Brand New Shoes
It's been a long, meandering, 2+ year journey to define core values and become more intentional about how we steer our future. Today, we launched a redesigned, rewritten site to reflects all the changes that resulted from that process.
It might seem a bit silly, but this is a critical step in our positioning. In order to work on future dream projects, we need clients that share our values.
They are there to to help evaluate which projects are worth going after, which ones we should pass on, and the expectations we set ahead of time. In moments of desperation, they will be especially important.
Last year we embraced an “agile workflow”, which, for our purposes, is a fancy way of saying “stop multitasking”. There’s lots more about it on our process page, and even more in a forthcoming blog post about why we made this change.
In a nutshell, we now do only one project at a time, in small short bursts of effort (a “sprint” in agile jargon). Each sprint includes a kickoff, daily meetings, and a valuable deliverable at the end (usually functional web pages). They are intense and immersive. And we charge a weekly rate (as opposed to flat fees, or hourly rates).
That focus, combined with advances in server infrastructure, content management systems (hello Craft), and our general understanding of interaction design have created a situation where where 75-90% of the work we used to do has become unnecessary. It’s difficult to understate how monumental of a shift this has been. With agile, projects that used to take 2 months can be done in 2 weeks or less.
And not only are we faster, but the quality of our work has gone up. We are able to schedule essential time for rest & recovery, and our clients are happier. With a highly structured schedule we can do more frequent iterations, create original content, work on lower-budget jobs, or volunteer in our community.
My favorite thing about thinking in weekly blocks of time is that it implicitly values both structured and unstructured time. Hourly billing tricks you into thinking that all hours worked are equal and efficient, and we must put in 8 consecutive hours a day to earn our money. This is simply not true. Great ideas strike without warning, in the car, or on a run. And 10 minutes of unplanned thinking is more valuable than 5 hours of sitting at a desk, trying to force it.
Refine visual styles
This design refresh began with a soft pink background. It’s warm, inviting, and a color I’ve always loved. And it’s a subtle homage to American hero and turn-of-the-century journalist, Ida B. Wells, who brilliantly used pink paper to brand her newspaper.
Another early spark of inspiration was the release of cloud.typography from Hoefler Frere-Jones (now just Hoefler). I’ve waited for web versions of their fonts for years after being a devoted fan in my previous career as a print magazine designer. Their iconic typefaces are understated, crisp, and without question the gold standard in modern typography. I knew pretty quickly this site would use two of my all-time favorites: Mercury and Whitney.
Finally, the combination of plants and lightly animated line art animals are reflections of our home and what occupies my attention outside of work at this point in my life, living in Seattle with a toddler.
This project reminded me that when we work for clients, their website is one stop on a longer journey that begins before we ever sit down and continues long after we've launched. And every redesign is an opportunity to further that process, or derail it. We must get better at helping and getting involved earlier in the journey to ensure our projects succeed.