As people’s thirst for information, gossip and opinion about design becomes almost insatiable, so more and more senior designers with voices worth listening to are dabbling in the art of personal blogs, says Hannah Booth
The design world has its share of well-established websites, from high-brow, on-line journals such as www.designobserver.com to magazine-style websites like dezeen.com. However, good personal blogs are harder to find. They shouldn’t be – according to Web monitoring site www.technorati.com, there are 113 million blogs out there, mostly the preserve of hip, young digitally aware gunslingers with, sadly, often not much to say. With the exception of Michael Johnson’s popular blog – www.johnsonbanks.co.uk/thoughtfortheweek – few senior designers have dabbled in the art.
That’s all changing – a wave of wiser, more mature design blogs are starting to appear, written by experienced industry figures with strong opinions and voices worth listening to.
Mark Porter, The Guardian’s creative director, started a blog in April – www.markporter.com/notebook. ‘I realised that I spend more time working with digital than print now, and when you’re part of the digital world it’s eccentric not to have a blog,’ he says. ‘It’s also become clear on my travels that people are interested in what I’ve got to say, so I thought I might as well share it. There’s an insatiable thirst for information, gossip and opinion about design.’
Porter’s tone of voice is polite, sober and inquiring. He posts photographs, reviews events and comments on other graphic design. What makes a good design blog? ‘It helps to be provocative from time to time, but blogs which just link to interesting stuff are a useful service,’ Porter says.
Design blogs should no longer just be seen as one individual’s musings, believes Porter. They are becoming an archive of good design and an invaluable resource for seeing new, interesting work. ‘The design community is now creating an enormous Web-based museum of design, and it’s mainly on blogs,’ he says.
John Brown executive creative director Jeremy Leslie writes design blog www.magculture.com/blog. ‘It started as a personal experiment but then took off,’ he says. ‘Now it exists in its own right. And it’s somewhere to file the work I see, which helps me be more organised – in that way it’s a Web log in its truest sense,’ he says.
Leslie also believes we are seeing an influx of blogs penned by more senior designers. ‘I think people enjoy a seasoned outlook rather than a rant,’ he says. Blogging takes a certain commitment – young people often set up a blog and then forget about it. Businesses are starting to embrace blogging, seeing it as a useful tool, too.
Ben Terrett, founding partner of graphic consultancy Design Conspiracy, writes design blog www.noisydecentgraphics.typepad.com. Terrett posts visuals he admires, muses on design issues and starts thoughtful, often hilarious, debates. One recently suggested that graphic designers rarely have tattoos because they could not decide what design, size, font and position something so permanent should have. Nearly 50 people wrote back to concur or prove him wrong.
The best design blogs, according to Terrett, are written regularly. ‘Little and often is best, so there’s a rhythm to it,’ he says, and suggests featuring stuff you won’t find anywhere else. ‘You want someone to stumble on a disused warehouse in France, find some great old typography, and post it up. That way it feels personal.’
Do clients know, or care, that he writes a blog? ‘I don’t generally tell them, and I think few are aware of it.’ Has he ever got work through it? ‘We’ve had a few meetings on the back of it,’ he says.
Good graphic design blogs, by their two-dimensional nature, are easier to find – images of chairs don’t work as well on-line. But blogger Harry Wakefield is doing his bit for product design in the blogosphere. His blog, www.mocoloco.com, features international furniture and product design – Wakefield is based in Canada – and he reviews and previews shows that many UK designers might not find the time to visit.
‘We cover everything related to modern contemporary design,’ says Wakefield. Everything except graphics. He says his audience is ‘design-savvy’ and read it regularly so they are up to speed with developments. And there lies the dichotomy of blogs – we’d all be better informed if we tuned in, but when do we find the time? If cherry-picking is the answer, there are worse places to start than these.
Other good design blogs
• www.acejet170.typepad.com A brilliant source of ‘found’ graphic design
• www.russelldavies.typepad.com Davies, who runs the off-beat Interesting events, writes this popular, entertaining and often philosophical blog
• www.mediabistro.com/unbeige Newsy, busy and cross-disciplinary
• www.bloomdesign.typepad.com/blooms_blog A consultancy blog, by Bloom Design. ‘Things we’d like to redesign’ is worth a look
• www.newsdesigner.com/blog For passionate editorial designers. With a definite US bias, it nevertheless features the front page of about 40 international newspapers every day