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Writer/Editor Julie Taraska

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What does Julie Taraska make? She makes meaning of all the disparate design forces out there. Through her Product Placement series in New York - run with partner publicist Kimberly Oliver - she gives designers a chance to tell the story behind their work in a city not known for the level of design curiosity that characterizes cities such as London, Stockholm, or Milan. Through her writing and exhibits, she rips away the layers of consumption to force a recognition of the deeper role products play in our lives. She's written for everyone from the New York Times to Fast Company to Details to Wallpaper and travels the world to design shows whenever possible. These days, she's also the senior editor of Gilt Home, part of that most magical of all retail inventions, Gilt Groupe.

The Skyperview

Tell us about your path to becoming a design journalist?

In college, I wrote my thesis on British punk and was accepted for a Watson fellowship to go to London to explore it further. I was drawn to punk's DIY spirit - the energy and passion to create and the sense that you could be anything you wanted. At the time, I wanted to be a music journalist - and for eight years I was. I was an editor at Billboard and wrote for magazines like Spin, etc. until a certain point where l I felt that music culture had just became so dull and commercialized. My interest in music morphed into a curiosity about architecture, design, and urban planning. The rhythms, arrangements, and layers in music informed a budding interest in how people move through space and engage with objects which in turn tell a story

What Inspires You?

  1. Food / dining out

    - The whole foodie thing is big where I live: artisanal goods, inventive combinations, beautiful presentations. Food can be the ultimate well-designed product, with its singular colors, textures, smells, and tastes. It appeals to the senses, as a good product should.
  2. Conversations I have with designers

    - I've always wanted to be in the privileged position of being able to ask people I find interesting nearly any question that occurs to me. That's why I became a journalist.
  3. Factory tours

    - I'm a real geek about learning how things are made.
  4. The atmosphere in Milan

    during the Furniture Fair and in London during100% Design - There are just loads of ordinary, non-design-industry people who attend the dozens of ancillary design events during these two shows. That's what I want: for design to be part of the everyday conversation. (Think what it'd be like if instead of talking about a film, you talked about a design that you saw!) Seeing this group interest fortifies me to fight the good fight back in New York where design isn't part of the cultural ether.
  5. Museums and art exhibits

    -- I am hopelessly visual. When I have trouble writing, I look at pictures and sculptures. They help me get through the block and articulate what I want to say.
  6. Music

    -- Nothing can alter my mood faster or is as good at making me go from down to invincible in three minutes flat. I'm also mildly synaesthetic--I see songs' rhythms and patterns in colors--which also adds a visual twist to something that, in the end, is pretty abstract.

London vs. New York. London is arguably the best design city in the world, and you've lived in both -- but you ended up back in New York twice. Tell us about that.

Practicalities mostly. To be taken seriously, I knew I had to go back to school and get my masters. I had wanted to go to Goldsmiths (in London) even while in undergrad - so when I finally I had enough money, I went. Goldsmiths is where many of the YBA's went (Young British Artists) and I liked the culture it produced. I got my M.A. in Culture, Globalization, and the City which is basically a fancy way of saying Critical Urban Studies. Looking at urban design I realized I really loved products. Also, just before I was to leave for Goldsmiths, I met my future husband so I always planned to go back and New York is also a much more affordable city. My specialty is European designers but over the last few years I've discovered a lot of great American designers (which leads us to Julie's top American designers and New York stores below).

Go to What Women Make to see these two slideshows:
- Top 10 New York Designers You Should Know
- Waving the flag for NY design, stores and companies to visit