I’m wrapping up on the end of year two running Diverge Weekly, a personal writing and newsletter project that’s taken two big shifts since it started. Reflecting on the end of 2021, I’m thinking it’s time for a third.
There were 40 articles this year, 35 of which were written this year (I ended up reposting one or two which stood out for me). For context, there’s about 400 of you who subscribe, with a 40% open rate and 10% average click rate.
This year, the top performing posts were:
So weirdly, all fashion oriented posts, with the exception of the first which is fashion-related, but more of a process/systems oriented “Here’s how I did a project” post.
But. I primarily write Diverge as a mechanism to share my thinking and discuss process with others. I get an email from one or two of you most times that I write a post, and there’s often a pretty exciting dialogue that emerges from it.
Of these, what seems to be most evocative of conversation is the merged Theory/Process post.
I enjoy writing about interrogating process — both my own and others. Writing about Rick Owens, for example, is a bit of a dream because there is a substantive body of self-reflection about his process either in writing or interview. In Rick’s own draw towards brutalism and stoicism (or rather his particular tension-celebrating variant thereof, a kind of Dionysian stoicism), there’s a fascinating theme that emerges — softness and discomfort, hard edges and flowing forms. The visual and sensory experience created is fascinating, and I’m always curious to untangle the mystery of how a designer (or team of designers) got from a need to a form.
The other thing that I get a huge kick out of is writing about workspaces and tools. It’s a bit of a slippery slope because we can often confuse the tools with the process they are meant to facilitate. I do this sometimes in my own purchase decisions, and while it’s occasionally an exciting revelation, more often it’s a wasted opportunity and expense. Which does serve as an exciting tool for exploration is the work SPACE though. In comparison to individual tools, workspaces (both digital and physical) tend to shape a real narrative around how people work. Of course, it’s more difficult to sell a workspace via affiliate links, so we tend to see a greater focus on individual tools over workspaces, but such is the time.
So, in terms of a content focus for next year, I intend to take a more explicit focus on the processes of creators and the physical/digital spaces where they work. My hope is to do this through more interviews and conversation as well, so if you’re working on something interesting or know someone who has a compelling and unique space where they create, please send me a note!
The next bit is the schedule for next year. I’ve been slowly chipping away at a masters degree over the course of the pandemic — with work-life and a toddler alongside. The last sprint of the masters is coming up in the first quarter of 2022, and my writing focus needs to be on my thesis for that period. As such, Diverge is going to be taking a scheduled break in January and February and will return with the prototype of the new format in March.
I might still be writing if the inspiration strikes me, but for the most part, my mind will be wrapped up in Syria, climate, and security narratives.
Secondly, I’ll be switching to a cadence of every two weeks for the main content blocks. I love writing, but the reality is that I’d like to spend more time editing, refining, and building more substance in what I write. So while things will be less frequent, hopefully, the product will be of higher quality.
I also want to send a specific thank you to Charlotte, who’s been helping me over the past year to keep the cadence of the newsletter up. I’ve never worked with a remote assistant before, and she’s helped with editing, scheduling, advice, and just generally framing up the operations of the newsletter. We’ve worked together to find aspects of her work that can be automated, and that process has been revelatory for me in how to think about and approach automation. It’s also helped me understand what processes and skills belie automation. If you’re looking for something similar or want to work with a very capable VA based in the EU, give Charlotte a shout via her Instagram.
We’ll have one more essay this year, which is my standard reflection on the year. I have a feeling that this year there will be a lot of these “REFLECTING ON 2021: WTF JUST HAPPENED” posts. I can’t guarantee that mine will be all that different — it has been a weird year. But nonetheless, keep an eye open for that.
All in all though, I’ve been really grateful for everyone’s readership, contact, and curiosity in this. Year one of Diverge started with the idea of fusing international relations theory with design and trying to make the argument that they had considerable overlap. It had a strict overall structure and was fairly locked in that way. I had fun writing it but it wasn’t quite right.
Year two was an opening of that structure to a looser design lens, but still oriented around that idea of design, systems, and strategy. The strategic component was a bit more diffuse, but a lot of it I think boils down to intention and applying design skills in the definition of spaces and forms that emerge outcomes along a desired trajectory. Pretty fun stuff (and you all responded to it), but I think at a certain point it gets a bit wishy-washy. I want to ground it in something with more substance.
Hopefully you’ll join me for year three. It’ll be familiar, but with some luck and effort, I hope to bring you all some writing that goes a bit deeper, and serves as a good grounding for future dialogue.
Monthly updates from Andrew Lovett-Barron, mostly writing about design practice, theory, and projects. Occasionally, I may link out to a new project.