I’m up early this morning. I’m not a morning person, but if I’m up at 6 a.m. I have enough time to prep for my morning calls with Eye on Design’s team in Berlin, where senior managing editor Meg Miller and senior editor Maddy Morley are located (executive editor Liz Stinson is based in New York with me). I don’t begrudge the early start time—just the opposite. Over the past several years, these editors have become some of my closest friends, so our meetings feel more like productive breakfast hangs (plus, I can take them in my pajamas).
We talk about everything on our calls, and there’s always a lot. From the stories we’re commissioning for online (we publish daily) and the topics we want to tackle in the next issue of our annual magazine, to our marketing plans for an upcoming launch (we always seem to have something new in the pipeline), to business-y stuff like site analytics, budgets, and partnerships, we’re certainly never bored. We’re a small team within the AIGA universe, but we’re pretty self-sufficient. Together, we make our own editorial agenda and set our own goals. And we never say things like KPI or ROI or CRM or MAU or any other soul-crushing acronystic concoctions. The work is fun, it’s important, and in our little neck of the woods, it seems to be making an impact. When we launched in 2014, we set out to create a platform for younger designers—to feature their work and give a voice to the issues they’re most concerned about—and I think we can rightfully say, mission accomplished. Not that the work is done. Puh-lease, the work is never done.
It’s what makes this moment more sweet than bitter for me. This morning I’m taking my very last dawn call. After nearly six years—during which time I have gone from launching creative projects to managing their business objectives—I’m ready to officially step back as director of Eye on Design, and to hand over the reins to my extremely capable team and the support staff at AIGA.
This may come as a shock to anyone who knows me; Eye on Design was my baby from the start, and it might seem crazy that I would move on to another position elsewhere. After all, it was my sweat labor and all-nighters that birthed it into becoming something worthy of AIGA’s continued membership funding—a fact I have thought about every day since I published our first humble post.
When we were just starting out, I was more than happy to put in that extra work if it meant having the freedom to explore and experiment (and fail) as I gathered experience and support. See, I’d never before worked with an organization that was willing to entrust a young editor and her “wild” new ideas with a little bit of budget and the space to test them out. I was floored. I had no way of knowing that my fledgling Eye on Design blog would grow so rapidly into a platform for proper design journalism; that it would spawn a conference, an award-winning print magazine, a large social media fan base, and an entire global community.
If I take credit for the original concept, my team can rightfully take credit for the rest. They’ve pushed Eye on Design to be smarter, more incisive, and to expect more from its readers. If it wasn’t for each of them, we might still be just a simple blog with a cute Instagram. Permit me a moment of thanks and praise:
- Liz Stinson is the Thelma to my Louise, the Jane to my Elizabeth Bennet, the Roger Murtaugh to my Martin Riggs—the steady, stable, insightful co-pilot keeping me from veering wildly off course. She’s not only one of the most gifted writers, researchers, and editors I’ve ever met, but since she came to us from Wired, she’s become the business partner I didn’t know I needed, and whose judgment I’ve come to rely on and trust unconditionally. The team is in extremely good hands with her at the helm.
- Meg Miller leveled-up our game in a major way; with her high standards, broad interests, fair-minded, thoughtful editorial eye, and solid experience as a writer at her previous job at Fast Company, Meg demanded a level of professionalism we were obliged to live up to. She came in guns blazing, ready to lead our first foray into print publishing, learning along the way. She’s one of the only writers I know who can take the vaguest notion of an idea and turn it into a compelling story; and can think holistically about our print projects while never losing sight of the tiniest details.
- Madeleine Morley, who started as a writer and is now our extraordinary art director and senior editor, has enough design history knowledge to incite envy in someone twice her age. Her journalistic ambition, research acumen, and earnest desire to make the world a better place has spawned projects like our gender representation and salary transparency surveys. She has her ear closer to ground than any design writer I know, and is continually educating me on how to be a more empathetic human being.
- Our former senior editor, Emily Gosling, who pioneered our design + mental health coverage and music writing, brought a cutting sense of humor and cool that is so uniquely Emily, and yet so very Eye on Design. A true gem, she also did a proper bang-up job hosting our conference in 2017 (Emily, did I sound British that time?).
- Our very first editor, James Cartwright, pushed us into more meaningful reporting on design + politics and business, and continues to work with us as a writer. As one of the first people to enthusiastically say “yes!” to joining up with me in the early days when it was just us two, James holds a forever place by the fire of my editor’s hearth.
- And finally, a couple behind-the-scenes star players:
- Leta Sobierajski, who designed our original brand identity and website, and later expanded on it with her partner Wade Jeffree—which included conference installations, inflatables, and human mascots, as well as an updated website. They’ve become close friends as well as trusted allies, and the only designers I know who I can literally throw any challenge at and they’ll come back with something unexpected, energetic, and super smart.
- Tala Safié, who began as our design intern and designed the pilot issue of our magazine, has provided the glue that holds this whole shebang together. She’s got a busy job as an art director at the New York Times, but she still finds the time to work with us on new projects every week.
- Plural, our phenomenal social media team, has stood by us for years and helped us present a fun yet professional face to the world via our social media accounts. It’s rare to meet a single person, let alone an entire team of people who are all highly knowledgeable, talented, and SO freaking nice. When was the last time you wanted to hang out with your social media team outside of work? Guys, please invite me to that dinner we keep talking about.
And then there are my latest collaborators, the talented students at UT Austin’s Department of Design + Creative Technologies, whom I was lucky enough to teach last month as their Designer in Residence. Together, we made a zine—a survival guide for design graduates—that we’ll soon be releasing on Eye on Design’s shop. (The illustration in this article is a modified frame from the comic in the zine by Huệ Minh Cao.)
Okay, back to this morning. The sun has risen, and I’m nearing the end of our call. It’s been business as usual for the first two hours. Then, just before I sign off with something I hope will sum things up in a way that is both wistful and wry, dearest Maddy pipes up. “Perrin,” she says, “I’ve been pretending that this is just another normal call, but it’s not. It’s your last one. I can’t believe it.” We’re on a Skype call, so they can’t see me blink back an oncoming tear. Maddy may just as well have reached through my laptop and given me the hug I clearly needed. I guess I can risk a little more sappiness now—if you’ve read this far, it’s probably because you know us editors personally, or you’re a devoted reader (which, for an editor, means you’re basically kin).
Anyone who has ever left a job—whether they have loved that job or not (and I have loved this job)—has had this moment: when you do all the things you normally do, but you do them during your last week, for the very last time. Even the most mundane ones can tug at you. Sending an email. Running your site’s analytics. For me, it’s our CMS; I have an undeniable soft spot for it. One of the very first things I did when I started Eye on Design was to create our WordPress account. I feel a certain ownership over it, and definitely a perverse affection for it. I know its ins and outs, its clunky bits and weird widgets and how to jiggle the handle when things get wonky. In just a moment I’ll schedule this draft to publish, and I’ll log out for the last time.
Eye on Design has some really exciting new things in store this year (and AIGA has an exceptional new executive director at the helm) so stick around. While I’m hanging up my peachy-pink director’s hat (and jacket, and T-shirt, and zentai suit), I will always and forever remain the founder of Eye on Design. And I couldn’t be prouder.