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Design Mom: Finding the Exceptional in Everyday Moments

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h1So much is absolutely possible now; it’s that perfect storm of accessible brands and enthusiastic bloggers and a shared desire to shake things up a little. Brilliant!

Gabrielle Blair, Design Mom

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An entrepreneur and founder of Alt Design Summit - a standing room only event for independent lifestyle and design publishers - Gabrielle Blair is also the creator of the wildly popular site Design Mom. Currently living in a beautiful farmhouse in the French countryside and a mother of six, Gabrielle writes about the intersection of design and motherhood. To visit her world is to be a happy voyeur in an amazingly stylish, creative and down-to-earth life. Does it get any better than this?

In the last two weeks, Gabrielle has shared peeks of a new video series her family is creating called Olive Us (named for her third child Olive, but meant to be translated as All of Us!). The series will be launching officially in the next couple of days with new episodes appearing weekly. Says Gabrielle: "It’s one of those projects where I feel like I’m sharing all that I love with everyone, and that’s a pretty good day’s work!"

Gabrielle is also one of our favorite parenting voices in the SAY 100. We caught up with her to ask about the highlights of Alt Design 2012, how brands and creators are working together in interesting new ways - and some of her favorite style finds in Europe this season, of course.

You founded Alt Design Summit. What was the biggest motivation for creating that event? I’m a designer. I’m one of those people you see who are always snapping a photo of a flowering field or a cow or a French product at the grocery that remains impossibly foreign but oh-so-stunning to me or even those cool boots you’re wearing! I’m also a blogger whose focus is finding the exceptional in the everyday moments of motherhood. For years, I attended conferences geared toward the mom blogger side of me and I loved them! I really did, and still do. But I craved sessions that lit my design spark. I wanted someone to build a conference that brought together the creatives who inspire me daily; the design and lifestyle bloggers who spend their time scouting for the next best or the coolest or most breathtaking work out there. And then I decided that someone might as well be me! Seriously, Alt Summit is probably my favorite few days of the year. (Did you see our White Party photos?!)

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What were some of the trends or interesting things you saw at Alt Summit this year? It was all about collaborations, and I feel lucky to have seen the magic happening! It would start off with a compliment or two, bloggers meeting each other and truly connecting for the first time in real life, and reinforcing that they shared some common ideas. When you put a few talented people together and add dreams and mix in generous amounts of “We can totally do this,” it’s not surprising that awesome things come out of it!

Also, bloggers are upping their design capabilities. It’s not unusual for a blog to look just as sophisticated and sometimes even more cutting-edge than a page in your favorite glossy!

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Also, also! It’s impossible to leave Alt Summit without wanting to take more risks, both professionally and personally. There are so many of us out there who take giant leaps into the complete unknown, and it’s not nearly as frightening as you’d think! In fact, once the butterflies disappear…you’re ready to jump again!

Any particular trends you’re noticing with lifestyle bloggers and how they are or aren’t connecting with marketers? It’s amazing! There are many bloggers going directly to brands as an alternative to working through an ad network or other third party. From what I've seen and from my own experience, brands are getting more and more comfortable working with bloggers, recognizing and valuing the powerful voices they share with their audiences.

Also, it's not unusual for a blogger to get an idea for a project and want to execute it within that day, that week, or that month. As individuals, bloggers work fast! So going to a brand directly can often get quicker answers and faster results on a project with a tight turnaround. Working through an ad network and their company process can take a little longer.

So much is absolutely possible now; it’s that perfect storm of accessible brands and enthusiastic bloggers and a shared desire to shake things up a little. Brilliant!

You started blogging in 2006. How has the mom and design blogging landscape changed in that time? Completely! In 2006, mom blogs weren't influencing shopping habits or creating trends; they were keeping moms of all stages company during nap time! The first mom blogs were typically essay blogs where women could blow off steam about the challenges of parenting. Those blogs still exist and are still really good, but now it's a whole different world.

Currently, it’s really no longer about complaining about the monotony or trials of motherhood, and much more about mothers feeling empowered by the influence they have. It’s a crazy-amazing job to raise adults who will someday change the world…or just drive a car!

And the inspiration levels are through-the-roof outrageous! There are new ideas that no one has ever imagined, every single day, no matter what blogs you’re reading. Original content is no longer a super original concept; it’s expected and delivered happily.

You're writing a book (congratulations!). What do you feel like you can do in a book that you can't do with a website? There’s still something about sitting down with a few hundred sheets of glossy-to-the-touch paper filled with ideas and possibilities. Having a two page spread in front of you and being able to see a big picture, plus notes and sidebars, can give a better, easier to understand guide than a tiny laptop screen.

And frankly, I find that it takes far more consideration and care to make a book than a simple blog post. There are higher stakes, greater expectations, and I’ve been so excited to rise to the challenge of finding the best of the absolute best to include in my book!

What have you learned about curated content from your experience founding Kirtsy? I’ve discovered that I much prefer it to crowd-sourced content. Crowds like lots of things! But when I consider the most popular memes and viral videos, I'd guess that maybe 25% of what "crowds" like will appeal to me personally. It's nice to find a site (or, in my case, build a site!), where the content is edited by writers and contributors who I trust. It still allows for lots of viewpoints and discoveries I wouldn't have on my own, but instead of 25%, it's more like 90% of the content appeals to me.

What products are you especially enjoying / inspired by this year? Anything really simple and beautifully made. Like this trashcan. Classic lines that last a lifetime. French labels I can’t even read but that take my breath away, anyway!

Right! You're in France this year. Any favorite new discoveries? Yes! I've been working my way through the famed French pharmacies. I love Avibon. I love Nuxe. I love French pastries that look like a tiny piece of art and taste even more beautiful. I love seeing something new-to-me every single day. I love hearing a language that forces me to concentrate hard on what's being said in order not to miss the meaning, which makes words mean a lot more these days. It’s all such a gift to my inspiration levels, for sure!

Follow Gabrielle on Twitter @designmom.

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