Find a way to gather interesting people in really different ways that make your audience excited to join in the discussion.
Alissa Walker is a woman with purpose. She is a writer, an avid walker (she doesn’t own a car…and she lives in Los Angeles), an advocate for social change, oh, and she really loves gelato. She draws on these varying interests to inform her work, but she doesn’t differentiate them. Her life is her writing, and for Alissa, that’s a good thing.
She told us, “I don’t think of anything I do to be ‘in’ or ‘out’ of my field. I write about what I’m passionate about, period. I don’t see any division between chronicling my frightening obsession for odd-flavored gelato on Twitter and the article I have to write about a new building in LA. I think designers should think the same way—it’s not design and then everything else, it’s all a part of who you are.”
She is a freelance writer for companies like GOOD, Fast Company, and Dwell, those that focus on the intersection of design, visual narrative, and storytelling. We asked her how she has seen writing and design influence and benefit one another, in her own practice, and in the way these companies work. She said, “I think they realize how important design is in creating a positive experience for an audience. And that’s everything from producing a beautiful printed magazine to optimizing the interfaces on their websites. It’s very important to me to write for design-centric publications.”
Alissa has built an online network where she shares her ideas and passions directly with her readers, but she doesn’t stop there—she gives people a place to come and talk about them. She said, “Live events are the missing part of journalism that I’d love to see all writers (and designers) add to their skill sets. If you think a topic is fascinating enough to merit a blog post and some conversation on Twitter, then it’s definitely worth taking the time to get a bunch of smart people together in one place to talk about it in person.”
This is exactly what she’s done with GOOD Ideas for Cities. Alissa co-founded GOOD Ideas for Cities with Casey Caplowe in 2008, and in 2011 the program received a grant from ArtPlace to produce five events in mid-size cities that will take on real urban challenges, and produce a toolkit for others to plan an event in their own city. It is an initiative that asks designers to do more than just get up and talk about their work. We asked her what advice she has for designers and entrepreneurs who have an idea like GOOD Ideas for Cities. She said, “The most important thing to do is to figure out how you want to serve the community and create a totally new and unique event format around that idea. Find a way to gather interesting people in really different ways that make your audience excited to join in the discussion.”
Alissa doesn’t sit on the sidelines and just write about the change she wants to have happen, she’s uses writing and community events as part of the solution.
From the beginning, one of our goals with Kern and Burn has been to push the importance of writing, speaking, and sharing your thoughts. We feel a little bit like kindred spirits with Alissa, in that we too, have tried to gather as many varied, and meaningful perspectives from all types of design entrepreneurs to further, broaden, and challenge our own (and our readers) perspectives on what it means to be a designer today.
We asked Alissa what most excites her about the future of design. She said, “I’m excited that my friends keep making beautiful, useful, incredibly inspiring things that make me look forward to doing my job every single day.”
Watch Alissa speak about how to do the work you love at Los Angeles/Creative Mornings. If you want a more tactile form of inspiration, pick up her must-read book for designers, Mike Monteiro’s, Design is a Job.