I really don’t enjoy unnecessary lists, but they work for a reason. People like small chunks of digestible content. Therefore, the best way for me to share some of my favorite and interesting items from 2014 is in a list.
• PEOPLE TO FOLLOW
I love following awesome people who are making the world a better place with the talents and skills they have. Some are designers, other developers, other still entrepreneurs and freelancers. When I read something by them, I feel more relaxed and inspired, which leads me to reassess situations and ideas with a new perspective. Some are of the most interesting people are as follows.
I read David’s post entitled “Dear Jr. Creative…Earn Your Place. You’ll Be Better For It.” one day when I was perusing Medium. I couldn’t stop reading it. It was part autobiography, part sage advice that struck a nerve with me. “Don’t be an industry douche” was something I took very seriously, because at least in my area it’s pretty easy to join those ranks. This one story about where he came from and working your way up was a good reality check for many others and me. David is the executive creative director of Firstborn in New York City, and if you haven’t checked out their work yet you really need to.
In the world of WordPress and business, Matt Medeiros is the man. I started listening to his podcast, Matt Report, at the end of 2013 but it quickly became a staple for me in 2014. His broadcast has literally helped me save time, money and effort into my freelancing considering so much of what I do is centered on WordPress for web work. He’s incredibly responsive on Twitter and occasionally joins in my dumb tweets. That kind of light-heartedness shows me just how genuine he is.
Yea, three guys listed as one entry, but here’s the deal. They are the hosts of One The Grid, my absolute favorite podcast. They talk about some pretty interesting topics and pepper the conversation with some personal stories that other designers can relate to. It’s pretty hard to find a podcast or blog from a designer or collective that doesn’t have a touch of pretentiousness, but I find their work very engaging and relevant. Even more, they are all real, down to earth guys who when you chat with them on Twitter or Reddit, they are give you honest feedback and perspective.
I’ve been a big fan of Paul for a while now. He’s the kind of guy whom I wish I had when I was in school who taught the business courses. I also discovered Paul’s work on Medium and then I bought a few of his ebooks, and then followed him on Twitter and I couldn’t get enough. His posts were like daily affirmations and his newsletter is the only one I really care about. Again, he is unpretentious and utterly honest. Whenever I do a portfolio review with a student and they discuss wanting to freelance, I tell them to first buy his book “Everything I Know” before they take on their first client.
Hailing from my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, Brad is a world-renowned web designer, speaker and industry leader. He is equal parts of full of passion and full of Zen-like calm. I’ve read his posts and open source culture and giving back and at the time, It was just what I needed to read to help me find some direction. Even though he’s pretty busy with a tight speaking schedule, he makes time for some awesome tweets.
I became aware of Janna Hagan through her work on A Student’s Guide to Web Designs. I’ve always been a supporter of helping students learn the industry and helping to shape it. When I learned more about Janna and her work, I felt good about how I went about doing my own freelance because so much was similar in regards to business. Her work and client list is impressive, but the fact that she’s honest and approachable online is an awesome asset facet. Her own work and what she does for students is incredibly important.
Music is a huge part of my personal life and professional workflow. I go between bouts of listening to ridiculous amounts of southern metal and death metal to listening to electronica and ambient. Sometimes, it’s just necessary to turn off everything and be left to the sound of your keystrokes, but a good tune mixed in the process helps remind me of why I love what I do.
I know his work under the pseudonym Helios. “Bless This Morning Year” is a constant in my Spotify playlist. His work under his other names is also extremely relaxing and focusing.
Take the vocals of Green Day, mix with the sultry tones of Nora Jones, add in some masterful guitar picking and shake it up with tunes by The Everly Brothers and you get Forverly. Leave to contemporary artists to make the best country album since Johnny Cash.
I discovered Dallas Green’s solo acoustic stuff when I was in college and I really enjoyed it. It was very different from Alexisonfire but at the same time it carried with it the same rhythmic melancholy mixed with soulful elation. The Hurry and the Harm album is an eclectic mix of songs that elicits warm feelings that doesn’t distract from working, but doesn’t become white noise either.
Yea, it’s another Davey & Jade project outside of AFI, but at least it has some teeth to it. I’ve been a huge fan of their other side project Blaqk Audio for years, but even electronica/dance stuff gets to be a bit old…especially from guys who I grew up listening to with songs like 3 ½, Midnight Sun, A Single Second and Third Season. Xtrmst is a return to the gut wrenching hardcore they always wanted to play. When I feel extremely tired and burnout, I put on their tunes and want to break someone’s teeth. Not sure how this completely fits in getting inspired…but you get me.
In the summer, I learned that one of my favorite bands from when I was young recently reunited and put out a new record in 2013. Boysetsfire was a huge inspiration to me when I was playing drums in my own band. I still remember being in our squat house in New Cumberland and playing “ White Wedding Dress” in the basement. When I discovered While a Nation Sleeps… I instantly looked it up on Spotify and upon listening “Until Nothing Remains” all of those wonderful, uplifting feelings that Boysetsfire engendered in me was back.
Delving into more psychedelic metal, Mastodon played a big role in several projects in 2014. I listened to “The Hunter” almost exclusively on several projects at PAFP. I think one of the reasons I grew a beard in 2014 was because of “Curl of the Burl”.
Tool: the masters of psychedelic prog-metal. Tool was and shall ever be one of my favorite ambient and active listening groups that can always get me focused. I listened to Tool’s Laterlus album back to back when I first learned Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and in 2014 I began listening to them once more and rediscovered the power and technicality of this amazing. I highly recommend them while coding.
I read a decent amount in 2014 when I was offline. I still appreciate a good book and what goes into the producing them. The tactile feel of a book is a different experience then reading digitally, plus it’s a competitive technology. You don’t need to charge a book up to read it. Books still and will continue to have a place in our society, so pick good ones to add to your library.
Everything I wish I knew when I got out of college and then some. Michael Janda cuts through the bullshit and gives it to you straight. He shares a lot of information that young designers need to know and understand to make it in the design world. The information is presented in a manner that is easily digestible and allows you to expand on his experience.
I personally believe that every designer need to have this book as part of their library. It details a history of strategies, ideas, tactics and processes that we use in design, daily. Many of the elements they talk about in the book are what many designers just take for granted. One thing that we must do as designers is remember where we came from and the ideas that make our discipline strong so that we may forget and repeat disastrous ideas.
Blogs has been hugely important to me in 2014. I have begun following more blogs that are meaningful to my work as well as to my wellbeing as good person. Blogs have given me a lot of insight into how I perceive the world around me and how that compares to other perspective. Not everything on the Internet should be the litmus test to test against, but generally it has helped to give me more information to take part in more conversations.
My pals at Media Boomtown turned me on to this blog. It’s a blog dedicated to help men become better husbands, boyfriends, fathers, and colleagues. Brett McKay and his wife started Art of Manliness in 2008 and it quickly became the gentlemanly spot on the Internet for candid discussions on manly skills, etiquette, dress, education, relationships, money and important topics that men deal with in their own ways.
I have been a huge fan of The Great Discontent ever since they started in 2011. It’s more of an online magazine then a blog (but there is a blog portion to their site) and the quality of their interviews with industry luminaries is fantastic. A few of my favorite interviews have been with Ryan and Don Clark of Invisible Creature, John Maeda (Formerly of RISD) of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Austin Kleon, Joshua Davis and Sara Blake. It is definitely one of my favorite reads when I am riding Amtrak.
Enough said. I ran event with these guys back in 2013 when I was a volunteer with AIGA Central PA. Reading their news has always been a big inspiration to me and took their pledge in 2014. Jason and Brian have given me enough of a reality in 2014 to make sure I stick to my guns and do really fucking good work.
Some of my favorite tools in 2014 have been huge boons to workflow and others are interesting up and coming players that can change industries. I started to expand my list of tools and experiment with different ones.
I have been an avid user of Asana for years now, but 2014 saw me using it for several organizations. Between my own Azrael Group tasks, PPO&S project management and with AIGA Central event programming, I have been more entrenched in how I scale out project timelines, creating achievable workflows and coordinating my personal life with my professional one. Since Asana hooks into my WordPress work and works beautifully on my smartphone, It has reaffirmed its spot as my number one tool for project management.
Macaw is a new tool that came out in 2014. The code savvy web design tool blends the best of what visual designers know and love (a visual editor) with smart abilities to write succinct, semantic code that any developer can work with. I don’t use Macaw exclusively, but I do see it being poised as an industry-shifting tool that many designers will use to get involved with front-end development.
I have come to depend on Evernote for a variety of reasons. I use it simply as my note-taking app and it’s become indispensible to me for client meetings, AIGA programming, and ideas for products and services. I use it on my Kindle Fire and having sync up to my mac and other machines, while connecting to my Asana and WordPress sites is a huge benefit.
That’s my list. It will be a long time before I do another one. Hopefully you can check out some of what I listed here and find them just as awesome as I have.