Interview: Explorer's Press for PechaKucha

If you are not already familiar with the PechaKucha presentation style, it’s definitely one to take note of. Created in 2003 by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture in Tokyo, this concise form of presentation has since gained major traction and has spread into PechaKucha nights all over the globe. The formula is simple; the presenter shows a total of twenty images and talks alongside each image for a total of twenty seconds. The time limit and strong visuals allow for both immersive spectatorship and focused delivery, making PechaKucha a perfect platform for artists, architects, business owners—creative types, in general. (Though, I think a few of my professors would do well to adopt the style.)

Later this week (Thursday, September 8), Vancouver will be hosting its very own PechaKucha night, on the Granville Island Stage. A whole whack of talented Vancouverites will be in the hot seat, presenting their twenty images and correlating twenty seconds of information with fervour and skill. SAD Mag had the opportunity to talk with PechaKucha participant Brendan Megannety of Explorer’s Press, a brand well known around the city (and elsewhere) for its witty slogans and slick graphics printed on all kinds of goods, including lapel pins, patches, socks, hats, and shirts. Flair, anyone?

SARAH BAKKE: So how did you get involved with PechaKucha?

BRENDAN MEGANNETY: Becki [Chan] had emailed me in February of this year and asked me to present, but I had just undergone surgery and had to say no. And I kind of figured I was off the hook, but then she asked me again, for September.

SB: Why do you think Explorer’s Press will work well with the PechaKucha format?

BM: I think the biggest thing is that I already have a lot of visual content to back up the presentation. And our presentation isn’t necessarily focused on the brand but more about how I ended up doing a brand as my full time job. I have a lot of good visual content, to hopefully distract people from the fact that I’m not a great public speaker.

SB: This presentation format seems really great for exactly that—if you’re not sure how you want to present, or you don’t have a lot of experience, or whatever it may be, then you have this really great and strict formula to follow.

BM: Yeah, I mean you can’t really just stand there with your jaw down for more than twenty seconds until you have to move on to the next thing, which is kind of nice, and it makes it interesting. Becki also sent over some videos of previous presenters and I watched a few of them. It was a pretty broad range in terms of people’s experience with public speaking and the kind of content, so it should be cool!

SB: So which came first, the lapel pin or the patch?

BM: The patch was the first product I ever made—the “Set No Path” patch. That was the first thing I ever made and sold online. And then we started doing lapel pins maybe six months later? 

SB: Going back even further, how did Explorer’s Press get its start?

BM: It’s pretty simple. I used to work as a screen printer, and was also doing some fine arts stuff for myself, like I would do print making in my down time at the screen printing shop that I worked at. I was self-publishing zines and doing photography—stuff like that. Then I just ended up making the patch, the “Set No Path” patch, as something to throw in with zines and to trade with people at art shows. But when I put it on Tumblr back in 2012, it got a bunch of traction. So many people were asking me where they could get it. So I made a little online store, and that’s kind of what ended up becoming Explorer’s Press.

Originally the online store was more like zines and self-published stuff, but then it just kind of turned into soft goods. It happened organically. I never thought I’d end up with a clothing company or whatever I have now, you know? That wasn’t my grand plan. I wanted to be an artist—I still do fine art on the side and I have some other fine art projects going on, but Explorer’s Press is kind of my main gig. It came out of nothing, just a couple of ideas and wanting to get stuff out there. Like, having your art accessible to people, where they could just buy a five dollar patch and sew it on their bag. It’s a pretty cool way to get it out there. Having a little pin or a little piece of flair has always been cool to me.

SB: Your products feature some very clever little quips—where do they come from, or how do you come up with them?

BM: They all just come from the back of my brain, I don’t know… I have like, big lists of the slogans. They’re all original, I haven’t copied anything, and they just kind of come to me. I’ll be sitting, or riding my bike, or driving somewhere and something will pop into my head that’s kinda funny. That’s mostly the content of the brand, tongue-in-cheek slogans and jokes and stuff.

SB: What’s the best part about designing for Explorer’s Press?

BM: Probably getting to do whatever I want. I mean, the brand theme or the brand identity is loose, so I can do pretty much whatever I want. And I think it shows in the catalogue. Not having to answer to anyone else, also not having to release in seasons is really nice—like, I can just design four products and release them, you know? Having total creative freedom, not having to worry about offending anyone, is great. I do freelance graphics for other brands, and I’ve done some products for companies that you think would be pretty down with edgier stuff, and they’re like, oh, no! we can’t do that! So yeah, just being able to do whatever you want is pretty fun.

SB: Totally. Which pin is your personal favourite, right now?

BM: Oh, boy… I made one a couple months ago that just says, “Another Shitty Lapel Pin”. Because when I started doing what I’m doing now there was like, one other spot that was making them, the Good Worth & Co. And then later a bunch of people kinda hopped on it, which is really cool, because it’s a platform for people to make something out of their artwork, with a low barrier to entry. It’s really easy to get a lot of pins made. But with that there kind of came a lot of crappy content, you know, like Simpsons and Seinfeld—that sort of thing. It just kinda got inundated. Since then we’ve been trying to get into more soft goods stuff, like shirts and hats and socks, and we’ve done a couple cut-and-sew projects. We definitely do a lot more than just small items like pins and patches and keychains, to set ourselves apart from people who are making stuff that’s just a cheap grab. So I like that “Another Shitty Lapel Pin” is kind of like a commentary piece.

SB: What are you most excited for, moving forward with Explorer’s Press?

BM: Well, in the next six months we’re trying to do a lot more cut-and-sew stuff. We’re releasing a toiletry kit with YNOT in Toronto, and we did backpacks with them last year so we’re doing another run of those. I wanna have like a cut-and-sew work shirt and an apron—more projects like that. An engineered garment, as opposed to making a drawing and putting it on a pin or a patch. Something that’s a little bit more useful. That was always what I wanted to do with the brand and it just took some time to build up a following, so we could then make products like that and not be scared of doing a bigger run. So yeah, that’s always been my vision for the brand. It’s taken a little bit of time but we’re pretty much there, so that’s cool.