With every new year we tend to assess the many facets of our lives and focus on the things that are not working. This seems to be common with every passing year, so I decided to see how I could curb the amount of time I spent staring into my phone. Even as I write this, I have already been interrupted by the urge to check it.
A number of designers have recently posted their thoughts about how we should respond to the potential emergence of autocracy. Mike Monteiro’s piece is particularly ranty and, as expected, simply great. My colleague, Spark Poster, wrote a Canadian-focused and thoughtful response.
As the founder of a design and communications firm and someone who is active in the design community, I put together a few ground rules for protecting ourselves and advancing movements. In the mid-1990s, I lived in Poland for a year and came to understand how traumatic Soviet and National Socialist domination was for that country. It had only been a short while since Poland had emerged from 55 years of totalitarian rule and the scars and stories were still very real. And designers and artists throughout Eastern Europe bore some of the brunt of the state. Many went to jail. (Sadly, Poland and parts of Europe are again undergoing a shift toward authoritarianism.)
For the span of the past two weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of working at Manoverboard as a result of Red River College’s work placement program for graphic design students. I’ve met some amazing people, and have learned a great deal from them during my time here.
Most of my time was spent designing an identity for the Purpose Project. The Purpose Project is a service grant that non-profit organizations can apply for. The project’s concept is to bi-annually give pro-bono design work to a selected applicant, in order to advance a good cause through design. Due to my work on this project, I’ve learned to further consider the importance and nuances of creating a fluid, adaptable brand identity.
In February 2016, I gave a presentation for Sustainable UX: Digital Design vs. Climate Change, a conference about how content strategists, designers, developers, managers and site owners are addressing climate change. Thirteen different presenters spoke about their work, which included open source methodologies, creating a green content management system, and building sustainable behaviours and frameworks within teams.
I wrote a blog post called Online News is the Canary in the Coal Mine about my presentation. The talk focused the massive growth of online news and how news sites, because of code, feature and content bloat, are contributing to carbon emissions. Since then, I had the opportunity to connect with a number of other presenters and received great feedback about the talk, which you can watch here on YouTube.
I also had the presentation professionally transcribed so that folks who don’t like video, can’t see video, or have any accessibility issues, can access the content. YouTube has the ability to automatically transcribe content through closed captioning but I would much rather have it available in a blog post.
I was recently asked by someone if I could help transition their website over to SquareSpace, a current and popular website platform. Their current site was built from scratch, and running on WordPress, the world’s most prevalent content management system. However it was made many years before WordPress matured into the software that it is today. The existing site was awkward to update, and they had been experimenting a bit with a trial of SquareSpace. They were excited to show me how easy it was to make a page, and add some basic content.
I tried my best to make a case for WordPress, and the brilliant platform it has become. I suggested the client carry on with WordPress and have a new more up-to-date website built. However, budget was a big concern and it appeared to me that their their mind was already made up. After all, SquareSpace makes the whole signup process very easy so it hooks you right from the get-go. Which really got me thinking; are there good reasons to start with, or to switch to a DIY systems like SquareSpace, or any of the widely-available off-the-shelf WordPress themes?