is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Lots of people ask what I’ve been up to in that time. I admit I’ve been rather cagey about the specifics, but the outlines are more or less public knowledge. I spent the first several months finishing my book, “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design.” I also picked up a few freelance and part-time design consulting gigs, generating some transitional income while also spending a lot of time with my family.
What’s less well known is that I cleared away most of that freelance activity at the end of January, when I hunkered down to focus solely on a brand new venture that I started thinking about almost immediately after my tenure ended at The Times.
In the Privacy of One’s Own Startup
I’m still not ready to reveal the exact details of what I’m working on, but in the coming days and weeks, I promise to start revealing more. A little bit more. For now suffice it to say that this venture has received almost all of my passion and focus over the past twelve months, so believe me it’s been tough to avoid telling the whole world about it.
But the privacy has been useful, too, in that it was very good for me to be able to keep all my efforts more or less to myself. It’ll likely surprise very few readers that this new venture of mine is a technology startup, and as such it represents what’s basically a major career change for me. While I’m still spending significant chunks of my time as a designer, I’m spending a similarly significant amount of my time leading the business, talking to lawyers and investors, thinking about and doing stuff I previously never understood or never knew how to do. Sometimes, to my own astonishment, I pull things off with reasonable competency. And sometimes I fail miserably. But throughout, the privacy helped.
If I Knew Then What I Know Now… Well Thankfully I Didn’t
What I didn’t expect was that it would take a year to get where I am now. I’m actually proud of the milestones that my co-founder and I have hit thus far and the rate at which we’ve accomplished them, and really we’re only just getting started. But last year when I first considered my commitment to this long campaign to bring a new digital product into the world, I imagined I’d have launched this thing by sometime around January or February of this year. Oops.
I certainly never thought that we’d still be toiling away at the alpha stage as late as the one-year anniversary of my departure from The Times. If I’d known back then that would be the case, I’m not sure I still would have had the courage to quit my job. Every entrepreneur signs up for ambiguity, but juggling ambiguity with delay after delay is frightening. My income was erratic for a while, and the viability of the business I’m trying to build seemed like it would fall apart again and again. Everything is tougher and takes more time than you expect, it turns out.
But I’m still glad I jumped into this and feel incredibly happy to be on this path. Nothing may come of all this, and the business may just bomb and I may yet have to go and find another salaried job somewhere. But I’ve grown so much since I undertook this little adventure that I wouldn’t trade it in for nearly anything. In fact, I’m lucky that I underestimated the enormity of the undertaking from the outset, because one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that, once you’re really committed to something, once you stop hesitating and hedging your bets, then you find a way to make it happen. Even if you have no idea how you’ll make it happen, you find a way.
That’s it for now. More on this next week and in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading, everyone.+