One year ago I sat at my computer nervously staring at the blue “Publish” button. “This is it,” I thought to myself with furled, nervous eyebrows and a clenched jaw. I pushed the button and published my first post onto Design Affects and immediately slammed my laptop shut. Now 45 posts later, I still feel like that when I hit that button and careen my thoughts into the interwebs, although I’ve graduated to quickly closing the page rather than my laptop lid.
Before I even dreamed up the name Design Affects, I spent a lot of time reading why and how to start blogging. One blogger said that blogging improves your storytelling skills. Numerous bloggers recited how blogging connects you with other like-minded bloggers and readers, creating a network of friends and colleagues you never knew were out there. And blogging becomes a repository for ideas that make you tick. Luckily, I too have seen these all fall into place as a result of starting Design Affects.
But what I didn’t expect was that blogging has taught me most about design. Here are five things that I've learned over the past year.
1. Design is about starting.
From the first Lego house created on the carpet of my parents' family room to a 10-story urban building in San Francisco, I’ve been practicing architecture for a long time now. However, I’ve reserved writing only for the sake of necessity up until a year ago. Crafting in any medium—words, paint, pencil, wood, metal, earth—takes so much time to evolve. The most important part is to start, even if it is a struggle. Every time I’m procrastinating, I think about what MeiMei Fox said in an interview with Sarah Kathleen Peck: “Ass in the chair.”
2. Design is about audience.
Audience engagement is perhaps the most important aspect in blogging. We compete for attention by writing engaging, inspiring, and challenging posts, which our audience determines as success through shares, comments, and return visits. This is just as important in design and architecture—the audience, which is typically the end user, will determine the success of your product, process, or space. Even if it’s an audience of one, start with them first and don’t forget them. Ever.
3. Design is about simplicity.
This one actually comes from architecture school, where we spent many hours collecting precedents, innovative details, construction methods, and materials. From the piles of cool, unique ideas, we were taught to not jam them all into one building. The same holds true for all creative work: separate out your ideas. Don’t put them all into one place. Craft the essence of your story, product, or space around one theme and leave the rest for another time. It will be there, waiting, when the time is right.
4. Design is about a network.
For how harsh and critical people can be, there are also encouraging, supportive networks of people out there too. Through blogging, I’ve found people who empathize with the struggles and challenges and we are able to boost and bolster each other up along the way. Finding a network of supportive creative people will make the process easier, better, and more enlightening.
5. Design is about a lifetime of work.
Lastly, this short clip from Ira Glass on 'The Taste Gap' has stuck with me since I first saw it on Brain Pickings. It sums up the struggle that each of us goes through when creating in a new medium and it reminds me that although this process can feel lonely and difficult, we all go through it.