How to Get Your Design Work Published

Michael Wollaeger, second from the right, at a 2009, Almont Yard event.
Also shown, Photographer Tim Street-Porter, Margot Wollaeger, Designer and Author Annie Kelly

Photo - Alixe Morehouse

You've pulled together impeccable paint, furnishings and accessories, creating a pitch-perfect space. You think your project is ready to be seen by all but don't know how to get your work published or even considered by a interior design magazine?

On a recent afternoon at the Pacific Design Center, Michael Wollaeger, Editor-at-Large of Luxe Magazine shared insight on how designers can do just that.

Los Angeles, Giati Showroom, WESTWEEK 2010
14 tips to getting published: A discussion with Michael Wollaeger

This past year has been rough for shelter publications. Forced by dwindling advertising pages many have closed down. Southern Accents, House and Garden, Cottage Living, Domino, Blueprint, Metropolitan Home and O Home were all hit by the advertising recession. While some remain standing, dwindling advertising has impacted even the healthiest publications. Editors at thriving magazines have more design submissions on their desks with less space to place edit because fewer ad pages translate into fewer editorial pages. If the playing field has diminished, how do you get your design work seen?

1. Take an honest look at your work. You may have created a warm, welcoming space but is it worthy of national coverage? Not everything needs to be published. Some of the nicest homes Wollaeger has visited are not publishable.

2. Keep up with industry trends and developments. Use new products that are timely, not trendy. Editors don’t want to repeat themselves, so be sure to incorporate fresh ideas with products that haven’t been seen and aren’t mass marketed. You can help an editor if you are familiar with the product and can educate them about it. According to Wollaeger, a great design project is made up of innovative products, mixed with antiques and themes (Balinese or Chinese, for example).
3. Tell the story behind the design project. What is the focus? Is it about using green products, designing a tiny house, indoor-outdoor living, color usage, or budget design? Is it a before and after? If it is, then be sure to include photos of both phases. The editor needs to know why readers will be interested in your project. Think like an editor before submitting your work.
4. How does one think like an editor? Research the magazine you are pitching. Know your audience. Don’t submit a Country Living house to Architectural Digest.  And track down the magazine’s Editorial Calendar which lists an issue-by-issue focus. (For an example, click here.) Tie your submission into an issue’s theme.

5. A tried and true design adage from Wollaeger: “Less is more.” Even if you haven’t designed an entire house, a single, crisp room might be enough to get you in the door. Edit your photos. One or two of each room should be plenty. Leave a little to the imagination. 

But if you want to show an entire house, how many rooms should you submit? A living room, dining room, master bedroom, and bath is plenty.
6. Hire a Photographer. Before the economy tanked, magazines recommended against hiring photographers to shoot a project because they would book their own talent. Nowadays, with budget cuts, it is a value to hire your own photographer. Editors are more likely to review your work in a good light if they are familiar with the photographer. That’s not to say you can’t take your own “record shots” but it doesn’t hurt to hire a professional. Wollaeger recommended these West Coast photographers: Dominique Vorillon (view Vorillon's work at Madeline Stuart's website), Grey Crawford and Roger Davies.

7. Should you send out multiple submissions? Wollaeger says don’t do it. Instead, select a single magazine. Editors want original ideas. If they hear your work is being considered by another magazine they will pull it.

8. You all know the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but remember to write about a few key elements of the project. Give a brief description of the Who, What, Where, and size of the space. Add in a bit of information about the client. Editors need stories along with their pictures.
9. Stylists and publicists can help you get your work published. Wolleager suggests hiring both. A good stylist such as Char Hatch Langlos can make or break the chances of an article getting selected. Another less expensive idea is to simply show your work to a friend or colleague and ask for their input to help you edit. Finally, consider hiring a Public Relations consultant. Good PR agencies will have a consistent level of clients and they will also tell you the truth about a project.
10. Should you send unfinished projects? He warns against it. “If you're waiting for a sofa to complete the room, wait for the sofa,” says Wolleager.  

11. What about luck?  Luck does play a part in the selection process, so network and come to industry events. Be persistent. Tenacity pays off. Wollaeger tells the story of a young designer whose work he initially resisted. But over time her work evolved and she was eventually published.

12. So you’ve done your homework and you’re ready to submit. How do you find your target editor? Choose a magazine that complements your project and locate the masthead inside – a page that lists names and titles of editorial and publishing staff. Find the Editorial Masthead, usually located within the first 20-30 pages of the book, and pick an editor or two. Don’t submit to random staffers like the circulation director. Chances are your work will get tossed. Follow up with the editor by confirming that your submission was received, but don’t harass.

13. Should you submit your design to a blog? According to Wollaeger, that’s a negative. “We are seeing more and more design online, 1st Dibs, Decorati, Lonny (and) it is great exposure to be on these websites,” says Wolleager. However, he recommends against going to a blog initially. “Magazine editors want to be the first ones to send something out,” and he believes if your work is revealed on a blog then it is less likely to get published in a magazine.

14. Finally, Is it important to be published? Yes and No. Some well known designers stay under the radar preferring not to be published because their clients don’t want the publicity.

But if you're ready to take the plunge the upside can be plenty. According to Wollaeger, “You don’t have to be a name designer to be published, but you have to be good.” Ultimately editors are looking for great design. If an editor can help your career, most find a little joy in that. It can be rewarding for everyone, “It is fun to see a young designer who has been published and see their career take off,” says Wollaeger.

Michael Wollaeger’s publishing career has spanned two and a half decades. Prior to his current gig as Editor-At-Large at Luxe Magazine, he was Editor-in-Chief at Western Interiors and Design for eight years. Before that, he was Executive Editor at Architectural Digest for 15 years.

By Alixe Morehouse


Dane said…
Thank you. This post has given me something to consider.

Most valuable!

I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for stopping by.
sivendra said…
I liked your article and found it very helpful. I am designing my daughter's new home and although I am not a professional and have no plans on being one I would love to have my work published. Do they publish someone like me who thinks she's good and wants everyone else to know it too, lol?

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