So Long, Everyone!January 2nd, 2012 |
“ ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ Whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” — Steve Jobs
The tweet here is probably something along the lines of “I’m hanging up my podcasting spurs.” Of course, brevity has never really been a strong suit of mine, so I’ll elaborate below. But if you just want the quick hit, there it is. These old spurs, I am a’ hangin’ them up.
I’ve been hosting a podcast about graphic design as long as podcasts about graphic design existed, I’m proud to say, though a few rascals beat us out of the gate onto iTunes. I thought the Steve Jobs quote above would be a nice way to kick this story off, not just because it sums up my feelings, but because he was the reason I began podcasting in the first place.
When Apple added podcasts to the iTunes music store I was about as big of a fanboy as you could get, both for Apple and for graphic design. As we all know, to hear Steve Jobs describe anything is to be riveted by it, be it iPods, computers, or shoelaces. So after hearing the pitch about how great the addition of podcasts would make iTunes, I immediately loaded it up and went looking for the best design podcast I could turn up.
I turned up none.
At the time I was writing at a blog called Be A Design Group with my friends, and we had a decent number of readers coming to the site, so I thought there was a natural market opening for us. My friend Tom had a little radio experience, and we invited our other friend Donovan to make it a hosting threesome (and not in the gross way).
That’s how the show began. A couple of young, energetic, passionate design fanboys talking about typefaces, Pantone colors, papers, Adobe products, and our design heroes. Before we knew it, we had those very same heroes sitting down with us. It was design-geek nirvana.
I always wanted the show to fit somewhere between friends-sitting-at-a-bar-talking-shop (“Mrs. Eaves is the worst!”) and a broader, deeper conversation about our industry and where it is headed. On a few magical occasions, I felt like we achieved that. Mostly I was my own worst critic, making the few trolling comments we would get around here perfectly redundant. I craved contrarian opinions and points-of-view that challenged mainstream ideas of what our industry could be. It felt like that didn’t always win me a lot of supporters, certainly at times it cost me more than I gained, but to me it is important to question authority. It is important to ask questions about our world, and our little piece of it.
When we launched 36 Point, there were a few reasons. One, we had begun to chafe somewhat under the Be A Design Group masthead and longed for complete creative freedom. Second, we thought, surely there must be a way to monetize this thing (and there is, just nothing we had any real interest in pursuing), and it would be best to own our own intellectual property. Lastly, I had just begun my own business, and needed a good way to self-promote. So, with reckless abandon and an overabundance of boldness, we cancelled the Be A Design Cast and launched The Reflex Blue Show here on 36 Point.
We’ve had a very good run, and I expect it will continue to improve in my absence. But when I look at the reasons I started podcasting, and my reasons for continuing, I could no longer find a compelling hook. My passion for design hasn’t diminished, but it has matured, changing in the process. I can no longer summon the will to idolize the more successful designers in our industry; obsess over Adobe updates; or ask people what their least favorite typeface is (everyone just says Comic Sans now, anyway).
I look at all of the extraordinary work being done these days online and cataloged on sites like Dribbble, and I think of all the young designers pouring their passion into pet projects, and realize that my passions have changed. I’ve begun a new career at a fantastic and supportive agency (VML), and I am passionate about that. I have a loving wife and a great dog and I am passionate about them. I spend half my days staring at pixels magnified to 1600% and I am super passionate about that. Moving forward, those are the things I want to concentrate on. And in order to do so, I came to the realization that I need to step away from the show I created.
My design heroes now are all 10 years younger than me, and they are a large group of passionate, creative people who can build the things I never could, and I’m hopeful that they, too, will pick up that fanboy torch for design and carry it forward. I can’t wait to cheer them on, I just won’t be doing it from behind a microphone.
Lastly, I’d like to give credit where it’s due. These shows were nothing if not a group effort, and every single person who ever showed up, spoke up, stood behind-the-scenes or showed up with cheeseburgers and beer in a Burger King mask deserves credit for its successes. While I can’t name everyone, there are a few folks I would like to take a minute to single out:
Best Frequent Guest: Justin Ahrens
We’ve had many, many guests on the show, all of which were extraordinary people with extraordinary thoughts on the design profession. For as much as I hope bringing our conversations to the world has brought others, being able to sit down with these designers and ask the questions I’ve always wanted to ask has been more fulfilling than I could possibly communicate here.
Of all our guests, though, having the excuse to catch up with Justin Ahrens — who is one of the most positive and supportive people you will ever meet, in or out of the design world — always brought me joy. If there was one guest who fundamentally understood what our show was about, and was never afraid to dive into it’s deep-end headfirst, it was J.A.
Best Role Model: Debbie Millman
One of the best, and most unexpected, things to come from the show was my friendship with Debbie. She was hosting Design Matters and occupying the stratosphere while we were digging in the mines for content. Debbie took me under her wing and made me want to be a better host, a better interviewer, and someone who could aim for deeper questions about design. If I ever gained any competency at this gig, I owe it to Debbie’s subtle nudges and the amazing example she set.
Best Guest Podcaster: Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes, along with the next name on this list, is one of my favorite I-knew-him-when friends. Mig, for an entire season (Season 2), took over our student tip section of the show and made it his own. Every two weeks we’d get an email with an audio file attached, and there would be Mig, going way more in depth than we ever would, getting the word out to young designers about how to make it. Each and every Mig Tip was filled with energy, intelligence, and integrity. There was never a tip on how to cheat the system or cut to get ahead, just great, honest advice on how to grow as a professional and put yourself where you would like to go. We even cut his own theme song for it. Mig is one of the very best examples you can find in this world of the power of passion + positivity.
Best Friend of the Show: Steve Gordon
Steve was on the show so much that I consider him our honorary 3rd man. If this had ever been a paying gig I’m sure I would have made the offer to make it official. Steve started out sending us clips for the show from the HOW Conference that eventually became the format for all of our event coverage; grew into a frequent guest host and interviewer; and eventually into someone we were able to interview himself, about his books, clothing line and other projects. Steve’s infectious energy and never-say-die attitude gave every episode he was on a heartbeat that could be heard for miles, and when I think of the best times I had doing the podcast, Steve is intrinsically linked to almost all of them.
Best Co-Host: Donovan Beery
And I only say “co-host” in the form of “Nate and Donovan are co-hosts of The Reflex Blue Show.” Aside from having the driest sense of humor ever recorded, and an ability to drive me absolutely insane whenever we’d do a show without ever actually making me mad, Donovan’s behind-the-scenes work for our shows would be legendary if people knew how much work he puts into it. Memory fails me here, but I’m not sure I ever set up an interview for this show, and we’ve done dozens. That was all Donovan Beery.
Donovan makes the site go, and manages our RSS feeds. Donovan schedules appointments and keeps schedules on track. Donovan is the reason we occasionally get invited places and is definitely the reason we make it there alive. Donovan is how we have had so many amazing guests on our shows, because he calls them himself. Donovan is the reason we know it’s easier to get Sagmeister on the phone than some of our friends. The show works because Donovan works.
Donovan has simply been an incredible companion on this journey, and I am lucky to count him as a true friend.
Lastly, I just want to thank those of you, who sometimes seem so preciously few, who listen and enjoy our podcast. It will continue, and it will grow into something new and better, I am sure. Thank you for everything.