8 Dec 2013 12 pm eastern

Design Is A Relationship

Mike Monteiro

MIKE MONTEIRO is a man on a mission. He wants to improve design by fixing the core of it, which is the relationship between designer and client. Too many of us fear our clients—the people whose money keeps our lights on, and who hire us to solve business problems they can’t solve for themselves. And too many clients are even more frustrated and puzzled by their designers than the designers are by the clients.

It’s the designer’s job to fix this, which is why Mike first wrote Design Is A Job, and spent two years taking the message into conference halls and meeting rooms from New Zealand to New York.

I wish every designer could read this book. I can’t tell you how many friends of mine—many of whom I consider far better designers than I am—struggle every day with terrible anxieties over how a client will react to their work. And the problem isn’t limited to web and interaction designers. Anybody who designs anything burns cycles in fear and acrimony. I too waste hours worrying about the client’s reaction—but a dip into Mike’s first book relaxes me like a warm milk bath, and reminds me that collaboration and persuasion are the essence of my craft and well within my power to execute.

If the designer’s side of things were the only part of the problem Mike had addressed, it would be enough. But there is more:

  • Next Mike will help clients understand what they should expect from a designer and learn how to hire one they can work with. How he will do that is still a secret—although folks attending An Event Apart San Francisco this week will get a clue.
  • Design education is the third leg of the chair, and once he has spread his message to clients, Mike intends to fix that or die trying. As Mike sees it (and I agree) too many design programs turn out students who can defend their work in an academic critique session among their peers, but have no idea how to talk to clients and no comprehension of their problems. We are creating a generation of skilled and talented but only semi-employable designers—designers who, unless they have the luck to learn what their expensive education didn’t teach them, will have miserably frustrating careers and turn out sub-par work that doesn’t solve their clients’ problems.

We web and interaction designers are always seeking to understand our user, and to solve the user’s problems with empathy and compassion. Perhaps we should start with the user who hires us.

Filed under: A Book Apart, Advocacy, An Event Apart, business, Career, client services, clients, conferences, Design, Designers, Education, engagement, people

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13 Nov 2013 1 pm eastern

An Event Apart 2014 Schedules Posted

Jeremy Keith at An Event Apart

IT’S NOT NEWS that all eight An Event Apart conferences in 2014 are open for registration. But this is new: we’ve now published complete schedules and speaker lineups for the first three shows of the year.

Learn from some of the smartest people in our industry. Go deep on topics like emerging responsive image standards, advanced web typography, designing in the gap between devices, putting your UI in motion with CSS, working with CSS preprocessors, increasing the likelihood that your digital design projects will succeed, and even the best ways to share the ideas you’ve learned at An Event Apart when you get back to your office.

Read more.

Filed under: An Event Apart, conferences, Design, Web Design

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23 Oct 2013 7 am eastern

Meaning and Non-Meaning

I’M AT THE MakingWeb conference in Oslo, Norway. Nearly all of the presentations here have been in English, but the one I’m listening to now is in Norwegian, a language of which I speak not a word. The ambient flow of phonemes teases my jet lag and makes my lids heavy. Yet each time I am about to drift off, a name or phrase I know leaps from the sea of foreign syllables, awakening me with a sudden shiver of recognition:

Mobile First, Norwegian Norwegian Norwegian. Teehan + Lax, Norwegian Norwegian Norwegian. Responsive Design, Norwegian Norwegian.


Filed under: conferences

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13 Dec 2012 12 am eastern

To Leiden, To Leiden

THEY’RE SLEEPING in New York. They’re sleeping all over the world. Even here in Leiden, The Netherlands, they’re still mumbling and drooling in their beds. But not me. I’m awake and packing for my return home to NYC after three glorious days here in this ancient university town, where I was privileged to speak at the first Inspire conference. And all you got were these lousy photos.

Related: Design Problem

Filed under: cities, conferences, Design, glamorous, people, photography, Travel, Zeldman

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7 Dec 2012 11 am eastern

Creative Commons turns 10

HARD TO BELIEVE, but it was ten years ago that I first heard Lawrence Lessig give a talk at SXSWi about an idea he had to save content from death by copyright law.

At the time, copyright law and digital creativity were at odds, and tens of thousands of cultural artifacts were disappearing from the commons because of the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, a copyright extension pushed through congress by the late Sonny Bono at the behest of the Disney corporation. Corey Doctorow, one of Lessig’s partners on the SXSW panel, memorably likened the destruction to the slow motion burning of the Library of Alexandria.

But Lessig had a plan. And, remarkably, it worked: “For a decade now, Creative Commons has made legal sharing and remixing easier for everyone. After ten years, it has become the default third way.”

Let’s help this good work continue. Please donate to Creative Commons if you can.

Filed under: conferences, content, copyright, creativity, Culture, Design

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16 Oct 2012 3 am eastern

Greetings from London

Gherkin and skyline from Heron Tower, City of London

HELLO FROM LONDON, where I’m visiting family and friends, speaking at Future of Web Apps, and exploring this magical city.

Filed under: cities, conferences, London

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10 Oct 2012 2 pm eastern

That Brooklyn Thing

THE YEAR Brooklyn Beta opened, a misunderstanding and a coincidentally timed paying gig prevented me from attending. The following year, two paying gigs, scheduled back to back, kept me away. This year was going to be different. This year I cleared my decks. This year there were no gigs, no client meetings, no major medical procedures scheduled for the three days that the internet descends on Brooklyn. This year I was definitely attending.

Then this family thing came up and I can’t go. Nobody’s sick, nobody’s injured, nobody’s mentally or emotionally or spiritually treading water, but my presence and attention are required in Manhattan for huge swathes of the day. Which means, although friends I adore and see too rarely are a mere five subway stops away, I cannot be with them now.

I hope Brooklyn Beta continues for a thousand years, and I hope I can attend for at least one of them. I hope this isn’t a thing—like it was a thing for years that when Apple updated its Macintosh operating system, I was certain to be one of the 0.001% of users who suffered from some strange edge-case problem as a direct consequence. I hope there isn’t a betting pool on the odds of my attending Brooklyn Beta, although I have visions of one bespectacled design nerd slipping another a fiver on their receiving news of my non-attendance. Most of all, I hope everyone attending has a great time. See you next year, maybe.

Filed under: conferences, events, glamorous

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19 Sep 2012 3 pm eastern

To Lisbon!

I’M OFF to Lisbon, Portugal, for Refresh LX, “an affordable conference for busy web designers.” See you soon!


Filed under: air travel, conferences, Design, Web Design, Zeldman

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25 Aug 2012 9 am eastern

From Chicago, With Love

Marina City, Chicago, IL, USA. Part of a photo set by Jeffrey Zeldman.

HEY, FRIENDS. I write from the magical city of Chicago, where I’m enjoying the first Happy Cog Summit. Next week, following our meet-up cum strategy session cum karaoke party, comes An Event Apart Chicago, three days of peace, love, and web standards (plus more Chicago magic).

I won’t be writing here much while these events continue, but I’ve started a Chicago 2012 photo slide show for your pleasure, and will add to it as time and aesthetics permit. You can also stalk me via my new Foursquare Chicago list.

Once An Event Apart kicks in, starting Monday August 27, and until it ends Wednesday night, August 29, I’ll post links and notes here—and you can follow the hot tweet-by-tweet action on A Feed Apart, the official feed aggregator for An Event Apart. Yowee!

Filed under: An Event Apart, business, Chicago, cities, client services, conferences, Design, Happy Cog™

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19 Jun 2012 11 am eastern

Interacting Responsively (and Responsibly!)

AT AN EVENT APART Boston, “Scott Jehl discussed ways we can improve web performance by qualifying capabilities and being smart about how assets are loaded in browsers [and] shared a … new tools he helped create that can help address these issues.”

Enjoy Luke Wroblewski’s notes on Scott’s talk.

Filed under: An Event Apart, conferences, content, Content First, HTML, Responsive Web Design

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