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.
I bought the book yesterday and couldn’t put it down; I planned on reading a couple of chapters before bed and ended up turning the last page at 4:30, wishing there were more. I also haven’t woken up so energized and excited to work as I was this morning.
Mike’s book is a landmark, and it’s sure to earn its place in the pantheon of design literature that’s separating the hacks from the professionals.
I find it hard to believe that one book can be deemed *that* important. If he’s tried (and I’m not sure it’s ever been his intention), he’s been wildly unsuccessful at separating the fucking dick on Twitter from the head of a successful design firm. I won’t pay Mike Monteiro for a word, although if I get my hands on the book without coughing up a cent, I’d find a certain pleasure in it. No matter how good something may be, it’s value gets lost if you can’t respect its source.
Jay, thanks so much for your kind words.
Donny, it’s because of people like you, who judge things before they’ve experienced them, that dicks like me need to exist.
I haven’t seen this much talk about a book in a while. I’m really looking forward to picking up a copy via cold hard cash to support a hard working business owner putting his ass on the line every day fighting for all of us, his fellow designers.
Mike, come out of attack mode for a moment. My point is that over the past few months you’ve changed my excitement for a book to refusal to buy it. Somewhere along the line you must realize that the Twitter you love so does have an impact on the perception of professionalism of the author. So, go ahead, sell thousands (I’m sure it will), but know that you could have reached more. And you should have done so, if only for the love of the industry. Have a knockout week!
Donny, you started off by calling me a fucking dick and claiming that you’d read the book if you could steal it. And *I’M* in attack mode? I could honestly give a rat’s ass if you read it or not, and frankly I prefer you didn’t. Your time would probably be better spent building some self-awareness, you little pissant.
I’ve read it cover-to-cover now, and I wish I’d had this book in-hand years ago. I’m a copywriter, but the proposal process, managing feedback, and “respecting your elders” – it all applies to loads of different kinds of creative fields.
Also, Mike is a die-hard fucking gem. So, there’s that.
I want to read this book. But also, where’s your Facebook like button, designers?
Just ordered. [Paperback.] And one more thing. We can all do with a little less assholery in the comments section. Criticize the book if you want to, but there’s no need for personal attacks. Don’t you have anything better to do?
Being a freelancer myself, I feel obliged to thank you for letting people know that design is actually a job, not just a hobby…
I guess I’ll have to buy it as a gift for some of my clients… xD
Wow, what a beautiful web design website. I have never seen such an amazing website before. I have used CSS3 and many technologies but never came to know that it can come in so handy if used the tight way. You guys are so creative!
A former colleague and friend of mine recommended that I check out this book – despite me not being a designer. I’m actually a newly-turned-freelance digital copywriter. I see Ginevra above seems to think so, but would you all say the principles and advice you found in the book applicable to someone like me, as well?
Honestly, I’d recommend Mike’s book to anyone who’s in any kind of client services business. It doesn’t even have to be a creative/design business.