This One Goes to Eleven (and Up)

The surprise announcement that I posted last week about bringing my career at The New York Times to an end took forever to write. I’m generally a slower writer than I’d like to be, and with something as tricky as that, it takes me at least a dozen drafts to even get the tone right.

There was a lot to fit in too, and in the end I edited out some thoughts that I originally would have liked to include. Mostly, I wanted to discuss why I felt it was time for me to leave. That’s a fairly big subject with several different facets, but I wanted to touch on one of those facets today, maybe the biggest motivation in my departure: my daughter Thuy is rapidly approaching her first birthday. In fact, yesterday she hit the eleven-month mark.

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A Change

For many months now I’ve been thinking about the long-term trajectory of my career, wrestling with some serious questions about what it is I want to do with the few talents I’m lucky enough to have. After a lot of internal debate, I came to the conclusion that the time is right for me to make a change in my job. So about two and a half weeks ago, I formally resigned my position as design director of NYTimes.com. My last day will be this coming Friday, 16 July.

It wasn’t an easy decision. I’ve been at The New York Times for four and a half years now, four and a half years that will doubtless figure prominently in my life for years to come. There were some rough patches, as there are with any job, but on the whole it’s been the best job I’ve ever had. I got to work on some of the most rewarding projects anywhere, alongside a diverse population of some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and I had the thrilling privilege of playing a bit part in the world’s best journalism.

However, I never set out to work in journalism. I’m a designer at heart, and what I’m compositionally best suited for is the challenge of designing user experiences, hopefully superb user experiences. Of course, at this moment in history when technology is realigning the world in such tumultuous ways, it’s true that there’s a profound overlap between design and the news — it’s true that in many ways the delivery of the news is the same as its user experience. For these past several years, I found that overlap to be a tremendously satisfying arena within which to work, but journalism in and of itself has only been a part of my motivation.

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I’m Feeling Lucky

Last week, Google announced a new feature that lets users customize Google.com with their own pictures. When I read about this, I groaned; here was another perfect example of Google peddling unbridled visual pollution in its unconscious drive to become the new Microsoft, purveyor of aesthetic misfires. I just couldn’t imagine a photograph that I’d like to see running in the background of their home page, the only truly elegant product that Google has ever designed. I mean, what would the point be?

Then Laura showed me the photo she uploaded. I stand corrected.

See the full-size image here.

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Out of the Office

What’s happening on this blog? Let me explain: for the past several weeks, I have been deeply engaged in an experiment I call “not blogging.” It’s a weird, wild alternative style of living in which I refrain from posting long, rambling diatribes on poorly-researched design topics close to my heart. Additionally, I have even abstained from the indulgence of publishing those shorter, no less inconsequential regurgitations of links you can already easily find elsewhere on the designy Interweb. In short, nothing’s going on here.

Instead, I’ve used most of this month to turn my attention instead to three other projects that have preoccupied my time. Two of them I can’t really speak about at this point, except to say one involves a new Web site and another involves ink printed on paper, the way they used to do it way back in the early years of the twenty-first century. You’ll be hearing more about both within a few months.

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