Reflections on 2010

I didn’t start 2010 in the best of moods. I can’t explain why – 2009 had been a good year, but come the turn of the year positivity wasn’t in abundance. The first few months of the year seemed to stagnate. A heavily bruised/suspected cracked rib playing football around Easter didn’t help matters – it is amazing (and quietly reassuring) the amount of attention you get in a GP’s waiting room when you tell them that you have chest pains… Anyway, I couldn’t wait for the year to end and a chance to start over!

Self-pity is something I like to think that I am not prone to. Perhaps I’d been stockpiling and something had triggered an outburst…

So what’s the point of this shoe-gazing? It’s scene setting. Almost by accident, I seem to have enjoyed a pretty good year!

The accidental good year

It began with a New Year’s day phone call from my Dad, during which he told me that my Grandad would be in touch to talk about an illustration he wanted doing for a book he is writing on braiding (textiles). Two Roman-era sling-throwers, inspired by a section of Trajan’s column. And led to a request for more illustrations which I am now steadily (read slowly) working my way through.

At work I have had a number of smaller successes. The particular highlight here was the design and build of branded email newsletter templates. These are now in use by our Alumni Office who have a mailing list of approximately 35,000 and have the metrics to demonstrate proper ROI.

The little concrete garden became awash with pots containing a plethora of vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, courgettes, peppers, chillies; herbs: rosemary, thyme, mint, sage; a few decorative plants; and strawberries. It was mostly successful and we enjoyed a reasonable harvest!

Over the summer I enjoyed a relaxing break with Miss-Charlotte in Ibiza. It featured a lot of swimming and my first attempt at diving. Closer to home, the British Museum’s Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings exhibition was fantastic and my birthday trip to the Design Museum’s Sustainable Futures was eye-opening. And I mustn’t forget the weddings – seeing good friends getting married: congratulations to Mr & Mrs Robinson, Mr & Mrs Barry and Mr & Mrs Johnson.

In September I started a photography course with @Fuzzy_Beasley. I figured it was about time to learn how to use my camera properly. So far the sessions have been mostly theory orientated – a lot of learning, but not much doing. You can see my efforts (good and bad) on Flickr.

Have you met the bookworm?

Most people haven’t; he’s got his nose in a book at the coffee shop, while his mates prop up the bar down the pub.

Reading seems to sum up my year. I did it. A lot. What follows is a snapshot of my (non-fiction) literary encounters:

  • Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman: takes a look at user-experience design in the real world.
  • Glimmer by Warren Berger: a great read on design and design thinking, and a bit of a primer for the next book…
  • Massive Change by Bruce Mau: I’d recommend visiting his website to find out more about what he is about.
  • Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough: how we rethink the design process in a world of dwindling resources.
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: a cracking exploration of the factors which allow the talented to become truly exceptional.
  • Introducing HTML5 by Bruce Lawson and Remy Sharp: a great introduction to HTML5 and my copy is well thumbed.
  • Handcrafted CSS by Dan Cederholm: explores the CSS3 that we can use on the web today.
  • Designing With Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman: is a book I wish I had read five years ago.

A face in the crowd

Work gave me the opportunity to attend a couple of conferences this year. I will admit the first was a little nerve-racking, not having attended this kind of extended event before, and flying solo to boot. Future of Web Design (FOWD) was an inspiration. Engaging speakers, hot topics and great demonstrations: HTML5, lots of CSS3, UX tips, accessibility advice. And the opportunity to get chatting to some great folk, like: @richardwiggins, @bimms, @BigLittleFlan

This was followed up by IWMW, the HE sector’s webby conference. And this time I had colleagues for company. The theme was ‘the web in turbulent times’, and many of the talks aimed to tackle issues faced by the sector, and in particular the value of the web and web teams to HE. Most of the speakers managed to strike a positive note with their talks and provide inspiration to take back to the office. Discussion of more general web developments was (unsurprisingly) given less airtime than at FOWD, though I did catch presentations on HTML5 and how to do UX testing on a shoestring.

More recently I have attended a couple of Reading Geek Nights @JimAnning does a great job in pulling these events together and fostering a friendly atmosphere. A typical night consists of 3-4 crowd-sourced presentations, on anything and everything you could get geeky about. These run on the second Tuesday of the month at Copa in Reading.

Was it worth it?

The year has been an accidental success. I had fun and learnt a lot, but there wasn’t much doing. Now is time to consolidate and put theory into practice.