Professional Profiles

Profile: Delphine, @Issue Editor

From time to time, @Issue will run brief profiles of people you may know in design communications, asking them what attracted them to the profession and how they view their work and process. We thought we’d start with Delphine, @Issue’s editor, and then Kit, @Issue’s design director, before broadening our scope to others in the business.

Name: Delphine Hirasuna
Profession: Writer/ Editor of @issue
Home Base: San Francisco, CA

When did you know that you wanted to pursue the profession you did?
I think I was around 6. I was tiny for my age and lousy at playground sports; I hated recess, but I loved to read. Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, Eddie’s Red Wagon, etc. But the stories felt formulaic and I decided I could write better. My bedroom had a vanity with a frilly yellow chiffon skirt around it, and I’d crawl inside and write my stories in that private space. Even then, I was a realist. Afterall, I was 6 years old, and lived on a little farm in the middle of nowhere, and didn’t know how to contact a publisher, much less have an adult one take my writing seriously. But I didn’t give up. In grammar school and high school, I was the editor of the school paper, and by college, I was determined to be a journalist.

What was your alternate career choice?
To be a tap dancer and dance with Gene Kelly.

What did your parents want you to be?
A teacher or secretary. My aunt told my mother that if she let me become a newspaper reporter, I’d soon be chain smoking, drinking hard liquor, swearing and wearing lots of makeup because that’s what women reporters do. My mother seemed to believe her.

What appealed to you about your profession?
I wanted to be where things happen and witness historic events firsthand. I wanted to be able to talk to the people who made the news, whether a famous inventor, an astronaut, an actor or composer. When I got my first job at a daily paper, I discovered the unglamorous, boring side of journalism. It wasn’t for me. Then someone told me about corporate writing – annual reports, brochures and the like. I didn’t know that such a profession existed when I was growing up. I gravitated to that, but my college friends who became “real journalists” considered me a “sell-out” and for years that’s how I thought of myself.

Workwise, what are your major frustrations and satisfactions?
In every project, I reach a point after I’ve done the research where I don’t know how to approach the story. My mind is a jumble of information and I am absolutely, positively sure that this time my writing block is permanent and I am bound to fail miserably. I question why I ever entered the profession. Then suddenly I see a glimmer of light and timidly put down a first sentence, then another and another.

Satisfaction usually happens at two points. The first time when the client tells me that I’m hired.  The second time about a month after the project is done and I’ve worked up the courage to read what I wrote more objectively and find that it’s not bad.

What are your favorite kinds of assignments?
I like the research aspect of writing. I like mulling over the significance of things. I’ve often thought of writing as an ingenious way to have conversations with interesting people and ask them probing questions. I also love delving into the background and history of things.

What part of your work methodology do you wish you could change?
I wish I could get over the “middle muddle” part.  The point in every project when I decide I haven’t a clue what I’m doing and the only way I can save my dignity is by skipping town and changing my name.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
Make Swiss cheese. Don’t swallow a big assignment whole, but keep punching holes in it by breaking it down into little tasks until suddenly it all seems manageable.

Who was your major influence?
Even at the risk of inflating his ego (further), I’d have to say Kit Hinrichs. Our collaboration has taught me that the goal of any assignment is to communicate, tell a story in the best way possible.  Sometimes that’s with words and other times it’s visually, graphically. If you are being territorial, or working in a vacuum, the story (text and design) may seem redundant or contradictory or just plain baffling. Text and design need to support and reinforce each other. The process isn’t sequential, it’s collaborative. That goes for the client too. It’s important to work as a team.

Illustration by Zach Trenholm