5 Questions: Simple Design & Simple Living With Formerly Yes

With the holiday shopping season fully rolling, we stopped by one of our favorite Los Angeles shops Formerly Yes to chat with owner Brad Holdgrafer, who — with his wife Jenna — launched the minimalist design-savvy website last year and Downtown L.A. storefront this past summer. 

At a time when things can start feeling a bit too materialistic, or buying gifts can feel like it's just for the sake of doing so, we asked Brad five questions about their inspiration, backstory, and why less is more. 

Read on, enjoy a video with Brad from our friends at Westwood Westwood, and peruse Formerly Yes' holiday gift guide for your shopping needs.


Who taught you your most important, early lessons of design?

Man… two lessons stand out to me. One was one of my best friends, Stewart Ramsey, who told me when I was starting out to design something everyday. Even if you think it looks stupid or you don’t know how to do it. Finish it, and start again the next day on another project. Neither of us were too good at design and I hardly knew anything about photoshop and illustrator but that little advice alone made me learn how to use them.

Massimo Vignelli said, "If you can design one thing, you can design everything." That little sentence encouraged me to no end when I was learning how to design. 

There’s a note on your website bio about lessons of design and function you learned while living on a sailboat. What were you doing on a sailboat, anyway? 

Jenna and I got married in 2012. After a night of cheap wine and talking future plans we did some math and determined it was more affordable to live on a boat of our own and be on the water than it was to live anywhere near the water. I took some sailing lessons, looked for used sailboats, and we made it work. It was some close quarters, but that’s a year we will cherish to the grave.

Where do you seem to find inspiration day-to-day?

Jenna and I both find loads of inspiration from Los Angeles. We can sit around and read, flip through blogs and instagram all day looking for inspiration but when we want some real inspiration on how to sell products or design for good living you’ve got to go out and see how people live.

What I mean by being inspired by how people live isn't just by the way they live life, like the dare devils or world travelers, but literally seeing how people live day-to-day. Like, a normal day — the days you don't really see on Instagram. From a design standpoint I guess it's seeing ways things can be designed to make people's day-to-day lives that much better. Things from as big as how a city could be designed better, or as small as a spoon. The little things that go unnoticed unless you look for them — those are the things that excite us.

Little design problems affect everyone at some point, and there's usually a way to fix those those little problems. It's the kind of problems that you don't think about unless you're out running about with people who are out running about. That little bit of awareness helps find design problems, and once you find them I guess the inspiring part is getting to solve them.

When did you two first meet?

We met in 2010 and everyday since that day has been the best day of my simple life.


Why is less more? 

In terms to life, less means you can go pick up and move to the next opportunity when it arises without these things bagging you down. More comes with excuses and reasons to not do something.

When it comes to design, though, less is complicated. It’s very hard, because you can’t just make less for the sake of less. You have to use less for the sake of better. That means, making something as good as it can possibly be, absolutely beautiful, made to be used, and used well. It’s a whole lot more work to make something look like it took less work. 

Stop in and visit Formerly Yes at 945 S Broadway, LA, CA, 90015