as one of the top special companies in 2015 and we’re a tech company with a print publication, so we were getting a lot of attention.

And I get motivated every day when people come up to us and say, creativity is the most important thing we have and you’re putting it into this beautiful print publication that I can get on a monthly or bimonthly basis. Just wow; what you’re doing is so inspiring and the world needs this, with the things that are happening in the world today, we need something like this to give people hope and optimism. With all the negativity that we hear every day, this is an incredible amount of positivity showcasing people doing absolutely amazing things.

Someone else came up to us recently and she almost had tears in her eyes when she was looking at the magazine and she said, oh my gosh, you guys are doing exactly what I’m so passionate about. And she pulled up her sleeve and she showed us this tattoo that was in Arabic and it read “Bring Arab Creativity Back,” and it was a pretty special moment. I mean, she literally started crying.

Samir Husni: It’s an amazing thing you’re telling me about the younger generation falling in love with print. So many times I’ve thought that it is we who are our own worst enemy; we who predicted the demise of our own medium; we who predicted the death of print and almost force-fed the new generation the idea that everything is now digital, from E-paper to E-books, which of course now, we’re reaching a plateau in that area.

Blake Brinker: I just wanted to say Brad did a really good job of expressing some really good examples that are contextual as to why we wake up in the morning. I’ll just say this from my own level; as entrepreneurs and creatives and as humans, we’re not remembered by how we projected ourselves to be; we’re remembered by the stories of our own paths and by the paths that we’ve forged.

And so for us, this whole project; this whole endeavor is about creating impact that creates a legacy of impact where that new generation is affected. And that we change at least one paradigm into a positive reaction and I think that from a high level, we think about that every day and every morning, despite the fact that we’re a startup and it’s so hard. There are so many different things that startups have to do, that they’ve always had to do, no matter what age it is. We call them startups now, there weren’t necessarily called that before, but the impact of what we’re working on is the sole reason that we get up every morning.

Samir Husni: I read both of your backgrounds and it looks like curiosity and creativity are the common denominators between the two of you. What would be an additional ‘C’ besides curiosity and creativity that drives the both of you?

Blake Brinker: I would say opportunity in the largest sense. We both look at the future and we see opportunity more than we see challenge. We didn’t know each other four years ago and we’ve become such great business partners because we became such good friends. Our deep belief in everything we’ve just discussed over the course of this interview has actually made us into better friends than could have ever happened. And even though this is very scary, being a startup and everything, with all the unknowns that we have to deal with; it’s great knowing that you’re in it with a best friend who is right there with you on the exact same page, which I think is a huge advantage for us.

Brad Thomas: We have a very human connection with one another and it’s not based on profit.

Blake Brinker: It’s a very deep connection.

Samir Husni: If I gave either or both of you a magic wand and you struck Creativ Magazine with it and a human being appeared instead of the magazine; who would that person be?

Blake Brinker: Can it be a combination of two people?

Samir Husni: Yes, it can.

Blake Brinker: Honestly, I would say a combination between Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandela.

Samir Husni: That’s a very good answer.

Blake Brinker: Thank you.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Blake Brinker: Just how everything is so all about digital. It makes me think of a science fiction movie where the future is really dark and people are scared and depressed, but there’s an underground movement where people are holding onto art, because it’s so sacred and real. It’s funny how accurate sometimes science fiction can actually be.

I mean, when you think of digital; digital creates a lot of things of course, but there comes a point when we have to keep some things sacred. It’s important for our past and it’s important for our future.

Brad Thomas: Getting people out there to buy the magazine and to support this movement, to support all of these people who are really putting their lives on the line to do something that matters, to realize that they can be a part of effecting change and a part of inspiring curiosity.

The biggest thing is just trying to call all people and that is our thing right now, to get as many people as possible to join the movement. We’re reaching out with open arms to the world and saying: join us.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Brad Thomas: All of the unknowns. It’s knowing that we feel we have something so incredible here that the world is craving. And it’s the worry that you have something so beautiful and something that you believe people truly want and you just want it to succeed.

We have a picture on our wall of a pie. One slice of the pie is 15% and the rest of the pie is 85%. And the slice of pie is the 15% of what you can control and the last 85% you’re dealing with circumstances. I have a difficult time sometimes dealing with the fact that there are uncertainties. And all that we can focus on is the 15% that we can control. And that you have to pretty much roll with the punches and when you do that and you have an awesome partner and a great team, you can take those punches a little easier. And that’s the one thing that helps me sleep at night. Otherwise, I’d be a wreck. (Laughs)

Blake Brinker: I agree with that as well, but for me; I think about people who haven’t seen the light. I think about people who are living their lives in a way that they’re being told to and they’re living their lives in ways they don’t even understand because they’re not awake. I think about how good it would feel to help be a part of something that brings them to the light, so to speak. I come from a place where many, many people are just accepting of the circumstances handed to them and I think that can be said about a lot of places in the world. There is a big part of the population that does that. And I think about how much happier so many of them would be if they just kind of looked on the brighter side of things. And it’s really not just about that; it’s a matter of seeing opportunity everywhere and showing up, opening the door and then running through it. I think about people who are struggling to run through that door, who are doubtful of doing it and are scared.

And that makes us want to work harder to get to them, to show them that they are not alone.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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One comment

  1. Great article! These guys are really on the ball when it comes to innovation, inspiration, passion and determination. Huge love from London for anything CREATIV!



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