Newsletters Might Be My New Blogroll

This year when I got into the habit of unsubscribing from every single unsolicited email message that arrived in my inbox, I started enjoying email again. I started sending friends little notes. “Real” email had been such a thing of the past that I accidentally typed out “snail mail” as I started this post.

Some people I know have started newsletters as a way to stay in touch with people digitally, on their own terms. Some of them used to blog. Others wanted to, but never got to it.

If you had told me a couple of years ago that I would look forward to receiving newsletters I would have Elaine-pushed you. Yet these newsletters have become a new form of RSS feed for me, a way to share in what others are enjoying on the internet. They feel like a calm and sensible list of things to read during my free time. Using social media as a feed, on the other hand, is never-ending, out of control, and gamed.

Here are some I enjoy and support. They are by people who are not strangers, and I actually read them.

A11y Weekly

My twice-old colleague David Kennedy started this newsletter because “web workers should think about, talk about and practice accessibility differently. Anyone can make the Web more accessible one change at a time. That only happens if we share our knowledge, and this is one way I’m sharing mine.”

If you want to understand accessibility without the bullshit or drama, please sign up for this one.

a11yweekly.com

Informaction

I’ve only known of Jorge via his work, writing, and friends of his, but if you’re interested in learning how information architecture goes beyond “just websites” this is a good one. Other topics he covers include ethical design, leadership, systems, and more.

Newsletter – Jorge Arango

Six Signals

This one is for people who don’t think they’re futurists, or who can’t stand alarmist futurist clickbait. It’s also good for futurists who need to calm the fuck down. Critical, yet thoughtful. Smarter than you, but never pedantic. Just full of awe and wonder for technology. It’s very Alexis.

Six Signals by Ethical Futures Lab

Mule Design’s Newsletter

Erika Hall and Mike Monteiro’s writing feels like what Ernest Hemingway would sound like if he wasn’t depressed and drunk all the time. The swearing is borderline Shakespearean, too. I read it for entertainment but it’s also excellent for you know, my job.

Things We Wrote

A List Apart

Last but not least. If you are a person who makes websites–meaning, any thing that runs in a browser–you have to keep up with this one. But I might be biased.

Get ALA via Email

Chasing the Accident

Today I was fortunate enough to stop by Funsize, a local design agency in Austin, and record an episode of their Hustle Podcast with their Head of Design, Anthony Armendariz. It was a solid, authentic conversation, in which we talked about one of my posts on here, but as good conversation goes, it ended up being about much more than that. I’m glad that these things exist. They keep the community going.

There was a point in our conversation where I talked about the idea that many of us today seem to want to grasp that piece of work that will define our careers, and let us leave our mark. We use examples that made design history but don’t fully reflect on how accidental they were. The result is that we go about our lives and careers, forgetting what’s in front of us, waiting for an accident to happen.


I used to hate on designers with side projects. They usually felt like a way for people to land a bigger role somewhere else. Too busy chasing their own happy accident, while we were stuck in the trenches with their work.

Recently, though, I’ve had a change of heart. I’ve gotten to know people whose side projects are their true vocations. They pursue theirs fully aware that it won’t give them much leverage in their career.

I’ve also since realized, like many, that the design industry is going through a major period of finding itself. So much of this job isn’t about making, and it can take a while, especially when one is starting out, or sold on a grand vision, to re-calibrate expectations.

Not that I think that a job should be the source of a person’s fulfillment, but there’s a big space between a person who just wants to do something a little different to someone who feels stagnant and needs an external force to keep their creativity alive.

Now whenever I see someone sharing their zines, posters, or melted Barbie head photography on Twitter, I make sure to check it out and share it with people I know.

Mentor Mercenaries, Coaches, and the Next Designer Existential Crisis

In the latest iteration of trendy design side hustle, I’ve noticed more and more people are starting to sell their time as consultants. Except they won’t admit it. They’re giving back to the community via mentorship (by the hour). They’re sharing their leadership management experience as coaches (for a fee).

Have design thinking workshops gone out of style too? What will I do with my special Pantone Color of the Year stickies?

Whenever the industry wonders if the break-neck speed of technology has left the design portfolio (and the design agency) in the dust, I can empathize with yearning for other ways to leave one’s mark. It’s totally valid to want a sense of control over one’s work or find meaning in it.

What’s so wrong about naming it what it really is? Like everyone else who has been successfully doing it for years? Whereas calling oneself a mentor or leader does not necessarily make one so, a consultant is pretty straightforward. Maybe it’s too minimizing? Perhaps this is another “titles don’t matter [unless mine makes me sad]” thing.

Embrace the PowerPoint slide, designers! You know you want the ego boost from creating your own template! Plus, you’d get to make. That’s what you ultimately wish you were doing anyway, right? Making?