We talk to Jason Vo about The Modern Block and his love of creators.
Today we’re talking to Jason Vo. Jason Founded The Modern Block an online publication which features interviews with a myriad of entrepreneurs, creatives, and outright interesting people.
The interviews are well presented, conversational, and have a strong onus on people.
Although it’s in its infancy, The Modern Block is already a unique platform for knowledge and inspiration. We recommend that you head over there (after finishing reading this interview, of course) and see what it has to offer.
Jason Vo, tell me a little more about your background before The Modern Block.
I wish I had a more compelling history to share, but prior to The Modern Block, I was jumping from job to job as a high school dropout, haha.
I will say that since early childhood, I’ve always had my hands tied in some form of creative pursuit (just on a much smaller, less serious scale). From drawing and selling comic books in elementary school to designing and selling t-shirts in middle school, I had always known I would eventually head in an entrepreneurial direction. I also knew a few other things about myself—that I was a below-average student, that I had very little regard for structure, and that I’ve always been fascinated with the ‘unconventional’ way of doing things.
Anyway, my sophomore year of high school, I landed my first job at a small streetwear boutique, where I often worked one-on-one with the owner there and learned about basic retailing. He had never gone to college and seemed to be doing well for himself. That was the first time I was exposed to “success” without formal education. I was really drawn to that idea.
To cut a long story short, I eventually took the leap to leave school, and I’m now running a publication that’s constantly pushing me to learn about entrepreneurship and putting my creativity to work.
I’ve definitely always been of the onwards and upwards mindset
What inspired you to start The Modern Block?
The Modern Block is simply an extension of my deepest interests. Earlier I mentioned I had always known I wanted to create—it was just never clear to me what I’d actually begin building. So, as I started taking the idea of entrepreneurship more seriously, I figured the most logical next step for myself was to set up lunch meetings with people who created in areas I admired and simply learned from them. As I was meeting with people and learning to ask better questions along the way, I found that beyond the processes and strategies that these creators approached their work lives with, there was something much more profound in learning about their challenges, risks, and triumphs they’ve gone through as people. The different lessons I was able to take away from their experiences have all shaped my personal direction in a much more meaningful way, and I believe everyone in the creative, entrepreneurial space—whether just starting out or established in their practice—can benefit tremendously from reading as well. So I decided to create a platform to share these conversations on. It’s not only allowed me to contribute to a conversation much bigger than myself, but also nurture my newfound love for learning about people.
Simplicity is extremely important to us
Where do you get the ideas for who to interview on your site?
I had been following lots of inspiring people on social media—long before The Modern Block was even an idea. So now that I have a platform to share their stories on, I’m just reaching out! And I’m still spending a lot of time digging through Instagram and Twitter to discover different creators.
I don’t really have a defining criteria for who I should reach out to, other than people who I believe are creating remarkable work and doing the right thing along the way.
It helps you figure out what’s right for you, which may not be the prescriptive definition of success within your industry
Some of the interviews are presented in a conversational format, that is to say, some of your questions make specific references to previous answers. How do you conduct the interviews, e.g. via email, Skype/phone, in person, or all of the above?
I do aim to make interviews as conversational and personalised as possible, so it’s usually a series of just chatting back and forth with a person via email. Reading (and re-reading) written responses allows me to analyse different parts of a particular answer, figure out what’s worth addressing, and develop a better story in that direction. However, I do understand that the written process doesn’t always work for everyone, so as you mentioned, I’m also open to phone and Skype calls
Most advice can be very distracting or misinformed, choose wisely who you listen to.
I like how each interview has its own featured typographic poster. Do you design these and, why did you choose to display the interviews in this way?
Haha, I wish I was gifted enough to create these myself! But I am fortunate enough to work with such a talented designer, Michael Vilorio.
And it’s funny you ask. I’m a big fan of print magazines—print magazine covers in particular. When The Modern Block was first formed in late 2015, I experimented with publishing the magazine on a monthly basis through a standalone iOS app, with digital issues (and issue covers) similar to that of indie mags.
I basically tried to embody a digital version of print magazines. It seemed like a neat idea at the time, but I soon realised it was just impractical, costly, inconvenient for readers, and overall just an unsustainable idea to keep up with long term. I got rid of the app, but still liked the idea of personalising each interview feature and having our archive embody the aesthetics of print covers.
Which living person would you most like to interview for your site?
Actor and entrepreneur Rainn Wilson. Best known for his role as Dwight Schrute on The Office (which I’ve personally seen 14 times over), and founder of SoulPancake. I hear he’s a remarkable entrepreneur.
Is The Modern Block a full-time project and if not, what is your day job?
It is now! I recently put in my two weeks notice at the restaurant I was working at, and am now running The Modern Block full time.
Where would you like to take the project in the future?
Oh, I don’t know. I’m still learning to ask better questions and falling in love with what I’m currently building. Like I said earlier, I would like for The Modern Block to contribute to that larger conversation within the creative and entrepreneurial community, and continue to be a destination for people to find guidance that’s meaningful to them. Eventually, I’d like to explore other mediums to achieve this same goal (film and possibly print), but I’m still just uncovering the possibilities that our current publication can bring.
Oh, we’ve also recently released our inaugural collection of everyday goods, so that’s really exciting. Constantly uncovering the stories of other people’s work creates a real creative itch for me to get my hands dirty as well, haha.
The 69th 366 Award goes to Jason Vo for his outstanding creative work.
And finally, if you died and got reincarnated as a song, what would that song be?
Kanye West — Street Lights. Not too keen on the artist, enormous fan of this particular song.