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Cognition

Chairman’s Message

Never look back, Steve Jobs said, or maybe it was Bernie Madoff. But at this time of year, it is customary to look at where we’ve been, and take educated guesses about where we’re going.

As web designers, we are in a time of new patterns. But we are making sense of these patterns and naming them. I traveled the world this year. Everywhere I went I heard the same four or five ideas.

From Cardiff to Costa Mesa, in every business meeting and at every conference I attended, we all spoke of responsive websites, finding new design and approval processes, and the challenge of delivering great design and appropriate content to a continually expanding universe of devices.


Oslo. Night is Falling.

Evening rush hour in Oslo. It was fun to hear Norwegians pronounce names like “Luke Wroblewski.”


My favorite instance came at a web design conference in Oslo, Norway. In one session, the presenter spoke in his native Norwegian, a language I do not know. The sound of his words washed over me like music, except when a phrase in English rang out. These English phrases were familiar to me. They sounded like the titles of our A Book Apart books: Mobile First. Responsive Web Design. Content Strategy for Mobile. Hell, they were the titles of our A Book Apart books. That gave me a special feeling.


Edge Conference at Google New York.

Devotees basking in the complexity of responsive images; Edge Conference at Google New York.


As the year and my travels continued, I heard too little about orbital content and too much about frameworks and libraries. As our tools become more powerful, they also grow more complicated. It’s wonderful that we don’t have to bake everything from scratch these days, but I’d like to believe that we still know how to do so. Like my friend Scott Kellum, I worry that our power comes at a price.


Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, Wales, UK.

Wales Millennium Centre. This region of Britain holds an astronishing number of talented web designers.


When I became a web designer in 1995, you had to know HTML and Photoshop. Today’s landscape is so dense with technologies on top of technologies inside of technologies, each cluster forming its own passionate (and, to an outsider, opaque) community, that I wonder how someone new to the field even begins to learn it, let alone achieve competence. I worry that our growing specialization will interfere with collaboration and prevent us from seeing our work whole. I hope we never lose sight of the power of shared standards and the importance of simplicity, let alone of the human being our work serves.

Whatever else 2013 may have been for our profession, it certainly wasn’t slow or dull. And this new year will be even more exciting. So, here’s to us, the people who make websites. And while we’re at it, let’s raise our glasses to the people who hire us to create compelling digital experiences—and raise them higher still to the people who use what we make. Here’s to all of you, and to the year that was. Cheers, skol, l’chaim!

Want to see more of Jeffrey’s photos? Check out his Flickr Account.

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