Fri. 10am : the idea for a design debate is hatched, domain name is purchased.
Fri. 10am - 5pm : 1 Moderator, 5 Debaters, and 2 Sponsors committed (still no venue).
Fri. 8pm - Sat. 2am : Logo and website designed. Most of the copy written. Run out of steam. Go to bed.
Mon. 10am - 2pm : Launched. Tickets gone in 2 hours. Waitlist growing. Swiss Miss blogs it (thanks Tina!). Final “mystery” speaker confirmed (@fictivecameron). Sponsor comes thru on the booze. Spelling error on the site corrected.
In ~48 hours we pulled together Designer’s Debate Club. There was no stroke of genius. No moment of Zen. The plan unfolded with a combination of familiar moves (a quick logo and site) and absolute dumb, clumsy, undeserved luck. The point is, there isn’t much magic in a logo or an idea. It is the way people came together to support, participate, show up, and engage. We just got to design the flier.
The truth of the process is that the thing happens in layers, and each layer in itself is clever at best but more often just plain mundane. Set up the hosting, email debaters about arriving early, secure the sponsors, get the twitter handle, fix the copy, etc. etc. etc. After the debate last night, we know this has the potential to be something really good. But as a friend told me the other day, people rarely know as they are working on something whether it is going to be any good or not.
We’ve decided to make Designer’s Debate Club an ongoing thing. In the spirit of Brooklyn Beta, the conference and community for which this was originally hatched, we have decided to “make something we love”, get it out and just see how it goes.
Designer’s Debate Club is the panel without politeness. It is pomp and circumstance (tweed, bow ties, and pipes). It is competition. It is fun and absurdity with a bunch of really great people. And hopefully, a few good insights and pearls of wisdom will find their way into the conversation.
Our immediate plans for the club are to make it a regular event. From there, we’re looking at getting more people involved, finding more interesting topics to debate, maybe getting this thing rolling in another city or two (give us a shout if you wanna help lead that effort). We’ll keep y’all up to date. You can follow us at @DesignDebaters.
To my fellow debaters, our judicious moderator, the amazing audience (we had 7 people get up and make 1 minute speeches on their position!), our gracious sponsors, and my teammates at Wander that did a lot of the grunt work — we owe a huge thanks!
When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong.
—Eugene Debs (via Jay Parkinson at Brooklyn Beta)
“Building things for the internet is a righteous endeavor.”
~ Ben Pieratt
It’s embarrassing. But then maybe embarrassing isn’t quite the right word. It’s sensitive? That sounds a bit wimpy. Maybe it’s precious. Nah — too Golem. It’s just damn deep. It’s the stuff at the root. Root — that’s a good word. That works. It’s the core. It’s something you pull up or dig down to. It’s rarely seen and hard to get at. And when you do, it can be delicate and fall apart right there in your hands.
It’s the *why* we do what we do. There is nothing that nourishes me more than talking about why I do what I do, and hearing other people do the same. It’s soul bearing, nerve shaking work. It really takes work to dig that deep-down raw stuff up from your gut and show it off.
This Thursday at 7PM in NYC will mark the inaugural session of Designer’s Debate Club. As part of Beyond Beta, we will be hosting a 3-on-3 debate on the motion that “All Web Designers Must Learn to Code”. Arguing for the motion: Allan Yu of Svpply, Jon Troutman of General Assembly, and a mystery guest that will be announced later this week. Arguing against the motion: Andy Mangold of Friends of the Web, Matias Corea of Behance, and myself. And the whole thing will be moderator by Wander’s very own CEO (and debate champ) Jeremy Fisher.
…to school. Getting all nostalgic as I now watch nieces and nephews pack lunches and bus off.
Hey Keenan, thanks so much for joining us on The Industry. Tell us a bit about yourself and the work you’re doing.
I’m the creative director and co-founder of a startup called Wander. My role covers everything from product design, UX, UI (web + mobile), and branding. And then I pitch in on content strategy and copywriting as well. It is intense, and the most compressed and rewarding learning experience I’ve had in my career.
If you could change one thing about your career to date, what would it be?
Early on I put a lot of faith in a system that would take care of the dutiful worker. Put in the time, do good work, wait for the promotions and opportunities. I thought talent was everything, and a better career was continent on better work. I quickly realized that talent is merely a prerequisite. If you work in an industry where everyone is good, everyone cares, everyone works long hours, you can’t expect extraordinary results if your hard work is the ordinary. It was only when I started to build an entire body of work and reputation outside of my 9-5 that thing really started happening. It is almost like having two careers simultaneously, but it really is late nights and weekend projects that define you. Now I pour myself into Wander, but I make sure I make time to write, and am even working on a project to benefit the interactive design community. All of that stuff feeds into itself and makes everything better.
My advice to my freshly graduated self would be to not expect anything from the industry. Everything and anything is available, but it will not come to you. Go get it!
Where do you see yourself, and the industry, in, say, 5 or 10 years?
Our industry is ahead of the curve. People are starting to ascend Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. When food and shelter, safety, community, and self-confidence are a baseline condition we can provide to everyone*, the only thing left is self actualization and creation. More and more people will become creators and makers. We will button our shirts, tie our ties, and hop in self-driving cars on our way to the office to write poetry, play games, draw and paint and shape and build.
signs to to help you find your way.
Not sure I have mental capacity to write tonight. Been feeling short on mental capacity all day. It is, as we say, one of those days. Like a metronome I find myself regularly revisiting creative fatigue, mental exhaustion, psychological dead-endery. And these rhythms are mismatched — in fact, almost the inverse of — my physical rhythms. The bursts of energy and insight come late, early, when I am far away from a desk, a pen, or a convenient place to write, record, and act. And when I finally get all set up and ready to receive a wave of inspiration, my pulse slows, my chair cradles me, my sweater warms my body and dulls my wits, and I drift away from productivity. It’s not quite that predictable, but there is always the battle between churn (grinding through painful inefficiency) and flow (feasting from an endless wellspring of inspiration while hours melt away).
Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect.
I’m fired up to speak at the Art Directors Club this week for StartUp. Hope to see y’all there. I promise to not hold back. And for those that can’t make it I’ll do a write up afterward. A lot to get off my chest!
This article has been floating around under the guise of “wisdom”. It attempts to answer the question “should I start my own studio right out of design school.”
“First of all let me just say how much I admire the gumption and the confidence of wanting to start your own studio right out of the gate. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.
Now here comes the hammer: this is a terrible idea. There’s only one idea that would be worse, by the way. And that would be going to work at a startup right out of school.”
First off, I should provide some context. I’m a creative director at a start up, but spent 4 years working in reputable agencies before that. I credit that time I spent there to affording me the opportunities I have now. I don’t regret a minute of it. Okay — got that out of the way.