A Dozen Questions for Ms Roth Eisenberg
Tina Roth Eisenberg, perhaps better known by her swissmiss moniker, is a ‘Swiss Designer Gone NYC’, entrepreneur and all-round creative whirlwind, with an eye for beautifully designed products which she curates and shares with the world daily via her much-visited swissmiss blog. She lives and works in NYC.
In addition to the daily inspiration she posts via swissmiss, which has gathered a not inconsiderable international following, she is also the founder of CreativeMornings, TeuxDeux and Tattly. As if that weren’t achievement enough, she is also the founder of Brooklyn based studio Studiomates, a hive of creative activity that’s quite literally home to a Who’s Who of creative talent.
We asked Ms Roth Eisenberg a dozen questions.
Where did you learn your craft?
I grew up in the Swiss Alps, surrounded by a minimal Swiss design aesthetic, and was taught the ins and outs of graphic design in Geneva, at the Ecole Des Arts Décoratifs and at the Fachhoschule Munich, Germany.
Who inspires you?
My studiomates. Daily.
What are your influences?
My Studiomates. The blogs I read. New York City. CreativeMornings Talks. Masters like Charles and Ray Eames, Milton Glaser and Dieter Rams.
You’ve been curating swissmiss for six years now, during which time you’ve gathered a not insignificant following. How much of a full time job is writing for the blog, and how has it changed over the years?
I started swissmiss in 2005 as a personal visual archive. Fast forward seven years and it’s anything but personal. The fact that I have over one million monthly uniques makes my head spin. You have to understand my context, I grew up in a town with a population of 3,000 people in the Swiss country side, cows in front of my door, and all that.
I spend about two to three hours a day on my blog. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Usually, when I blog a lot I have other deadlines that I keep pushing out. Blogging is my way of procrastinating.
I would love to spend more time on the blog, and there were times when I spent a good four to five hours a day writing and researching, but I have since put on more hats and I need to divide my time between swissmiss, CreativeMornings and Tattly.
It takes time to build a personal brand, but - as Gary Vaynerchuk put it in his recent TED talk [Do What You Love (No Excuses!) 1 - it’s entirely possible in our new-fangled internet age. At a conservative estimate, how long did it take, and what sustained you, while you grew the swissmiss brand?
I am not sure that’s the right way to talk about ‘swissmiss’. Sure, some people say I built a brand, but I just simply believe I created a work environment and life that is 100% true to what I believe in, and that makes me happy. People are fascinated by others that follow their heart and take risks. Now people say I created a ‘brand’. I say, I created an ideal life. The word ‘brand’ makes it sound too calculated and planned. There was no strategy behind anything I did. I simply followed my gut.
Luckily I picked a catchy name for my blog, which helps the ‘brand’ feel. So, in that regard, what sustained me is the fact that I just did what felt right and made me happy. Nothing fuels you more than being ‘in the flow’ and feeling that you’re doing what you’re supposed to do and what fulfils you. I don’t want to get all spiritual, but I deeply believe that when you’re on the right track, things fall into place. When you’re trying to force something and it’s just not happening, maybe it’s just not meant to be, and you need to steer left or right. I am just lucky I found my path.
You created Teux Deux with Fictive Kin. What problems with existing to-do applications were you trying to solve?
I just wanted a simple, straight-forward app, without any bells and whistles. A simple list app that allows me to check things off and see the week in overview. No scheduling, no alerts, no repeat tasks. Just a basic list. We built TeuxDeux for ourselves and we use it every day.
In Communication Crisis you wrote about the irony of hyper-efficient communication leading to a world of under-efficient communication (being overwhelmed with messages). When email becomes your, “primary source of guilt,” what other channels would you suggest?
Messenger Pigeons? OK, just kidding. Yes, the guilt-inducing-email-problem is keeping me up at night. I get an unhealthy amount of emails every day. Add to that Tweets, DMs, Text Messages and regular mail. It’s a full-time job in itself to respond to everyone, and people get upset when I don’t reply and it kills me.
For a while I had an auto-responder that basically said, “I will try to get back to you as soon as I can, but it might take a while. I just want to set expectations right!” For some people that worked and they were understanding, others were downright offended by it. I will find a solution, I am determined. I will let you know when I find it. For now, I try to stick to five.sentenc.es.
As well as practicing as a designer you teach at Parsons The New School for Design. How does your teaching influence your design practice?
I’ve stopped teaching at Parsons, but will start teaching at the new SVA MFA Program called Products of Design next year. Teaching definitely shows you the power of experience. We tend to forget just how much work experience teaches us, until you are standing in front of a group of complete beginners that ask the same basic questions you did, when you started out. But, you also realize how hard it is to explain things, that after years of working in the industry, come intuitively. For me, teaching is forcing me to put into words what I just instinctively do, every day.
What do you like better? Chocolate or cuckoo-clocks?
What’s your favourite typeface?
Trade Gothic Condensed. And no, it’s not Helvetica.
What’s your favourite plain text editor?
Notational Velocity It’s a barebones note taking app. It doesn’t get any more straightforward. I love that it syncs with the Simple Note iPhone app, so I have all my notes on the go.
What’s your favourite tea?