- Jonathan Milott (on left)
- 31 years old
- Partner, HONEST; Director, Designer, Producer
- Grew-up in Massachusettes; now lives in Brooklyn
- Cary Murnion
- 28 years old
- Partner, HONEST; Director, Designer, Producer
- Grew-up in Bellvale, NY (upstate); now lives in East Village
An HONEST World:
How old were you when you started HONEST, and what convinced you to partner up and start your own firm at such a young age?
(Cary) was 21 and Jon was 23 when we decided to partner up, which was back in 1995. We were both attending Parsons School of Design and liked each other's work, it was during the upswing of the economic boom and we thought it was as good a time as any to give it a go.
Has there been any advantage to being younger?
During the boom it was an advantage being younger because the web was so new, so clients actually trusted younger people more to know how to utilize it. It was also nice to be young because there were MANY late nights, so it was a little bit easier to bounce back after 4 straight all-nighters. During that time we knew there were a lot of people going for it the same way we were, so if we weren't staying up late, someone else was – the competition was fierce.
You met at Parsons where you teach now. In this age of Photoshop and Macs, does one need formal training to be a designer?
There are plenty of people who have had no formal training who are amazing artists/designers, but in the grand scheme of things they are a very small percentage. We get lots and lots of resumes, and without a doubt, the people who we are most impressed with have gone to a prominent art school.
HONEST works in all sorts of different media- branding, motion graphics, short films—there’s even a magazine. Do you have a favorite medium? What in a project appeals to you?
Right now we're focusing on directing. We love the collaborative process of a film, from the producer to the writer to the DP to the gaffer, film allows you to talk to and work with so many amazing people. We also love to tell stories (usually funny ones) and film is giving us the greatest satisfaction in this regard right now, although that's what draws us to many of our other projects, whether it be in branding, websites, or our magazine, the opportunity to tell a story. Right now, film is giving us the best opportunity to tell a story from our point of view, whereas a branding project is usually from the client's point of view.
You’ve directed music videos and short films—any feature aspirations?
Definitely. We have ideas for features, but we're going to take that step gradually, we want to make sure that when we devote ourselves to a feature that we have everything in place that will give us the best chance of creating something special, not only the concept and script, but the experience, support and time not to rush anything.
You work with clients big and small. Besides budget, what’s the difference in your approach and result?
We try to approach every project, whether it be for a major brand like Nike or a friend's new indie band, with the same zeal and passion. There are obviously different problems to solve and issues to consider, but we think that all of those details will get worked out if we invest ourselves completely into every project.
Generally speaking- how much direction are you given? Is it better when a client is specific, or does that drive you crazy?
Besides having an unlimited budget, we've experienced all of the extremes of creative freedom. Of course we love to have total creative freedom, which both Nike and Diesel gave to us on the short movies we made for them recently, but we've also done some pretty cool things with projects that are restricted a bit. It's not so bad when a client is specific, because then we at least know where we stand, the worst is when a clients SAYS that we have creative freedom, but in actuality they have a very specific idea of what they want. Time, money, and ultimately the concept, is wasted, and that makes us very sad.
Does being a NY-based design house-- vs. LA-- work to any advantage or disadvantage?
It only worked to our advantage when we started out because we went to school in NY, so we had more connections and friends to help start the business going. Now, eight years later, we can't really say, because although we consider NY the creative center of the universe, there are lots of opportunities not only in LA, but all over the world. We still do believe that old saying that 'If you can make it in NY, you can make it anywhere', so we're proud of the fact that we've established ourselves here.
12 Things to Know About HONEST people:
What's the best thing you've ever purchased/salvaged off the street?
CARY MUNION: The closest I've ever come to salvaging something off the street was when I was just out of college and I seriously considered taking a sofa that was sitting outside a nice row of apartments in the Village. It looked to be in good shape, the cushions were comfy, no broken legs or visible stains, but I just couldn't suppress my feelings that something nasty had been done on that couch.
JON MILOTT: A carpet cat scratcher palm tree. Those things are expensive.
Which city establishment sees more of your paycheck than you do?
JM: Brisas del Caribe
Gotham Mad Lib: When the ______(noun) makes me feel ______ (adverb), I like to ______ (verb). (Strict adherence to "Madlib" rules is not required.)
CM: When the bagel makes me feel full I like to burp.
JM: When the Brisas makes me feel del, I like to Caribe.
Personality problem solving: Would you consider your personality more hysterical or more obsessive, and have you changed since living in New York; has "New York" become a part of you?
CM: More Obsessive. Since moving to New York I think I've pretty much stayed the same. New York is definitely part of me, and every city I go to I compare it to NY and they never measure up.
NYC confessional: Do you have a local guilty pleasure?
JM: Brisas del Caribe
When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone, relish in solitude and find your earthly happiness? (We promise not to intrude.)
CM: Battery Park at night is pretty peaceful.
JM: Not Brisas del Caribe.
How did you spend election night? How do you feel about the election results? Do you think four more years of Bush will affect you directly, and how?
CM: In utter disbelief and denial. The election results show how completely different one part of the country is from the other, and how people can be scared into doing things that are against their better interests if their bombarded with the same message enough times. It's very depressing and disheartening. Four more years of Bush will affect me personally only in a minor way since I'm a white, middle-to-upperclass, male who lives in an urban area, but four more years of Bush will have a devastating effect on our country as a whole from top to bottom – economically, socially, diplomatically, and historically. The list of things that are wrong with this administration is just too much to comprehend.
What's one thing you've done (or regularly do) in NYC that you could not have conceived doing anywhere else?
CM: I live in the East Village and work on Centre St. and Grand, so every morning when I walk to work it feels like I have passed through about 6 different countries.
JM: Get totally wasted and not worry about driving or getting into a car with people who are wasted or worrying about stupid wasted people driving.
Assuming that you're generally respectful of your fellow citizens, was there ever a time when you had to absolutely unleash your inner asshole to get satisfaction?
CM: One time when a movie was about to start, a couple came in and asked me an my wife to move over to one side since we each had an empty seat on either side of us. I said no. I hate it when people who are late expect to get preferential treatment. They should suffer for their tardiness.
JM: While commuting on the subway - Get out of my way. You're in the city now. Don't clip your fingernails on the subway. Don't stand in front of the subway doors while they open. Learn to swipe the metro card at the correct speed.
Describe that low-low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
CM: Nov. 3rd, 2004. Not only NYC, but the USA.
JM: The lightening storm a few days after 9/11. I thought we were being bombed.
311: Help or hoopla? Have you ever put it to use?
JM: That band sucks and so does the help line. It sounds like a great idea for some old farts that don't have internet access.
There are 8 Million stories in The Naked City. Tell us one, but try to keep it to a New York Minute.
CM: The crazy thing about New York City is that even though there are millions of people you always seem to run into the ONE person who you don't want to talk to. Usually, you're polite and stop and make small talk about the weather and your job and then say an awkward good bye saying you hope to see that person again soon sometime even though you don't. Well, one time I didn't stop, and it felt really good.
While at Parsons I had a teacher who I was not very partial to for various reasons. I graduated and didn't know what ever became of him. Well, about 4 years later, I was walking down Mercer Street alone and I noticed that the guy that was walking towards me looked familiar. As I got within about 10 yards of him I realized it was this teacher, I DID NOT want to talk to him, but it was too late to cross the street and too obvious to look away, so I just hoped that he wouldn't remember me. We both looked into each other's eyes, and as he passed me, I saw that he recognized who I was, so as I was walking away he turned around and said 'Hi Cary!' Well.. I just ignored him and kept on walking. I don't know what he must've thought when I didn't turn around.. did he think that he mistook me for someone else? Did he think he was seeing things? Was it obvious that I just plain ignored him? I don't know. But I sure was glad that I wasn't standing there trying to have a conversation with him.
JM: I went to Brisas del Caribe and ordered some Mofongo, then my head exploded cuz it was so good.
HONEST's projects include producing and directing films; editing and designing their eponymous magazine; designing books, motion graphics, and identities for a wide range of clients; and showing art in various galleries around the world. HONEST has been featured in magazines such as RES, The Fader, NYLON, Creative Review and Print. For more information, visit their web site at www.stayhonest.com.