If you asked me to sum up the last two or so years from a professional perspective, the simplest thing I could say would be that it’s been about reconnecting with my roots, refocusing my efforts, more thoughtfully plotting where I’m headed, and actively taking the necessary steps to get there.
If you asked me to sum up the last several months, I’d say they’ve been about evaluating, prioritizing, doing, undoing, showing, talking, thinking, considering, reconsidering, and preparing. They’ve been a convergence of opportunity, serendipity, and, I don’t know, something else. I think. Probably.
There are times when an opportunity comes knocking, when the effect would be profound, when plans, tactics, goals and values perfectly align, and when patience pays in spades.
While I’ve been fortunate to have recently discussed a number of amazing, and frankly, flattering opportunities, at the end of March, I’m grabbing one by the horns and headed south-west from Toronto to California to join the Communications Design team at Facebook, with my family following in the months following (once the school year is out).
To say I’m excited for the opportunity to work with such an impressive team and to tackle new challenges would be an understatement of the highest order. Seriously, this is a bad-ass team of designers and I’m truly humbled to be included in their company.
Of course none of this is going to be easy — it’s a big deal to move, let alone move from one coast to the other, to cross borders, and to be away from your family for a signifiant stretch of time. But we’ll make it work. We’ve made it through three very intense major home renovation projects and the birth of two kids after all…
Like others (ahem, @splorp), I’ve had my share of apprehension about Facebook over the years… and frankly, just about every other “social” service, but what I’ve seen, based on the brief glimpse behind the curtain I’ve had so far has reminded me that it’s made of people. And in this case, those people are clearly trying to produce something meaningful and with lasting value to help our increasingly connected world communicate, share, and remember.
Not only do I think this is an opportunity to do some really interesting and challenging work, but also to see an immediate measurable impact. Personally, this is also an opportunity to observe some of McLuhan’s ideas and their effects from a bit of an insider’s perspective.
Although we’ll miss Toronto (sorry In-N-Out but you’re no Burgers Priest) and our families and friends — the next great adventure awaits. See you on the other side.
On a side note, I had hoped that this would be the first post on my long overdue new site, but alas, that’s had to take a back seat for a few weeks while we’ve been busy with all this business… Oh, and that Frank guy had to go make his more awesome, so back to the drawing board…
On top of providing a few of the long sold-out limited edition LL&S prints as prizes for Ampersand attendees, we’ll also be putting together an exclusive for the event. I can’t promise we won’t keep it a surprise until then, but we’ll see…
And if that weren’t enough, LL&S will also be sponsoring TypeCon 2011: Surge in New Orleans this year. We’re still working out exactly what we might do for that event, but needless to say, as was the case last year, the entire Butter Label crew will again be on hand.
There’s a lot I could say about SXSW, but others have alreadywritten pieces that echo my own sentiments about the conference this year.
Simply put, SXSW has arguably outgrown it’s effectiveness as a design and technology conference in spite of itself. It’s too big, too uneven, and perhaps, even too corporate. On the other hand, because it’s size, it’s helped foster something else entirely — what you might almost call a resistance.
The last two years have seen a growing group forsaking the official conference almost entirely, instead travelling to Austin during that same period to join friends and peers in small, usually informal gatherings, frequently at many of Austin’s popular coffee houses, pubs or restaurants to share knowledge, ideas, have a laugh, or just to catch up with each other and discuss the future.
There’s reasons why I think this is important, though Josh nails it:
I love meeting new people and connecting with old friends. I love talking about all the crazy stuff we do and what it means and why we do it and how we can do it better and how we can actually make the lives of others better by sharing our ideas and making things and being genuine and opening up to one another and buying rounds of beer for people we don’t know and getting to know them and coming up with crazy, goofy ideas that just might work and practicing a whole new type of alchemy: converting bytes and bits of virtual connectedness into actual, physical relationships that mean something.
Although I love Austin as a city, it’s those relationships and that open sharing of ideas that keeps me going back every year. Strengthening existing connections and making new ones. It’s what the web is made of. It’s what life in the real world is made of.
With everything that’s been goingon lately, my third trip down to Austin for SXSW couldn’t have come at a better time. I definitely needed a break and some time to decompress.
In every sense: mission accomplished.
I was largely offline while in Austin. I didn’t bring my MacBook and it was often challenging to get connected on my iPhone since roaming data rates are insane (thanks again Rogers and AT&T). The often spotty wifi access didn’t help either. Despite that, being somewhat disconnected much of the time was refreshing — I think we’d all benefit from doing it more often.
Bigger, yes. Better?
Although I didn’t expect it to be bigger this year given the current economic climate, SXSW Interactive indeed was. Whether the conference itself was better than previous years though is still largely up for debate. Reports seem to indicate some good, a little bit of awesome and a whole lot of “meh” which isn’t really any different from previous years.
I honestly spent more time connecting with friends, both old and new than I did going to panels. I can count the number of panels I attended on one hand, but the ones I did were all enjoyable. Not mind blowing but enjoyable nonetheless.
It’s Made of People
SXSW has definitely become much more important to me (and many others) for the things that happen outside the conference sessions than in them. So much so for some that they didn’t bother to even get a conference pass this year, something that I would hazzard a guess will increase a bit more next year.
Now that the 2010 dates have been announced (March 12th—16th), if you’re thinking of attending, you mind want to consider skipping the conference pass and just hang out in the hallways or at Halcyon or Gingerman. I know I am. That’s where you’ll likely find a lot of us anyway.
More photographic evidence of my time in Austin at SXSW is available for your viewing pleasure at Flickr. On a side note — if you didn’t get a chance to see Gary Hustwit’s new film Objectified, do yourself a favour and make a point to.
Now that I’ve been back for about a week, caught up on work, the big iPhone OS 3.0 announcement and everything else going on in the web/design world, I’ve started to dedicate some time to reconnecting with a few of the things I’ve had sitting on the backburner or that will help me build up the momentum I need in planning what’s next.
First up: writing more and getting back on my book reading bandwagon. Two blog entries this week alone so I think I’m off to a good start.
SXSW Interactive 2008 is almost upon us - only a couple days left before a large part of the population of design/web and interactive geeks from around the world descend into Austin for a 4 days of panels, parties, and socializing.
The new (yay!) Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. office will be closed while I’m away for the conference and to spend some time with clients, but I’ll do my best to stay on top of e-mail and voicemail.
And if you happen to be in Austin for SXSW, please do say “hello”. Ask nice and I might have a button or two for you as well.
Although I’ve not really done a lot of “looking back” over the last couple of years, 2007 has been notable enough that it seems foolish not to turn the mirror around to see how I got where I am now.
While 2007 has generally been a good year, it’s also been one of the toughest I can remember. The specifics of this will be explained in due time but not necessarily here and now.
Looking back, I can see how the previous few years led me here and how I’ve learned and used many valuable lessons that continue to drive me forward both in my work, at home, and in the rest of my personal life. I can see where I made mistakes or the wrong choices too. Now, currently about three weeks into my month-long sabbatical, I’m starting to revisit those lessons - take stock of what’s working, what’s not, and getting things in order to start 2008 off on the right foot.
So what happened in 2007?
Around the World
While my travel exploits don’t compare to [certain][dkr] [others][haney], and although it’s still tough to be away from my family, I definitely did more travelling than I think I ever have before in a single year.
A few of the places I visited in 2007:
Austin, Texas (3 times)
As much as I might not enjoy living out of a suitcase, I got to put faces to names and feel like I made some great new friends, many of whom I expect to see again in January at WDN08 or in March for SXSWi and hopefully later in the year as well. I’ve also got a handful of new people who I’m looking forward to meeting in person in 2008. Social networking sites like Facebook, Virb, and Twitter are one thing, but cannot complete with actually connecting face to face with people.
Unfortunately I’ve not done the same kind of networking in the local Toronto web and technology communities; something which is high on my list of things to remedy in 2008. I’ve already got a good start and have a few opportunities already lined up to help move this along.
Business is Good
This year was one of growth and change for Wishingline. As a business entity, the company changed from a sole proprietorship to a full-fledged corporation with all the extra paperwork, meeting minutes and common shares that involves.
The employee roster also grew (officially) to two with the addition of Shawn Frair, who came on board at the beginning of December to take over the books, because, frankly, I’m not an accountant. Emily did a great job in helping get me through until now, but we’re both relieved to have this in Shawn’s hands now.
Aside from being a great friend, music lover, occasional blogger, and expert balloon animal maker, Shawn is filling an important need and taking charge of a core piece of the business that I really shouldn’t be too actively involved in. It’s a great relief to have the books in such capable hands, especially since it frees me to focus on both the creative and technical sides of the business along with simply growing the company.
Bringing one new person into the mix also meant that I started to put more serious thought into growth - beefing up the client roster, adding new talent, and moving the office. Although running the office out of the house has never been an issue with clients, it feels like the right time to start the search for proper office space especially if I plan on increasing the number of people actually doing the work beyond myself.
In the short term, the office has been reconfigured to add a second desk in preparation for adding employee number three. So, yes, that means officially I’m in hiring mode. This is the first of several self-induced kicks in the pants. More on this soon.
In terms of actual work - this year was a doozy. A couple of weeks ago, prior to starting my sabbatical I took a look back and assembled a near complete list of projects from the last year. It was so long that I nearly fell out of my seat. I had no idea how much I really accomplished; and as much as it kind of frightened me, it was also impressive.
Although my focus has been primarily web projects, I’ve had opportunities to work on print projects, ads, identity design and just about everything in between. Unfortunately, due to being so busy with client work meant that a few more personal projects fell by the wayside and got little, if any attention. Again, something that will be remedied in 2008 based on the planning I’ve been doing during my time off.
Musical Side Projects
In my musical world, 2007 also brought some changes. The Darns unfortunately disolved, but not without a new group rising out of the ashes. We moved out of our permanent rehearsal room in the west-end of the city and still haven’t bothered to come up with a name, but we’ve made great progress in writing new songs and are starting to put together a plan to do some recording in early 2008 with the possibility for an EP release. Might need to get that name thing worked out before that though…
The biggest adjustment in 2007 continued to be adapting to having a new baby in the house. Thankfully Gillian couldn’t be a better baby. She sleeps well, eats well and is incredibly good natured virtually all the time. We really couldn’t ask for more.
It’s been so much fun to watch her grow (she turned one in October), babble, crawl, laugh, splash around in the tub, chase the cats - it reminds me that even if I have a lousy day at the office, there’ll always be a smiling face waiting at the end of the day. To top her first year off right, we’re really looking forward to Gillian’s debut modelling appearance in the February 2008 issue of Style at Home magazine (page 24 I’m told).
Aside from all the changes revolving around Gillian, this year brought an opportunity to finally come to terms with many other life changes such as moving (twice), two summers of major home renovations and the psychological changes involved with going from being an employee to the boss. It was a nice break this summer not to have to also play the role of construction site foreman at the same time as attempting to work through it.
On Deck for 08
I’ve got what I think are notable goals and changes lined up for 2008 and we’ll see how I end up doing by the end of the year but I’m optimistic that the time off I’ve given myself has allowed me the chance to slow down, reflect and really think about the last year and what I want and need to accomplish in 2008. I think it’s only by looking back at our successes, and perhaps more importantly, our mistakes, that we truly learn.
Though nearly two months from kickoff, 2008 conference fever is already ramping up with two big ones currently marked on the calendar, tickets purchased and hotels arranged with more surely to be added as the year goes on.
First, one of too few relevant and topical Canadian-based web/design-related conferences — Web Directions North. Unfortunately due to other commitments I missed the inaugural event last year, but after speaking with both Derek Featherstone and Dave Shea during SXSW, which only shortly followed WDN, I realized I couldn’t afford to miss it a second time.
Given the great lineup of speakers, can you afford to miss it? I’m excited — new faces, old friends, and no dobut spectacularly organized! Plus I haven’t been to Vancouver in over 10 years which is a treat in itself.
And then there’s old reliable — South By Southwest down in lovely Austin, Texas. Last year, oddly my first year attending, was a blast and I’m looking forward to catching up with friends, hopefully generally more interesting talks and panels than last year and just an all-around good time. I’ll be at the Hampton and staying a couple extra days at the end of the Interactive portion of the conference to visit with clients and hopefully putter around Austin a bit with anyone staying for the week of music mayhem that starts when Interactive ends.
Hope to see you there at one or both conferences. Do say “hello” — I promise I don’t bite.
Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. will be representin’ (but not presenting) in Chicago at the end of August for the third An Event Apart conference of 2007 which will be featuring talks from such web luminaries as Dan Cederholm, Jeffrey Zeldman, Derek Featherstone, Jeremy Keith, Lou Rosenfeld, Jim Coudal, Eric Meyer, Jason Santa Maria and more. We’re looking forward to seeing a few old friends and hopefully making some new ones, so please do say hello if you see him milling about between sessions.
At the moment, there’s still a few tickets left, so if you’re looking to attend what will surely be a great two day conference, you had better hurry as they undoubtedly won’t last long.
SXSWi 2007 is now over and I’m back home in Toronto. What a week away! I’m sure I’m still a bit out of it after being awake for over 24 hours (8:30 AM Thursday though 9:30 PM Friday) so hopefully I’m somewhat coherent.
My 6AM Friday flight back to Toronto left me feeling particularly paranoid about sleeping through an alarm, so I stayed up chillin’ at my bud Rob Jones’ place in Austin until it was time to leave. I had to gas up the rental car, drop it off and then do all the usual stuff at the airport. Luckily, no problems with my connecting flights and I actually made it home a few minutes earlier than expected.
March 9th through the 16th was a crazy week and I’m flat out exhausted. SXSW was a great time and a nice break from work, allowing me to finally put faces and personalities to the names I mostly knew only online via Flickr, Twitter or other social networking sites.
The web standards/design community has a lot of great people in it; folks I admire and look to for advice, encouragement and inspiration. People from the Canada, the US, UK, Australia and elsewhere - all of whom came together to what is truly an international conference like no other.
Based on what I heard from numerous people who’ve attended previous South By conferences, this one, in terms of the actual conference panels was a bit of a let-down. The talks were often less interesting, less focused and poorly prepared.
In some ways, looking at the names of panellists, it stuck me as a bit of a changing of the guard in some respects. A lot of names I didn’t know with only a handful that I did. As such, I found myself spending more time socializing with my peers outside the panels, at various restaurants or bars around the 6th Street area rather than actually attending the panels. The handful that I did attend in general were good or at least passable.
Given that this was my first South By I find it hard to judge fairly aside from saying that these panels were generally much less well prepared than those at Apple’s WWDC conference, RailsConf or other conferences I’ve attended in the past. I think some of the panels touched briefly on topics that overall would have been more interesting than what the panellists actually spoke about.
Unfortunately, I think I missed just about all of the really good panels such as Richard Rutter and Mark Boulton’s panel on Web Typography, Khoi Vihn and Mark Boulton’s grid design panel. Luckily there are podcasts to make up for that in the same way Apple provides WWDC attendees video/audio and PDFs of the sessions each year.
THE Social Conference
Aside from the panels, and as I hinted at earlier, SXSW is really a massive social experience, even more so than I expected. Meeting the people and personalities I’ve almost exclusively known online and having them all turn out to be really cool, fun, and down to earth was the icing on the cake. Although I didn’t get to meet everyone I would have liked or had enough time to chat with the ones I did, I can’t complain.
I was fortunate enough to get to meet and/or hang out with folks like Dan and Alex Rubin, the entirely awesome Blue Flavor posse, Tiff Fehr, Matthew Pennell, Derek Featherstone, Veerle and Geert, Andy Budd, Paul Boag, Robert Scales, Mark Bixby, Brian Warren, Steve Smith, Patrick Haney, Jina Bolton, my homie Mike Stickle, Dave Shea, Jason Santa Maria and his lovely wife Liz (your mugs are in transit), Shaun Inman, Jesse Bennett-Chamberlai, Jon Snook, Faruk and his Apple Web Store cohorts, Anton Peck, Greg Storey, Bryan Veloso, Scott Raymond, Garrett Dimon, the Veer gang (Grant, Brock, Aaron, Issa and Yuval), Sean from frogdesign and undoubtedly many more who I’m blanking on right now.
I also finally got to meet the business partner of Theresa Neil with whom I’ve been working on the FiveRuns application for the last year - Rob Jones, a former frogdesign(er) and who’s just the best. Rob rocks, and along with his girlfriend Shara, was kind enough to put me up for my last couple nights in Austin while I was takin’ care of business.
The Year Of The Button
2007 was the year of the button. I’m nearly positive I’m heading home with more 1” buttons than business cards. I can think of a few folks though who I just realized I never snagged a card from and a few who just didn’t have any at all. But the buttons seemed to really be a big hit all around. They’re fun and it’s just something a little different.
I’m still adamant that the Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. popsicle buttons were the only ones that were hand-made (by my lovely wife). I think they turned out fantastically given the fact they weren’t printed and assembled until just hours before I left to come down to Austin.
There’s still a small handful of those buttons left for anyone who didn’t get one that wants one. Just send me an e-mail or IM me with you deets and I’ll get something in the mail for you.
About SXSW’s Idiotic Registration Process
As I said to Bryan Veloso when we briefly chatted during his and Dan Rubin’s Live from the 101 podcast, my biggest complaint about SXSW, aside from some bad or uninteresting panels and poor scheduling was the absolutely ridiculous registration process and just some generally bad conference structuring problems in terms of the location of things, including the panels.
Assuming you pay $300 to go to the conference, I think there’s a pretty darn good chance you’ll actually go.
Taking that into consideration, badges should have all been pre-printed for registrants like at every other conference in the world so that when you go to register, everything is just waiting for you. Having to wait in line, fill out a card with info they already have, possibly get your photo taken, then wait around for someone to print out your badge and yell out your name before you can actually finally get your badge. That’s just inefficient and stupid if you ask me.
For a conference with as much history as SXSW, that seems like a lesson they perhaps should already have learned. The same goes for putting the registration area right in the middle of a major throughway of people going to and from panels. Apparently much of this was worse last year which is a scary thought.
A Few Fun Moments
Other random fun moments — the Trailer Park Boys wandering around the convention centre, some dude dressed as Superman though with a cellphone and Blackberry case attached to his bright yellow belt, and apparently missing Paul Rudd as we left the trade show area. I’m also still convinced I saw Tarantino a few times on Saturday or Sunday night too when we were all out partying.
In terms of parties, I had a great time at just about all of the ones I made it out to - definitely the Blue Flavor party being my fave and MediaTemple one being possibly the most pretentious and possibly dull (hence my early exit) even though I made it into the “VIP” area.
The fact that Monday’s events were on my birthday made them particularly memorable and the most fun. Thanks to all for the birthday wishes and Twitters and to Mark Bixby and Brian Warren for filling me full of beer and assorted alcohol.
Monday the 12th was also made special by the Veer gang for taking me out for a big birthday steak dinner at Fleming’s. I know everyone loves Veer — but those guys really are the coolest, and if I didn’t enjoy working for myself, I could see having a lot of fun working with them. Right, Grant?
It was nice to get away for a week though I missed Emily and Gillian and was very happy to get home. Talking with them on the phone or via IM just isn’t the same. I’m still filtering through pics to upload to Flickr, but should have the ones I want to post all up soon enough.
Thanks again to all my South By peeps, it was a blast. See you next year!
Like many others in the design, web, film, music and related industries, in March I’ll be making the trek down to Austin, Texas for SXSW. This will be my first time attending (finally) and I’m looking forward to meeting up with old friends, finally putting some proper faces to names, shaking hands and kissing babies.
Seriously though, I’ve heard SXSW is a good time (lots of parties), and it looks like there’s a solid speaker/panel lineup, I just hope I can deal with all the people… WWDC is around 4000 — 4500 which is a lot. SXSW I’m guessing based on hotel availability will be quite a bit more.
And for anyone interested, I’ll probably bring a few mugs and CDs with me.
The Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. office will be closed during the week of January 23rd through January 28th while we’re away in Reston, Virginia at The Rails Edge where we’ll be learning more about what’s new in Rails 1.2 and other interesting, related Rails topics from Rails luminaries such as Dave Thomas, Mike Clark, Marcel Molina Jr., Chad Fowler, Justin Gehtland, Stuart Halloway and more.
If you’ll be attending the conference, please stop by the FiveRuns (primary sponsor of the conference and one of our clients) table and say hello.