Starting today, Geek Mental Help Week is a week-long series of articles, blog posts, conversations, podcasts and events across the web about mental health issues, how to help people who suffer, and those who care for us.
Do you know where you were or what you were doing exactly ten years ago (next week?) I do. I was speaking at my first, in fact the first Web Directions conference in Sydney, Australia. (I gave a talk called ‘Creating Inspired Design’ and there’s audio of it if you’re interested in listening.)
Flights are booked and visas are in hand* and I’m getting very excited, because in only a few weeks, Sue and I are heading back to Australia to join Espen, Jina and Una, as well as our friends in Perth at the very first Mixin conference.
As I mentioned last week, I’ve written a new talk to help me cope with my obsession with making layouts that are different from what we mostly see on the web these days. It’s called ‘Art Directing the Web’ because in the talk I make the point that we should make different layouts not just for difference sake, but to better communicate the meaning of our content and to tell better stories.
I’ve joked before that unless a conference line-up includes Harry Roberts and Sara Soueidan it’s a Code Of Conduct violation. Or something like that. So oh how I laughed when earlier this year I was asked to join them on stage at Frontend Conf in Zurich, Switzerland.
I’m warning you now, it’s a very different kind of episode of Unfinished Business this week as Rachel Andrew and I talk about our feelings on the referendum result for the UK to leave the EU. We talk about the issues that will affect us, you and our businesses in the coming months and years and what we’re already doing to help mitigate them.
In the second part of this Unfinished Business Bank Holiday double, I’m joined by owner of UX studio Simple As Milk and lead UX engineer at UnrollMe, James Seymore-Lock to ask and answer the important question. “Am I the country’s biggest Homes Under The Hammer super-fan?” (Spoiler: He has no clue, not one.)
In this, the first part of the Unfinished Business Bank Holiday double, I’m joined by Espen Brunborg, designer and co-founder of Primate, plus Strategic Commander of User Experience and author of ‘Psychology for Designers’ Joe Leech. It’s more of a work related episode and we talk about; developing content for clients, why you should do your own research and not believe that everything you read on the internet, and whether you should get involved in competitive pitching and tendering?
I know. I know! It’s been far too long since episode 117. But fret no more, Unfinished Business fans, we’re back and back for good, every two weeks with some brilliant guests and some good old fashioned conversations. This week, I’m joined by Sean Johnson and Drew McLellan to talk fat and fitness, cruises and coach trips.
When illustrator Josh Cleland and I were designing our “It’s the taste” home page header, we were of course paying homage to the classic PG Tips TV commercials from the 1970s. In particular, the ad that’s been my favourite, Mr. Shifter. Yesterday, Choppers, the last surviving chimpanzee from that 1971 commercial died.
While I’m finalising the table of contents for my ‘shot,’ I’ve been thinking about the things that I regularly do when I’m ‘Designing with a Browser’, one of which is using the contenteditable attribute in the templates that I share with clients.
Let me start this list of my top five country music albums of 2015 with a confession. Although country’s been by far my most listened to genre again this year, I haven’t listened to it as much as I have the past few years. In the latter part of the year, I’ve taken several musical diversions. The last one’s been Electric Light Orchestra, a band that I’ve loved since my teens. But, with the possible exception of their Wild West Hero, they couldn’t be further from county.
I doubt that anyone except me and 24 ways creator Drew MacLellan have noticed, but since my original Contract Killer in 2008, I’ve had an article published by 24 ways every year on the same day, December 23rd. Even after seven years, I don’t take that spot for granted and I was really chuffed when Drew asked me to write again this year.
When Mark Boulton and I were planning the first edition of Hardboiled Web Design, we both knew who we wanted to illustrate the cover, Kevin Cornell. Kevin’s interpretation of the hardboiled detective theme was so perfect that I couldn’t have imagined anyone else illustrating for Hardboiled.
Last year’s Geek Mental Help Week was, by all accounts, well received and a terrific success. Despite the fact that we pulled it together with sticky tape and string, people told their stories about how mental health issues had affected them and the people who care for them. Those stories were honest and humbling to everyone who read them. I hope that next week, Geek Mental Help Week 2015 can do something similar.
Hot on the heels of announcing the new Hardboiled Web Design Fifth Anniversary Edition, I’m also incredibly excited and nervous to let you know about three new Hardboiled Web Design books that will be published throughout the course of next year. We’re calling them ‘Hardboiled Web Design Shots.’
The Unfinished Business schedule’s been a little, shall we say, up in the air, for the past few episodes. while I’ve been busy writing something. I do aim to get back to our routine and I’m sorry for the disruption. A few weeks ago I recorded a hilarious episode with artist, illustrator and rapper Mr. Bingo. We talk about artist—and former Spitting Image puppet maker—Wilfrid Wood, Banksy’s Dismaland and why IKEA in Croydon is like a real-life bemusement park.
I can’t quite believe that it’s been almost two years since we launched the previous, Go, go, go, rillas! design of the Stuff & Nonsense website. Today, I’m very pleased to present our next design, ‘It’s the taste.’
On Unfinished Business this week there’s no talk about mugs but Rachel Andrew is back. We’re joined by first timer Richard Rutter to discuss his upcoming book on Web Typography, why he chose to self-publish and fund the project on Kickstarter and the role of a publisher in today’s market. Of course Rachel loves to talk about VAT (irony) so we do that and she explains why she doesn’t actually owe a million Euros to Ireland.
This week on episode 115 of Unfinished Business, I’m joined by returning guests Brad Frost and Stephen Hay. After talking about the best coffee mug in the world, we get right down it and discuss why it’s dangerous to bring computer science principles and heavy development tools into web design.
A week later than planned (sorry,) on this week’s Unfinished Business, I’m joined by returning special guest, designer Dan Edwards. And because you wait all day and then two Dans come along at once, joining us is creative director, founder and director of the SuperFriendly agency in Philadelphia, Daniel (the Dan) Mall. We talk about plans for the next Geek Mental Help week in October first. Then, because I’m currently deep into a redesign of Stuff & Nonsense, why working on your own site always feel harder than working on a client sites. We discuss using our portfolios to attract the ‘right’ type of projects and if case studies are the best way to demonstrate what we do.
I’ve been looking forward to speaking with Cennydd Bowles for months and for Unfinished Business 113, Cennydd joins me and my other special guest, product designer Noah Stokes. We kick off by talking about Richard Rutter’s web typography book, but soon the conversation switches to whether, and why, current web designs are lacking ‘soul.’ This is something Noah and I have been speaking and writing over recent months and something that I partly blame on our fixation with user-experience and product design. Does Cennydd agree? You‘ll have to listen to the show to find out.
I want Unfinished Business to be, above all, entertaining and it makes me incredibly happy when entertainers take time to talk to me. This week, and after literally months of trying to set this up, my very special guest on Unfinished Business episode 112 is, actor, comedian, star of Vic and Bob’s ‘House Of Fools,’ Ellie White.
We start by talking about spice jars and car boot (garage) sales, but unsurprisingly our conversation soon veers wildly off topic as we discuss how Aaron’s struggling to keep up with demands on his time, how designers can make money selling merchandise and more, much, much more. If you know either Aaron or Brendan, you’ll also know that you’re in for a fast-paced, fun-filled sixty minutes.
This week at Smashing Conference in New York, I had the very great pleasure of meeting Chris Lilley. I recognised Chris’ name, but it took me a day to remember that he had been the chairman of the ‘Style and Formatting Properties Working Group’ at the W3C, a precursor to the CSS Working Group. Chris is a hugely important person in the history of the web.
When we were in Australia earlier this year, we stopped in Sydney to speak at John Allsopp’s Respond Conference and to teach a workshop. A few weeks before those events, John emailed me:
The folks at SydCSS are fantastic supporters of our events, and last year we did a couple of shared events with them. I’ve dobbed you and I to do a short presentation (it will be the night of Respond.)
Last week was Jeffrey Zeldman’s website’s 20th birthday, so this week he joins me and Jeremy Keith on Unfinished Business 110 to talk about the anniversary. We start by discussing Jeremy’s 100 words for 100 days writing project and how it’s inspired me to change the way that I think about writing on our blog and posting to our portfolio. We talk about the importance of writing for yourself as well as for others and why writing on your own website is important. With it being the twentieth anniversary of Jeffrey’s own site, we also talk about whether it’s important to archive older designs for posterity.
Oh, and please don’t skip this week’s after show segment as boy-oh-boy (girl-oh-girl, man-oh-man, woman-oh-woman) do the sparks fly! We discuss Mad Men, Mad Max and whether advertising can ever be considered as important as a book or a film and, let’s just say, things get very heated.
I’ve always enjoyed attending the Shropgeek (R)Evolution events in the past and been slightly jealous of the people that Kirsty’s asked to speak. This year, I couldn’t be happier that she’s asked me to do the final talk of the final (R)Evolution conference on September 25th in beautiful Shrewsbury.
I imagine if I told people in advance that I was talking to director of UX at MailChimp Aarron Walter and Founder of User Interface Engineering Jared Spool on Unfinished Business this week, they’d imagine we’d talk about user experience design and possibly education. Instead, they and I talk about action figures and Action Man and whether fighting Nazis is cooler than fighting aliens.
It’s amazing to think that John Allsopp’s oft-quoted article, A Dao of Web Design was published fifteen years ago today. A List Apart asked me what John’s article means to me now, but rather than focus on Dao’s flexible design principles, I wanted to talk about a passage that never seems to get a mention.
I‘ve been looking forward to publishing this episode of Unfinished Business for over a month and I looked forward to recording it for even longer, because I got to talk about art direction and creativity on the web with two of the creative people that I respect most, Dan Mall and Jeffrey Zeldman.
I have more than a soft spot for Australia. It’s where I’d live if that were possible and where I can see myself retiring to in, you know, twenty or so years. Luckily, I’m going back to Australia long before that, this March in fact, to speak at the fabulous Respond conference and to take my CSS For Responsive Web Design workshop on the road to Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, as well as Sydney itself.
If you’re a fan of my Unfinished Business podcast, you’ve only a few more weeks to wait until the next episode. It will be back (with episode 101) on the ninth of February and when it does, things will be a little different.
I care a lot about the things that I use everyday. I need them to be the nicest that I can buy, or at least afford. This means that I care a lot about my computer, phone and the sleeves I keep them safe in. I also care about the pen I write with and most recently about the mug I drink from every day.
Ten years ago, in 2005, my friend Drew MacLellan asked if I would contribute a short article to the then new 24ways, “advent calendar for web geeks” and “a daily dose of web design and development goodness” throughout December.
I know that my taste in country music’s mainstream. Mainstream enough that some country aficionados might criticise my ‘this Englishman’s’ lists for not straying far enough from the top of the country charts. The truth is, I like catchy country pop, and while next year I will try harder to discover music that’s further from the stereotypical southern dirt road, this year I’m happy to listen to songs about beer, cut-off jeans and cowboy boots, fishing in lakes and trucks and tractors.
This week is the one-hundredth episode of Unfinished Business and who better to join me than the person who helped me start it all, almost two years ago, Anna Debenham. We celebrate by talking about what went right and wrong in 2014 and our resolutions for 2015. Then we talk about meetings and how we can improve them.
I’d also like to say thank-you to all the companies who’ve helped make Unfinished Business possible through their sponsorship. Antetype, BigBoard, dConstruct, DeviceLab, DotYork, Espresso, GatherContent, Ghostlab, Forge, Hover, Logical Elements, Native Summit, ShropGeek, Simply FixIt and Shopify. I want to say a special thanks to Perch and Perch Runway for supporting the show from our very first episode. Please continue to support Unfinished Business by supporting them.
Unfinished Business will be back in February 2015 and I hope you’ll all join me then. Until then, thanks for listening and I’d like to wish everyone a happy Christmas holiday and a prosperous new year.
On the penultimate episode of Unfinished Business of 2014, I’m joined by my design hero Trent Walton to talk about if an integrated responsive design and development workflow makes working out what and how to charge more difficult. We discuss Paravel, the three person studio that he helps run, how their business works, how they charge and if they negotiate on price. Of course, this being Unfinished Business, I couldn’t help talking about burgers and this week’s stupid cheeseburger stuffed crust pizza.
Conference impresario John Davey joins me again on Unfinished Business this week. We talk about anticipation and scarceness, how some cinemas create an experience around watching a film, how looking at album artwork in a record shop enhanced the experience of buying music and whether the experiences we’ve lost were valuable enough to revive in new and different ways.
It’s a special week this week on Unfinished Business as I’m joined by not one, but two regular co-hosts, Ashley Baxter and Laura Kalbag. In a bumper episode, we talk about cakes, brightly coloured fizzy drinks and Yorkshire pudding burgers. We discuss podcasting, sounding good as a podcast guest, then whether we allow Christmas decorations in our offices. Finally we talk about what we’ve achieved this year and what our goals are for 2015. It’s a fast and fun episode. I think you’ll really enjoy it.
I’ve been very pleased with reactions to my latest ‘CSS3 For Responsive Web Design’ full-day workshop. Attendees at ‘The Web Is…’ in Cardiff and ‘Beyond Tellerrand’ in Berlin really seemed to like its mixture of design and technical content. I’ll be hosting this workshop again in several cities in various countries throughout 2015 and there’s still one more opportunity to join me in Oslo next week.
Artist and designer Brendan Dawes is back on Unfinished Business this week. We get started by talking about past popular pop princes and princesses S Club 7, The Handsome Family and Bren’s one day trip to Argentina. For the remainder of the show, we talk about when it’s acceptable to give our time for free and when we should say no? Why every project should include a ‘goodwill’ budget and what the heck are those party paper and whistle things that come out of Christmas crackers called?
For someone who hasn’t travelled or done much conference speaking for the last two years, this past three weeks have been pretty busy with both. I’ve spoken at three conferences and hosted two workshops and I enjoyed every one.
This week on Unfinished Business, Paul Boag, Jon Hicks and I dispense with any pretence that this is a show about business and spend 90 minutes talking about something much more interesting. Peter Capaldi’s first series as Doctor Who. We talk about our thoughts on Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and the best (and worst) episodes of the season. Then we finish up by discussing the series finale, Clara and Danny Pink and of course Missy. If you haven’t seen the final episode of this season, there are spoilers galore.
I put the lower audio quality this week down to everyone wearing lapel, not using condenser microphones, (sorry about that,) but recording live in front of an audience was fun, and I’ll definitely do it again. Thanks to Craig and Amie Lockwood for recording this episode from the mixing desk for me.
There are no sponsors this week, as it didn’t seem appropriate.
I really like Norway and the Norwegian people are among the friendliest I’ve met, so I never need convincing to visit them. While I was in Oslo in October, speaking at the Making Web conference I met the wonderful people at IGM and when they asked me to take my CSS3 For Responsive Web Design workshop back to Oslo on December 3rd, I jumped at the chance.
This week is Geek Mental Help week and on Unfinished Business I’m joined by Liz Elcoate, one of the people who helped to spark the idea. We ask if our industry attracts people with issues or cause them, does our working environment add our problems and what we hope the outcomes from this week will be? But not before we talk sport, Liz’s obsession with wrestling and my Uncle Haystacks.
What the hell. We still have plenty of places available for mine and Brads workshops at The Web Is… next week. Come and join me for ‘CSS3 for Responsive Web Design’ and you’ll get a free copy of my Hardboiled Web Design paperback.
Brighton-based developer Benjamin Hollway loves a burger in a brioche bun and joins me on Unfinished Business this week to talk about how young people feel excluded from some industry events and how conferences and meet-ups should cater for people who don’t want to or are too young to drink. Benjamin was shortlisted for ‘emerging talent of the year’ at the Net Awards and oh, did I mention that he’s only sixteen?
I’m researching advertising successes for a new talk that I’m writing and of course that means PG Tips and their famous chimpanzees campaign that ran for 32 years from 1956 and within two years made PG the number one tea brand in Britain and kept them there for decades.
After talking with Laura on Unfinished Business this week, about burgers in donuts, we moved on to discuss the Geek Mental Help Week that I’ve been thinking about and planning for the last few months. Something that I sincerely hope will help those of us who suffer from mental health issues and the others who support us.
This week’s an emotional episode of Unfinished Business. After talking about why a burger in a donut should never, ever have become a thing, Laura Kalbag and I discuss mental health issues in our industry. We talk about my own struggles with depression and depersonalisation disorder, issues that stem from my father’s own mental health issues and suicide.
This week on Unfinished Business, Harry Roberts and I have some pretty big, Boag-shaped, boots to fill after last week’s episode. Harry takes the opposite view to Paul about sharing personal struggles in a work context and worries about the impression that sharing give to prospective clients. Then we talk about how clients’ commissioning process for creative services is largely broken, the differences between an open conversation starter, an RFP and a brief and how we, as designers and developers, can help clients to commission what we do better.
This week on Unfinished Business, I had planned to talk with Paul Boag about client briefs and managing expectations. But when we sat down to talk, we were both in the mood to talk about something much, more personal. We discussed how we feel about how Twitter has changed, Erin Kissane’s ‘Ditching Twitter,’ Dan Edwards’ ‘Treading through treacle’ and our general sense of melancholy about our industry. Then we talk about how, contrary to what we often hear, our industry is filled with acts of kindness.
We discuss how we maintain our optimism and the steps we take to protect ourselves emotionally. If you think you know Paul and I from our public personas, I think that you’ll be very surprised by this episode. If you haven’t listened to Unfinished Business for a while (or at all) I urge you to listen this week.
Last years’ Handheld Conference in Cardiff was an incredible event. A bearded me even got to push a dalek with my friend Jon, as well as deliver a talk and host a sell-out workshop. This November I’ll be back in Cardiff for Handheld’s successor, The Web Is… I’m a last minute addition to the speaker line-up (again) and back workshopping with a new ‘CSS3 For Responsive Web Design’ workshop.
We don’t develop with Wordpress, I’ve never used Wordpress and I can’t see myself starting this late in the game. So I was surprised when Troy Dean asked me to talk with him on his WP Elevation podcast. I was sure that he’d confused me with someone else, but he convinced me that he hadn’t and we spent a fun hour talking about designing content/mobile first, why we write content for our clients and ultimately why I don’t use Wordpress.
Troy normally hosts video podcasts, but my internet connection is so poor at home that we had to switch to audio only. We recorded at 8:30am so that was probably a blessing. If you’re not already sick of the sound of my voice on Unfinished Business, I think you might enjoy this one.
In the second part of our icon designer double bill, this week on Unfinished Business, I’m joined by designer, illustrator the and iconographer behind Symbolicons, Jory Raphael. We talk about how we feel about the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus announcement, the design of the Apple Watch software and whether it looks at home on the watch’s hardware. We discuss Jory’s illustration work including his artwork for the 5by5 podcast network and of course, those long shadows. Finally we talk about making a business from making and selling icons.
Icon designer Jon Hicks joins me this week on Unfinished Business to discuss our experiences of recent conferences including dConstruct (me) and An Event Apart (him.) We narrowly avoid talking about our predictions for the upcoming Apple event and instead discuss how to keep work and home life separate, whether it‘s right to be connected to work outside work hours and how having an office can help with work/life balance.
Of course, all of this is just a thinly disguised ruse for what we really want to talk about, Doctor Who. In the after-show section, we look back at Matt Smith’s final episode, talk about Peter Capaldi’s new Doctor so far and if Doctor Who needs longer than one hour per episode to tell a good story. Oh. And Clara bloody Oswald.
I spent last Friday in Brighton attending the tenth, but my first dConstruct. It was a fabulous conference, in an elegant venue, thoughtfully organised by Clearleft and masterfully presented by Jeremy Keith. Every talk was excellent in different ways and all of them had been brilliantly curated by Jeremy, following, loosely in some cases, the theme of ‘Living With The Network.’ I’m writing a new talk and dConstruct was exactly the inspiration I needed.
This week on Unfinished Business, I’m joined by Cole Henley, technical director at Mud. We discuss his latest Freelance rates survey, how the results have changed over the last three years and what he’s learned from making the survey. I admire Cole’s Mud very much, so we talk about how to grow a business, when to hire new people and the importance of regular advice from someone on the outside. If you like the business side of Unfinished Business, you’ll love this episode.
What’s an episode of Unfinished Business without some talk of comics or films? In an after-show special, starting at 1:11:30, Cole and I talk about vintage 2000AD comics, Harlem Heroes, Flesh and of course, Judge Dredd. I want to know if Stallone’s Judge Dredd film a guilty pleasure and why, oh why, doesn’t Hollywood make films from classic 2000AD stories?
Like, I guess, everyone else, I now know more about ALS than I did before the Ice Bucket Challenge. The campaign has been hugely successful, has raised awareness and ten times more money than was raised last year to help combat the disease. Of course charity didn’t start and doesn’t end with the Ice Bucket Challenge and so my friend Paul Boag challenged me, Rachel Andrew and Carl Smith to:
Over the last few months, we’ve been working with a client on the design of a mobile analytics ‘web app.’ I’ll show more of it when we add it to our portfolio, but because lately one or two people have asked me about how we choose colour palettes, I thought I’d share how we came up with the colours for the Elemez app.