Los Angeles may have its downsides, but our gorgeous winter weather is definitely not one of them. While the rest of the country is suffering from some of their worst winter storms, we’re soaking up the sun.

It’s enough to make you want to head out to the park for a cozy day in the shade, catching up on your reading. Just in time for that – or those of you who are stuck inside reading by the fire – here are some of my favorite articles and new stuff from the past year.

And if you’re looking for even more inspiration, check out the rest of my Musings. I love to read, and you’ll find links to more of my favorites there.


Looking ahead

It’s a bit late for Thanksgiving ponderings, but I’m nevertheless glad to say that his has been an amazing year. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great people on interesting projects, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve had time to enjoy the simpler things in life along the way.

As I’m looking forward to a short break for the holidays, I'm taking a moment to consider all the things that went well this year – and all of those that didn’t. That makes this a good chance to share some of my favorite tips and tricks from this year!


The Art of the “Slacker”

Work-life balance is a hot topic in the agency world, but things are always messier in real life than on paper. I’ve been thinking a lot about the nirvana of balance recently, and it’s made me a lot more patient with the process.

Let me tell you a story… Recently, I’ve been noticing more and more slacklines in public parks. Using trees as anchor points, these long straps blend the setup of a tightrope with the spring of a trampoline. And here’s a curious thing: If you watch a group of people try their balance on these for just 10 minutes, you’ll see the same pattern.


New Business: A necessary evil.

So you’ve taken control of your career and you’ve built a stronger business, but that won’t be enough to sign those new deals.

If you’re having trouble winning work, there’s no shortage of advice from the sales world. But selling creative work can often present a very different challenge, especially as our projects get more specialized, demand more integrations, and serve a growing variety of clients – plus an increasingly savvy audience.

I’ve been thinking about the proposal process a lot this past year, and speaking with colleagues who have provided valuable insight into how the changing environment of our work has impacted the changing needs of both clients and agencies (or creative contractors). While I may not be able to implement these Standard Operating Procedures with all clients across the board, the resulting advice here is well worth consideration.

Some of these concepts are a wide departure from what we’re used to, and others are plain common sense for those of you who are newer to the industry – or for those of us who might have just gotten lazy. Either way, here’s hoping we can find some ways to improve our work process and product, for the good of everyone involved.


When it comes to running your business as good as the best of them, the devil’s in the details. You may be delivering great work, but excellent client service is about more than just winning design awards. You can build a name with your portfolio, but you can build a career with strong client relationships.

Today, we’re compiling some of our favorite tips from the past few months.


An illustration of an early print shop, from my visit to the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp this year.

DIY – or “Do It Yourself” – first came into public use in the 1950s with the growth of home improvement and maintenance activities. More recently, it’s been a trendy phrase which combines the dual goals of thrift and craft. It empowers individuals beyond consumerism, and it builds communities around everything from fashion to beer-making to “life hacking” (see Lifehacker, one of the best websites ever).

In 2006, the revolutionary design icon, Ellen Lupton, authored D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself and encouraged a new generation how to – as one reviewer put it – “dispense with designers” via this “crash course in promotion and visual design.”

"This book is more than a handbook – it's an empowerment tool. There's something here to bring out the designer in everyone . . . So if you're getting tired of ubiquitous corporate brands, pick up this book and get started on a more personal and meaningful alternative." – Baltimore Magazine, May 2006

Although DIY has come of age particularly in the past decade, the growth of the trend seems to be changing the business of design in a new way this year.


It’s painfully easy to wander through life (and work).

I enjoy my job, but things weren’t always this way. Sure, I’ve always enjoyed my work. But sometimes the day-to-day meets the grind, and the grind turns into the month-to-month… or even the year-to-year.

I recently read 6 Ways to Avoid Drifting Through Your Career and it has me studying my life with gratitude – and evaluating the methods that got me here, in the hopes to keep it up. While Mr. Rosseau’s 6 promises may be uniquely personal, he hits on two points which I find universally valuable:

First and foremost, you are making these promises to yourself within the context of being the very best you possible. Not everyone is going to applaud you along the way as you fulfill that purpose. You have to create the expectation of success so that you have motivation to draw from as you move forward.
Instead, it’s the small things we do daily, habitually, that make us successful. Based on my life experiences, I have created the game plan and roadmap I wish I had when I started out.

We’ve all heard this lesson: The path to success is about setting goals, building plans, and maybe even forming habits. However, we’re suddenly talking about more than success here – we’re talking about fulfillment. And the two don’t always walk hand-in-hand. In fact, American culture is full of stories about material success in the absence of fulfillment, and psychology has an important concept which might help shed some light on the distinction.


I would have never thought I'd say it, but I'm in love with Safari. Here's how I rediscovered Apple's native browser.

First, some history. I've been a fan of Chrome for at least 5 years now. Outside of a short affair with Firefox (which lasted only until I experienced pesky memory leaks) and several false starts with Safari, Chrome was my browser of choice for personal and professional use. As a web designer and developer, the Extensions and Developer Tools were what made Chrome so indispensable to my daily workflow... and what made Safari so impossible. But now I'm here to tell you how everything is different with the latest versions of Safari. I can't believe it took me so long to discover after the release of Mavericks, but it's a true contender now. If you're thinking about making the switch, here are some of my favorite Safari extensions and improvements.


Browser technology has come a long way even in just the past few years, and designers are now regularly integrating animation details into their interfaces in order to help communicate functionality more clearly, and even to enhance the personality of interfaces.

When used as more than just a subtle design detail, animation can provide cues, guide the eye, and soften the sometimes-hard edges of web interactions.
– UI Animation and UX: A Not-So-Secret Friendship @ A List Apart

This fantastic quote from an even more fantastic article helps clarify the user experience issues surrounding the use of animation. The moral of the story: With great power comes great responsibility.

If you're looking to dig deeper into actually implementing CSS animation on your website, look no further than the CSS Animations Pocket Guide, available for a suggested price of just $5.

"The Sorta isn’t just another notebook. It’s the only one you’ll ever need." Agreed there!

Exciting news: Sorta is now available for sale on The Grommet! If you don’t know them already, they’re basically trying to recapture what Etsy had been at its inception: a retailer specializing in individual makers and craftspeople selling products they’re passionate about (hey, that’s me!).

Anyway, here’s my profile video. It does a nice job of explaining not only what Sorta is and how to use it, but why I was motivated to create it in the first place.

Wow, splendid days!

via yoonco

Productivity is not about doing more. It’s about living with purpose.

99U books – Manage Your Day-to-Day and Maximize Your Potential – are providing me with handy methods to reinforce this structure in my career. I recommend the full reads, but this article provides a nice summary of their core lessons.

So how do we take back control of our lives? What follows are the key moves we can make. It’s not all or none. More is better, but each one will help.

Learn more at 99U!