design

I made a thing and people are actually using it.

Last week I left the Ministry of Justice. I spent 1 year and 7 months according to LinkedIn’s calculations there trying to do my bit for humanity as a designer. A lot of times it didn’t seem like this was happening. A lot of times it seemed like the policy wonks and the wannabe politicians (why this person exists is beyond me) were racing ahead to the bottom while a comparatively pitiful number of good minded or otherwise idealistic “jeans-wearing digital hipsters with post-it notes” were treading water. This is what it was like for the most of the time. But despite all this, we made things happen. We released software. That’s right, we made actual, working software. Not a PDF, not a mediocre, hard to understand film, and not social media conjecture.

An actual thing I designed not only saw the light of day, but, gasp, was used by actual people - and a decent amount of them to boot. The thing myself and a ragtag band of “strong personalities” (as we were called by those who obviously can’t take a joke or can’t stand people who don’t like faffing about) released 6 months ago so far has been taking roughly 20,000 cases per month of poor people getting legal help, of which so far 1 million Great British Pounds of legal types helping the poor people were billed.

Having spent almost the past 18 years of my life designing things that never see the light of day, this is a pretty damn big deal, and one I struggled to remind myself a lot of times. On top of that, its all out there, and here and here for anyone to use in the world, that is assuming you have an intimate knowledge of Python and want to build yourself a case handling type system. But apparently the UK Land Registry and potentially the government of New South Wales, Australia are going to use bits and pieces of it, so there.

So last week, we showed it to the big wigs and there were smiles and claps all around and then as well as for me somehow as that was my last day. If I had made some sort of speech, which maybe I should have, I would have said that we made a thing that is somehow making people's lives better and that was thanks enough. This is no bullshit, it really is thanks enough. I can count on one hand how many things I’ve worked on that have ever been used by real people and have actually helped them in their lives.

Thanks Tom, Alex, Dom, Ravi, Marco, Andy, Keiran, Peter, Eddie and all the rest.

I'm leaving you Adobe

Let me tell you about warp. That's right, warp. This amazing ability that Illustrator has where you can make a vector shape and then make a deformable mesh on top of it that you can tweak around and well, warp a bit. Sounds epic doesn't it? What an amazing feature they've come up with. For some sad, strange reason I had an obsession with the concept of not being able to do this, even though every time I've used the tool it was difficult and ended up looking like absolute shit anyhow. This is what it boils down to, Adobe throwing everything under the sun at you and wedging in heaps of loss aversion through the door and down your throat. I don't know how I will make this sort of psychedelic amazingness anymore, but it doesn't really matter

So I'm trying to leave you and it ain't going to be easy. Adobe, you've weaved your tentacles into my life in ways and formats that will be incredibly hard to shake. But I look forward to the challenge and to breaking free till one day I can make it without drowning in your bloat and effluence every time I have to make some sort of image or put some words on a picture.

But you've made it so hard to leave you. You've ingrained yourself everywhere in my life and in my consciousness. You've gone through my phone and who I've called and told me how to hold a fork. You've been with me through bad and good. We've cried together, lasted up all night with a half empty bottle of whiskey, tears and all the memories that go with that one Strokes album. You were there. You're now a verb because you are everywhere.

Part of breaking away is opening your eyes. I haven't opened InDesign in over a year. I haven't done any photo type thing to an actual image in over a year and even when I do, I only use some basic stuff. What you have to realise is that you don't really need all the bells and whistles and you don’t need one company dictating what the creative output of the planet is.

A love letter to terminal

I admit, its frivolous. But as a designer in these trying times, its a little to keep you going as they say.

There’s an app for it. There’s no need for me to do all the typing. I can click colourful little things and go on my merry way committing, pulling, pushing and that. But I choose to type. I choose from sick fascination to talk to the computer and this thing in the internet directly. I choose to learn its language.

I’m a designer and I love terminal.