What Every Blogger Can Learn From Project Runway

Full Disclosure: I really do watch Project Runway (with my wife).  I have zero fashion sense and have no clue what’s in or out. My fashion sense resolves around not making my wife look bad. For me, this show is about how motivated creative people can rapidly create great things.

Project Runway is one of those shows that you have to find. It used to be on Bravo, but now it’s on Lifetime. If you were to look at the demographics for the Lifetime network, I would be the last person they would ever think would tune in. Yet, this show has a lot to teach blogger’s about the process of creating.

A Runway Primer

If you have never seen the show, then some background is warranted. It’s basically a reality TV show that chooses fashion designers to compete for a chance to showcase a collection at New York Fashion Week. Heidi Klum (Seal’s wife and Victoria Secret Model) hosts with the ever present mentor, Tim Gunn (Chief Creative Officer at Liz Claiborne, Inc).

They audition 1000’s and end up with 16 when the show starts. Each week, the designers are given a challenge to complete within a predetermined time frame (which is insanely short).  After each challenge, they pick a winner (who wins a prize or immunity) and send the worst designer home.  It’s the ultimate creative gauntlet.    Project Runway

“Make It Work”

Tim Gunn’s job is to coach the designers and provide feedback on their designs. As you can image, some designers just can’t get their act together (sound familiar) in the given time frame. When Tim stops by to check in, the phrase no one wants to hear is “Make it Work”.

This is the nice way of saying, whatever you have, needs to shape up in a hurry or it will be a disaster. This is a common problem among creative types — I want to make it perfect.

Blog posts are no different. Yes, the quality has to be there. Yes, you have to construct readable prose but don’t just sit there, polishing every turd until it gleams in the midday sun. You have to make it work.

  • Project Runway Take Away:  Set a deadline, stick to it and make it work!

“One Day Your In, The Next, Your Out”

As you can imagine, with the frantic pace of creating something on a deadline, quality and creativity will suffer. The Project Runway twist is that the designs are judged by well-known designers and fashion editors.  These people set trends and crush careers.

Put up crap and you will hear it. Put up safe, mainstream stuff and you’re out. This is exactly what Heidi Klum says just before the judging — “In Fashion, one day you are in, the next, you’re out!”

In blogging, one day you are hot, then next you’re irrelevant unless you keep it fresh and interesting.  You can’t just recycle the same old,  same old boring content.  It has to be fresh, creative and interesting.

  • Project Runway Take Away: Don’t rely on past successes. Always innovate and push the limits.

Constructive Criticism Coupled With Caring

Tim’s main job is to mentor the designers and help them through tough spots.  While no one wants to hear the dreaded “Make It Work”, they all value his keen insights.

He can sometimes be brutal critic of a design that looks “Costumey”, “Cheresuqe” or “Matrenly”.  This critique can sometimes throw hot-shot creative-types into an emotional tail-spin (great for TV, bad for getting stuff done).

Even though it’s brutal, it’s usually right on and done in a way that’s not mean but meant to point you in the right direction. You get the sense that Tim really cares about the development of his charges and wants them to succeed.

For a blogger, it’s critical to have that constructive criticism from a mentor that has your best interest at heart. These mentors are your readers and post commenters or maybe your guest bloggers who you respect.

  • Project Runway Take Away:  Seek out mentors that provide caring, constructive feedback.

Unrealistic Deadlines

Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline.  Project Runway uses deadlines to push their designers to work fast and efficiently. They literally get 20 minutes to sketch an idea, 30 minutes to buy supplies and then it’s off to work.

These aggressive deadlines (usually a day) challenge the designers to pick something and run with it. No time for contemplation. No time to ponder — just create great designs fast.

Blogger’s can learn from this by setting deadlines so that they push themselves to create. These deadlines will get you to create. It might not be perfect but you get better by doing, not thinking about it.

  • Project Runway Take Away: Push yourself by setting goals.

Challenges That Make You Grow

Another aspect of Project Runway is the challenge. Each week, the challenge differs. One week it might be design a look for a celebrity, then next, make a dress out of garbage.

These challenges push the designers to stretch past their comfort zone. Some embrace the challenge while others just modify their old designs.

Applying this to blogging means that you should try different topics and styles. Don’t just write about what you know. Do some research on a topic that interests you and apply that to what you write.

  • Project Runway Take Away: Push out of your comfort zone by challenging yourself

“See You On The Runway”

Even though Project Runway is a reality fashion show, it has a lot of great tips for bloggers. You don’t even need to know anything about fashion to appreciate the creative process that each designer goes through.  See you on the Web!

Jarie Bolander

Jarie Bolander is an engineer by training and an entrepreneur by nature. He is presently working on breakthrough technology that will reduce medical errors. Jarie also volunteers with SCORE (http://www.sfscore.org), a national organization that helps small businesses succeed. When not volunteering or at his day job, he can be found running or biking through Golden Gate Park or swimming in San Francisco Bay. Jarie also blogs about innovation, management and entrepreneurship at http://www.thedailymba.com and is working on a book on technical management that will be published by http://booklocker.com You can also follow him on Twitter: @thedailymba 


  4 comments for “What Every Blogger Can Learn From Project Runway

  1. November 5, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Dude, I love that you are admitting your deep appreciation of Project Runway–in print no less. Bravo! I love the parallels you have drawn here to blogging–especially meeting looming deadlines and having the guts to put yourself out there for the world to judge. It’s not easy being a creative type no matter what your medium.

  2. November 5, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks for the comment. Yeah, it’s kind of hard to admit it but it’s really one of the better reality shows for creative types.

  3. December 14, 2009 at 11:46 am


    All I have to say is… my 4-year-old son loves Project Runway so you are in good company. Let’s just hope he learns the life/blog skills from it that you have. I have more than once told him to “Make it work”.

  4. December 14, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Thanks for the comment. Glad to hear that your son enjoys the show. It’s a great lesson in working under pressure while still maintaining a high level of quality.


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