This week I had the opportunity to attend An Event Apart, a top-level design conference for people who work on the web. The founders are two people I still look up to after almost 20 years in the business, Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer. The speakers talked on a wide range of topics. Zeldman did the keynote, which was an overview of and advice about working in the business. There were speakers on accessibility, site testing, new tools and techniques, and design philosophies. (It’s somewhat heartening to see that nobody has yet been able to figure out how to move away from the 3-designs-5-sizes-and-a-million-comps model two years after I left the biz).
Monday night we were treated to craft beer at Caboose, a new microbrewery featuring the former brewmaster from Heavy Seas, courtesy of Facebook. Somewhat apprehensive about mingling, I drove to the venue and found my way inside, and after dropping my name in a hat and grabbing a beer (a delicious IPA), I found some folks to talk to and wound up having a very good time. Here’s to getting out of the comfort zone. And it just so happened that I won my very first door prize after 20 years: a set of very nice brush pens, a calligraphy set, and a book.
I told Jen it was the kind of focused experience I really could have used in 2011 or so to re-energize; One speaker alone shared knowledge about current features of HTML5 to alter the way I approach design and building, and another shared 5 new tools for building and testing I might never have known about. Overall, there was enough knowledge to make the conference more than worthwhile even though I’m not directly involved in the business anymore; my job demands that I stay current, and this was a good way to check back in.
I’m about 4 days behind at work (a combination of the conference and one of my designers being on vacation) so it’s hard not to feel some guilt for going, but I’m very grateful for the experience, and conferences like this are something I’ll be pushing for in future years for my staff and I.
Mike Montiero posted the first chapter of his new book, What Is A Designer? on Medium:
I’ve also seen my share of studios where the designer wasn’t given the opportunity to sell their own work, which is amazingly shortsighted. Selling your work directly to clients is extremely important. Not only should you be able to explain why you made the decisions you did, but you’ll get first-hand feedback on where the work needs to go next.
This right here. I’ve worked at several shops where I did all the hard work and then had some brainless AE–no, wait, let’s call them what they were, project managers–go in and fuck everything up trying to sell it to the client, and then come back and fuck up explaining what the client actually asked for. This was a theme in Baltimore; most of the shops I was at were terrified of the designers poaching clients. It did nothing for my career and contributed to a sense of powerlessness. All designers should be present in the pitch meetings, period. This was why I moonlighted tirelessly for 20 years, sometimes to the irritation of my salaried bosses, because it was the only way I was going to get that experience myself, and they didn’t trust me with “their” clients. Fuck that shit. If you work in a shop that won’t take you to the presentation, get the hell out.
Annoyance is digging through the bones of a website I built in 2009 and trying to remember how I put it all together when GoDaddy wouldn’t let me update my FTP access, I realized my CSS wasn’t written as well as I thought it was, and I suddenly remembered I built the gallery on the homepage in a Flash application.