When it comes to design, few San Diegans know more than Jaime Derringer, the founder and executive editor of acclaimed online magazine Design Milk. Highlighting the best of modern art, architecture, interior design, fashion and technology, Design Milk is sweeping in scope, yet the site constitutes only a small corner of Derringer’s digital empire. She also oversees sister sites Dog Milk and Adorn Milk, and more recently began hosting her own podcast called Clever. Derringer is also an artist in her own right, her creations appearing in movies and on home-makeover shows on NBC and HGTV.
PACIFIC: What were some of your earliest artistic endeavors?
JAIME DERRINGER: I’ve always been creative and interested in the arts. As a child, I picked the art or craft store over the toy store. I recall trying everything from clay to crochet to calligraphy. I also remember making up dance routines and songs as a kid. I think, deep down inside, I wanted to be an artist, but the logical side of my brain fought to try and keep me on a “sensible” course.
Describe what you do for a living.
No one ever seems to understand what I do. I like to say I own a media company and I run an online magazine. However, that’s very surface. In reality, it’s so much more than that. I have two online magazines (or blogs), an e-commerce website, a podcast and I’m an artist. I do everything from shooting and editing photos to writing and budgeting, ad sales, accounting and marketing. I’m a professional emailer.
What’s your average workday like?
Surprisingly normal. I wake up, take my kid to school, go to my office and work. It just so happens that my office is in my house. I keep pretty regular business hours, working between 8 and 5 or 6 p.m., then I try and spend the rest of my day with my family or making art. Some days are crazier or busier than others.
When and why did you launch Design Milk?
Design Milk came about in 2006, at a time when I was at a job I enjoyed, but was restless for something else. I had job-hopped a lot in my early days, not really having luck finding the right position. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it wasn’t the jobs that weren’t a good fit. It was me. I wasn’t a good fit for those jobs… I kind of fell into blogging, because it gave me some sense of creativity and of ownership. I was passionate about sofas and paint colors and lamps and rugs, and how things are made, who makes them and their stories… so somehow that manifested itself in the form of Design Milk.
Do you get paid per Instagram post?
The majority of our Instagram posts are unpaid. As a media outlet, it’s our job to curate and share the best stuff in design, regardless of whether we are receiving money. We love sharing and our priority is quality. We disclose when we are working with a partner or receiving any compensation. Our rates vary, depending on the ask.
What about Dog Milk?
Dog Milk is its own animal, so to speak. It was born from my personal love of dogs and the need for a place where modern design lovers could find great dog products. At the time I launched it, there were great pet products coming to market left and right. Seven years later, it’s still going.
How does Adorn Milk fit into your brand?
Well, it does and it doesn’t. Adorn Milk isn’t a media property; it’s an e-commerce website that sells modern jewelry. The jewelry is all hand-picked by me from designers from all around the world. The idea came from my own personal experiences with people complimenting me on my jewelry and asking me where I bought it.
What do you like to get into when you’re not working?
Everything. I make music, I take Japanese lessons— I studied it in college and am trying to refresh— I am studying Shodo (Japanese calligraphy), I run, I go dancing, I draw and paint with my kid.
What does the future hold for Milk brands?
The future is always wide open — I don’t have a business plan. I typically do everything based on my gut, and, 85 percent of the time, I’m right. Fifteen percent of the time, I learn a good lesson. We launched a podcast, Clever, last year, so we’re focusing on that and a few other new features. My focus this year will be on growing Clever and Design Milk, diversifying and enhancing our content.
Find it online
@designmilk (900k Facebook, 1.86 million Twitter, 1.5 million Instagram)
@dogmilk (69k Facebook, 12.3k Twitter, 37.4k Instagram)
@adornmilk (4k Facebook, 698 Twitter, 28k Instagram)
@cleverpodcast (480 Facebook, 560 Twitter, 3k Instagram)