A few years ago, the latest thing for a designer was having their portfolio online – now this is expected practice. What’s emerged more recently, however, is the ‘studio blog’ as a platform for showing new work. Many creatives keep a blog as a de facto ‘news’ page but now, in order to further their reach, studios and individuals alike are using Twitter to get their message out. Kurt Koepfle runs and maintains Pentagram’s blog and issues daily tweets via @pentagramdesign to the studio’s 15,000 followers.
We spoke to him about the importance of using both these media to share Pentagram’s work and engage in real time with the design community.
How important is having a well-maintained blog for Pentagram?
It gives us a place to publish our work as it is being produced. Pentagram has always had a publishing programme – our black books, the Pentagram Papers, our monographs – and we like to think of the blog as an extension of this. Our first book, Pentagram: The Work of Five Designers (1972) was a collection of case studies of different projects and a look at working life in the studio. The blog is pretty much the same thing, just more immediate. From a pr standpoint, it’s given me a way to publicise more work from more partners. Before the blog, we were preparing a few press releases a month for major projects and putting together pitches that might – or might not, in the way of all PR – actually produce results. There is an efficiency to publishing the material ourselves.
Posting it is only part of the process; once it’s up we usually pitch it to the design blogs. Some publications prefer an exclusive, so we try to feel them out before we post a project online. Most of the US design magazines are bimonthly and they’ve always had a long lead time.
Most graphic design projects also move relatively quickly. Now something is produced and people are immediately reacting to it online. It’s expected that as our projects launch we’ll post them on the blog, which has become an engine for our communications program. It forces us to document work as soon as it is produced.
The posts can also be repurposed for proposals, case studies and competitions. And the blog still serves the purpose of our old internal bulletin. The different partners, offices and staff use it to track what’s going on with the other partners and offices.
We use Google Analytics to track our numbers. We average around 5,000 visits on weekdays, more if we have a good post that’s been linked by other blogs. Our biggest day to date was around 12,000 visitors, when the redesign of The Atlantic launched last year (that’s traffic to the blog and the site as a whole).
How much of a voice does the blog give to the partners?
Many of the best designer-bloggers (or even tweeters) are individuals running their own studios; their posts can reflect their individual personalities. Pentagram is a collection of 16 partners, so it’s a little different and some of the partners write their own entries for the blog. Because our blog represents a diverse group as a whole, a big part of my role is maintaining a consistent or balanced voice for the firm. Some partners like to write about their own projects and others don’t – not all designers are writers, and that’s fine. Some are more interested in social media than others, but our social media must help the group as a whole. I like to think we have a consistent voice. Of course, having 16 partners constantly designing new work gives us a lot of fresh material.
How do you now use Twitter in your job?
I’m on Twitter all day, checking to see what people are responding to and to see what the people we follow are tweeting. We love to see what people are saying about our work. We’ve definitely increased traffic to our blog posts via Twitter and it’s a blast to see how quickly people respond to a project and how quickly it gets passed along. We’ve had a few projects get immediate attention from press because they were seen in one of our tweets. In the most basic pr terms, we use Twitter to bring people to the blog, and the blog to bring people to the portfolio. But we like being accessible, and Twitter is perfect for this. It allows us to stay engaged, to let people know what we’re up to. It’s a great communication tool for its immediacy. I think many blogs and sites first started using it as a kind of rss (I know we did) but it’s quickly taken on a life of its own. There is a huge design community on Twitter. Anyone who’s not on it is missing out.