Katie Treggiden on Writing Design [Podcast]

This is the first episode in my new podcast series “Design Confab” where each episode I sit down with a lovely person that I have met in the design industry.

As a critically-acclaimed design blogger and communications agency director I meet interesting people from the design industry everyday and have good ol’ chats about what turns us on and off about the world of design.

In this episode, I confabulate with Katie Treggiden, a design journalist and long-time friend of mine, and we chat about her career, and writing design, staying on message and advice for designers starting up. So sit down, grab a hot drink and listen to the first episode of Design Confab.

[00:00:00] Katie and I have known each other for a long time. I would go with eight years is that by eight years.

[00:00:05] Almost to the day I think.

[00:00:07] Oh really.

[00:00:08] Yes it is almost to the day I would say.

[00:00:11] Because it it’s almost straight after you got married. I want to say.

[00:00:16] It was straight after I got married and it was mydeco [Design Democracy Blog] award which I found out I’d won on the way home from my honeymoon.

[00:00:24] There is actually a funny story to that as well but I won’t get in to that right now. I’m going to do a bit of an introduction about you Katie so that everyone who doesn’t know who you are listening knows who you are from this. So Katie is a craft and design writer with almost 20 years of experience in the creative industries and I will ask you a bit about this because I know about your advertising career which is included in this 20 years I’m guessing.

[00:00:49] Yes. Not that old.

[00:00:54] She regularly contributes to publications such as the Guardian, Crafts magazine, Elle Decoration, DesignMilk and Monocle24. Monocle 24 being their radio show?

[00:01:03] That’s right.

[00:01:04] Yeah.

[00:01:05] Yeah. Which she was recently talking about the London Design Festival. So if you haven’t heard that you can find it on their website I believe I listen to it on Spotify but it’s all over the place and you just got to search for London Design Festival / California. That’s right. I think that’s what you tweeted or Instagram. She’s written four books established the award-winning design blog confessions of a design geek, rest in peace, and the independent print magazine Fiera, also rest in peace but I’m going to ask you about those, it sounded a bit morbid. Her latest book ‘Weaving: Contemporary Makers on the Loom‘ was published in September 2018 so it’s just come out and we were just talking a bit about that before us started recording so we’ve stopped so we can carry on in a moment. She’s a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, welcome to the gang I am as well, a trustee of The Leach Pottery and a volunteer for Shelter Box which I have no idea what that is so I have to tell me.

[00:02:06] Yeah.

[00:02:08] And donates a proportion of her profits to Surfers Against Sewage and St Petroc’s.

[00:02:16] That’s right.

[00:02:17] Okay. Which I don’t know what that is either. Katie is a qualified marketeer and interior designer and is currently studying for a master’s in history of design at the University of Oxford. Welcome Katie.

[00:02:32] Thank you. Thank you very much for having me and for allowing me to be your first guest. I feel very honoured.

[00:02:39] Slash being my guinea pig as well. Let’s talk about confessions of a design geek I think first.

[00:02:47] Yeah.

[00:02:48] I know that’s not the starting point of your 20 year career.

[00:02:54] The starting point of this part of it, though I think it is.

[00:02:57] Yeah, and it’s how we met. And do you wanna just tell me a little bit so I don’t describe it what it was and I suppose a little bit about why you’re not doing anymore.

[00:03:10] Yeah I mean it started I think, well let me tell you the story of how it started. I was working in advertising and all my friends were going to the pub on a Friday night after work and (this is a story you’ve had many times but not everybody has) I was invited along to the pub and I said ‘No I can’t come because I’m going to see a private view of some hand-printed wallpaper’. And they said ‘I’m sorry’. And I said ‘I’m going to see a private view of some hand-printed wallpaper’. And most of them laughed and a lovely man called Paul Armstrong who was the head of digital advertising agency at the time said ‘you should write a blog’. And I thought he was being rude. I feel he was saying ‘You’re such a geek you know go to wallpaper and write a book’. But he was actually being serious on the following Monday he sat me down and I didn’t even know what a blog was. I don’t think this was April 2010. He pulled up design*sponge and said this could be you. And I was like wow okay I’m not sure it could be but I quite like the idea of documenting what I’m learning about design, I was absolutely passionate about design at that stage in my life and still am. And I liked the idea of having you know I lived in a small flat at the time I had no way to store all the leaflets I was picking up and all the exhibition brochures and I thought if I could just put it all somewhere electronically it would be a good storage solution. And I think at that time I had aspirations that my mum might read it. So she’d know what I’ve been up to at the weekend.

[00:04:40] Did your mum read it?

[00:04:40] Well I asked her at one point if she was reading it and she said ‘yes darling you sent me the link I read it. It was lovely’. I’m not sure she quite understood what a blog was at that point either. But yeah that’s that’s how it started it was really just the place to sort of document my growing passion in design.

[00:05:00] And just for almost for your own benefit a little bit.

[00:05:02] Oh absolutely. Yeah. I had no sense of of…

[00:05:06] That you’d get to the dizzying heights that you are at now.

[00:05:13] No none. Although to be fair I have wanted to be a writer since I was five and I think there was something that appealed to me about writing.

[00:05:23] I think there’s a secret writer in most people and so blogging does tap into that quite a lot doesn’t it.

[00:05:29] Yes. My parents think it’s hilarious because I was always accused of talking too much as a child and they think I found my perfect outlet in life now because I get to write all day every day.

[00:05:43] And that’s kind of similar actually. I remember Barbara Chandler sitting us all down at the Royal Festival Hall, I don’t know if you remember this, and asking us why we blog. And I think pretty much everyone said the same sort of thing. It was a way of almost processing everything you’re seeing and thinking about it and documenting it and just sort of putting it down like ‘Okay that’s done’ and then you move on to the next thing and it is. But you know it’s there almost if you want to remind yourself of something you blogged about it at that time.

[00:06:13] Yeah. And I found that I was also rather than just going to an exhibition, quite passively, I was engaging with it much more and I was doing a bit more reading around the subjects in order to write something that was articulate and interesting and added value. And so I think I found I was learning more so that was really the motivation for me carrying on.

[00:06:35] Yeah. And it is no longer a live blog.

[00:06:44] That doesn’t even exist anymore. It’s been deleted from the internet.

[00:06:48] Which which breaks my heart. I remember when you were closing it down. I’m just going to share this story of you. We were talking about what to do with it in a way where all the different things the accounts and everything and I was trying to save everything and salvage it and archive it. You said “I was never one to stay in touch with ex boyfriends”.

[00:07:15] I forgot I said that.

[00:07:17] I was like “well I’m friends with all of my exes”. So this goes to show the different approach.

[00:07:24] I am very grateful that you at least made me save my Instagram followers and my Twitter followers because at one point I was going to close everything down entirely and start from scratch. Yeah I’m very grateful they still have all of those lovely people in my life.

[00:07:39] I’m going to say quickly as well thank you to Emma Jane Palin for doing all of that. Where I said “Yeah I’ll do that”, “Emma could you do that for me?”

[00:07:55] Oh yes. So but you’ve moved on from that and so the way you see it you know I’m putting words in your mouth here but you have completely closed it down and it’s gone. It’s part of kind of that’s what I did. But you don’t see. You don’t look and think oh I wish I’d kept that or anything or?

[00:08:16] I think it was a really important stepping stone. I wanted. To tell the full story. It started off as as a as a hobby and a passion and I started it in April 2010. And five weeks later a lovely lady called Jenny Voyce nominated it for mydeco design blog in Great Britain.

[00:08:40] Oh I didn’t realise that.

[00:08:40] It was Jenny, she was my first ever Twitter friend and this is before Instagram girls and boys.

[00:08:47] There is no such thing “before Instagram”.

[00:08:50] She was my first with a friend and she nominates that for you or it mydeco at the time which is how we met. Yeah. It was a it was a floating thing and I think my blog was up for independent blog and I went off on my honeymoon sort of six months later and it was you know a fair way down the rankings it still wasn’t gonna win so I thought well that’s lovely I’ve been nominated I’ll put the little patch on my blog to say I’ve been nominated and I went off on my honeymoon turned my phone off for a fortnight at the request of my husband. I came home and I was standing in passport control at Gatwick and I turned my phone on and I had a tweet from Kelly Hoppen saying congratulations. And I thought when Kelly Hoppen congratulating me for and it turned out it was another bit to this award which I hadn’t even registered which was the best interior design blog in Great Britain as decided by a panel of judges including Kelly Hoppen which I’d won. It blew my socks off because I had absolutely no comprehension whatsoever that, I don’t think I’d even clocked that bit because it didn’t occur to me that I’d even be in the running for it. And the prize was to be the official blogger for the London Design Festival. So I went straight back to my very demanding advertising job and I got up very early in the morning to see things at LDF (London Design Festival) and stayed up very late at night to see things about LDF and submitted two blog posts a day for them and for my own blog and things took off slightly spectacularly from there. The blog became relatively successful I think and grew over the next sort of six or seven years out of a personal blog and into more of a sort of online magazine I guess which specialised in products and furniture design particularly from up and coming new designers. I think what happened was this, I very much wanted to be a professional writer. I wanted to write all day every day. That was my dream and I was running the blog and I was also running Fiera magazine, by this time, and it turned out I was running two quite demanding businesses and only a little of my time was spent writing and I’d reached a point I’d quit my advertising career to become a freelance design journalist, I’d published a couple of books and I’d reached a point in my life when people wanted to pay me to write and ‘confessions’ and Fiera was getting in the way of that, because they were very time hungry and required an awful lot besides just writing and I got in to Oxford to do a Masters in design history and something had to give. So sadly those were the two things that that had to give in order for me to do the Masters and in order for me to enjoy the wonderful opportunities that were coming my way in terms of freelance writing and it has 100 percent been the right decision. It’s been so freeing. I just get to write now which is what I love and I’m not having to worry about advertising and the back end of WordPress and all those other thing, quotes, and all those other lovely things that I used to eat up my days. So I think it’s kind of sad that they don’t exist anymore and I’m really humbled actually when people say that they miss them because I don’t think I’d appreciate quite how important they want people.

[00:12:17] So they kind of feed in to where you go and hold on to things, I’m with this little bit as well where you know I started Heart Home magazine with Carole and Arianna and I left that behind, which actually wasn’t an easy decision either. Much the same as you know like you get to a point and I was running a business and I couldn’t do it all. I was like where’s my where’s my passions really I’ve got to go with that. And you’ve got to go in a different direction and let something go and I mean that’s still running. But you know like you can’t do it or can you.

[00:12:50] No, and I think it’s really important to remember, particularly I think I’m very lucky to be on a second career and now I’ve got a really clear perspective as to why I made this leap. And I think it’s really important to remember why I left behind a very comfortable well-paid job with a pension and paid holiday and all of that stuff. And I think if the things in my life now aren’t delivering the joy and the purpose and the meaning that I left that industry for to do this then they have to go. I think you’ve got to be quite strict about that.

[00:13:21] Yeah there’s not much point in working for yourself if you’re stressed and unhappy as well.

[00:13:27] You get paid a lot of money to be stressed and unhappy.

[00:13:31] That’s supposed to be what offsets the stress and happiness. So Fiera, you mentioned a little bit there. Do you want to just touch on Fiera or has that kind of captured it all?

[00:13:46] I felt that there was a need for a print magazine that covered emerging talent. I think a lot of mainstream print magazines, just because the lead times they work on is the nature of the industry, they tend to cover a bigger more established designers who have PR agencies and have photography ready six months ahead of a trade show for example. I was really excited by the meaningful work that new designers were creating sort of what that was solving problems I guess. I felt this should be a print magazine that gave them coverage. So we structured Fiera in a very different way from most mainstream magazines in that we didn’t write about design fairs until months after that happened because that enabled me to write about all of those people. I launched it on Kickstarter. We raised £16,000 and we published four issues across two years. It was nominated for a bunch of lovely awards and it did really well. But I think sometimes there’s a difference between a belief that something should exist and a belief that you’re the person who should be doing it. And I think I would love Fiera to still exist. I think I think it was an important magazine but it wasn’t making me happy. It turns out I’m not someone who wants to run a magazine. I want to write for them.

[00:15:05] I’m kind of a believer, this may may make me sound a little bit hippyish actually, I’m a bit of a believer that these things do slightly happen for a reason and at some point in the future what you did with Fiera somehow will like slot in and you’ll be like ‘ah well I did this’ and that’s exactly the same kind of thing and were doing it.

[00:15:26] I can already see that. And I think Fiera turned me from a blogger into an editor. And I think I was already writing for print magazines so I was very much a journalist as well as a blogger. But I think you know those two things are equally valid. But I think I saw my future more in editorial writing and I wanted to write books. And I think I wanted to have a more academic trajectory I suppose and I think Fiera very much moved to me. I think it was a really important stepping stone in my career. And I don’t regret doing it for a heartbeat. I can absolutely see its role.

[00:16:08] Actually that leads on really nicely to something I wrote down which is in your, I think it’s in your Instagram as well, but I think it’s in your Twitter for sure, a little description which is “I believe in the power of making. I believe in telling stories that matter. I believe in making a difference”. I guess I just wanted to almost ask where did that come from? Did you make that up? What does it mean? What does it mean to you?

[00:16:36] I did make it up. I’ve been doing a huge amount of soul searching recently. I think I’ve been a design journalist for seven years now and I think I’m having that seven year crisis, which are really important to me because my motivation was always about promoting new designers and I think that was very much ‘confessions’ and to a certain extent Fiera. And I think I realised that a lot of this meaningful purposeful work that was coming out of new designers was as as a result of the briefs they were being set at university rather than necessarily as a result of those individuals desire to change the world. And I think over the seven years of covering that work very little of it made it into production. Very little of it actually changed the world. So I think I became slightly disillusioned with my, I lost my north star. So one of the reasons for doing the master’s at Oxford was to really sort of explore and rediscover and open myself up to new ideas and new directions. And I think, I mean this is very much a work in progress, I said to you before we came on and I’ve rewritten my About page about 20 times in the last week. But I think it’s really important to start with what you believe in. And I think what you do and how you do it comes after that. And I I really believe in the designer-maker movement. I really believe in craft. I believe in the power of making things with your hands. That’s what gets me excited about design and craft. That’s what got me excited about new designers. I think I believe those things can really make a difference in the world. There are people doing incredible things in those fields some of them a new designers. Some of them are more established and I think my role as a storyteller is to really carefully choose the stories that I tell and how I tell them because I think the difference I can make when I’m writing in platforms like DesignMilk and the Guardian and Elle Decoration is huge. I’m reaching a big audience in some ways perhaps preaching to the choir. But I think I think the power that journalists have, they sometimes forget, there was a bit of a furore recently because the Observer ran a story about a new generation of people working in wood and making furniture and carpenters and they were all male. I think it was a really interesting example of that responsibility we have as journalists and storytellers to be really careful.

[00:19:05] To try and tell the whole story rather than just a little bit.

[00:19:10] And pick the stories that we tell and how we tell them. There’s no such thing as one one true whole story. This was always a lens. There’s always a viewpoint and I think you’ve got to be really careful to check your privilege and I think oh I’ll share quite a personal example of that which is I’ve just written this book about weaving that you mentioned.

[00:19:29] Nicely plugged. Available in all good bookshops.

[00:19:36] I’m blushing now.

[00:19:38] I really wants to write a chapter about migration because weaving and migration are inherently linked and there’s an awful lot of horrible stuff in the press at the moment about immigrants being seen as almost subhuman and some of the headlines I won’t even repeat because that’s just horrible. I thought it’s really interesting that when we look back at the Huguenots who were immigrants from France to England we have a lot of respect for those people we see them as craftsmen, artisans and when we look at sort of the the weaving tradition in different parts of the world which has come about through migration again we have a lot of respect for the skills of those people. So I wanted to write about those things but also contemporary projects where people are using their skills often leaving the country that they were born in with nothing but their skills and using weaving skills to make a living, to integrate into new communities, to make connections. And so I had honest pure good intentions, let’s just say. So I did what journalists usually do when they need to find out about stuff which is think who do I know who can I ask, tapped up everybody I knew most of whom were white and British and they put me in touch with the people they knew and eventually I was talking to NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organisations) in Afghanistan, I was talking to NGO’s in Nepal, I was talking to all these amazing people about the amazing work they’re doing in this area. I wrote the chapter and I sent it to one of the weavers in the book who I haven’t ever met but we’d struck up a bit of a relationship over Skype and on Instagram and I sent it to her because she’s a first generation Chinese American. I wanted her viewpoint on it. I thank my lucky stars every day that she was brutally honest in her feedback and she said “Katie I know what you’re trying to do here but this comes across as really colonial and patronising. You only quoted White European men” I just went “oh shit” I hadn’t quoted a single Afghanistani or Nepalese female weaver of course because I don’t know those people. And that’s what I mean about always checking your perspective and checking your privilege. And so I then managed to just find some of those women to speak to an make sure their voice was represented in that chapter and that chapter is still far from perfect but it’s a huge amount better because of Lauren’s perspective and so when I talk about telling stories that matter, you’ve got to be really careful not just to tell a story that matters but be careful about the way that you tell it and the voices that you give privilege to and the voices you give platform to. And the final part of that statement is I believe in making a difference. I think all of this stuff can make a difference and can make people’s lives better.

[00:22:23] So those are quite linked in that I believe in the power of making that kind of first statement and that’s why it’s first and then telling stories that matter and then that can make a difference.

[00:22:47] Yeah. Those are my work in progress North star.

[00:22:52] Yeah I like it. Actually I had a question which is to dig a little bit deeper than some of the things so probably we even talk about. Aside from all the things we’re just speaking about but you touched a little bit I suppose on privilege and I often wonder. This is an open question. I wonder, me in my kind of business role. We speak to designers all the time and it’s such a struggle to get anywhere. It’s why we launched our sister company which isn’t currently live so I’m not going to talk about it but I have kind of a passion to help people to grow as well. But I also see how difficult it actually is. Unless of course you are kind of a white male middle class who can survive on the support of family and even maybe some investment. It seems to be really difficult to actually get anywhere and I don’t want to make too much for statement here so it’s more of a question is ‘Have you seen or do you believe similar things? Is there like hope that you could share?’

[00:24:12] I think yeah and the same is true in design writing. I think, sure this stuff is much easier if you’re privileged. Of course it is. You know if your family can invest in your company and if you can work in a studio in your parents garden why you got set up and if you can live at home and you live in the southeast then you’ve got the confidence of a private school education of course this stuff is easier, but I think there are so many opportunities now which didn’t exist 20 years ago. You know we have Kickstarter. I couldn’t have launched Fiera without some money. I don’t have and didn’t want investment actually. I would much prefer the democratic idea of saying to people ‘do you want this magazine or not, and if you do put your money where your mouth is not make it. If you don’t fine’. Yeah I think it’s a wonderful market testing tool as well as…

[00:25:13] I guess a reality check as well isn’t it. It’s like yeah this idea. Does anyone else think it’s good.

[00:25:19] Exactly. I mean I was quite naive and I think a lot of people have the money in the background somewhere I went to a Kickstarter campaign, I didn’t it was what absolutely genuine, if that hadn’t worked that magazine wasn’t happening and there’s things like Etsy. I think a lot of the reason behind the designer maker movement is that big companies and big manufacturers aren’t taking the risk of investing in young designers anymore so they’re having to go it alone. I think you know the power things like Etsy / Kickstarter / Instagram all of these things now enables someone screen printing tea towels on their dining room can now be on the same platform as John Lewis. I think that’s incredible. I mean it’s so exciting. There has never been lower barriers to entry into getting your stuff out there so no I don’t think designers do need investment. I think if you’ve got a can do attitude and you’re willing to work bloody hard. I think this whole thing about you know do a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life is absolute nonsense. Do a job you love your work harder than ever but do you ever know you can forget about weekends for the first couple of years but it will be yours. I think there’s such a huge sense of achievement in that and I think I think there’s a huge amount of hope. But you’ve just got to be really really determined, really hardworking and you’ve got to be smart. You’ve got to think of clever ways around things rather than just throwing money at something. I was talking to a young designer maker recently who was asking me if she should invest in a stand at the London Design Festival. The amount of money she was going to have to pay for that was making her very scared and we were talking and I said ‘Well who do you who do you know in London who has got space?’ And it turns out she knew a furniture maker who had a showroom in Islington. So I was like ‘Why don’t you do a collaboration with them? Why don’t you suggest you put together a talks programme and you know an exhibition? And all of a sudden you got free space in London there’s a gang of you doing it together so you’ve got that kind of multiplication power of reach.’ And I think it’s I think that’s the sort of thing you’ve got to do when you don’t come from privilege. But I also think those of us who have platforms and in positions of power have to tell stories that matter and make sure that we’re giving voice to those people who are who are trying to keep their heads above water a little bit you know finding that struggle a little bit harder I think we have a responsibility to keep an eye out for that stuff.

[00:27:49] There’s something you touched on a bit there. There Is something I’ve always noticed when I talk to you is you’re very good at staying on message about something. I don’t know whether you know this. I know it’s slightly deliberate but it’s also just inherently in what you do is that you’ve sat down and you’ve thought about ‘this is what I want to stand for’. And then you you manage to say it over and over again which is essentially the job of an advertising or PR agency. So for instance you kind of keep repeating kind of belief and about telling stories that matter over and over again. Is that partly for yourself to kind of keep coming back to, do you use these things to kind of like bring yourself back to something or is there like just that never let go of that advertiser in you? I mean in a nice way.

[00:28:45] That’s interesting because I have realised I did that. I think I probably stay on message because the message is true. If you ask me a question that’s gonna be the answer. I think obviously I spent 12 years working in brand strategy so I am steeped in sort of how to build the brand. And it’s funny because I’ve been away from that industry thinking I would never use those skills again and I was starting from scratch and actually being able to build a brand is hugely important every day for a living. And I have a colleague who’s always telling me I’m very good at promoting myself and I always hear that as you’re a terrible writer. It’s this idea that if you’re good at promoting yourself that’s the reason for your success rather than actually you’re good at what you do.

[00:29:34] I always have a thing where I always talk about designers in that way where you can be a great designer and a terrible communicator and you can do well. You can be a great communicator and a terrible designer and do well. And if you put the two together then those are the superstars, the one’s who can communicate and they’re great designers.

[00:29:52] But I think it’s interesting because I think Sebastian Cox is someone who’s very good at articulating what he does and what he believes in. But I believe that’s because he’s absolutely genuine. I think if you cut him in half it would be written through him like a stick of rock. I think there is a success that comes from that authenticity and that purpose and mission and if everything you do is lined up behind that then I think people can believe in it and buy into it. I think it only really works when it’s genuine.

[00:30:27] What made me think it is because we’ve done workshops together. I think probably the most memorable stuff that I’m thinking about here is that we used to teach those social media courses. And it was you actually that. There’s one statement which is the Brené Brown “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart”. That’s the one.

[00:31:08] I first heard that many many years ago I’ve watched that TED Talk, the TED talk is called The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown and I would recommend everyone watch it the second… Wait so we stop talking talking first and then go on with a TED talk. I almost had that quote tattooed down my arm. It’s so important to me and I think that TED talk genuinely changed my life actually because it was about it was about saying that ‘tell a story of who you are with your whole heart’. So everything you do everything you say should come back to the core of who you are and the reason I talk about that in the context of social media and building a brand through social media is a lot of what she talks about is vulnerability. So you haven’t got to project this perfect image of yourself because actually people connect with other people through their flaws and through their vulnerabilities rather than through their perfectness. I think social media has gotten a lot more slick and polished than it used to be a social media is a place in which you can be slightly more vulnerable.

[00:32:18] I think the difference there I always find is you can be vulnerable and personal but you don’t have to be amateur. And people see that being vulnerable and personal as being amateur, so for instance on social media whenever one starts to do this ‘Oh I need to be more professional about this’. They suddenly get very slick and they lose that vulnerability.

[00:32:42] Yeah but I also think there’s a lot of fake vulnerability and fake authenticity on Instagram. There’s these sort of beautifully styled messy pictures of ‘oh my kitchen’s a mess’. It’s just like ‘no you’ve not you’ve spent hours styling that’.

[00:32:56] You cracked that egg on that surface there really perfectly.

[00:33:02] Exactly right. And I think I. Yeah I’m perhaps getting a bit cynical in my old age. I struggle with some of that stuff a little bit.

[00:33:11] I’m going to link this right back almost begin in. So we’re talking about writing design so that’s partly why I wanted to talk about this communicating because you’re talking about telling stories that matter and how you communicate. Checking your privilege. I almost want to wrap it up into a do you think that way then your advertising career and the blogging and the magazine all of these things make you the writer that you are?

[00:33:46] Yeah. I mean Steve Jobs said that you can only connect the dots looking backwards. Right. I think everything I’ve been through makes me the person I am. Writing is my craft and I’ve definitely done my ten thousand hours. You know I was at dezeen for a year and a half writing seven stories a day. I’m kind of glad that confessions of a design geek isn’t in existence anymore because I would my to be terrible at the beginning of this journey but I’ve definitely put in my ten thousand hours and I’m a much better writer than I used to be in terms of the craft of writing as well as the things that we’ve been talking about in terms of what I believe in. I think everything you do brings you to where you are in one way or another. So no I don’t regret any of that. I’m very grateful for all the experiences I’ve had. I as I said when I walked away from advertising I thought ‘gosh you know that was twelve years spent in the wrong direction and starting from scratch’. And actually now I’m I’m bringing the two careers back together and working with brands like Bethan Gray and Giles Miller and Universal Design Studio helping those brands to tell their stories. So yeah it all comes good in the end nothing is wasted.

[00:35:10] Then I suppose that’s quite a nice one, I’m looking at wrapping up more because of I’m aware of the time, it’s this one piece of advice kind of question that everyone always asked, more from the point of view of writing or communicating and telling stories is what would be that piece of advice you would give a designer then who is now trying to figure out who they are.

[00:35:40] So you know I used to ask this question to everybody I ever interviewed. I have I have hundreds of responses to this answer from everybody from kind of superstar designers like Philippe Starck right down to someone who has just graduated and is exhibiting at New Designers and I think the best advice any of those people gave me was Oki Sato, creative director of Nendo, told me to “do it the hard way”. I thought why would you do it the hard way. He said if you do the easy way you’ll get it done you’ll get it done quickly and you’ll get it done well, fine. If you do it the hard way you’ll fail which means you’ll learn you’ll have to ask for help which means you’ll learn and you’ll meet and connect with people and you’ll grow and become better at what you do. And he’s absolutely right. And the example I gave of that chapter in the weaving book is it is a perfect example that was so hard. It was horrible. It was humiliating. It was all happening right really near the print deadline. So there were a lot of very long hours and a lot of kind of panicked phone calls and emails to make sure I got the voices of these women in this book. But my God am I glad I went through that process. A) the chapter in the book is a damn sight less than it would have been without Lauren. B) I learnt a huge amount from that and I actually saw a lovely little quote on Instagram which sums up what I learned which is “nothing about us without us” that absolutely sums up a huge lesson I learned in writing that chapter.

[00:37:11] So yeah I think Oki Sato’s “do it the hard way”.

[00:37:16] I mean it’s not just about getting into the end. It is the whole thing that we’re doing is part of what you doing so learning. I don’t know whether you found this but when I went freelance, one of the things that struck me was I’ve got nobody to learn from anymore and I need to somehow keep doing this. And you’ve got to find those opportunities or those people that you can learn from because you’re not having it every day sitting in an office having somebody feed into you.

[00:37:44] So yeah I’m a sucker. I have four mentors, I work with an editor who I hire and pay myself because he makes me better at what I do. I went to a talk during the London Design Festival called Craft 2.0 that was chaired by Ben Spriggs, the editor of Elle Decoration and Sebastian Cox was one of the panelists and they both said to me ‘what the hell are you doing here? You know this stuff’. I said to Seb… We had lunch afterwards and he said “I don’t understand why you were there Katie, when are you going to get it into your head that you’ve got this stuff already?” I said at that lunch “if I ever become a person who thinks I don’t need to go to talk, I know it all already, then game over”. I think you’ve got to be open to the lessons all around you. And I think you can learn something from every single person that you meet. If you engage with them and listen to them and ask them the right questions.

[00:38:41] Yeah I agree. I’m going to wrap up there. We could keep probably chatting for ages as we frequently do. Something has to make us stop talking. And it’s the 40 minute thing on the screen that’s telling me to stop. Kind of pretend producer that I have sitting in the room. I think I might have to get you back to talk about another one at some point in the future as well. Well we were already starting to discuss about my ‘weaving design’ one. Is there anything… How can people find you? What would you like to plug?

[00:39:24] I think we’ve plugged the book quite a lot haven’t we? My website…

[00:39:25] Have you got a book out or something?

[00:39:28] I don’t know if I mentioned that. My website is katietreggiden.com and my Instagram is @katietreggiden.1. But you’ve got no hope of spelling my surname unless you want to know how to spell it.

[00:39:44] I always have to google it and then it comes up and correct me, I always get it the wrong way around. So they can find you on Instagram as the best place to find you or your website, is that right?

[00:39:55] I would say so.

[00:39:56] And there is a book out now. Weaving: Contemporary Makers on the Loom.

[00:40:07] In good book shops near you.

[00:40:08] Yeah.

[00:40:10] Thank you very much for being my first guest. I’m going to end the the recording now and tune into the next one everyone.


Having worked in design for the past decade, Daniel started ateliertally.com as a discussion of timeless, modernist product design. Trained as a graphic designer, he also has an avid interest in typography. You can follow him on Twitter @ateliertally.

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