My Workspace

I could say I’m pretty happy. I’ve been succesfully running my design studio for the past 8 months and recently also moved into a new office space. Since then, I’ve been setting up the workspace to suit the way I want to work and create things. This dedicated quiet space gives me the luxury to focus and get much more done than I could get anywhere else before.

A dedicated quiet space gives me the luxury to focus and get much more done than I could get anywhere else before.

While I find myself constantly switching between different working modes like running a design systems workshop, working at client’s premises, or doing a remote meeting with a team in another city, I like having this personal space where I can come back to think and focus on getting things done. A space for exploration and tinkering.

My workspace is a part of a bigger office complex, but with a dedicated room and a door. This is what my setup currently looks like (click to see bigger photos):

Workspace with lots of wall to draw on

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Work In Progress

March, 2017. We were still living in the United States. It was a time of great anxiety for us. Just a couple weeks earlier I had been laid off from my previous job in California, Donald Trump had become the president, and we were suddenly living in this foreign country without valid Visas and no plans for the future whatsoever.

At the same time, in the middle of everything, I had this crazy idea to start up my own design studio when we’re back in Europe.

There we were, about to have a baby, not able to fly back to Europe anymore and trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. The company I used to work for got sold and our previous Visas couldn’t be transferred, which basically got us here. Just a week before all this started, I remember discussing with my wife how I could see us growing old in this country.

For a moment it felt like a bad dream in which we were fugitives living on enemy soil. In some ways, that dream felt real and vivid to us. I mean, it sounds frankly awkward when saying it out loud now, but back then so many things happened at once. I wasn’t even sure if it was legal for us to stay in the country after our Visas expired, so I tried to keep my mouth shut as well as I could. If anyone asked; It was good. It was all going so good.

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On Design Tools
and Processes

For the past year(s) I’ve been chasing for answers. Looking for new tools, thinking about design processes and figuring out what design really means to me. At times I’ve felt so disconnected with our pro­cesses that I’ve wondered if my career choice was right.

Our canvas is infinite, but the tools we use force us into thinking about pages instead of systems of com­po­nents or materials to build with.

For a field rooted in the fine arts this period of change has been increasingly hard and is about to get even harder. We’ve moved away from designing static pages to creating digital systems of components, but we’ve done that mostly by using the same static design tools like Illustrator, Sketch, or even Figma. Tools that haven’t changed on a fundamental level in the past three decades.

Now, I think there’s something wrong with that picture. Our design products are becoming more and more dynamic, but our tools still treat them as blank canvases to paint on. Why?

New York City Transit Manual. Image: Standards Manual

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The Future of
Web Fonts

We love typefaces. They give our sites and applications personalized feel. They convey the information and tell a story. They establish information hierarchy. But they’re also full of problems. Type­faces make our websites slow. They produce FOUT — or FOIT if you prefer. They render in unpre­dictable ways. Why should we live with inflexible type that doesn’t scale, when the core nature of our medium is fluid and responsive?

Why should we live with inflexible type that doesn’t scale, when the core nature of our medium is fluid and responsive?

TLDR; We don’t have to. Three weeks ago, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Adobe introduced a new font format called Variable Fonts. In a gist, Variable Fonts provide the flexibility of multiple fonts in a single file that can adapt fluidly to any type of screen or device. One font, near infinite variations.

When using web fonts today, you have to load separate font files for each style and weight, resulting in long download times and FOUT/FOIT. With Variable Fonts, we can request just one highly optimized file including all the weights and styles of a typeface. This is a tremen­dous shift that I see leading to richer, more responsive typographic experiences and vastly expanding the possibilities for web typography.

Variable Fonts Image credit: Erik van Blokland

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