Thoughts on Writing
Thoughts on Writing
Talking purpose

Talking purpose

A conversation about purpose, Catholicism, unschooling and social media with US brand strategist Austin Franke

Important announcement: I am NOT starting a podcast.

But this conversation with Austin Franke is a fun experiment. You can listen to the audio above (continues working when you lock your phone / open other windows) or watch the video below for a change from the usual reading experience. It was recorded with a view to writing an article, but we decided it was easier to release the whole thing.

Austin Franke is a US designer and brand strategist, founder of Woo Punch, writer of his own Substack at, and co-host of The BS Show with Stef Hamerlinck. He has incisive views on brand purpose and we spend most of the conversation talking about that—I think it will be different to other conversations you’ve heard about purpose.

He’s also a practising Catholic, while I have long since lapsed. But we talk about how that background colours our views on the ethical dimension of purpose. (I fail to pick up on it in the conversation itself, but Austin’s mention of the ‘common good’ ties into my previous post about Paul Newman and his book Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good—thanks for all the positive responses to that.)

Austin is largely self-taught and we get into an interesting conversation about education and schooling, building on my previous post about unschooling.

Austin is nowhere to be found on social media, which is probably why he comes across as so well-adjusted throughout this conversation. Towards the end, we talk about the role of social media in modern life, and about the differences between spoken and written communication.

Along the way, we touch on the NFL, Ben & Jerry’s, age vs youth, Patagonia, the IPA and Cadbury’s, James Damore, Volkswagen, Biden and the Tories, Alexander Fleming, LovEvery, Dove, toxic positivity, assisted serendipity and the inherent dignity of the individual.

I’ve written before about the need for generous readers who are prepared to take the best interpretation of what a writer is trying to say, rather than leaping to the worst. That is even more the case with real-time conversation, where it’s impossible to self-edit perfectly as the words tumble out, especially amid the contextual factors of social self-consciousness, technical difficulties and intermittent brain fog. We get into some delicate and contentious areas in this conversation, so I hope people take it as a good-faith effort to talk about important things.

Thanks to Austin for being so generous with his time and brain. I recommend his appearances on Let’s Talk Branding and Just Branding, where he talks purpose and distinctiveness vs differentiation.

And thanks to anyone who reads / watches / listens.

Back to the written word next time.

For anyone new here, I’m a writer of poetry, downbeat diaries, branding and advertising projects, articles for Creative Review and The Guardian, and books about design. Thoughts on Writing uses language as a way into wider cultural and political issues.

Thoughts on Writing
Thoughts on Writing
Occasional thinking aloud about writing, branding, business and creativity, with Nick Asbury and guests.
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