Design Disruptor: Jill Singer, Sight Unseen

A sight to see.

Jill Singer, Sight Unseen
Photographed by Maria del Rio for Lonny.

We have a confession — we spend way more time on Sight Unseen than we’d like to admit. The creative design site, founded by pals and former I.D. Magazine editors Jill Singer (pictured) and Monica Khemsurov, is one of the industry’s leading publications in delivering readers unique, truly one-of-a-kind talent and news. It’s yearly event Sight Unseen Offsite is one of the most sought-after design events in the country. If you haven’t had a chance to scour the site, we highly recommend you do, asap. Just make sure you’ve got some time on your hands — it won’t be a quick visit.

Give us the short story on how you got your big break in the design space.

"I somehow landed a job as an editor at I.D. Magazine, where Monica and I met, despite having written maybe four blog posts on design in my life. I knew almost nothing about design when I started, and I learned everything I know by visiting designers in their studios, watching them work, asking good questions, and having an incredibly knowledgeable team of editors and designers around me."

What does a typical day look like for you?

"I have young kids, so I get up with them and take my son to kindergarten in Brooklyn every day. After I drop him off, I’m already working, usually Instagramming a story on my phone or catching up on email. I try to go to the gym, and then head home to work. I wish I could say I was out all day visiting studios and getting inspiration, but the truth is I spend most of the day behind my computer, writing and editing stories, Skyping with Monica, and having phone calls. By 5:30 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. I’m with my kids again, and I work and watch TV after they’ve gone to bed. On a nice day, I’ll have lunch with our contributing editor, walk an art or design fair, or visit an exhibition around town."

What’s been the most rewarding project you’ve worked on to date?

"Between the website and Sight Unseen OFFSITE, we’ve helped launch the careers of dozens if not hundreds of young designers all over the world. Even before Design For Progress, whenever I wondered if I was doing any good in the world, that’s what made me feel like we were making a difference — telling the stories of so many creative people, and helping to define and support a community."

There is very little snobbery, malice, or scandal in the design scene; it’s something we often hear, especially as compared to the art or fashion world.

How do you define success?

"For a long time, Sight Unseen was considered extremely niche. So the fact that so many people know who we are, respect and love what we do, follow us on Instagram (!) and consider us to be a leader in the design field is incredibly rewarding after so many years of hard work. But for me, I won’t feel like I’ve really made it until I can go on vacation for a week and not have to think about work. In other words, until we have a staff?"

Jill Singer, Sight Unseen
Photographed by Maria del Rio for Lonny.

 What do you find really refreshing about the design space?

"There is very little snobbery, malice, or scandal in the design scene; it’s something we often hear, especially as compared to the art or fashion world. For the most part, we are one, small, happily tight-knit clan. When we take our yearly trip to the Milan furniture fair, we’re usually going with some of our closest friends — fellow design journalists, designers, gallerists, PR people, and shop owners who are as psyched as we are to have stumbled their way into this really wonderful community."

What other professions did you consider and why?

"I have always wanted to be a journalist (it runs in my family). I was obsessed with magazines, and for a long time I thought I’d write about books or music. Of course, then all the magazines started to die and I became a design multi-hyphenate."

Where do you go for inspiration?

"I love scouting on a trip — even if it’s just for a few hours on a family vacation — since it’s one of the few times I get to be alone. I’ve recently been to Finland, Norway, and South Africa, and loved each of them. I also get my car washed in Chelsea, so I love to pop into random art galleries for an hour or so while my car gets a nice shampoo."

See the full list of Lonny’s design disruptors here. 

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