I will wager a guess that 90% of you reading this post will have visited/follow/or developed a good and proper attachment to Melbourne based blog; The Design Files. 5 years ago, just one month after I waded tentatively into the the design blogging world, I received an email from Lucy Feagins who was doing just the same. Over the years I have watched her take her own lead on developing a corner of the internet that really had no precedent to follow. Not only did she set some hard and fast rules for herself from the get go, by taking her project seriously it didn’t take long for her to gain the respect of her local creative industry and then that of design blog readers worldwide. Unlike the examples for design bloggers down under today – in 2008 there were virtually no websites focused exclusively on Australasian content and certainly none dedicated to producing their own. So how did she find the wheels and inspiration to get to where she is today?
After finishing her studies in Creative Arts in 2002, Lucy decided to indulge her interest in interior design by seeking work as a set dresser for film and television. Amongst others she worked on local show Thank God You’re Here and movies Charlottes Web and Any Questions for Ben. Like all of you reading this now, she had stumbled across the hidden world of design blogs and grown a healthy addiction topped by Design Sponge (the godmother of all design blogs!) and local blog; Looby Lu. But she also realised she had something to share herself and in early 2008 she fired up a free blog template and began to share exclusively Australian content under the name; The Design Files.
Blogging was still considered a bit of an underground hobby (think emo teenagers sharing their bad break-ups) but by featuring creative people and brands with strong, established networks the positive concept of The Design Files and what Lucy was up to began to travel throughout the Melbourne creative community. Mainstream local press also pricked their ears and a couple of features helped expose her to swathe of potential readers who previously would have had no bloody idea what a design blog even was!
It was the end of 2010 that signaled a pivotal time for TDF. Lucy had stuck to her religious daily posting for two years despite holding down the erratic and often high pressure life of a freelancer. Advertising bought in some pocket money but by no means enough to live on – however it had become obvious to her that the balance she was attempting to keep between blog and contract work was unsustainable. SO. A bullet was bitten!
She plotted a 3 month trial period where she would not pursue any set dressing work and instead would be totally and utterly focused on her site. 3 months was picked as that is what her savings would allow!
She never looked back.
2011 signaled yet another shift in gear for Lucy’s business. As always, she had her sights set high on the content that she offered, and this meant that her own point and shoot photography skills just weren’t going to take her to the magazine quality features that she strived for. She struck up a partnership with Tasmanian photographer Sean Fennessy and now also works with Brooke Holm and Eve Wilson. The high standard and often exclusive aspect of her content continued to woo a wider audience and also, caught the attention of corporate level advertisers. A day in the life of The Design Files and its new reality of a legit media channel meant that Lucy was getting stretched – not only across her daily hunt and production of material but also the management of brand partnerships and projects! Lucy began outsourcing some tasks, first with the assistance of Jenny Butler, who helped out one day a week, working remotely, from her own home. However by 2012 it was clear a more regular, in-house solution was needed – enter Lisa Marie Corso.
While Lucy was often emailed with offers of help/work experience by eager young go-getters, they were always (with the exception of Jenny) politely declined as the process of working out how to allocate work and responsibility was simply too massive of a question for her to contemplate. Unlike a magazine with contributors and publishers – The Design Files WAS Lucy Feagins. This beast was her baby and how could anyone else possibly be able to step in and know how to respond to its needs…particulary when they were all in Lucy’s head!
But there was no denying something had to give, and it was best that it wasn’t going to be her sanity. Lisa Marie Corso had been softly but firmly persisting with her contact and as she had also interned with some of Lucy’s friends, she rightfully landed at the top of the pile to call. Still unable to break it down, a frazzled Lucy simply rang and said “Please just come in…” and they worked it out from there. The 1 day a week is now 4-5 days and it was clear to me that these two have a streamlined system and easy, collaborative relationship.
The Design Files reached new heights when it was allowed its own studio space! Seems Lucy has cultivated some other great relationships including that with her partner and talented cabinet maker; Gordon Johnson. With their little Brunswick house still under renovation, he designed and built a (bloody awesome) light filled studio in the back yard. It houses all things TDF including a large monthly/yearly planner to keep the team on track and a very impressive designer rubbish bin collection. It’s sunny, light, private and in my opinion, exactly the digs that The Design Files deserve after some serious years of kitchen table domination.
One of the most inspiring aspects of Lucy is that she isn’t willing to slow and sink into the groove of her daily magazine. TDF represents much more than this which has led her to push further and take her project offline, transforming into the massively successful Open House events which are entering their third year. In an online world where design blogs are now as common as brown dogs, once again she has created something that has no precedent.
This is by no means the “story” of The Design Files, simply an update. I think you’ll all agree that Lucy has much more up her sleeve and will continue to attack every idea with the incredible high standards and quiet confidence that she is known for. I know that I’ll continue to watch avidly!
All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM LUCY:
Way too much to share! But for me the most poignant point is:
It IS in fact possible to make a design blog a relevant media channel and a self supporting business – most importantly while retaining integrity and your own personal vision.
Thanks for the shining example Lucy!!