2012 Resolutions: Design & Develop

It’s a new year. And my New Year’s resolutions feel more urgent now that I’m 29.

The 20’s are about learning. Most people spend the first few years of their 20’s in college. Then there’s the series of jobs leading to career advancement or grad school. Maybe you start a company that ends in failure or enough success to realize that the market was too small. Either way it’s a learning experience. Jesus was a carpenter in his 20’s. But we’re more familiar with what he did starting at age 30. The 30’s are when you apply what you learned in your 20’s.

So far I’ve picked up a lot of business strategy, startup experience, and sales & marketing skills. But I’ve encountered more than my share of obstacles when it comes to getting things done on the web. Initially it was my fault because I was new to software. Over time I worked with many designers and developers and realized that not all of them are equally capable. The more I understood design & development, the better I became at sifting talent from fluff.

Since 29 is the last year of my 20’s, I look at it as a cram year. It’s time to kick it into high gear and pick up some skills that I keep putting off. Great strategy is worthless if the team can’t perform. Just like in sports, successful technical teams succeed when they have good fundamentals.

Fundamental: Design

Two skills are fundamental for web work: design and development. Some companies have one without the other and they always struggle. Rarely (if ever) is someone great at both. So usually I build teams comprised of at least 1 designer and 1 developer. Personally I gravitate towards design. So that’s where I’m starting this year.

Ever since I was was a kid I’ve had a high level of empathy. It helps me put myself in a other’s shoes to understand their mindset. Turns out this ability is helpful on the web. I may be able to see the problem, but until now I’ve been inept at using design tools to create the solution. That’s changing.

One of my favorite designers to work with is Kurtis Beavers. He’s bright, talented, and likable. You should follow him on twitter and check out his work. Kurtis is a pro at illustration. Kurtis is amazingly efficient at translating ideas into art. Based on my observations of Kurtis, I need to become proficient at Adobe Illustrator. It’s a versatile tool for logos, infographs, emails, blog posts, and a number of other use cases. Plus it gives me a starting point to familiarizing myself with adobe products like photoshop and fireworks.

My first objective is to build a logo for this blog. After viewing the tutsplus course on identity design, I have a solid concept. But taking that concept from my head to this site has been a challenge. Currently I’m using lynda.com to ground myself in the tool. Using a comprehensive course is more time-consuming than a project-based tutorial. But I like the comfort level that I’m developing in illustrator because I understand the why behind what it can do.

Fundamental: Development

Good developers always seem to be in short supply. The good ones manage realistic expectations and ship on time. Bad developers become embittered divas who take projects hostage with an arrogant belief that their customer just doesn’t understand the situation. All developers think that their customer is an idiot at some point. But the smart ones wait until the conference call has ended before they vent their frustration.

Personally I’ve dabbled in tutorials on PHP Ruby on Rails, Pyton and Objective C. Eventually I’ll probably end up with Rails, but for now I plan to focus on PHP because we use it on client projects a lot at Elias. I’m a big fan of LemonStand and Mailchimp, both of which are built on PHP. Finally, I know several developers who picked up Ruby quickly after developing with PHP. I suspect this is due to transferable development skills that apply across any language.

My project goals for development will be to build a basic form collector, a personal WordPress blog, and custom module(s) for our new ecommerce store, feelmorehuman.com.

What New Year’s resolutions have you set for yourself in 2012?

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