As US designers harness blogging as a valuable tool for the exchange of ideas and opinions, Adrian Shaughnessy asks/ where are all the Brit bloggers?
Blogs are now an established part of modern cultural life. What began as on-line diary-keeping is now a global publishing phenomenon, and widely regarded as an invigorating challenge to the dominance of traditional print and electronic media. The Guardian reported recently that a new blog is born every second. There are blogs devoted to every subject under the sun/ an on-line search revealed blogging sites dedicated to knitting, paganism, celibacy and corporate accountability.
Blogs are where to find comment, ideas and opinions that might otherwise struggle for an outlet in conventional media. More importantly, they are where anyone with the wherewithal to afford a bit of Web space, access to blogging software and a computer, can publish their own views and invite responses from around the world. As the writer and pioneer-blogger Andrew Sullivan noted in Wired magazine/ ‘Poised between traditional media, blogs can be as nuanced and well-sourced as traditional journalism, but they have the immediacy of talk radio.’
Searching ‘design blogs’ on Google throws up a forest of links to sites offering opportunities to engage in discussions about design. The Web is teeming with chatty and disputatious designers offering opinion and counter-opinion on the hot issues of the moment.
Web design blog Asterisk* (www.dkeithrobinson.com/asterisk) is a typical example. Its proprietor, D Keith Robinson, claims his site is the ‘number one Web design blog in the world, according to Google’. He informs visitors that Asterisk* is ‘my personal site, which consists of almost daily writings and discussions on Web design in the real world. I do cover quite a bit more, as this is a personal site, but my focus is Web design.’
Asterisk* highlights two key aspects of the design blog trend. The first is that many sites are indeed ‘personal’, little more than vanity publishing for garrulous designers with healthy egos. The second is that the design blog explosion is an almost exclusively American phenomenon. While there are countless decent UK blogs devoted to a dizzying array of subjects, British designers seem inhibited when it comes to entering the blogosphere.
The two heavyweights of design blogging are Design Observer (www.design observer.com) and Speak-Up (www.underconsideration.com/speakup). Both enjoy healthy amounts of visitor traffic and attract vociferous responses to well-written, well-edited and well-presented articles. Design Observer has had more than four million site visits since launching in October 2003. The site was founded by American designers William Drentell and Jessica Helfand, Pentagram New York partner Michael Beirut, and English design writer Rick Poynor. All four (they’re unpaid) post regular articles on a diverse range of design-related topics. Unsurprisingly, and despite Poynor’s determinedly international tone, the traffic, commentary and subject matter is predominantly American, and it’s US subjects that attract most responses.
A British design blog to rival Design Observer or Speak-up is a tempting idea. Yet it’s hard to see it taking off. Is British design ready to bare its soul? Or are we too preoccupied with making a living? My guess is we Brits are not ready to air our dirty washing in public. But I’d love to be proved wrong.