Art & Design


Lucy Feagins – The Design Files

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Blogs have the ability to weave a narrative around our daily lives. It seems no matter the subject, there is a blog about it. We’ve all got blogs or websites we check into daily, it’s like touching base with a friend who always has something interesting to discuss. The Design Files is one such chum, providing a creative narrative with rich visuals.

The Design Files is written by Melbourne set dresser and stylist Lucy Feagins. From its beginning in early 2008 the blog has achieved a huge following and has raised the profile of local creative types and their achievements, as well as being named by The Times (UK) in 2009 as one of the world’s Top 50 design blogs.

Lucy believes that blogging has opened up a lot of opportunities for creatives and independent small businesses. This is demonstrated in the meaningful development of the TDF brand both online and offline, with the TDF Open House in December last year highlighting how Lucy is uniquely adding an Australian voice to the mix of international design blogs.

Milk Bar recently had a chat with Lucy to find out more…

MILK BAR: The Design Files looks like a big job. How do you juggle it all and what does your typical day entail?

Lucy Feagins: Oh I’m glad I’m giving the impression of managing and being ‘under control’!! Secretly behind the scenes it’s all a bit mad.

OK my typical day. I wake up around 7.30am if I have not had an insane late night at the computer screen, and this is very bad but I turn on my computer and check the blog and email before I even have a shower. Then shower, breakfast, and back to the dining table where I work most of the day chasing content, editing images, generating posts, searching for Australian homes, tee-ing up interstate travel, paying people who I work with like photographers etc.

On a shoot day I will head off and shoot a home somewhere around town, often with local photographer Sean Fennessy. But all day I am kind of addicted to the internet, checking email, Twitter, Instagram from my phone and organising other shoots and stories whilst I work.

In the evenings I’m usually back at my desk, often blogging til around midnight, with a little break for dinner. I can’t seem to figure out how to stop work before bedtime! It’s really bad.

MB: How did you start blogging?
LF: I started TDF in early 2008. At that time I was an avid reader of lots of excellent international design blogs (mainly US-based such as Design*Sponge, Apartment Therapy, Oh Joy) but it was frustrating that so many of the designers and homes they featured were overseas, and products featured were not available here. I guess I felt there wasn’t really an Australian voice in the mix.

MB: What do you think is the importance of a blog?

LF: I think blogs have filled a gap between proper journalism and independent publishing. Blogs haven’t replaced journalism but have opened up many opportunities for small business and independent creatives to promote themselves and reach new clients, and grow their businesses exponentially through exposure in a really open, democratic way.

We no longer look to just a few big name magazines to validate certain brands/labels. Blogs have created some amazing opportunities for emerging labels, particularly in design and fashion.

MB: Do you have a Pinterest account and do you plan to expand into these visual mediums?

LF: YES I am officially obsessed with Pinterest!

I am on Instagram too (@thedesignfiles) but less taken with the platform. I love beautiful images, which is what Pinterest is all about. Instagram, on the other hand, is like a celebration of fuzzy blurry not-very-attractive happy snaps. But I’m persevering!

MB: What has been the highlight of TDF so far?

LF: Staging The Design Files Open House last December – a unique pop-up concept where we basically turned a beautiful residential home into a temporary retail space.  The house was styled as if it were a normal home, but everything was for sale (i.e. furniture, books, artwork, rugs, you name it!)

This project was the first time I really took TDF into the ‘real world’. As a blogger it’s so easy to get stuck behind your computer screen, the Open House project was an incredible eye opener – to actually see and interact with TDF readers in the real world was a massive buzz!

MB: What is your blogging philosophy/approach? Do you have a content strategy?

LF: I don’t really have a strategy but I have a few rules.

1) I post every weekday, no exceptions!

2) I post original content as much as possible – I don’t like to recycle what I see elsewhere on the web, or rely on press releases which I know will be on every other blog.

3) I stick to regular ‘columns’ which readers come to expect regularly – ie Australian Homes every Wednesday and interviews with creative people every Friday

4) I only post what I love! All content is editorial – no content is paid for.

MB: How did you establish your blogging ‘voice’ and establish the focus of TDF?

LF: Oh that is such a hard question, it really has formed over time. When I first started writing TDF in early 2008 is was very unstructured – there were no regular columns and I was really still finding my ‘voice’. Over four years the voice has organically developed and changed, as has the focus of the site. It has felt like quite a natural development and the tone now has a confidence I guess which was lacking in the beginning. I guess more than anything this has come from reader feedback and just having a sense of what works best.

MB: How do you source the designers and creative types that appear on TDF?
LF: Lots of research, web surfing, Twitter and Pinterest send me lots of new ideas. I get a lot of press releases these days, lots of word of mouth recommendations. There is certainly no shortage of options!  If anything there is always way too much than I can possibly include!

MB: How do you think Melbourne’s design scene compares to other cities?
LF: I am a massive fan of Melbourne and I truly believe we really do punch above our weight when it comes to the local design and creative industry. We’re only a small city by international standards but we have a lot going on here. I am constantly amazed by it. There’s a lot more going on here creatively than in Sydney I reckon too (no disrespect to Sydney – I love Sydney also!)

Melbourne churns out particularly excellent talent when it comes to illustration, photography and architecture. And jewelers. We have a lot of excellent jewelers!

MB: What do you think is an important issue in the design industry at the moment?
LF: I guess one major issues is the whole replica vs real design debate. It’s really sad to see classic mid century design by incredible designers like Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson ripped off by dodgy manufacturers, made poorly and sold cheaply. It really undermines the original design and sets a dangerous precedent for design copyright in general.

I feel furniture and industrial design should be treated the same way that fine art and original music is treated in terms of copyright – I don’t think major Australian retailers should be allowed to sell fake replica furniture and make a profit from a design, often referencing the original designer’s name, without legal permission to do so. I love Eames chairs but I am falling out of love with them because of all the dodgy replicas on the market!

MB: What are your top five blogs?

LF: Oh they are always on high rotation… here are a few but there are always more!

Line Shape Colour

Beci Orpin

Oh Joy

What Kate Ate

Kate Spade

MB: What is one question you wish you were asked?

LF: I was recently asked to visit Newcastle and it resulted in a fantastic trip and lots of great original content for the site. I wouldn’t mind being invited to visit a few more regional centres and fun Australian cities to chase down new stories and get a few scoops!

MB: Last year you took TDF ‘offline’ with the pop up store. What’s next?

LF: We have a website re-design in the works, nothing drastic but a nice sleek update – SUPER excited to give the page a bit of a facelift!  Keep an eye out from July 1!

Any maybe more pop-ups, if I can pluck up the energy…

Find out more about The Design Files on the blog or join in the Twitter conversation @thedesignfiles

Follow Liz Banks-Anderson on Twitter @lbanksanderson

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