Interview with Bek Hodgson

Bek Hodgson is one of the judges for the ONYAs and will be coming out to New Zealand for the awards ceremony. While here, she’ll also be conducting a Master Class workshop on Entrepreneurial Design. We caught up recently with Bek and asked her a few questions.

Webstock: Tell us about what you’re currently doing and how you got there.

Bek: Currently, I am in semi-stealth mode working on two really exciting new startups here in New York that will be unveiled in the spring. The first is in partnership with Rob Kalin, founder of Etsy, for which we are aggressively harnessing the power of the web to redefine and enhance learning and the exchange of knowledge. The second is a community site I co-founded for writers. This site not only enables writers to promote and connect, but provides tools enabling quick, easy and beautiful publication – both on the web and in print.

The path to get here has been over a decade long adventure – a cocktail of the early-on design bloopers, a traditional design education at Art Center College of Design, working with a host of inspiring startups like Etsy and Blurb, and a fierce dedication to creating purpose-driven solutions that enable multitudes of folks to have a wider reach and potentially greater impact.

Webstock: What makes good design on the web? What makes something great, instead of average?

Bek: For all its complexities, I believe good design on the web simplifies environments and experiences. Understanding the medium, and how it is used, is paramount. It challenges us to say more with less and to make navigating, sharing and collaborating truly intuitive. Making something great, instead of average, means nailing all such things and adding a dose of brilliant execution. Details that delight, language that inspires – revealing unwavering genius.

Webstock: We understand you’re singer/songwriter and avid busker. How long have you been doing that and what are some of your influences?

Bek: I have been writing and performing music since I had the strength to crawl up on my parents piano bench as a toddler. As for influences, I prove the winning odd-ball in this department as my father is the pastor of a church and I was raised on a strict diet of only hymns and worship music. Be that as it may, such influences evidently proved mighty inspirational as hundreds of songs have since sprung from me. I perform by the name Fondly and post random living room and live recordings to whenever I get the chance.

As for busking, I find it to be one of my most raw and magical pastimes. I have a great love for adventure and a far greater love for people – so tossing myself into unexpected environments that enables the unlikely to unfold makes me smile. Much like design, music has a profound ability to open unusual paths of communication, to gather diverse groups of people, to heal, encourage and inspire. I look forward to busking in Wellington!

Webstock: As a bonus question, your top five desert island discs, and why?

Bek: Oh goodness – what a task! I will have to race off and get that dose of influence I missed over the last 30 odd years! At least you limited it to a desert island, that certainly tones things down.

Alright. Boldly stated and adored by the admittedly less informed …

Sigur Ros » Ágætis byrjun
More refreshing than the desert island itself. The perfect awakening.

Bon Iver » For Emma, Forever Ago
Layers of tone, rhythm and harmony. I learn more about design each time I listen.

Neko Case » Live from Austin, TX
Bold and brilliant. Try it with a lime.

Gotan Project » La Revancha del Tango
It just wouldn’t be a desert island without La Revancha del Tango.

The Budos Band » The Budos Band II
They serve it with extra salt.

And a bonus album for your bonus question …

Dark Was The Night (Red Hot Compilation)
Iron & Wine, Cat Power, Beirut, Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire, Ben Gibbard, Feist, David Byrne … to name a few. Need I say more?

Webstock: Your workshop here is called, ‘Entrepreneurial Design’. What’s ‘entrepreneurial’ design and what can attendees look forward to at the workshop?

Bek: I credit Liz Danzico, Chair of the MFA in Interaction Design program at SVA here in New York for the title ‘Entrepreneurial Design’. Liz asked me to join the faculty this spring to teach this course which is an invigorating opportunity.

Entrepreneurial Design really encompasses the breath of fundamental decisions that must be made when pursuing a new and unchartered endeavor. It challenges design to step out of it’s traditional roll as service provider and embark on the risky mission to create what has not yet been created. In this workshop, we will be meeting this challenge head on – exploring how to take a great idea and make it a viable reality.

Webstock: You’re also coming to New Zealand as a judge for the ONYAs. What things will you be looking for when judging the sites?

Bek: [Laughs] I will be looking for future partners!

Aside from scoping the New Zealand webscape for my own selfish desires, I will be paying close attention to the execution of visual design and user experience. There is a profound amount of time and energy that gets poured into making something great and I will be looking for evidence of such efforts and thrilled to be one of the resounding voices acknowledging the boldest and brightest outcomes.

Webstock: Thanks Bek! We’re really looking forward to having you and your guitar here in August.

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