Illustration by Killbeek

Pulling Back the Curtain on Sight Unseen — A Conversation with Jill Singer

Ritik Dholakia
20 min readAug 31, 2020

Jill Singer and I have been friends since college. She founded Sight Unseen in 2009 and has become an influential voice supporting designers. We talked over Zoom in May of 2020.

Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

RRD: Let’s start at the beginning, Jill. Where did you grow up?

JS: I grew up in St. Louis. There’s not that much to say about St. Louis, to be honest.

RRD: Which high school did you go to?

JS: I went to Parkway North High School. Do you know that’s the question you’re supposed to ask people from St. Louis?

RRD: I do. People are dismissive of St. Louis, but I know an insane amount of people in design, in creative work, in technology who live in New York but grew up in St. Louis.

JS: That’s because St. Louis is a place you leave to go to New York [laughs].

RRD: Why do you think that is?

JS: I don’t know. My mom is constantly trying to convince me of St. Louis’ place on the cultural map, and she’s not wrong.

There’s a good amount of museums, most of them are free, and recently there have been these stories of people who used to work at, like, Blue Hill, who moved home to St. Louis and opened a restaurant. But it still suffers. It’s an incredibly segregated city. And where my parents live is a very suburban existence. I’m not really interested in a suburban experience.

RRD: How many generations of your family are from St. Louis?

JS: A lot. My grandpa was born there, I think, in 19… I’m gonna say 1916 maybe, 1915. And then my grandma actually was from Poland, came to New York, and then moved to St. Louis to be with my grandpa. So a lot. And then my dad’s family also has been there forever.

JS: A lot. My grandpa — my mom’s father — was born there in 1916. And my grandma actually was from Poland, emigrated to New York, and then moved to St. Louis to be with my grandfather. So a lot. My dad’s family also has been there forever.

RRD: When did you feel like you were ready to leave St. Louis? The day you graduated from Parkway North?

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