I had the pleasure of sitting down with the founders of Shared Practice, Felicia Ferrone & David Krell. Shared-Practice is a website that serves as a hub of information and resources for the design community.
Marc: What is your background prior to Shared-Practice?
Felicia: My background is, actually, in architecture. I studied architecture and then worked in that for many years. I actually moved to Milan, which is basically the center of manufacturing design in the furniture industry. There I was exposed to that whole world, and I guess part of Shared-Practice for me, it's not just resources, but it's really, truly quality resources and people that you can really rely on, people who want to explore design, who are willing to work outside of the box, and challenge themselves as producers. That probably came from Milan. I guess a lot of it was knowing what is available in Milan and trying to, since I have live here, find sort of an analogous situation.
David: My background is in Graphic Design and Object Design. I am currently a UI designer.
Marc: How was Shared-Practice born?
Felicia: It came out of needs David and I both had. We met when he was completing his masters degree, thesis show, and I was curating that show. We had actually met during his two years at the school. Out of that I know his thesis was focusing on Chicago and design and manufacturing, and what's going on in Chicago.
He and I actually met, and I brought up this idea of a calendar, because I felt like I was constantly missing really important lectures that I really would have liked to attended, and also given my multi-disciplinary background, I'm interested in architectural lectures, design lectures, and other things as well.
When we were meeting, I said there should be a calendar basically that kind of syncs all of these things. The larger conversation sort of ensued, whereby, at the time I was working, he was very much interested in manufacturing and manufacturing resources that were here in the city, how the other designers might utilize that more.
I, at the time was working on a solo show, and my subtext for the show was getting everything produced locally. He had a resource that he shared with me that, ultimately, is someone who produced one of my pieces.
Really, this whole sense of having a single hub of information, content aggregate site that allows for calendars, calendar events, and resources, it really all came out of our individual needs we have as practitioners. Then obviously, the site grew from there as far as, "What else could you need? If you have these things, what other services or just contacts might you need?" Various things that help you further your practice, further your education, further your network of designer community people.
David: I met Felicia in one of my critiques in Grad School... it helped she liked my project. Two weeks after I graduated from my masters program at SAIC, Felicia and I shared a lunch where we chatted about design and Chicago. Felicia mentioned the desire to have a coordinated event calendar for architecture and design; I also felt that I had missed too many "best lectures ever" because I was one person removed from a group. I was also interested in developing a resource listing where one could find manufacturers who had/were willing to work with designers. We realized that we could share these features on one site, and within a couple months we had launched our closed beta version of Shared-Practice.
Marc: What are some of the best stories you've heard for how people have utilized Shared Practice or benefited from it?
Felicia: Well, the calendar is always the overwhelming feature that people feel really passionately about. They just love the fact that they actually have something where they can just go and they really get a pulse of what's going on in that city. Now we have New York and L.A. as well as Chicago. So that's probably one of the things that people feel most passionately about, and then people are really using it also to find resources and to upload resources, which is great. A lot of these interactions are coming without our assistance- where people are posting perhaps in the forum that they have a particular need, like a manufacturing need, and then other members of the community actually responding to that and helping each other out.
One of the fundamental philosophies that David and I had was that really only by helping each other out are we, all together, able to grow. For example, when people talk about not wanting to share a manufacturing resource, for example, which traditionally have always been closely guarded secrets, but a single individual can't keep these people in business. Now, with the power of the Internet, you'll ultimately find them anyway. It just seems like it really is a sense of trust, and just as you would share a resource with me and I would share it with you, it's just taking that to a next level.
David: We've had several stories of members needing specialized tooling/processes, and they needed help with finding a manufacturing resource. Shared-Practice members are able to offer different options and guidance. Also, we've heard over and over how helpful our Event Calendar is. Generally people see what is happening week to week, but members have also told us it's saved them from cross-listing their events with other openings.
Marc: What are your goals, and where do you see Shared-Practice in five years or so?
Felicia: We see it as a centralized hub for this sense of design entrepreneurship, where people can come together in a social network, that also provides resources and information beyond just a social engagement. We really see it taking on this two pronged approach, where it really is something useful, I guess, to people, and that people really feel becomes a central part of their lives, as far as their practices go. It's something where it's a very active community and it's worldwide.
We started using Chicago as our test city in our closed beta period. Very quickly, the first person we got that we didn't know was actually from Sweden, who was an interaction designer, which was really exciting for us. It just showed the power of this, of what Shared-Practice can really be. We hope that it really becomes something that people are checking on a daily basis, or when they have a need they go to the site.
David: My goals are to grow shared-practice to be the useful resource and platform that I know it can be. This is a tool for everyone to use and benefit from. In 5 years I see shared-practice as a definitive hub of activity for design communities. Whether you're looking to get something made, need some advice on prototyping, or want to see what events are happening, you'll find it on S-P. By contributing to Shared-Practice, community members will reenforce their own practices while supporting the design community at large.
Register to become a member of Shared Practice, to share your events and your resources here! http://www.shared-practice.com/user/register
Marc is an architect, educator & the founder of Black Spectacles.
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