Brooklyn Museum of Art

January 26, 2014

At the beginning of this year, I started work as Web Designer for the Brooklyn Museum of Art. It’s taking me this long to write about it because it’s taking me this long to believe it. Life is moving so fast that it can feel really difficult to understand it as it’s happening. Two years ago, I was doing freelance web work on the side. Last year I was working for a new and growing agency. And now I’m leading the digital design for a big and fascinating museum. I’m incredibly grateful to all those people who helped me get here.

It was sad to leave Familiar. We worked on a ton of great stuff last year, and they’ll continue to do great work in 2014, so it wasn’t an easy decision to leave. I wish them all the best.

So, now that I have free passes to a ton of museums in NYC, who wants to go look at art with me? Hit me up. Art is cool again.

Writing For Beginners

Nicole Fenton posted her talk from the Build conference this year, and it’s amazing. There’s an unholy storm of writing advice out there to be read, but this piece is more like the blue blue sky after the hard rain . . . with a rainbow.

New Marcottian Thoughts on RWD

Ethan Marcotte posted a thought-provoking essay on current responsive design issues. As the prime instigator of its standardization, I would love to see him writing these more often.

Editorially

I have only great things to say about Editorially, a new platform for writing online. Its spacious, distraction-free design is perfect for drafting, and its version control incredibly intuitive for working towards a final, publishable state. In addition, Editorially is built for collaborative editing, allowing for highlighting text, leaving notes, and inviting conversations about the content. And the team behind it includes three of my personal heroes: Jason Santa Maria, Mandy Brown, and Ethan Marcotte.

Many thanks to Nicole Fenton for giving notes on my last article, and for being my first editor in Editorially. Much obliged.

The Shock of the New is Old

November 2, 2013

We know that the internet is drastically changing modern life, and its influence grows stronger by the minute. It makes some people anxious, scares others, but also excites a few. Regardless of how you might feel about it, there’s something to learn from diving into the history books. This kind of change isn’t new. It’s happened many times before.

In the first essay of his book, The Shock of the New, Robert Hughes compares his contemporary 1980 to the 1880–1930 era when industrialism and the age of mechanics massively altered how people saw their world. He asks, what changed? What did they have in Modernism’s infancy that we lost?

Ebullience, idealism, confidence, the belief that there was plenty of territory to explore and above all the sense that art in the most disinterested and noble way, could find the necessary metaphors by which a radically changing culture could be explained to its inhabitants.

When time moves too fast, it becomes very difficult to define. I think we’re living in a very similar period. There is plenty of excitement and innovation and opportunity, but we’re also very unsure of what’s on the other side. We have no idea how this will all flatten out. We don’t know what to call it. As a first attempt at metaphor, we referred to the internet as “The information superhighway”. A good try, but have we done better since then? I’m not sure. The internet is definitely not a highway, though it might have seemed that way for a moment in time. As we learn what the internet affords us, we find it’s much more than just information, it’s also friendships and communications and personal conveniences. Could you possibly wrap all that up into a single metaphor?

Maybe we’ll find the right phrases in another couple of decades. Using hindsight, Hughes was able find some pretty relevant metaphors for the art of the mid-Industrial Revolution period:

The master image of painting was no longer landscape but the metropolis. In the country, things grow, but the essence of manufacture of the city is process, and this could only be expressed by metaphors of linkage, relativity, interconnectedness. These metaphors were not ready to hand. Science and technology had outstripped them, and the rate of change was so fast that it left art stranded, at least for a time, in it’s pastoral conventions.

So much parallel here. So much. “Linkage, relativity, interconnectedness.” “The metropolis.” “Process.” These metaphors feel right, don’t they? Not just for that time, but also for this time. After a few decades lingering around in the suburbs, we’re moving back to cities and placing priorities on social needs. It’s history on repeat.

I like knowing that history repeats itself, that we can always go back into books and find parallels to whatever new is happening today. Because nothing is truly new — everything has a precedent — and we can learn from them if we pay attention .

Future Friendly Web

This project gets my full, unconditional support. It’s pushing an idea that I’ve long had since becoming serious about content strategy. In the very near future — as in, arguably, yesterday — the internet is going to become increasingly accessible on/with things that aren’t traditional computer screens. It’s our responsibility as makers of the web to prepare our sites for these new portals.

I think it’s a fun prospect.

And we should forget, day by day, what we have done; this is true non-attachment. And we should do something new. To do something new, of course we must know our past, and this is alright. But we should not keep holding onto anything we have done; we should only reflect on it. And we must have some idea of what we should do in the future. But the future is the future, the past is the past; now we should work on something new.

— Shunryu Suzuki
English Majors and Internet

I, too, am an English major turned internet maker. It shouldn’t surprise you at all to know there are thousands of people out there like Kate Daly and me. The internet is as much made of words as it is pictures.