Design Is a Job.
My web design heroes were never the people who could churn out the sexiest pixels or craft the most bulletproof code. I guess it’s because I’d spent my first professional decade as an account manager (not a designer), mostly at run-of-the-mill web agencies where keeping the lights on was an achievement worthy of celebration. Issues of client management and project selection were never up for debate, despite my frequent protests. That’s why my heroes were the professionals, the ones who wrote about clients, contracts, communication. So when Nate and I started hatching the plan that would become Full Stop, our manifestos were written by people like Andy Rutledge, and Jason Fried, and David Sherwin.
And Mike Monteiro.
Mike’s first book, “Design Is a Job” was released to the public yesterday. It’s very good. It’s funny and poignant and incisive. But more than that, it’s important. With apologies to the other incredible A Book Apart authors, I’ll go on record as saying it’s the most important book they’ve released to date. Why?
Many industry publications are task-focused “how-to” books—how to code CSS3, how to use Illustrator, how to install ExpressionEngine—and there’s certainly a place for them. “Design Is a Job” is a how-to book of a different kind. It’s about how to sell your craft to a customer with precious little understanding of why they need it. It’s about how to stand up for what you know is right when the easy (and often more lucrative) option is to roll over. It’s about how to protect yourself in an industry where it’s frighteningly easy to get fucked. It’s about how to become an adult when others would just as soon stay children. It’s empowering. Reading “Design Is a Job” is like reading a canonized compilation of the scribbles and notes Nate and I collected during the formation of our company. For us, it’s validation. For others who haven’t quite figured it out yet, it’s nothing short of a call-to-arms.
It’s also timeless. We work in a temporary industry; what’s fashionable or relevant today may be passé or outright false tomorrow. Most design publications—especially of the web design variety—are obsolete (or at least due for a new edition) after a few years. That’s where Mike’s book is different. It would’ve been good 20 years ago, and I’m confident it’ll still be good in another 20 years.
Mike is a polarizing figure to be sure. Some people think he’s a dick on Twitter (he is). Some think he’s a marketer and self-promoter nonpareil, the closest thing we have to a cult of personality within web design (he’s that too). For my part, I’ve always looked up to him. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know him a bit, and I now think of him as a kindred spirit, me in 15 years, something like that. After all, I’m an inveterate asshole, and he’s the most successful asshole I know.
Whatever you think of Mike, one thing is for sure: he’s given us all a gift in “Design Is a Job.” Well, he hasn’t given us anything. You have to fucking pay him for it.