Posted on 8/31/2011 3:07 PM by Debbie Designer

Hi everyone! I'm so thrilled to be here to share my insights about the design world, and talk about all the new products, projects, and people contributing to this amazing industry!


Just kidding. What do you think this is, an inspiration blog?


In a media landscape oversaturated with positive spins and wannabe design mentors, it's time to get a little straight talk -- and it isn't always pretty.


Think of me as your omnipresent overseer of all things A+D. Or think of me as a washed up pattern designer sitting at home playing gin rummy with her cats. Either way.


Sometimes a product just isn't good. Sometimes a showroom party is dull and uncomfortable. Sometimes a designer goes a little overboard with silk-screened walls and chartreuse. Other times, the product makes you cringe, the party makes you question your ability to go on in life, and you wonder why the designer's aesthetic isn't worthy of a minor jail sentence.


That's when I say, "You know, Buster and Pebbles," (those are my cats), "we gotta stop pretending this is bearable. We can't just cover it up with an advertorial and an iPad giveaway and move on. Someone needs to take a stand."


And in their blank stares I know they're saying, "Debbie, you're right."


-drawing by Samantha Mittler-Eichenberg

So here I am, and here I declare it:


Not all design is good.


Not everyone is interesting.


Not everything you read is worthy of praise.


In case I've lost you, let's kick things off here with a little heart-to-heart about the one, the only Kelly Wearstler.


This woman is a high-flying deco-goddess. Is it the big hair and petite frame? Yes. Is it the wealthy husband? Yes. Is it her publicist, agent, stylist, and manager? Yes, yes, yes and yes.


Is it her design aesthetic? Once upon a time, perhaps it was. But the mass of fawning design students, opportunity-seeking manufacturers, and The Chic have surrounded her, encasing her in a crystalline palace of overstated flattery.


Kelly Wearstler has been reduced to a woman getting photographed staring at rocks and fabric swatches.


Exhibit A:




These pictures all come from her blog, MyVibeMyLife.


Aside from sounding like a Levi's slogan from the year 2000, it is so overtly, unapologetically self-indulgent, it makes you wonder, truly -- who's buying into this? And the answer is: a lot of people.


Ms. Wearstler has had quite the success with MyFaceMyLatte. She's showing up in the New York Times and on CBS News. And her Facebook posts drag perky, sing-songy [waifs] out of the cyber woodwork by the thousands.


Exhibit B:



Can we all admit that this is mildly repulsive at best? It is literally heavy-handed, not to mention sloppy, misshapen, and defensively ugly. In a word, it looks painful.


So what did the Wearstler Herd have to say when she posted it on Facebook?


Exhibit C:



I know what you're thinking: "But how amazing is it to take an iPhone picture of your real vibe and life? How textural and raw and weighted."


That's when you know you're getting pulled into the cult of personality -- even though that personality is as shallow as a Malte barstool.


So how are they able to do it?


I read an article on GigaOM recently about the inevitability of journalists becoming brands, which involves, says Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, them trying to "market themselves like Cheez Doodles." 


If journalists are Cheez Doodles, then designers are Baked Lays at best. We're all just one publicity stunt and online contest away from hawking our products on a little glowing screen in the back of a yellow cab, and--hopefully--landing a slot on Million Dollar Decorators.


Weingarten continues, "branding was designed to cater to an age in which 'the attribute that is most rewarded is screeching ubiquity, not talent.'" And, the article's author, Matthew Ingram, adds, "the tools for publishing and becoming a 'media brand' are available to anyone now thanks to blogs and Twitter and Facebook."


Ah yes, the screeching and ubiquitous. Doesn't that sound like some people you know? If not, then perhaps you have been lucky enough to avoid the NYDC Panel circuit.


I haven’t quite been able to solve the riddle of why we let these people get away with it, why it is that we tune in and drop out. And so, in lieu of any real answers or solutions, I will screech here for now, (perhaps someday ubiquitously), about this special breed of branded design.


Until next time,


Debbie Designer