July 27, 2016
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I've been really enjoying your Journal lately. It seems like a fairly clear stream of thoughts in reaction to internet articles :)
Super curious why you decided to get into writing. You've been doing it for a while, right?
well thanks man
um i've been blogging off and on for like 10 years so its just fun
but lately i've struggled to write because it seems like everyone else is writing about the same things or at least very close to the same things
so the journal is basically a way to dip my toe: instead of trying to come up with an original thought i can just piggyback and refine my thinking about what other people are writing or sharing
i mean it's daring-fireball to the T, but i still get the value of having to be critical outout what other people are putting into the world and then take the time to refine my own ideas into writing
so yeah, that's valuable
i mostly stopped sharing the journal links on twitter too, because i'm still super self conscious of it. so if people find it on my site and decide to follow that feels great, but is a side effect and not an objective
i think the community is a bit...quick to dismiss anything called a "journal" b/c it sounds a bit pretentious. i don't want it to come off that way, but i suppose it might. maybe i'm bad at naming things
Why do you say people are writing about the same things? Which things?
umm...i think it's because i'm just so sucked into this bubble that i see everything
i suppose more objectively i'd realize that not everyone in the world is reading the same things i'm reading, which might be more encouraging to share my thoughts
but...i'm in the bubble so i feel like i'm not to the point of adding much original value
also, super young into my career as a designer, so... :P
Not sure that matters, does it? Is the feeling that everyone is writing about the same things or everyone is writing about the things you want to write?
well. to be honest i think what's happened is this:
people write generally-applicable posts on medium where the conclusion is loosely "it depends"
but then it's shared as "truth" on social media
so now people, myself included, are tired of it
so as a result i'm gravitating more towards technical tutorials and implementation things, like...objective writing
and since i'm so young in my career i don't have enough experience to add to that discourse, yet
That's a shame
I'm not a fan of reducing opinions to "it depends"
It strips them of all the insight
It's one of my issues with the "should designers code" question. Everyone dismisses it because they feel inadequate to dictate what people should or shouldn't do. But that's missing the point. They dictate regardless based on their actions and hiring decisions.
yeah i mean i'm being hyperbolic
but you're right
perhaps its the framing of things, i don't quite know
i don't know, i've been having a lot of really good offline convos about should designers code
like, going really deep into the nuances of it. and i don't think that the web or twitter or my own blog is a good medium for that
Why is that?
same reason i think the podcast wouldn't work well as transcribed interviews published online
there's a lot of weight in how conversations happen in a physical space
and i do think that gets lost online a bit in a 1:many writing format
To me it all comes down to authenticity. The 1:many format inevitably leads to a "performance" that is much too transparent nowadays. So, it dilutes the message for me
I guess I find the 1:1 conversations more interesting because there's room to dig deeper into how people really feel and ultimately who they really are. That's harder to do in a 1:many situation. Inevitably people "sell" an image and that's often times very clear and thus gross
That said, I think there's room to deliver the same message regardless of the platform —in this case, talking about whether designers should code or not.
and part of "selling" that image is how damn small this community is
nobody wants to be ostracized
I've wondered for a long time your thoughts on fame. I feel like with a platform like Design Details, you encounter it all the time. I mean both for you guys and your guests.
It seems like Design Details has turned into a sort of status symbol now
so a few things up front:
1. i think people thinking design details is a status symbol is very interesting and not something we expected. i don't know if it's true or seen that way by *everyone* but if some people feel it is then...I guess that's cool? if that's the case then it feels great to focus more on bringing a diverse and more interesting set of guests onto the show to share their stories
2. some people want to be rockstar yeah. but i think more people just end up becoming one.
and from most of the "rockstars" we've had on the show it's a side effect of working a fuck ton and shipping products that solve problems for people
i think you're spot on in what you said earlier. people trying to be a rockstar are easy to see through. people trying to provide value to people and do great work just...become
sometimes people ask to come on the show for one reason or another, usually it's for marketing reasons. 99.9% of the time we'll decline or not respond – that's not to say the person isn't doing great work and doesn't have a great story to tell, but that's not what our show is
it is not a marketing platform for people
so, we invite people on the show
which opens a whole can of worms about diversity in all senses: gender, religion, race, background, discipline, work experience, age, etc
i guess that doesn't answer your question really...
do other people want to be famous? not sure i can't speak to that. some people you can sort of ... sense? and to be honest i don't think there's anything wrong with that
1. the concept of famous is so weird in our industry. if you have 50k twitter followers you're considered famous and are in the top 1% of designers in terms of *social following*. but that doesn't make you are the top 1% most skilled designer right?
2. i think it's uncool to ever say you want to be famous. so people mask it in different ways – and i think most people do this
i mean you're asking me - what do you think?
do you want to be famous?
do you want a lot of twitter followers? what does famous in our industry even mean?
I actually think fame/celebrity/stardom plays a giant role in our society. We worship celebrities now like we used to worship saints years ago. The explosion of the selfie, broadcast platforms, even Snapchat! Everything is about *you* and your perspective and gaining a following to validate it. Instead of questioning one's perspective, we want people to rally behind it as if that would give it more validity.
So yeah I definitely think it plays a big role in what we do as designers. People want recognition and find the platforms that provide it --twitter with its followers, Snapchat with its views, podcasts with its listeners.
do you want to be famous?
What's remarkable is that these are all passive participants. Followers, viewers, listeners, they are all people without opinions, they're just bodies in your army that arms you with confidence.
So I would say "no" for that very reason —I enjoy a good argument much more than fame
I guess "influence" can lead to interesting discussions because you reach more people
So at a certain level I desire influence, but I have too many problems wih authority to be comfortable considering myself one
see i think there's a mental thing that happens when your social count gets above like...100. it just becomes a number.
it's hard for humans to map 50k twitter followers to 50k people
also influence != authority
i think about that when we interview people
i guess a few things
i got feedback from geoff teehan once that we should ask tougher questions and don't let guests cop out
and i struggle hard with that because i'm so non-confrontational, to my detriment
so i just wonder what the balance is between asking hard questions and pushing for the truth vs. something closer to what the show is now, which is more storytelling and banter
i think there's room for the first kind of show on the internet. but you need an experienced host who knows how to talk the talk and push when the guest needs to be pushed
i'm too inexperienced to do that
as a designer and an interviewer
Yeah, I guess that's why I asked about "fame". The show sometimes feels like a self promoting platform and your conversations naturally land there
i can see how some episodes might feel like that
but what we've found, and what we hear time and time again from people who listen to dd is that they relate to the stories and backgrounds of the people we interview
and so that's where we gravitate
and when you get people talking about themselves and their stories, of course it's self-promoting because that's the definition :P
although i wouldn't quite classify it as...promotion
we invited them there
we asked them the questions
Why did you get into the podcast? How much did you really think about it (or did it just happen)? Has it been what your expected?
so these are definitely things we've thought about and talked about
um lets see
so first of all - i don't want to speak for bryn necessarily, but i'll try to speak as a "we" and get the gist right
we both wanted the show to be about people building cool shit
like...we just wanted to meet them, right?
essentially i give a shit, influenced heavily by bryn, about 1:many mentorship
and the podcast *can* be that
sometimes we might fall short
and that's why people tell us they like the show. they feel like they're just listening in on a conversation that would happen anyways
because it's true!
So tell me more about 1:many mentorship and how exactly does DD help you achieve that?
The way the podcast is structure it seems like a one-directional conversation between you guys + guest and the audience
So mentorship in that sense sounds to me like preaching
1:many != preaching
is what i'd argue
in the same way we don't say a blog post is preaching
some 1:many mediums *are* preaching. church, for example. literally.
but that's like the whole rectangle square thing right?
i think there can be 1:many mentorship in telling people's stories
trying to learn why people do the things they do
it's not objective
and it's not truth
it's just stories and lessons
and i think discerning listeners can tease apart the larger narrative across episodes to form their own opinions
So, why did you want to meet so many designers? What do you get out meeting them? And why did you make the leap to think "we should record this"?
haha i'm afraid there's less calculation and rationality than you'd want to hear
it sounded fun
something new to try
i like new things
bryn had the idea to record
he has an audio background so it was feasible
so ~150 designers later, what have you learned?
always use the bathroom before recording an hour-and-a-half podcast
I just realized I don't know the Nice Boy™ origin story
How did you even get into design? What drew you to it?
there was this guy Adii Pienaar, i'll never forget him
back in the day he was Adii Rockstar
kind of funny looking back
but his blog was the first blog i ever remember
It was about business, wordpress, web design mostly if i remember
and i can so clearly remember this tipping point of realizing that this random dude in south africa was sharing his thoughts with me around the world
so at the time i didn't even know what a blog was
but i was so curious and enamored with this guy Adii. He was making wordpress themes and was one of the first people to ever turn them into a serious business (woothemes)
but the cool thing is he ended up being on the angel investors in Buffer, which is the start up i ended up at
total coincidence, and i only learned that after the fact. but, small world
Did you meet him?
nope, still haven't met him
he has no idea about any of this i don't think
Crazy to think that you're someone's Adii Pienaar right now
haha i guess
so anyway i just wanted to learn and replicate, so my blog was elitebydesign.com (no longer works)
and i wrote about my learning process. eventually i wrote photoshop tutorials and random things. and listicles. oh god the listicles
i didn't get serious about websites and design until college. so that whole period was just blogging on elite by design for fun and being a high schooler
well yeah so i eventually quit elite by design because i chose to focus on my grades
that was probably dumb. but no regrets
i mean it wasn't huge. but it was getting a few hundred thousand readers every month at the time...which is kind of silly because i didn't know what i was talking about
but back then there was a totally different design culture in terms of bloggers and commenting and sharing the smallest bits of learnings as tutorials
i kind of miss it
A few hundred thousand readers every month sounds pretty huge to me!
that was when digg was big though
so i don't know if it was necessarily regular readers
anyways...it's not super important
that was just the entry point to everything
That's pretty wild -- my first was a poetry blog believe it or not
I think poetry is an overstatement
It was basically a journal where I tried being as abstract as possible to talk about vulnerable things
So I would talk about a break up using a fly in the windshield as a metaphor
that sounds pretty rad actually
how old were you?
But it was wild because I would get random readers (not hundreds of thunsands, more like dozens) that would comment on my posts and these were people I've never met in my life
as a young impressionable kid from Costa Rica, this was pretty mind blowing
you've been sharing some of your writing with me during the past few weeks
how is it going? what are you doing it for?
Writing is one of the few things I can do from start to finish without needing anyone, so I was using it to "release" when I felt I hadn't done something in a while
I have a bunch of drafts sitting on Medium — I'm trying to let them sulk in there for a while to see if I can find a coherent message I want to say, rather than just a stream of thoughts that may not be particularly insightful to anyone
I've been looking for side gigs recently, not because I want to learn more skills necessarily, but because I want to have a cadence of releasing things into the wild.
That's why I've been doing more speaking at conferences, writing, and now this chat blog thing
i couldn't stay sane if i wasn't shipping things on the side
i guess going back to the original conversation about the journal – i get the same feeling by doing that
every weekday, one thing minimum
it's a nice pace and i like the habit going. it's been ~3 months or so of doing it and...yeah, it feels good
Yeah that's awesome. I admire anyone that can do something consistently for a long period of time like that
It's so hard to follow through with things
for me anyway
consistency is key
ha fun story about that
when we were starting the podcast i read some stat online that said something along the lines of "most podcasts don't get past 8 episodes"
for the same reason people stop working out, stop dieting, etc: you lose momentum and don't see results fast enough
so we decided we'd record 8 episodes before releasing the first one, so we'd get over that hump
we only ended up doing 5 episodes before starting to release anything, but that was so damn important for 2 reasons:
1. we got to test and tweak the original bumpy waters of recording a podcast
2. by having frontloaded 5 episodes it gave us more than a month to record #6
3. It felt like this amazing commitment that, no matter what, we were going to publish 5. there wasn't a question of ever getting to that point because we just...did it all ahead of time. no expectations. no ideas how it would turn out.
That's super awesome. What kept you going after that? Was it an instant hit?
i honestly am not sure
i wish i'd written more about the process at the time
i remember for sure getting it on producthunt after a few episodes
and that was our first big spike (a few thousand people)
we got lucky and had a few early spikes of listeners finding the show somehow, mostly things like Product Hunt or word of mouth
and then it's been growing slowly but naturally since
p sure your breakthrough episode was #5
that was KEY for us
i can't think of a more critical episode to our success
Brian is a product designer at Facebook and co-host of the Design Details Podcast. He also builds Spec, a community for designer and developers, and writes on his website at brianlovin.com
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