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A Texas State of Mind

In less than fifteen days, Bryony, Maya (our daughter) and I will leave Brooklyn, NY for Austin, TX. Moving away from, arguably, the Design Capital of the World to the self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World. About six months ago I raised the question here about the need to live and work in New York in contrast to smaller markets. Now I can admit that the question was driven by our decision at that time to move to one of the latter. Much of my career, and the growth of UnderConsideration, has been chronicled on Speak Up so here is one more entry into this wacky life and career path we have taken that hopefully illustrates the integral balance that lifestyle and work play when you are running your own business, in charge of your own destiny.

Living in New York is not easy, and that is no secret. It’s expensive. It’s competitive. It’s crowded. It requires a slightly masochistic attitude to survive the subway rush hour, the exorbitant real estate prices, the crappy A/C window units during muggy Summer days, the ridiculously small spaces of everything and the cost of eating out, ordering in or even of buying $2-avocados at the grocery store. Of course, in return, you have a wildly imaginative and active city flooded in galleries, museums, events, interesting people and endless surprises. What happened to us was that we became completely immune to all these benefits by a) procreating and b) going on our own operating from a home office in Brooklyn. Quite organically we became secluded of the New York that people outside of New York come looking for when they move here. The very New York we moved here for, actually, and the New York that costs an arm and a leg to live in.

Our new New York was not even New York anymore, it was Brooklyn. Central Park became Prospect Park. Delis became bodegas. Starbucks became Connecticut Muffins. Gristedes became Key Food. (Sorry for all the local parlance). And our regular forays into evening events for AIGA or other design socials were replaced by bath time and story time. Weekends at museums and galleries or even working weekends, turned into excursions to the park, its playgrounds and its small yet awesome zoo. Things lovingly changed. Work-wise, going across the river in the subway became a time management challenge: A one-hour meeting would eat up three hours of your day. Sure, we established our own destiny by not having a Manhattan office but when you can save thousands of dollars on an office lease and hundreds of dollars in tax write-offs every month, well, it becomes a no brainer. And we also noticed that our face-to-face meetings with clients could be counted with the fingers of a single hand and, instead, the amount of PDFs we have prepared range in the dozens and hundreds. One of the reasons we wanted to be on our own was to devote more time to the online world of UnderConsideration which lowers the need for live interaction with people. On top of that we had the surprise of a massive book that turned us into hermits that barely saw the light of day. And we enjoyed it.

Paying to live in New York without living in New York did not make sense anymore. Plus, all three of us were tired of Winters, even after surviving three in Chicago, so we were ready for a change. We decided to look at it very clinically: We can move anywhere, so what city would be the best fit for of our lifestyle? Denver and Boulder, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; and Austin, Texas all came up as the most viable options. We narrowed it down to Portland and Austin, since Colorado is cold and snowy, and talked to designers in both cities to get a sense for lifestyle and design environment. Both cities were comparable: Exciting, young design scene, with medium potential for finding clients within the city but very accessible to find clients in the region. We discounted Portland because it was just too far, specially for our family who lives in Mexico and since we want them to have as much access as possible to their grandkids going to Portland would have been a huge screw-you-see-you-never.

We were attracted to Austin for various reasons. Amazing housing market, with lovely big homes for very decent prices; it is not the cheapest market, but in contrast to New York, it’s a steal. A great public school system for our daughter and her potential sibling in the future. Great weather year-round. Yes, I hear August is infernal, but that’s why God invented central A/C. It hosts one of the biggest colleges in the U.S., which helps keep the flow of smart people as well as thousands of people employed, making Austin one of the most recession proof cities in the U.S. — somewhere I read that their first quarter unemployment rate for 2009 was a whopping 2% under the national average. There is a thriving music scene of course, and even though we are not much into it, it engenders a certain creative atmosphere that permeates everything and everyone. Dell is headquartered there, which keeps smaller tech companies thriving in the vicinity. Austin is also a two- or three-hour drive away from major business hubs like Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, handsomely multiplying the amount of potential clients. And there are dozens of other reasons that I won’t bore you with anymore.

As we found in our first year and a half of being in business, we have been able to build a self-sustaining model where we don’t require a dozen clients at a time and instead two or three suffice, leaving us ample time to do blogging and work with publishers on books. Luckily, this is what we set out to do, and it’s rewarding to see it happen after all the hard work and sometimes insane work hours we have put in. Even more lucky is that we can do this from anywhere we want. So, less than fifteen days from now we will be broadcasting and designing live from the state of Texas. Who would have thought it.

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PUBLISHED ON Apr.09.2009 BY Armin
WITH 49 COMMENTS
Comments
Andrea Honore’s comment is:

saw this on twitter... congrats and good luck.

On Apr.09.2009 at 10:06 AM
Rob O.’s comment is:

You're very right, in that you'll be in an excellent jumping-off location. There are so many excellent day- and weekend trips possible from Austin. When you get a chance, be sure to spend a day or two in Fredericksburg.

Welcome to Texas!

On Apr.09.2009 at 10:06 AM
Christina’s comment is:

welcome to texas!

On Apr.09.2009 at 10:09 AM
John Foley’s comment is:

a new chapter -- sounds great, wishing you every success.

On Apr.09.2009 at 10:11 AM
BrynM’s comment is:

Color me jealous -- after three trips to Austin over just a couple of months in 2007/2008, I absolutely fell in love with the city. With everything about it: the architecture, the outdoor way of life, the vibe, the creative energy, the food (my god, the food!). I'd move there in a heartbeat and fantasize about spending winters there. Congrats to all three of you! We'll see you in June!

On Apr.09.2009 at 10:14 AM
Taylor’s comment is:

Congrats, I know you will enjoy Austin.

On Apr.09.2009 at 10:17 AM
Jon Dascola’s comment is:

Congratulations on your new adventure. Don't forget about South By SouthWest. Maybe we can do lunch there next year.

Best of luck.
Jon

On Apr.09.2009 at 10:17 AM
Prescott Perez-Fox’s comment is:

Godspeed my friends. New York hates to see you go, but I have the feeling your apartment won't be empty for too long.

Hopefully one day I'll make it to Austin, so perhaps we'll meet again.

See you on teh Internets.

On Apr.09.2009 at 10:30 AM
Char’s comment is:

My best wishes to you and your family, Armin. New York City will miss you guys. I've thought of leaving NYC more than one time, but when I think about it I get petrified of losing the MET, and MoMA and my favorite record store and all those great things that make New York City a unique place.

Good luck!

On Apr.09.2009 at 10:35 AM
David Airey’s comment is:

The benefits of being a US citizen.

If I want to move to sunnier climes, without learning a new language, the most straight-forward destination is Australia — requiring a 24-hour flight (and a lot of cash) for any family visits.

I hope it's a wonderful move for you and the family, Armin. All the very best with it.

On Apr.09.2009 at 10:41 AM
Jason A. Tselentis’s comment is:

This is a momentous occasion for you, and thanks for sharing the process, decision-making, and transition with us all.

On Apr.09.2009 at 10:54 AM
Jon’s comment is:

Armin,

We moved to Texas (although I live in Dallas) about six years ago from Baltimore, and here's what I have to offer you:

1. The cost of living is low.
2. The economic opportunity is high.
3. The food is good.
4. The people are friendly.

The only piece of advice I would offer is, to paraphrase Anthony Bourdain:
Give the people and the culture as much respect as you would when visiting a foreign country, because in a way you are.

On Apr.09.2009 at 11:23 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

: (
;
;
;
;
;
;

your physical presence here in nyc will be missed.
you know how much i love you, and wish you all of the best, always. austin, here i come (to visit).

On Apr.09.2009 at 12:28 PM
Lila’s comment is:

What a wonderful adventure for the two of you and your child! I moved from NYC to NJ 11 months ago due to a long-term freelance assignment. I realized that though there's a lot to miss about NYC, I'm financially and mentally a lot better off then I was when I was there. Though I miss the design scene and the opportunity for really creative jobs (not to mention, I miss my friends like crazy), I actually work normal hours now. This allows me to pursue things I've never had the opportunity to do (such as go to the gym and cook).

I also love that I actually have enough money to travel now—something I was never able to do in NYC because of the cost of living (and the lack of a decent salary). Since moving back to NJ, I've traveled to China, Canada, and soon Chicago and Paris!

Moving away from NYC when I didn't really want to helped me realize that there's more to the world than just the Big Apple. I want to continue on the adventure and move to another fabulous place!

On Apr.09.2009 at 01:04 PM
Ross’s comment is:

Welcome to Texas!

On Apr.09.2009 at 01:30 PM
Randy J. Hunt’s comment is:

Armin! Bryony!
Congrats on your choice. I'm happy that your business, your life, and your beautiful daughter can thrive free of NYC's constraints.

While we haven't spent nearly enough time together since you've been here, I will quite sincerely miss you both.

Here's to a holiday party TX style.

On Apr.09.2009 at 01:43 PM
Andrew Klein’s comment is:

Welcome to Texas, you should drive up to Dallas for an occasional DSVC meeting!

On Apr.09.2009 at 01:55 PM
Mig Reyes’s comment is:

Congrats, and best of luck. Jealous that you all get to enjoy warm(er) weather year-round. :)

On Apr.09.2009 at 02:21 PM
Tiffany’s comment is:

Sounds like a new adventure. Best of luck and congratulations!

On Apr.09.2009 at 03:12 PM
ash’s comment is:

you'll love austin. i moved here 13 years ago, and have never seriously considered leaving, even though new york would make more sense in a lot of ways. you're coming at the right time. the weather's perfect now, but enjoy it, because it will be hot really soon.

On Apr.09.2009 at 06:43 PM
Patrick’s comment is:

Thanks for sharing your decisionmaking, y'all.

We actually went through the same process a few years ago, after our daughter was born. A few months of thorough analysis later, and we took the opposite route, staying in Manhattan for all it offers both kids and design. Though it did require a new office blocks from home, and an apartment renovation. Best of luck, and say hi to Texas - I haven't been back since high school.

On Apr.09.2009 at 06:50 PM
Robynne’s comment is:

At least you are a little closer to the West Coast. Congrats - one of my favorite clients is in Austin : )

On Apr.09.2009 at 11:10 PM
Jason Puckett’s comment is:

Armin,

Congrats on you & your family's decision. It's going to be an exciting & inspirational journey. I know you won't regret it. Texas is happy to welcome more great designers. Best of luck. It's too bad you'll miss AIGA Austin's Design Ranch next week.

Jason.

On Apr.09.2009 at 11:21 PM
Ricardo Cordoba’s comment is:

Bryony and Armin, while I'm sad to see you leave Brooklyn, I'm very happy that you've found a great new place to live and raise Maya, and that you'll be closer to your families. Thanks for sharing the news, and best of luck with the move!

On Apr.10.2009 at 12:04 AM
Myles Dumas’s comment is:

Congrats on the move. I'm really happy you guys made this site and hope the new location enables it grow even more.

On Apr.10.2009 at 01:01 AM
Caren Litherland’s comment is:

Wow! Congratulations and all the best to you.

On Apr.10.2009 at 02:24 AM
Michael’s comment is:

Enjoy

On Apr.10.2009 at 08:11 AM
Tenders’s comment is:

Sounds like an exciting move for you - best of luck.

On Apr.10.2009 at 08:57 AM
Michael Holdren’s comment is:

This is awesome! Welcome to Austin my friend, you are going to love it here.

On Apr.10.2009 at 09:46 AM
pesky’s comment is:

Welcome South(west),folks. Time to dig out those cowboy fonts.....

On Apr.10.2009 at 10:00 AM
Ethan Bodnar’s comment is:

Armin, Bryony, Maya,

Congrats on Austin, enjoy the new adventure, have fun and send us some stories and pictures please!


On Apr.10.2009 at 03:52 PM
minus five’s comment is:

Having grown up in Austin, I can tell you that it's one of the best places on the planet. One of the only reasons I live in New York and not Austin, is because I spent so much of my life there and needed to see and feel something different.

I feel torn between those two lives much of the time. For me, it would be a pretty even trade.

Be prepared for extra nice people who will tell you in plain words, how they feel, and who won't bullshit you the way they do in New York. You're going to feel about 150 pounds lighter within the first week.

P.S. I hope you like burnt orange.

On Apr.10.2009 at 06:36 PM
clif stoltze’s comment is:

I was just there for my 7th sxsw... love the city and the people, although most of the folks I met down there were also visiting. Check out Yard Dog on South Congress... hip folk art gallery that always throws great parties during sxsw. Good luck!

On Apr.10.2009 at 07:38 PM
umd’s comment is:

I remember the post about your house moving to Brooklyn long ago. Now Texas! Great going Armin, Bryony and little Maya. Goodluck all the way from Kingdom of Bahrain!
best,
umd

On Apr.11.2009 at 03:12 AM
Adam Norwood’s comment is:

I'll agree with all of the other comments -- welcome to Austin! It's a great place to be. Not only does it have its own great culture, but if you yearn for a larger city's resources you'll be able to get over to Dallas/Ft Worth, Houston, or San Antonio very easily (each has its own arts/design vibe), not to mention that it's sort of equidistant between LA and NYC. Good luck!

On Apr.11.2009 at 06:03 PM
Brandi McBride’s comment is:

Thank you for this post.

I am a (very) recent graduate of The Art Institute of Portland with a BFA in graphic design. My fiance and I decided that after we get married in September, we are going to move to Austin. I lived there for about 3 years and have missed it ever since I left. Portland is beautiful, but I love sunshine :)

I love your blog, and as a person who is just starting my career, I would greatly appreciate any information anyone could give me about designers/agencies in Austin to start connecting with before my own big move.

I hope you and your family are enjoying yourselves, and maybe I'll see you in Austin...

On Apr.12.2009 at 09:34 PM
John Mindiola III’s comment is:

Faith. Family. Fonts.

You have chosen your family first, and you have been rewarded in your field. My best wishes to you.

On Apr.12.2009 at 10:34 PM
marc english’s comment is:

moving for all the right reasons, so will be happy to see you folks down here. having spent 37 years in boston, the last 13 here in austin are pretty much as you describe: land of goldilocks - not too big, not too small, just right, and still part of mexico depending on your perspective. have clients i've never met on each coast, as it really doesn't matter too much anymore. a colleague is in abu dhabi as i write, so sometime you have to get out of town. and i understand about the bath time and story time taking priority, but gimme a ring when you get settled. now if millman is serious about visiting . . .

On Apr.13.2009 at 11:35 AM
Lorenzo Morales’s comment is:

Maya, Bryony and Armin... ¡Bienvenidos!

On Apr.13.2009 at 12:37 PM
felix sockwell’s comment is:

holy balls.

great news. now i have someone to grab a drink with next month (HOW design conference).

you know i'm a native texan. all i can say is you certainly picked the apple of its eye. austin is wonderful. keep it weird. i know you will.


On Apr.13.2009 at 01:55 PM
Casey McGarr’s comment is:

Welcome to Texas Maya, Bryony and Armin, your going to love the Mexican food, Bar B Que, and hospitality.

On Apr.13.2009 at 02:57 PM
Hollis’s comment is:

Armin & Bryony,

It's all about the journey ... best to you both. P.S. I hear Big Bend National Park is GREAT.


On Apr.13.2009 at 08:43 PM
Ben Weeks’s comment is:

There's good buzz about the south by southwest conference down there too. Will have to come by sometime and visit y'all + dan :)

On Apr.13.2009 at 11:20 PM
Daniel’s comment is:

: )

On Apr.14.2009 at 12:05 AM
Ty Wilkins’s comment is:

Just in time for the How Design Conference & Pentagram will still be just down the street. Props for putting family first. Enjoy Austin!

On Apr.14.2009 at 12:30 AM
Mark Andrew Allen’s comment is:

Good luck in Austin!
I lived there for 9 years, had a blast, bartended on 6th Street and made drinks for Stevie Ray Vaughan, T-Birds, et al. I moved to Los Angeles to further my design career, which I did for 21 years. Recently I moved back to Austin for 13 glorious months. In August, I returned back to Los Angeles.

The other posts are correct, it is a very friendly city. There is a festival just about every weekend, from Bat fest, Hot Sause Fest, Ice Cream Fest and even Eeyore's Birthday Party.

After a year, I started to feel like I had done it all, and was longing for the big art museums and cutting edge that LA offers. I think for me, I have been in a large city so long, and I felt I was going into retirement by being in Austin. I always had fun, but felt I was not on the cutting edge anymore.

Everyone is different, but for me, Austin was a little too hippy-dippy, and laid back, but I would consider moving there if I ever retire, though.

Have fun in Austin!

On Apr.14.2009 at 12:51 PM
Minsoo Pak’s comment is:

CONGRATULATIONS.

I wish you and your growing family nothing but the best in your new future in Austin.
It's an awesome town. Have a dip in Barton Springs for me.

On Apr.14.2009 at 02:01 PM
Tan’s comment is:

One of my favorite places in TX is the Guadalupe river in New Braunsfel. The river winds itself through a canyon oasis in the middle of the state, where you can raft, inner tube, and waste your day away with beer and friends. We used to have a cabin right on the part called the "shoot" where I spent many weekends through college.

You rent a tube, ride the river all day, and finish it off with dinner (chicken fried steak) and cheap beer at the Mill in Gruene. It doesn't get much better than that in Tx.

I know you're not a big nature boy, Armin, but your women will love it.

On Apr.14.2009 at 06:46 PM
Samuel Sutanto’s comment is:

Wish you all the best Armin.
As a young designer I'd love to move to New York to start my design career. I still remember my first trip to New York, showed my portfolio to you at Pentagram and the designers at Landor, and see potential graduate schools. But after working for 2 years in Seattle, it doesn't really matter where you live, because I hardly spend my time to enjoy the city. I'd love to go back to New York, but your reasons convinced me not to move and live in New York.

On Apr.15.2009 at 05:21 PM