Inhabitat is a weblog devoted to the future of design, tracking the innovations in technology, practices and materials that are pushing architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future. PSFK spoke with NYC designer, Jill Fehrenbacher to see why she does what she does and what makes her eco-design blog unique.
2. To what extent is the publishing you do your business or your shop-front? How has that changed over the last year?
Well, to be honest, I am first and foremost a designer, and I started blogging/publishing only as a hobby to augment my design career. I figured it would be a great way to research, make connections and learn more about the green architecture and design industry. Only now Inhabitat has totally taken on a life of its own and sucked up almost all of my time – so I have put the design career on hold for a little while so I can tend to the blog. Now I find I am getting freelance writing requests than freelance design work and that is just plain weird for me. I hope to get back to the business of designing graphics, products and spaces soon – I never intended to become a career journalist. I guess to answer your question – the blog occupies a very weird space in between business and hobby for me – and yet it still manages to consume my entire waking life!
3. Beyond any financial reward, what do you get out of it all? What drives you?
Ha ha. Well, for me right now there is no financial reward – so I blog for other reasons: to evangelize, to preach the cause of green design, to meet people and make connections in my industry, to get contacts for freelance work….and mostly just so I can spend my time concentrating on what I am passionate about in life.
4. Are you conscious of YOU the brand as much as your site/magazine? Do you leverage the fact?
Well, I am conscious of branding in general, but I have tried to make the Inhabitat brand its own unique thing with a life of its own – since it is not just me, but is a group publication with a diversity of opinions and voices. I want Inhabitat to be able to carry on and thrive long after I stop writing for it everyday… because I want to be able to leave some day and not have the whole thing fall apart. (I don’t think I can blog forever!) Should I be more conscious of brand "me"? Probably, considering I started the blog for my own personal career reasons in the first place… But if I did this, then it would be less of a conversation and more of a monologue. I think my blog’s brand has already outgrown me.
5. How do you view the other independent publishers that cover the same content areas as you?
We’ve been pretty careful to try to carve out a unique niche for ourselves. There are many bigger blogs that cover some of the same subject matter as us but with a different approach. We like all of these blogs and try to read most of them everyday, because we can exchange ideas with them, and learn from them. Most of the bigger blogs that have overlapping content have been around for quite awhile and deserve respect for being at the vanguard of the design blogging movement. I firmly subscribe to the "rising tide raises all boats" theory, and I think more and more blogs popping up about the same subject matter just highlights the growing public interest. I do think a little bit of friendly competition just makes us all better.
6. How is mainstream media covering your content areas? Is there a noticeable reaction to what you and your peers are doing?
This is a really interesting question, because I honestly feel that mainstream media has jumped all over "green design" in the past year in a way I have never seen before, or even anticipated. In fact, one of the reasons I started Inhabitat in the first place was because I thought there wasn’t enough coverage of sustainable design in the mainstream press – especially within the glut of architecture and design magazines. Magazines like Dwell and Metropolis were really the only print mags even talking about sustainable design, but neither of them were devoted exclusively to it. In the last 6 months green design has been everywhere you turn: Newsweek, Wired, Vanity Fair, Elle, Businessweek…. I can’t say if blogs like Inhabitat have anything to do with that or if its just the zeitgeist and the direction our culture is headed in – but I do think blogs in general are heavily influencing mainstream media right now. If nothing else – just for how quickly we can publish things and get the news out there. I think a lot of print magazines take their cues from us (and by us I mean bloggers in general). Every time I meet a journalist from a major publication and go to introduce myself, I usually get them telling me they already read Inhabitat. Its fabulous to see sustainable design finally getting the attention it deserves and I hope this trend keeps on keeping on…
7. How is your world going to change over the next 12 months?
I have no idea! If I knew I would go into fortune-telling and quit the blog business.