Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About My Day but Were Afraid to Ask

An Event ApartMy speaking session on day one of An Event Apart New York City is called “Dawn ’til Dusk with a Design Director.” The idea is to compress one of my typical work days into a breezy little talk, with the hope that eighteen waking hours of activity will make for at least fifty-five minutes of entertainment. Heaven help me if it doesn’t.

I’ll be chronicling everything design related that happens to me, starting more or less from the moment I wake up, through my day at the office, and into the evening, as I slave in front of my computer in service to this blog and other extracurricular projects. Along the way, and with some humility, I hope to convey at least a few interesting lessons on how good design is created and managed, the various ways design informs those activities not explicitly design related, and maybe even how to have a life outside of design.


Much of the inspiration for this concept came from a question that has been posed to me repeatedly since I assumed the design director role at NYTimes.com: “What do you do all day?” I’ve found that, much more so than when I was a principal at my own design studio, people find the whole idea of my job — or maybe my job title — to be undefined or even downright mysterious. It’s certainly not the latter, though the former may not be too far from the truth.

One of the many things I hope to do in this presentation is to shed some light on what happens at NYTimes.com, as well as what it is exactly that a design director does. Of course, I’m not going to reveal anything proprietary about what we’re doing at the office — I’m going to speak in relatively broad terms — but hopefully what I have to say will contribute a bit to the conversation on best practices in design management, too.

Any Questions?

But, as I start to outline my talk, I realized that I’m working solely from conversational research, so to speak, instances when my friends and colleagues have casually quizzed me about my job description. It struck me that it would make sense, too, to find out in more explicit detail what others might like to know about my job, my day, my approach to design, etc.

So if there’s anything specific that you’ve been wondering about any of those, that you’d like to see me cover in this session, please let me know. I realize, of course, that few of you will even be able to attend An Event Apart New York this July, but I promise to make my presentation available online in some form, so you’ll see at least some answers to your questions here. Fire away.

  1. Hi Khoi

    I’d be interested to know the kind of process you go through when starting a new task, from the brief to it going live on the site.

    Obviously this doesnt really fit within the scope of a day, but I think it’s a useful thing for designers to share and compare.

    Good luck with the talk.

  2. I’m not going to reveal anything proprietary about what we’re doing at the office…

    Stop, you had me at reveal. What on Earth could the Gray Lady be doing in the practice of design management that would be considered proprietary? Ok, it’s cattle prods isn’t it. You’re using cattle prods on designers to get them to work harder or are you inticing them with an “upgrade” to Photoshop 7?

  3. Hey Khoi, wish I could be there, but I’m pretty much stuck in Singapore.

    How much time do you spend on the human (rather than code) process of maintaining a very dynamic site like NYtimes? For eg. governing your content contributors and making sure they adhere to certain web standards your team sets down? Or is there a clear distinction between the folks who provide the content and the guys who put it up on the web?

    Working in a huge organisation like yourself, I’ve inherited a huge network of “web authors”, most of which know little about the web. The CMS was meant to make web publishing idiotproof, but you know how CMSes aren’t all they’re supposed to be.

Thank you! Your remarks have been sent to Khoi.