One Red Paperclip's Kyle MacDonald on Avoiding Planning and Random Internet Dudes
Kyle MacDonald and a paperclip (not to scale)
The Art Directors Club is not a pioneer in turning 92 and then moving from New York down to Miami Beach, but they are doing it with a touch more style than your bubbe did in her fuchsia tracksuit. The ADC, which champions forward-thinking design and visual arts, is bringing its 92nd annual festival and awards gala to Miami Beach for the first time. Starting on Tuesday, they'll be hosting three days of events, workshops and talks, such as one on Thursday by Kyle MacDonald, otherwise known as "the red paperclip guy."
A few years ago, Kyle MacDonald took a single red paperclip and, in a series of about a dozen trades for increasingly better objects, wound up with a house in Kipling, Saskatchewan. He wrote a book about the adventure called One Red Paperclip (which we'd be willing to trade for a copy of the medical thriller House in Saskatchewan, if anyone's got it) and is the unusual mind behind many other, well, unusual projects. Not all of them have caught on in the same way, as his red paperclip project, however.
"You know that game Punch Buggy?" he asks Cultist, whose arm still swells upon seeing a passing VW Beetle. "I created the same game but for burgundy Dodge Caravans. They're everywhere. And Punch Buggy was fun when they were everywhere but now it's burgundy Dodge Caravans so we have my game, Burghinder. On road trips, kids who are 11 or 12 would love it."
Gentlemen, start your Burghinders!
Burghinder remains poised, like a minivan revving its engine at a stoplight, to streak across our collective consciousness. It hasn't yet, in spite of that "more than three of my friends at some point had burgundy Dodge Caravans," MacDonald says. "If [Burghinder] were in a movie, it would maybe catch on more."
And there's also WhoAreTheseGuys.com, MacDonald's attempt to discover the identities of five mysterious and colorful men in an old photograph.
"It's a picture my brother found in 2002," he says. "We've been looking for them for 11 years now. Who are they? We've gone on the news, we've shown the picture everywhere but we can't find out: who are these guys? So many things on the internet you can find out so easily, but not these guys."
Are YOU these guys? If so, call the WATG? Hotline at 514-833-3980.
Having seen the above photo, Cultist cannot provide their names but does have a confirmed last known location: behind our eyelids every time we shut them tight.
"The only leads we've gotten are from people getting drunk and sending us on stupid tangents," MacDonald confesses. "I follow these tangents but they have yielded no positive results."
Of course, MacDonald also runs a company that consults for companies like MasterCard and Sony Pictures Television. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have ideas like "McUnfortunate" in which he would "go around the world and meet people actually named Ronald McDonald. Ask them what it's like, discover the meaning of life, etc." Nor does it mean he won't go into a corner store that is losing its lease and buy everything in it, then attempt to sell "the world's longest receipt" for the exact $18,187.93 he spent in high-interest credit card advances to purchase all of it.
This, friends, is the man who will now offer you advice on why your own projects never seem to go anywhere.
"The thing that most people do wrong is they don't start their project," MacDonald says. "If they don't actually take the first steps then it's never going to happen. Once you get going, the idea you had may be different from what you end up doing. That's fine. If you stick to the original vision, that might keep you from really making it work."
In fact, MacDonald sees planning as an obstacle to success.
"I'm pretty foggy at best when I do planning," he tells us. "I'm a big believer in not researching or finding out too much about a situation before I throw myself into it. That can be taken as procrastination, I guess, but I find it's quite vivid when you see things for the first time."
When nothing is expected, everything becomes the unexpected. Such as the friendships he made during the red paperclip trades.
"Three or four of the people I stay in contact with and were in my wedding," MacDonald says. "Everyone's geographically spread out so it might be two years between seeing them but it's a really close connection. When we go to Kipling, it's instant. Boom, 50 people to say hello to."
Those types of connections are what drives MacDonald and how he determines which projects to pursue.
"There are some things that tickle my fancy that aren't worth it but I obsess over. But if other people get a good kick out of it," he says, "then people will want to participate. I like having adventures but adventures that I can share. I don't do it for my own fun but to make a kind of participatory show-and-tell with other people."
So after all his success, has he at least traded up to a stapler?
"I don't even use paper," he says. "People tell me, 'Print this out and fax it over,' but I don't have a printer or a fax machine. How about I just reply to the email?"
Kyle MacDonald will be speaking on Thursday, April 4 at 11:15 a.m. in the W Hotel South Beach as a part of the 92nd Annual ADC Awards Festival. For more information on the festival, visit adcawards.org/festival and to participate in Kyle's many other projects, go to redpaperclip.com.
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