Our publisher spotlight in The Digest this week focuses on Sight Unseen, an online magazine that takes readers inside the world of intriguing and intelligent design and art objects. With behind-the-scenes reportage, Sight Unseen uncovers the stories, visions, and obsessions of emerging designers and artists, and provides a hub of inspiration for young talents to get new ideas. Most notably, they curate some of the best showcases of young and cutting-edge design, most recently OFFSITE, which takes place during New York's International Design Week.
We're always excited to hear about what Sight Unseen has coming up next, so we spoke with Monica Khemsurov, one of its founders, to find out more.
Hey Monica! When was Sight Unseen founded, where are you based, and how did it start?
Sight Unseen was founded in 2009, and is based in New York City. My co-founder Jill and I had worked together for four years as editors at the now-defunct design magazine I.D., and we decided to leave together to start a new project that capitalized on the subject we had both become most interested in: telling the stories behind the designs. We knew that starting a print magazine would be quite difficult, and it was a very exciting moment for online platforms, so we started an online magazine meant to give people a behind-the-scenes view of design and the visual arts. We’ve evolved in the past five years, though — we still do those things, but we also think of ourselves as a place where creatives can come every day to discover new talents and ideas, and get inspired.
What attracts you guys to design? What are your backgrounds?
We both have a journalism background and we both developed a niche in design writing somewhat randomly — Jill by way of a job covering design at Mediabistro, and myself by way of an editor I knew who landed at a design magazine and needed freelance writers. I needed money, and what little I knew about design I found fascinating, so I dove in. I think both of us enjoy that design is highly creative and visual, like art, but is more grounded in functionality, fabrication, and problem-solving.
What inspires your direction with the website?
When we started Sight Unseen, our goal was to totally indulge ourselves and our interests. We started the site without a business plan, or really any plan beyond our mission statement. We thought of it more as a side project and an indulgence, allowing us to share with our readers whatever and whomever we might be intrigued by at any given moment. Luckily for us, people have enjoyed our our point of view, and so Sight Unseen has grown to be our professional focus.
Curatorially speaking, most of the time we’re just following our instincts. We both personally really love discovering and learning about beautiful, intriguing, intelligent design and art objects, and meeting creative people. It's what we spend most of our time doing!
What's the office like? How would you describe the balance between Sight Unseen and outside work?
We actually don’t have an office, and we both work from home. We did have an office once, but we found we rarely used it. I think that’s one of the coolest things about loving your job — you don’t get bored, or antsy, or sucked into re-arranging your record collection when you should be working. You just wake up and dive in, and it’s easy to stay focused. Our collaboration consists of emails, Skype calls, and meetings with clients at coffee shops, which seems to work just fine for us. Outside of Sight Unseen, I spend about a third of my time writing and market editing for other magazines, as well as doing event production, because I like to stay challenged and have my hands in a lot of different pies at once. And Jill is also a mom.
What's the biggest reward in terms of Sight Unseen?
Definitely discovering new things on a daily basis, traveling, and meeting so many cool people wherever we go. I can now visit almost any country in the world at this point and know a designer or artist I can call up. I grew up in Ohio, and definitely had no idea my life would turn out to be this awesome.
What is exciting you guys this summer?
The beach, planning for two Sight Unseen pop-up shops this fall, and everything iridescent.