Back in 2005, Chuck Anderson and Ben Gott, like many creative friends, were seeking a public outlet for their collaborative ideas. They emailed a lot. They thought: Hey, we should have a place where we publish these emails. Thus, The Brilliance! was born. Later, Virgil Abloh came on board and the cipher was complete.
In those days, the Internet’s culture of cool was still coming of age. Hypebeast launched in 2005, Cool Hunting was just hitting its stride, and personal blogs like A Silent Flute were setting the tone for the deluge that was soon to come. Even for that era, The Brilliance! was startlingly spare in design—black font on white background, yellow highlights, 100x100 pixel images, and lots of exclamation marks. Posts were credited to CHUCK, BENJAMIN, or VIRGIL. Reading it felt like being part of a conversation with three sharp, informed, and hilarious dudes. The Brilliance! was hugely influential to me as a just-out-of-college wannabe writer/editor/blogger/thinker.
After a five-year run, life got complicated and The Brilliance! took a hiatus. In January 2010 BENJAMIN posted for the last time, and the site went quiet.
Last week, after a three-year vacation, the site came back to life and the first post in three years delivered a simple message: "THE BRILLIANCE! “We’re a web page & we’re back!!”" I was stoked. I hollered to a few of my younger colleagues that my favorite website from my early years as an Internet person was back. They all looked at me with that confused millennial stare. I know there are many people out there who, like me, and excited about the return, and there are many others have no idea what The Brilliance! is.
Nonetheless, I hope that young people out there with creative aspirations can read this interview with Chuck and Ben and find something that will inspire them to rethink the game the way The Brilliance! did.
Interview by Noah Johnson (@noahvjohnson)
What has happened since the hiatus? Not for you personally, but for the culture as it was when you left it in 2010? And for those who don't know, what IS The Brilliance!?
BEN: We actually talked a bunch about this. Tumblr was around in 2010, but it wasn't as crazy as its been in the past couple years. Editorial blogs like us (we use that loosely, ha) are just not as common. Madbury Club is like the best—then there are the big ones like Nowness, etc. I really like The Talks too.
I feel like there was/is just this empty space where kids are actually writing more than 140 characters or just posting pictures, on pictures, on pictures. We came back because it's fun, you know, but also because we all genuinely wanted an outlet to talk about culture, products, etc.
The Brilliance! is literally Chuck, myself, and Virgil hanging out with the Internet. Like, if you were at a club, these are the topics, jokes, products, places, etc. we would be talking about in real life.
"It's not endless, mindless scrolling and eye candy. You have to actually read it."
CHUCK: Man, so much has changed in the last 3 years since we stopped in 2010. Twitter has taken over everything. I remember us posting about Twitter when it first came out and we were like... uh... yeah I don't know about this. Ha! Same with Tumblr. It's its own culture, its own lifestyle for people now.
The Brilliance! has always been sort of a break from that stuff. It's not endless, mindless scrolling and eye candy. You have to actually read it, but not in the way that you read Twitter where its so quick, or the way you view images on Tumblr...we've always had something to say and I think after fully absorbing all these new Internet 'toys' over the year (Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram/etc.) we had the itch to bring back a more thought-out format, I suppose.