We’ve been big fans of Katie Treggiden’s blog, Confessions of a Design Geek, for some time; her refreshing, everyman take on design and designers demystifies much of the awkwardness that often surrounds design writing, and her first book is a joy to read. Entitled “Interviews“, it kinda does what it says on the tin, collating some of the best interviews that have appeared on Confessions of a Design Geek over the last year or so, along with some new material to boot. We thought it’d be fun, and a challenge for us, to turn the tables and try our hand at interviewing the expert; here goes…
We’re going to cheat and start off with one of yours… what’s the most important thing to know about you?
It’s a good one, isn’t it?! And trickier to answer than it is to ask, I’m realising! I guess the most important thing to know about me is that I’m obsessed with design. I think everybody has something that has the ability to consume them. The thing that can make you lose track of time and forget to eat, the thing that quickens your heartbeat and takes your breath away. Not everybody is lucky enough to find their thing, let alone find a way to explore it like I have. I don’t have the patience to be a designer – I’m not a craftsman, and I think you have to be to be a good designer. But I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was five years old, so I feel very lucky to have found my ‘something’ to write about.
I think everybody has something that has the ability to consume them. The thing that can make you lose track of time and forget to eat, the thing that quickens your heartbeat and takes your breath away.
So, you’re a self confessed design geek, where did this passion for design come from, and what’s your background?
I’ve always had a creative streak, but I was also quite academic at school, so I was encouraged to pursue that route, go to University and get a ‘proper job.’ The problem is creativity doesn’t quite work like that. It won’t be ignored, so as I’ve got older and had some success in my proper job, that side of me has come to the surface again. I think buying my first house, subscribing to Elle Decoration, and the Modernism exhibition at the V&A all conspired to really kick-off my interest in design specifically. They say “If you’re not liberal when you’re young, you have no heart. If you’re not conservative when you’re older, you have no brain,” I think the same is true of art and design. I loved art when I was younger, especially modern, abstract art and I still do. But my real passion is design now. I get really excited about creative expressions that do something, that make people’s lives better in a practical as well as aesthetic way.
So, tell us about your book – how, and why did it happen?
I’ve been interviewing designers for my blog, confessions of a design geek, since I started writing it in April 2010. I sometimes guest blog for the London Design Festival and I was chatting to William Shaw one day about an interview I was doing for them with Javier Mariscal. William said “You do know you’ve got a book on your hands, don’t you?” I stared at him blankly for a second, and said “Have I?” He managed to convince me that the collection of interviews I’d already done and the ones I had in the pipeline would be something that people might want to read. This was just a few months before the London Design Festival, so I knew I would have to move quickly to get something out in time for that. Luckily for me, my step-sister is a very talented writer and editor and her boyfriend is an equally talented book designer, so I called them up for some advice and they ended up helping me make it happen, with Clare giving me loads of help on the words front, and Zander designing the book and blog and handling the print process through his design agency, Venn Creative. The next time I spoke to William, I was asking him to write the foreword!
“You do know you’ve got a book on your hands, don’t you?” I stared at him blankly for a second, and said “Have I?”
What drew you to interviews, and how did you start speaking to designers?
Not being a designer, I am fascinated by what happens behind the scenes in design and what goes on in designers’ minds, so interviewing designers to ask them seemed like a natural thing to do. I started off by getting in touch with people I respected by email. In March I went to a talk with Wim Crouwel at the Design Museum, and afterwards, my husband told me I had to go and ask him for an interview. Wim Crouwel is a design God, so there was no way I was going to march up to him and ask him for an interview for my little blog! My husband managed to persuade me that it would be worth it just to get one of my business cards into his hands. So, shaking like a leaf, I asked him for an interview and to my shock, he agreed! Following that interview, people have started getting in touch with me with offers of interviews, which is amazing. My interviews with John Makepeace and Anthony Burrill both came about because their PR people approached me.
You have a wonderful knack for bringing out the human qualities in designers, is this something you set out to do purposely and if so, did you find it hard to sometimes cut through the stereotypical design-waffle?
Thank you, but to be honest I think my approach is completely borne of ignorance! I don’t have a design background, so I guess I’m just a bit naive. I’m not really aware of the stereotypical design-waffle – I just ask questions I want to know the answers to, working on the assumption that the other people might be interested too! To a certain extent I do try to ask questions other people might not ask, but that’s more so I don’t bore the pants off the people I’m interviewing!
I love finding out what people’s favourite colours are – especially when they answer with a Pantone reference, that’s delightfully geeky!
What are some of the most surprising things you’ve found out about your subjects?
I love finding out what people’s favourite colours are – especially when they answer with a Pantone reference, that’s delightfully geeky! I have been surprised (and saddened) to discover how many of the designers I love aren’t able to make a full time living out of design yet, and how much of their time is taken up with admin! But I love the minutiae; that Javier Mariscal can be inspired by a tomato, that Anthony Burrill prefers crunchy peanut butter to smooth, that Joanna Boyle drinks too much tea…
Have you ever had any interview ‘fails’ that may or may not have made the final cut?
No – I’ve never had an interview I didn’t want to publish on the blog. They didn’t all make it into the book, just because I had to be selective and pick interviews that worked together as a set. But I interview people whose work I respect and admire and I’ve never been disappointed with gaining further insight into how they think, how they work and what inspires them.
I interview people whose work I respect and admire and I’ve never been disappointed with gaining further insight into how they think…
The book’s cover carries the ominous sub-title “Volume 1”, so what’s next?
I’d love to publish something every year for London Design Festival. I adore my blog, but there’s something very romantic about paper. This one was Interviews, so I’d like to explore the other areas that I cover on my blog; ‘creative spaces’, ‘out and about’, and ‘here’s one I made earlier’ to see if any of that content will translate. I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve, but I think I need to give my designer and my husband time to recover from this one before I start talking about doing it all again!
Confessions of a Design Geek; Interviews is available in a limited edition of 1,000 copies from Confessions of a Design Geek, and is also available from the Design Museum Shop, the V&A book shop, the V&A Reading Rooms, Scene x designjunction, Design Diversion, Theo, Dezeen Space, Lifestyle Bazaar, Outline Editions and Today’s Specials. 50p from every book sold will be donated to Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres. Registered charity number SC024414.