Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Aaron Coles

>> Who: Aaron Coles (aka AC)
Fiancé: Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge

>> When I met Grace...
We've been together for about five and a half years. We were set up by a friend during the peak of the Friendster days - I think Grace saw my profile and asked our friend about me, and she set us up to all hang out one night. Unfortunately everyone cancelled, but I thought she looked cute so I just called her and we went out to dinner - we've been together ever since. We like to think of it as the date that never ended.

+ I'd say I have an above-average knowledge of the Cosby Show. We watched it a lot in syndication in my house. My sister and I still use it to make points to each other ("it's like, remember that time when Theo wanted to by a Gordon Gartrell shirt...?")

+ I'm obsessed with poker - watching it on TV, playing with friends or online, reading books about it. I'm in the process of spreading the virus to my friends. Their wives LOVE me!

+ I have tried and failed repeatedly to get interested in baseball. I've probably read more books about baseball than I've watched full baseball games. Why is a sport that's so interesting to write about so boring to watch? What's the deal? (Basketball rules!)

+ For many years, I could rap almost all of the Beastie Boys songs from their first 5 albums. (As far as I'm concerned, they retired after "Hello Nasty.") At this point I'd probably need a listen to jog my memory a bit, but I think I could still go toe-to-toe with the average fan on this one.

+ I have a cat named Ms. Jackson. I think it's obvious that she's named after the Outkast song but almost everyone when they hear the name think of that Janet Jackson song, which is pretty annoying. I have made up a ridiculous voice for her that Grace and I talk in constantly. She's about the sweetest cat in the world who just loves people and attention, but when we do the voice she only says rude things and has a pretty bad attitude about life in general. It cracks us up. Ms. J has an opinion about everything, it turns out. She's also fond of re-working pop songs to be about cat-related things ("All the single kitties, all the single kitties...well if you like it then you shoulda put a treat on it..." etc.). What a weird cat.

1. What would you say are the three most important things that you do to support Grace in her creative/blogging endeavors?

I'd say that I provide a sounding board for her to talk about what she does - whether it's just bouncing ideas around or sharing the highs or lows of the day/week. She does so much by email that I don't think she gets to just talk out loud during the day that much so I think it's important to be able to have a face-to-face conversation sometimes - especially because the nature of her job can be so draining. I'm also not shy about offering my own opinions which she may or may not agree with, but I think sometimes having a back-and-forth helps her clarify what she really thinks or wants to do.

Having a background in digital marketing, I also run the ad sales program for Design*Sponge in my spare time. I think it helps her to keep that side of the business totally separate for a lot of reasons. One, it means that she really only writes about what she wants to write about, and doesn't have to deal with pressure from advertisers to promote their products (which she gets sometimes). I can handle that and just tell them that I have no ability to get Grace to write about them, because Grace definitely isn't looking to me for an opinion on what's good design! Also it lets her really focus on what she likes, which is writing and editing the site and finding new and interesting projects to do.

“She's easily the hardest working person I know, and sometimes it takes a lot out of her.”

Lastly, I guess I'm just an in-house cheerleader for her! I've been there since the very first post on Design*Sponge, and have probably enjoyed watching her grow as a person as well as a writer/publisher more than anyone. It's been so cool watching the site grow from something she did in her spare time to being her full-time job, and she's definitely earned it. She's easily the hardest working person I know, and sometimes it takes a lot out of her. So, when she's drained I'm not shy about telling her how proud I am of her. As the site has grown there have been an increasing number of people who try to put a lot of pressure on her to do all sorts of things and she can't please everyone. At times like this I think it helps to have someone who knows you tell you to trust your instincts, offer a different perspective, or just listen.

2. Living with someone who works long and irregular hours can be tough... from missed dinners to not being able to do simple things like relaxing and watching your favorite shows together as often as you'd like... How do you stop the craziness from impacting your relationship? Can you please offer some survival tips for those in similar situations?

“Maybe that's my advice to any guy who's dating a blogger - just buy a Playstation or an Xbox...”

For me, personally, her long and irregular hours aren't much of a problem because I'm often working long hours or am really busy, too. At least that's how things are right now. But there was a time when she was working long hours and I wasn't, and sometimes it did seem like a little much - like you come home from a long day and there she is plugging away on her laptop and it doesn't look like she'll be stopping soon.

When it was more of an issue, we had to have a few conversations about setting up some boundaries (no laptops after this time or before that time, setting limits during weekends). So my advice to someone having a problem with that would be to honestly communicate the issue you're having in as non-confrontational way as possible. Also, if you're in a relationship with someone who is really driven and passionate, you have to remind yourself that they love what they do, and they need to do it, so it helps to be flexible. Ideally, you should also focus on finding the things that make you passionate and think of some of their work time as your personal time to pursue things you are passionate about. Or just have more time for Playstation. Maybe that's my advice to any guy who's dating a blogger - just buy a Playstation or an Xbox and pretty soon you'll be like.."umm...don't you have more posts to write...?"

3. What was the strangest thing you've done to support Grace in what she does?

“... I show up and there are a zillion girls there, and when I walk in everyone's looking at me like - "hey, what's HE doing here!?"”

I would say the strangest thing was when Grace had her very first "Biz Ladies" meetup (a women's only event for women in the design industry) and she asked me to stop by (even though she had dozens of RSVP's). I think she was worried that people weren't really going to come, and wanted a familiar face to be there. But of course, I show up and there are a zillion girls there, and when I walk in everyone's looking at me like - "hey, what's HE doing here!?" I was literally there for about 2 minutes and it was so awkward I wanted to leave immediately. I finally found her and she's surrounded by all these girls and she's like "oh hi!". I was just like, "looks like they came! See you at home!" Ridiculous

4. What is the easiest and hardest thing about being Grace's other half?

I guess the easiest is that she knows about so much cool stuff, and if we want to get something for the apartment, I never wonder if it will look good or not. That's pretty much a given. She just has good taste and knows where to look for things, and she knows so many people that can help us find things. So it makes things in our apartment more fun because she usually knows or has written about the people who made it.

“It can be tough when I find something that I like and she looks at it and makes a face that just says "please don't put that ugly thing in our apartment.”

The hardest is probably the reverse of the easiest, which is battling the strength of her design tastes, because we don't always agree. It can be tough when I find something that I like and she looks at it and makes a face that just says "please don't put that ugly thing in our apartment." It's enough to cause little tensions here and there when it comes to decorating the apartment. For example..the "cutest" dresser is NOT always the best one. Sure it looks nice in photos, but try fitting more than one sweatshirt or sweater in a vintage Dutch drawer that is 4 inches tall and 12 inches deep. Or even opening a drawer which was clearly built before the concept of "usability" was invented. I'm just putting it out there.

5. Lastly, please choose one of your favorite posts from Design*Sponge or a favorite project that Grace has been involved in.

Personally, my favorite post was probably the one where she introduced the site re-design and a "Sneak Peek" of our apartment. She'd worked so hard on getting the site to look just right and she did it at the same time as she shared pictures of our apartment, which she hadn't done much of up until that point. She was just so happy to finally show everyone what she'd been working on for a long time (both the re-design and the apartment) and it was nice to see her feel comfortable enough to open up. I also enjoy writing the "guy" gift guides during the holidays.

Thanks Aaron!!

Do you have an incredibly supportive partner that deserves a little attention?? If so, email me over at hearthandmade@gmail.com.


Melissa de la Fuente said...

Okay....first of all....Aaron knows so much of the beastie boys and gives his cat funny voices(changing pop lyrics to kitty lyrics)? Awesome! I adore all of his random facts(clearly has a great sense of humor) and sounds like he is the perfect partner to a hard working blogger. Understanding, patient and funny!

Amy said...

This is wonderful Marichelle! And I love reading Aaron's very honest answers, epsecially that bit about him coming home and Grace is still plugging away on her computer. That happens to me all the time, and I have to put up personal boundaries about work as well, or my relationship suffers from me being a complete workaholic!


design*sponge said...

I've always known I was a lucky girl, but today I feel especially proud to call Aaron my fiance. He's quite simply the best.

P said...

Aaron is so quality. His above average knowledge of the Cosby Show is an inspiration. I feel like my cats and Aaron and Grace's cat should have a playdate. They seem to have similar perversions.

Unknown said...

Love this interview...the cat songs and voices are awesome! And I totally agree about the PS3/Xbox thing. When my husband comes home early and I'm still working, he'll get this happy look and say to me..does this mean I can play video games till you're done?

Great interview Aaron! Grace is lucky to have you! ;)


Suzanne said...

"...if you like it then you shoulda put a treat on it..." made me laugh until I cried!
I think I'll be giggling to myself about that one all day.

Clementine said...

Oh my god, Aaron is hilarious! I'm going to be singing "Single Kitties" to myself all day. What a cool cat (Aaron, I mean) :)

Prêt à Voyager said...

simply fabulous! grace and aaron are the BEST!


Hillsy said...

For the record, I also completely agree with the Xbox/PS3/Wii thing too. Not that I have any kind of hidden agenda of course......

JHill said...

i do love me some Aaron and Grace... now I'm off to sing that song to my cat.

modish said...

yay! I just love meeting these supportive men behind some of my favorite creative ladies. Aaron, you're a crack-up!

Amy A said...

One of the best things about having cats is making them talk. Why do they say such evil things?!

Unknown said...

great interview! love this idea of interviewing partners! looking forward to reading more px

Design Scouting said...

This is great -- so nice to learn more about AC and hear about I love hearing about bloggers and husbands and boundaries, since I have the same struggles.

Lucy said...

Heeey great interview! What an interesting idea! :) Great to learn a little more about the enigmatic AC :)

Also great to learn about your struggles to make time for each other inbetween posts! I am starting to have this same trouble with my own fledgling blog... I come home from my day job and blog away all night... I sometimes feel permanently glued to the laptop.

...actually as I type this, my partner is sitting next to me on the couch - both with laptops, both typing away! Uh oh!

Anyway, great interview! Thanks! x

Lucy (thedesignfiles.net) xxx

kaitlyn sullivan said...

how great to read about the other sides of grace that we may not necessarily see through her design eyes on on her blog. aaron seems like a great support system, and she is a lucky girl to have found someone to keep her balanced and support her so much in doing what she loves!

thanks for a great interview!

Kristan said...

Aw, I love this. What a great idea for a series, and AC seems like such a great guy.

Also, I'd just like to say we do the SAME THING for our puppy Riley (have a special voice and say the goofiest things and CHANGE SONGS -- "I keep chewing, I keep keep chewing, stuff..." -- etc.)! So that was awesome to read about. Especially since the other day I accidentally used our Riley voice while on a call with some friends, and they were like "..."

Marichelle said...

Aaron, thanks again for agreeing to do this... btw, my boyfriend "Hillsy" has NEVER EVER commented on any of my posts (HH is approaching its first year anniversary) - good to know that an XBOX mention is all it takes. Grace, thanks for mentioning the post - it gave the blogger servers a good workout ;)
-- Marichelle --

christina said...

very sweet! you're a lucky lady. it reminds me of a game my sister-in-law made me play at my wedding shower. she asked my then-fiance a bunch of questions about me and had him video tape the answers then played them at my shower! she also asked him to answer questions about himself that i had to answer at the shower. after my answer we watched his to see if i was right. lots of laughter and tears :)

wiyomu said...

amazing interview :)