Jason Has Left the Building

I owe it all to Douglas Bowman‘s bad back.

Doug and Brian Alvey and Adam Greenfield and I were working on a big client project when Doug’s back went out. He was so sick, he couldn’t work, and it was unclear when he would be able to work again.

As a friend, I was worried about Doug. As a creative director, I was worried about finishing my client’s project.

Doug and I had both done designs. The client liked my design but I’d sold him Doug’s. Now Doug couldn’t finish, and I didn’t trust myself to execute the remaining pages in Doug’s style. I needed someone skilled enough to finish what Doug had started and mature enough to sublimate his own style while still making good design choices.

I had just read “Grey Box Methodology,” a well-written romp through a personal design process. The author was a young designer named Jason Santa Maria. His site looked great, his portfolio was impressive, he had good ideas about design, and the process he had written about lent itself to the technical aspects of finishing Doug’s work.

I wrote to Jason Santa Maria, telling him I had a small freelance project that was probably boring and would bring him no glory, since it required him to design like someone else. Jason was game and said yes. He did a great job and was egoless about it, and he seemed perfectly comfortable working with better established, heavyweight talents. His quick, professional, selfless work kept the project going until Doug was back on his feet.

To reward Jason for what he had done, when a new and juicy assignment came my way, I asked if he wanted to be the project’s lead designer. The rest you can you figure out.

For four and a half years, Jason Santa Maria has been a designer and then a creative director at Happy Cog. In an agency filled with talent, he made a huge personal mark. I’ve trusted him with some of the most important designs we’ve handled, from AIGA to the redesign of A List Apart. He has never let me down, professionally or personally. More than that, his work has expanded my conception of what web design can be.

Four and a half years is a couple of centuries in internet time. For about a year, Jason and I have known that it was getting to be time for him to move on. Not that we had any problem with him or he with us. But just that nearly half a decade is a long time for any designer to spend in one place.

As he has just announced, Jason is leaving Happy Cog. He will stay involved in A List Apart and perhaps a few selected projects, but basically he is out the door and spreading his wings. Godspeed.

[tags]jasonsantamaria, Jason Santa Maria, JSM, Stan, adieu, happycog, design, webdesign[/tags]

27 thoughts on “Jason Has Left the Building

  1. Poor Doug and his back, I remember reading about it on ‘Stopdesign’ some time ago, and wincing at the thought of how bad it must’ve been for him! Anyway, that’s quite a story about how you found Jason originally.

    Jason leaving Happy Cog is definitely a big moment for you guys. Best of luck to Jason with what he does next (I’m sure it’ll be brilliant)… :)

  2. What a lovely, gracious entry. Knowing you will continue to soar, as will he, I look forward to seeing what new talents you bring to light and excellent work you bring forth.

  3. To have this owed to my bad back is both humbling and troubling (for me). Damn back. It has since been doing much better. I’m grateful Jason was able to step in and carry on. Possibly more competently than me.

    Just wanted to say though, regardless of how Happy Cog had the opportunity to work with him, Jason’s talent was and is self-evident. It opened doors for him in the past, and will continue to do so for a long time. I’ve been learning from him since I discovered his site several years ago.

    Here’s to his continued success in all he has yet to do.

  4. Wow ! That’s was a moving post. Makes us all remember that great human adventures are at the center off all things. I’ll remain silent … just thanking you for it.

  5. I’d say he’s done pretty well as a representative of Happy Cog. Good luck to both of you in the future. I know you have some very capable people to step in and take the reigns.

  6. I am sorry for that. Jason is a great designer and this make me feel a bit empty now, even if I don’t know him personally. I can’t imagine, what it means to you. His work is very beautiful. But at the same time I am glad, that you will continue to work together no matter, what paths are taken. I think that’s something what makes Happy Cog so different.

  7. Thanks for this and everything, Jeffrey. I’ve learned so much from you over the years and am forever grateful for the opportunity to work with you and be your friend.

  8. Nice post, and it’s great to hear from the elusive Doug! Still with Google these days?

    All the best to Jason and you as well, Jeffrey. Keep on truckin’!

  9. As a big fan of both of you, I’m really glad you worked together so long and that Jason has the opportunity to strike out on his own. I hope you make sure he is still a regular at An Event Apart!

  10. While I’m sorry to hear that Jason’s leaving Happy Cog, it’s really great to hear that you’re parting on such good terms. That’s sufficiently rare in this (or any) industry. Best of luck to you both.

  11. For some reason I am saddened by this news, although I have no connection at all with either Jason or happy Cog or YOU. Being a HUGE basketball fan I will do the best I can to explain what I mean.

    I enjoyed the olden days when star players would become the franchise player of a team. Now a days this mindset is fading away. Players like Michael Jordan (I don’t count his time with the Wizards), Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Reggie Miller, & David Robinson. It was almost unthinkable for these guys to put on a different jersey. And so it has gone at least in my mind with Jason & Happy Cog.

    It is bittersweet though, because I’m sure Jason has personal and professional goals and other reasons for moving on, so I have to be happy for the guy, but at the same time the news is sad.

  12. Oh wow, I’ve been at my job for seven years, going on eight; first as a technical manager and now as an accessibility sherpa.

    I feel old, all of a sudden, with your ‘Four and a half years is a couple of centuries in internet time’ bit.

  13. Change is always hard. But this take on change could make even the grinchiest of hearts grow two sizes on the spot.

    Best of luck to the obviously gracious and talented Jason, and to the equally obviously gracious and talented Jeffrey. May more partnerships draw to a close in this fashion. (Although maybe they shouldn’t start that way. Ow!)

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