Eye on Design is a daily editorial platform that explores the best new work by the most exciting emerging designers around the world. Editorial Director Perrin Drumm talks about her creative genes, how family fun weekends included letterpress printing (so cool) and visiting construction sites (so random), plus her new priority to find a better term for ‘media platform’.
What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened? After double majoring in creative writing and studio art as an undergrad, and interning at The Paris Review, I thought I’d ride the literary editor wave in NYC. Then the Great Almighty Recession demolished the economy and the publishing industry right along with it; I would interview with someone at Hearst or Simon & Schuster only to hear just days later that they themselves had been let go, or that their entire department had been wiped. So I waitressed and bartended and wrote and edited freelance for art and design mags and blogs. My mom is a graphic designer and my grandfather is an architect, so I grew up in a household where people like Adrian Frutiger and the Eames had celebrity status. We would letterpress print for fun on the weekends, or visit construction sites where my grandfather shared his architectural drawings and explained how he’d laid a house out. I also played baseball and made mud balls and all that good clean fun American kid stuff, but design played a big role in my upbringing.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do. I’m the editorial director of AIGA, the professional association for design, where I run the AIGA Eye on Design blog, our daily editorial platform that explores the best new work by the most exciting emerging designers around the world. Since I launched the site two years ago, it’s grown to include two fantastic editors, James Cartwright and Emily Gosling, staff writer Madeleine Morley, and a team of wonderfully talented freelance writers I’m lucky to work with.
What does a typical working day include for you right now? James and Emily are located in London, so even when I start my day at 6 a.m. they’re already four hours ahead and I’m playing catch up. I like to use the quiet morning hours to plow through work from home: editing stories and working on pitches with writers, which is the best part of my job. Then I make sure our social media is prepped (@aigaeyeondesign on Instagram and @aigaeyeondesign on Twitter) and I head into the office, where I’ll do a Skype video meeting with my team. I can’t wait till they’re proper visa-holding New Yorkers and we can work together in person. This summer I spent a week with them IRL in London and it was the most fun I’ve had working maybe ever. Till then it’s a nasty little cocktail of Skype, Slack, and email.
After that I’ll get involved in one of the many projects we’ve got going on, like the new video series we’re launching, site design updates (version 2.0 coming soon!), or the less sexy business-y things that come with the job, some of which I truly enjoy—I could look at analytics and think about content strategy all day. And then there are the million other things beyond Eye on Design going on at AIGA, from the annual AIGA Design Conference, or our Medalist award, or this super awesome project we’re doing with Google right now, to say nothing of programs and initiatives like Women Lead, Diversity & Inclusion, Design for Good, Professional Development, etc. The list is long. AIGA is a massive organization, with 26,000 members across 71 chapters in the U.S., and there’s not any part of design we don’t want to impact.
What are your three must-read design books/blogs/podcasts and why? Beyond Eye on Design my media diet is an intentionally varied mix that spans high to low; I want to have a good sense of now just what’s being published but how. It not only gives me a lay of the land, but invariably gives me ideas for things I might want to do (or vow never to do, as the case may be). I have a shite commute, so I listen to loads of podcasts: Longform, which is all about writing and editing longform journalism; The Stack, a magazine industry podcast put out by Monocle that my husband has dubbed simply “the boring” podcast. I was addicted to Starlee Kine’s Mystery Show podcast before it was canned, and of course Design Matters with Debbie Millman goes without saying, doesn’t it?
What do you look for in a great portfolio? I look for a strong point of view. That doesn’t mean a repeated gimmick or a set style applied to every project—no way! That’s boring. But when I look at a person’s work as a whole, does it feel cohesive? Does it feel like it’s made by the same hand? That said, I think it’s okay for young designers to show lots of variety in their work. That’s all part of finding out what you like, what you’re good at, and what excites you. It’s rare to see a very young designer with an established-looking portfolio, and I don’t necessarily think it’s something to strive for. Are you experimenting? Are you trying different ways of working, different materials, even if the final results are less than what you’d hoped for? That constant itch-scratching is the thing I look for.
What’s in the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months? It’s full steam ahead on growing Eye on Design as a real-deal media platform. Ew, did I just use ‘media platform’ in a sentence? Sorry. My new priority is to find a better term for that. In the meantime, though, I’ll be working hard to bring readers more longform design stories, a new video series that is coming together effing beautifully, and a freshly updated (and wayyyyy amazing looking) site that bridges the gap between AIGA the organization and our Eye on Design audience.
Personally, I’m working on my own non-design writing projects and planning my next trip to Greece. Ever since I went two years ago I vowed I’d be back.