I discuss “open source design” in an excerpt from a long interview at Big Think. The full interview, with a complete transcript, will soon be available there as well.
BigThink’s Merrell Hambleton did a great deal of research prior to conducting the hour-long interview, and was thereby able, not only to probe typical Zeldman topics in greater depth, but also to ask interesting questions outside my comfort zone.
The interview was carried out via Interrotron, a fascinating device invented by Errol Morris.
The panel was about quitting your job (or coping with a layoff), working as a freelancer, collaborating with others, and what to do if your collaboration starts morphing into an agency. We sought to answer questions like these:
What business and personal skills are required to start a freelance business or a small agency? Is freelancing or starting a small agency a good fit for my talents and abilities?
Is freelancing or starting a small agency the right work solution for me in a scary and rapidly shrinking economy? Can the downsides of this economy work to my advantage as a freelancer or small agency head?
I’ve been downsized/laid off/I’m stuck in a dead-end job working longer hours for less money. Should I look for a new job or take the plunge and go freelance?
What can I expect in terms of income and financial security if I switch from a staff job to freelancing? What techniques can I use as a freelancer to protect myself from the inevitable ups and downs?
How do I attract clients? How much in-advance work do I need to line up before I can quit my job?
How do I manage clients? What client expectations that are normal for in-house or big agency work must I deliver on as a freelancer or the head of a small or virtual agency? Which expectations can I discard? How do I tell my client what to expect?
Do I need an office? What are the absolute minimum tools I need to start out as a one-person shop?
How big can my freelance business grow before I need to recast it as a small agency?
What models are out there for starting an agency besides the conventional Inc. model with all its overhead? Which model would work best for me?
Who do I know with whom I could start a small or virtual agency? What should I look for in my partners? What should I beware of?
If I’m lucky enough to be growing, how do I protect my creative product and my professional reputation while adding new people and taking on more assignments?
How big can my agency grow before it sucks? How I can grow a business that’s dedicated to staying small?
A key to running successful “social networking sites” is to remember that they’re just communities. All communities, online or off, have one thing in common: members want to belong—to feel like part of something larger than themselves. Communicating effectively, setting clear and specific expectations, mentoring contributors, playing with trends, offering rewards, and praising liberally (but not excessively) can harness your members’ innate desires—and nurture great content in the process.
Asymmetry, asperity, simplicity, modesty, intimacy, and the suggestion of a natural process: these attributes of elegant design may seem relevant only to a project’s aesthetics. But the most successful web designs reflect these considerations at every stage, from idea to finished product. Bring heart to the experiences you create by infusing them with intelligence that transcends aesthetics and reflects the imperfection of the natural world.
Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can’t operate in an environment like that. I’ve grown tired of debating such miniscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle.
How awesome would it be if you could combine the aesthetic rigor and clarity of fixed-width, grid-based layouts with the device- and screen size independence and user-focused flexibility of fluid layouts? Completely awesome, that’s how awesome. And with a little cunning and a tad of easy math, ALA’s Ethan Marcotte gets it done. We smell a trend in the offing.
While our designs can never control people, they can encourage good behavior and discourage bad. In this excerpt from Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web 2nd Edition, Christina Wodtke tells us how to make products that delight people and change their lives by remembering the social in social architecture.
As web designers, we concern ourselves with how users move from page to page, but forget the needs of those whose purpose is to be still. Learn the design techniques that create a mental space for reading. Use typographic signals to help users shift from looking to reading, from skimming along to concentrating. Limit distractions; pay attention to the details that make text readable; and consider chronology by providing transitions for each of the three phases of the online reading experience.
In space no one can hear you scream, and in a global economic meltdown, no industry—not even web design—is safe. But as a web designer, your skills and products are suited to ride out hard times, as long as you stay busy. Learn the seven steps to (relative) security in good times or bad: 1. Keep clients happy. 2. Know your goals. 3. Use your initiative wisely. 4. Communicate. 5. Put in a full day’s work. 6. Do it right. 7. Find the love.
If you’ve been longing to follow Jason Santa Maria’s lead and bring real art direction to the no-budget, publish-now medium of the personal website, Noel Jackson‘s Art Direction Plug-in is for you. The plug-in lets you style individual entries in your WordPress blog without hacking the publishing tool or expending energy on time-consuming workarounds.
We are a web design agency—not a marketing communications firm or a design firm that dabbles in the web. But if you’re the right person for this job, we don’t have to tell you about us.
We seek an exceptionally gifted designer with effective communication and listening skills, as comfortable with clients as with coworkers. You’re the best in your class or at your company, but it doesn’t go to your head. You’re a team player and you recognize that ours is a service business. Be passionate about aesthetics and serious about strategy. You needn’t be front-end code whiz, as long as you understand how design and code interact, and embrace the principles of web standards and accessibility.
The job starts in early April. If you think it’s for you, send your resume, site URL, and persuasive cover letter to email@example.com.