Welcome to “Future Talks” by RTF, a captivating series of conversations that illuminate the minds behind the design narratives that shape our world. In this enriching series, we explore the profound connections between architecture and community through the lens of Kate Mazade, a talented writer and editor whose work resonates with the very essence of design and its impact on our lives.

Kate Mazade is a writer and editor exploring the connections between architecture and community. She currently serves as a City Editor at FTWtoday and the design critic for Madame Architect. She recently published her first book, Dearest Babe, Letters from a World War II Flight Surgeon, which she co-authored with her mom, Kelly Mazade.

Kate holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Auburn University and a masters degree from the Goldring Arts Journalism program at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Her writing has been featured in Metropolis Magazine, Dezeen, Architectural Record, Madame Architect, The Architect’s Newspaper, AN Interior, and American Theatre.

Join us on this remarkable journey as we engage in thought-provoking conversations with Kate Mazade and other trailblazers who are shaping the narrative of design and community. “Future Talks” by RTF promises to be an inspiring exploration of the power of design to transform and enrich our lives.

RTF: How did journalism come into your sight after pursuing architecture?

Kate: In my third year of architecture school at Auburn University, I studied abroad in Rome and took a travel writing course, which reinvigorated a love for writing that I had fostered since childhood. I began exploring ways in which I could combine my love for writing with my interest in design. During my undergraduate thesis, I completed an independent study with one of my professors and spent a year reading a lot of design criticism. I started to see a gap between architects, each other, and the general public and an opportunity to fill that gap with dialogue. 

I went on to pursue a Masters in Arts Journalism at Syracuse University, where I studied various visual, spatial, and performance arts. I began to see an overlap in arts disciplines and conversations that could take place through media. I took my first media internship at The Architect’s Newspaper in Manhattan and it was all downhill from there. 

RTF: What are your views on ‘keeping an open mind’ about constantly developing other interests? And tell us about the positives and negatives of this approach.

Kate: Some of my favorite projects I have worked on came out of something else or an invitation to try something that I didn’t feel qualified for. Keeping an open mind allowed opportunities to arise naturally and helped me discover things I didn’t know I would love. I’m a big believer in unforeseen things being meant to be and trying new things when something doesn’t work out. For instance, I co-authored Dearest Babe, because I was laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic and didn’t have anything to do while I re-applied to jobs. It is what I am most proud of in my life. 

On the negative side, sometimes trying new things doesn’t work out. You may put a lot of time and effort into a project or research and get rejected for publication or funding, which can be pretty disappointing. It’s important to give yourself grace when that happens. You can keep trying if you feel that is what’s best for you. Or, sometimes it’s ok to recognize everything you have learned so far and say “I’m going to table this for now.”  You can always come back to a project or interest later or pivot and use what you’ve learned for something else. Readjusting your sails isn’t giving up. It’s adapting. 

RTF: From being an editor and journalist to co-authoring ’Dear Babe’, how sustainable do you think building a personal brand apart from the organizations that one works for is? Can these go hand-in-hand?

Kate: As a writer, I have a lot of flexibility and autonomy with what I work on, and luckily, I write for publications that allow me to do so. My current primary employer encourages the team to pursue extracurricular work, as long as we don’t compete with our main publication. Diverse interests allow me to have multiple gigs at the same time so my work doesn’t overlap — and keeps things interesting so I don’t write the same thing over and over. 

It can be an organizational and scheduling challenge to have multiple professional pursuits at the same time, but I enjoy the variety. 

However, I try not to think of myself as a “brand,” moreso as a contributor. With each article or project I take on, I let the end result develop naturally rather than forcing it to match a personal style. I set out to learn and the work that results from my research is my way of sharing what I’ve learned, rather than a product I have stamped. While journalism is an income-producing profession, I still think of writing as art and myself as a maker or a researcher, so I try not to commodify what I do. 

That being said, I can’t pretend that personal brands don’t exist or garner commissions. Byline recognition helps me bring in work, so I try to find a balance between marketing my skill set and creating. 

RTF: What does it take for writers to get published in the top architecture and design platforms? 

Kate: Research, persistence, and knowing the right people. I hate to say it, but journalism is still a who-you-know world, even in design media. So building connections is part of the legwork for getting published. While I no longer work physically in New York City, the connections I made while I was there allow me to continue working from Texas. But it’s not too hard to network digitally. Connect with people on LinkedIn, set up Zoom coffee meetings, and send lots of emails. 

Then, when you are connected with the right commissioning editor, find the news peg in your story. That’s probably the thing I discuss most with architects and designers. Design media is still news, and timeliness is everything. Editors aren’t likely to commission an article about a project that’s five years old. People like new. 

RTF: What does the balancing act of working as a journalist, editor and publisher look like?

Kate: A very detailed calendar, a giant Excel to-do list, and a lot of emails. Compared to the architecture industry, journalism moves at light-speed. I take on some long-term projects, but for the most part, articles turn over in less than two weeks from pitch to publication. Staying organized and working ahead is the only way I stay afloat. Everyone has to develop a process that works for them, but I start with my deadlines and work backwards, scheduling each step of an article. I have a spreadsheet where I track which step I’m on for each project, so I don’t lose track while I’m working on multiple things at a time. Since the industry moves so fast, you have to balance multiple things at a time. 

RTF: How important do you consider ‘pitch’ in order to get content published? And how do you approach the publishers?

Kate: The pitch is everything — particularly if it is the first pitch to a new publication. Editors want to see that you have done your research, your sources have already agreed to participate, what the angle is, and why you should be the one to write the story. Often, your first pitch will not be selected. That’s ok. Refine your angle and your approach and try again. 

The first step to approaching a publisher is finding the correct commissioning editor. Everyone has busy lives, and reaching out to the wrong person will just slow the response, if you get one at all. Research who oversees each type of article — whether it’s a feature, interview, or news — and contact that person directly. 

RTF: What would be your advice to young professionals who are looking to take a plunge into writing and editing? How does the approach need to be and what are the things to be wary of?

Kate: Figure out what you want to contribute to the world. If you have something new, interesting, or important, share it with others. Don’t be afraid to write for yourself first. Get your thoughts down on paper and then pursue publication. In time, you will take on assignments that you know nothing about, but when you are first getting started, you have to research beforehand and develop your voice and writing style. 

Be persistent and patient. Newsrooms are hectic, to say the least, and editors juggle a lot of tasks. Also, take some time to research what the publication has already run. There’s no sense in pitching a story that a magazine published last week. 

RTF: What does it take to maintain a ‘creative head’ and how essential it is?

Kate: It sounds silly, but it takes practice to be creative. The busier I get, the less creative I feel, so I have non-work outlets in my personal life where I can be creative and just write or draw for fun. Flexing those creative muscles without the pressure of a deadline or style guide, helps me put them to work when I need to. You also have to accept that not everything you write will be your most creative work. Some articles are for delivering information, and some pieces are for exploring ideas — and you need both to avoid creative burnout. 

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Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.