Key Words: Various Keytags

Bringing design and language (mostly satire) to the simplest of accessories, Various Keytags is carving out its own path, one keytag at a time. I had the opportunity to discuss with co-founder, Brian Janusiak, about the beginnings of the project and its impending future. 

Genteel Flair: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Brian Janusiak: My background is in both Art and Design, and in both disciplines I have always relied heavily on the use of language. Educationally, I have a BFA in Printmaking from CCAC (Oakland, CA) and an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale (New Haven CT). Before coming to New York, I had a Printing business that specialized in Letterpress printing, and there are many things about Various Keytags that definitely feel like an extension of that part of my past.

GF: What was the inspiration behind Various Keytags? How did it come about?
BJ: We have been making these Keytags for about 8 years actually. We originally were making them in France and selling them only in our retail spaces, Project No. 8, here in New York. The process of making them this way was time-consuming, unresponsive, needlessly expensive, and inconsistent. But we loved them and kept producing them in this way for years!

Finally, a couple years ago with Elizabeth Beer (my wife and partner in Project No. 8), we started to examine all of the things we had been doing over the years to assess which we wanted to keep doing, which we wanted to stop doing, and which we wanted to make changes to how did them. It was this that brought the Keytag project to the forefront for us. We decided we had SO much fun with these things, and they sold so well, that maybe we should take it more seriously as a project!

So, in effect, it has been a slow ramp-up for years…

GF: While others are especially focused on men’s accessories such as bracelets and boutonnieres, what made keytags such a great pursuit?

BJ: We like how dumb they are. They are not pretending to be anything other than what they are. They are simple, and fun, and small burst of sunshine on a dreary day. They came from our sincere and exuberant love of language and design, in a deceptively simple and truly pure form. We pursued it because it made us happy and took the edge off of other things that were far more stress-y.

GF: Describe the beginning stages. Were there any challenges?

BJ: Trying to figure out the means of production, and moving it into our own studio here in NYC was the only real challenge. And it wasn’t all that hard once we had sorted it all out. Then we decided to create a website specifically and only for Various Keytags we were making. We designed it to be as straight-forward as the Keytags themselves. We only bought new equipment when the project financially justified it, we make small changes to the process and the website constantly, but also only when the project itself generates the money to do so. The greatest challenge has been keeping up with it, and pacing ourselves since we have SO many things we want to roll out!

GF: Generally speaking, what is your take on design?

BJ: Generally, we like design to solve a problem. It doesn’t matter to us if it is a pre-existing problem or one that has been imagined. We think simple is best and we love the use of humor in everything, from a belly laugh to a wry smile.

GF: Would you say that the parlance of the Keytags has been a result of the brand’s creative team or the audience of the brand?

BJ: The parlance of Various Keytags is the perfect embodiment of our studio, Various Projects. It is our voice completely, but it is also one that we use in conversation. From the beginning we imagined that we would create as many different Keytags as we could, more to create interest and give everyone an idea of what could be done. Then we would open it up to custom Keytags and let people use it as a platform for their own voice. It has happened in exactly this way! Now I would say that we do about have custom and half pre-existing inventory; It’s so super cool!!

GF: What is the vision for the brand in the years to come?

BJ: Special projects, limited editions, guest writers, a few additional product offerings, and loads more fun!! All of this is already in the works actually and we will roll them out slowly… 

Right now, we spend a lot of the day laughing and I really cannot imagine a better job than that! 

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