This career is made up of ...

... so many ideas that failed to materialize, designs that were sub-par, writing that didn’t make sense, campaigns that were not successful, suggestions that were stupid, concepts that were thrown away, projects that fell flat, final files that looked sloppy, graphics that weren’t shared by any one, posts that weren’t liked by any one, solutions that were wrong, epiphanies that didn’t resonate, and plenty of times where everything just felt off and wrong and stupid. 

And yet, we keep going anyway. 

Ask any committed practitioner in any creative profession and they will tell the same thing.

So there you go, I’m being redundant again. 

Carry on.

Odd, with distance

These things seem odd to me when you experience them again for the first time in awhile:

  • TV Commercials 
  • Smoking
  • Catholic Mass
  • Airport Security 
  • Snakes
  • The band Rush
  • Professional Wrestling
  • Big Gulps
  • Cable News
  • Car Salesmen 
  • All snacks made by Hostess
  • Facebook 

In all of these, there is either an obvious or elusive alternative. Regardless, they’re just odd.

Should designers also code?

My answer: No.
Different question: Should designers also write?
My answer: Most definitely.

Design and writing are more intimately interconnected than design and code. (Do architects also build the house?) If you want to be able to say something with what you’re designing, you have to know what you’re saying before you even think about visuals, typography, color, or layout. A lot of times the process fuses all these things together precisely. If you can’t write, how is that fusion ever going to be precise enough? 

Regardless, in the end, a designer must be able to think* goddamnit. Whether with design and code, design and writing, or design and more design. So whatever that thing is that you boldly strive for in the darkness and in the light, do that, and do it well.

* I’m not specifically talking about the ever-so-popular “Design Thinking Industrial Complex.” Not even close.

Distance; wants, needs?

Battling big decisions and how to proceed, that’s always difficult. Where do you want to go? Where do you need to go? Adding some distance can help.

Over the last few years, I’ve been able to take some very disconnected vacations. One time in particular, high above the Pacific, my mind wondered to all sorts of things. When it came to work, it was all about what to take on next. What collaborations to focus on. How to setup things to get certain types of clients. What personal projects would most challenge myself as well as bring the most enjoyment.

One potential endeavor I was battling in my mind, in the days before leaving on vacation, didn’t really come up. Maybe that’s because the distance proved I wasn’t all that into it, at a core level. Or maybe I was just shutting it out because I knew deep down it’s what I should do, despite it being the most disruptive and difficult.

Returning back into the flow of the working day-to-day, even though no exact answers presented themselves, the distance and the perspective it provided were valuable. What you hone in on at a distance should never be discounted. It could be the key to unlocking your path, where to go at the fork in the road, because it allows you to get out of your own way. 

NOFX the Fuck Out

Election results were fresh. They stung. They hurt. They made me super depressed. They sucked the life out. Why, you ask? Because I knew what was at stake. And looking at what’s happened since Trump has been elected, I was right. 

Anyway, on November 16, 2016 one of the greatest punk bands of all time took the stage at Omaha’s famed Sokol Auditorium. A year and half later, I still think about that night. A night of release, of obnoxiousness, of fuck-it-all-the-morning-will-be-no-better punk rock. It propelled us.

Me and a close group of friends. Of progressives who had previously assumed we, America, would be progressing in the coming years. Now confronted with complete and utter devastation to the fact that we wouldn’t be, well the only thing really left to do was to go to a punk rock show. And NOFX delivered a blood-splattering gut punch that let everyone in the audience all know we were fucked, but we were fucked together. 

Fat Mike knew the situation. He was just as pissed off as I was and he had his signature sharp, cutting wit and a microphone. Bitching and moaning and talking shit. A cathartic display of fuck-it-all-this-sucks that felt like the last refuge in the oncoming dark night. That’s the beauty, the magic, the thrill of punk. We’ve always been fucked but we were together so it didn’t matter.

Now, you could argue that I’m a respectable citizen now. Good job, good income, good home. Well-read and well-fed. A professional existence that’s concerned about property taxes and saving for retirement. So not punk. Not punk at all. 

But here’s the thing. Those of us who went through the punk scene know we’re held to a higher standard. We are better than this. And because of that, we focus on building, not consuming. We put our professional existence to use for the good of the cause.

NOFX mid-November 2016 was the only thing that could’ve kept me from total collapse. Because of them, the age of Trump was kicked off with a loud, sonic reminder we had a boot to the throat. That boot is still there, but the push back is gaining strength. And the vengeance will be real and it will be sweaty. Count on it.

Fed up? Start there.

Are you mad about the way things are? Beside yourself with “the way it is?” Over status quo? Excellent. That’s your starting point. Where you go next, that’s up to you.

But I will say one thing about the direction you shouldn’t take. Please, for the love of god, do not go with this:

 I’m also so mad about the way some people involved are going about what I think needs to be done and I just know they are wrong and therefore I am going just be difficult and a naysayer.

Do not do this. Unless you don’t want to be effective. And if you haven’t heard, being effective is the name of the game. Not spouting off, whining about what someone else is doing, and then sitting at home.

Maybe this means complaining online about the direction a design community is taking. Or the way a nonprofit community is missing glaring issues. Or the way a political community isn’t taking hard enough stances. If you take the least effective path of not utilizing your time and treasure to improve the situation, well, then you are part of the problem. Not neutral, but negative.

Because the stakes are high and we can’t afford to have your energy sitting out because the picture isn’t exactly want you want to see. No, enough of that nonsense.

Paint another fucking picture. The time is now.

On Facebook

I’m on Facebook currently because it’s brought me a lot of joy over the years. As a way to keep up with friends and as a resource for sharing the important things going on in my life. But recently, I’ve been trying to cut back. I think it’s clear there are serious mental health issues that come with all social media and in light of concerns over privacy and fake news, not being on Facebook as much is a good decision on my part. Still, I feel I can’t delete my account. Why?

My connections made on Facebook are valuable. I wish I could take them with me and go somewhere else, but I can’t. Hence, I’m still there. Not like I used to be mind you. Instead I use it to talk shit and get my political thinking out there. And I share some work stuff. As an independent designer, if you aren’t sharing the work you’re doing then most likely nobody else is. 

So my focus is narrow. It’s not a place for a detailed timeline of my life.  I use it to organize my events. I won’t use it for dating. True, I’m married but Mark Zuckerberg talking about their new “Tinderesque” dating feature is infuriating. When I heard that I thought to myself, “man, fuck that guy, who does he think he is?” It might be the thing that ultimately pushes me off Facebook is instead a person and his name is Mark Zuckerberg. Given his Congressional testimony, I certainly don’t have much confidence in him or the future of Facebook.

Their latest ad about getting back to the good old days of Facebook is stupid, too. Any forward-looking tech company should know that. They fucked up, they know it, and we’re not going to forget it.

It’s easy these days to hate Facebook. And that’s totally acceptable in this present moment. I guess we’ll have to wait for the future of the platform to shake out to see if I’m still on it in a year or two. Only timelines will tell.