Several years ago and inspired by a gaffe during the 2012 presidential campaign, I designed a t-shirt. In less than a day I designed the shirt and built a landing page to collect email addresses from people interested in the shirt. A few days later, I launched a Shopify store to allow people to pre-order the shirt. ~160 people pre-ordered the shirt.
In the months following the sale, I struggled to fulfill my orders. The shirts were printed relatively quickly, but at the time I couldn’t figure out how to print out postage-paid shipping labels in order to ship the shirts. After several months of delays, I offered refunds to anyone who pre-ordered a shirt and wanted one while promising to send the shirt regardless of whether the refund was accepted. I think it ended up taking about 6 months to finally get the shirts delivered to my customers.
It was an incredibly embarrassing screwup. Ironic, given the shirt was designed to poke fun of someone else’s mistake.
Ever since, I’ve been hesitant to try another side project like that. While I love the idea of designing and selling merchandise online (the first product I ever sold was a t-shirt for my band), I couldn’t justify the risk of not being able to fulfill the orders that came in.
Services like Cafepress will print and fulfill orders of products featuring designs uploaded by designers, but I’ve never been impressed by the quality of their products. Also, your products are displayed alongside everyone else’s work, which takes away from your ability to build your own brand identity.
Last year I discovered Printful, a service that will print and fulfill orders for products you design. The downside was that in order to have your own store, you had to pay for a pro Shopify account, which was ~$300 upfront. To test things out, I set up a store and ran a few ads on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. In total I spent around $600 to test my idea.
I sold 0 shirts.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when Max Tempkin informed me about Threadless Artist Shops, an all-in-one print and fulfillment service that lets you set up a store for free. As Max wrote, “I just make the design and collect the money.”
That sounded simple enough to me!
I was itching to check it out, but was just days away from spending 9-days off grid in the wilderness of Newfoundland with by brother.
Last week, I was reminded by a tweet from Andy Berdan that I wanted to give Threadless’s service a try.
I want a shirt that says “Abnormal is normal.”
“I can do that,” I thought.
A few hours later and the design was available for purchase.
A Wonderful Shop of Wonderful Wonders (NSFW) is my new online store. There you’ll find the design requested by Andy, the oft-requested re-release of the Helvetcia design, and a few more fun original designs. All orders are printed and shipped by Threadless. They’ll also take care of any issues you have with the products you receive.
I just collect the money.
To celebrate the launch of the shop, I’m offering a promotional discount on all products on the store. The promotional period will end when I remember to log into Threadless to turn it off.
Visit the shop to find men’s, women’s, gender neutral, and kid’s apparel, home decor, and accessories featuring a variety of original designs. Follow the new Twitter account or sign up for the newsletter to be notified of new products and promotions. And share the shop’s URL — awonderful.shop — with your friends and family.
Landed at Port Aux Basque Newfoundland. 2 more days until I’m off the grid.
A beautiful and nostalgic reminder from @patrickrhone that once, we were explorers.
The latest — and hopefully last! — pre-release of the Hitchens Theme for Jekyll is available now. I could really use some help testing it before I release the 1.0. The sooner it’s tested, the sooner I can submit it to @manton to be added to Micro.blog :)
It has always baffled me when a company offers a lower salary to designers than to developers. My assumption is this derives from an inaccurate understanding of what design is and the role it plays in creating a product or system.
A designer’s role is not to make something “pretty” or to help a product “stand out.” It is to identify a problem, iterate on potential solutions, and bring the resulting product to market. Or, as Steve Jobs famously put it:
Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
Even the bots don’t get it
Recently, I’ve been seeing ads from a company called B12 who claims to use artificial intelligence to design websites in 60 seconds (in my day, we called these “templates”).
The example provided is a website for a preschool. On the left is presented what’s purported to be an old, crusty layout juxtaposed with a sleek, modern layout on the right. Unfortunately, this example also shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the purpose of design.
No doubt, the website on the right looks nice. It fits into the latest design trend of having a minimal layout, a massive background image with a text overlay, and a single primary call to action. It’s probably even responsive, likely tucking all of that useful navigation into a hamburger.
However, I would argue that the website on the left is a better design. Without scrolling, clicking, or doing anything other than loading the page, the website on the left tells me:
- where it is. The ad is so compressed that you can’t really read the menus on either design but if you zoom in, you can see that this preschool is located in Summit, Missouri. I couldn’t point to Missouri on a map, so I know this preschool isn’t for my (hypothetical) kids!
- what ages it serves. Several times since I left preschool, I have heard about kids who are starting preschool younger than when I did. By the time I become a parent, I very likely will not know when I should be sending my kids to preschool (though, I’m sure it’s in a handbook that’s given to every parent who gives birth at a hospital). The website on the left gives me that information up front.
- its operating hours. I work for myself, so my schedule is pretty flexible. Most people don’t have this level of flexibility, so knowing when a preschool is open has to be one of the key indicators of whether it works for them and their children.
In contrast, the website on the right tells me my kid will feel “right at home”. However, I have no idea where or when they’ll feel this. I’m sure I could click that green button under the main headline to find out more. That is, if I’m not colour blind.
Of course, I might not even get that far if I’m part of the 23% of the population of Missouri that is underserved by broadband connectivity in the 42nd most connected state in the union because that picture is so fucking big.
There are certainly aspects to design that require creativity and even an artistic flair. Understanding typography, colour theory, Gestalt laws of grouping, and many other facets of design are certainly critical to the acceptance of your solution into the marketplace. However, these are not the only aspects to design. You must also understand the constraints and objectives of the audience you are designing for and the context and medium through which you will communicate with them.
Design isn’t just how it looks. Design is how it works.
I’ve been using Icro for Micro.blog for about a month now and really enjoy it. To see that it is now open source is awesome.
(via Manton Reece)
Passed by #lynncreek on our way to #hanesvalley. The boulders here were a whole lot smoother than the ones we climbed later on.
A small patch of the boulder field we hiked through on Saturday. @andreasupernova for scale.
Hiked up the #hanesvalley boulder field yesterday with @andreasupernova. Took us 9 hours to get from #lynnheadwaters to the top of @grousemountain. The biggest lesson learned: make sure you check your water supply each time you stop at a water source. I had planned to at the last little creek before our ascent up the boulder field and forgot, forcing us to turn around about 10 min into our hike up.
Second biggest lesson learned: when you look up to see what’s ahead while hiking on a trail, be sure to stop and plant your feet first. I did not stop to see what was ahead and my foot caught on a root, causing me to trip. My stomach landed on a rock first, followed by my two front teeth. Miraculously, I wasn’t injured all beyond a minor scrape on my rib cage. Won’t be making that mistake again (I hope!).
An incredible trip I’ve been dreaming of for a couple of years. Hands down the most difficult hike I’ve ever done. Can’t wait to do it again next year 😊
Any podcasting friends able to help me understand why my podcast feed isn’t working in @OvercastFM? Episodes appear in Apple Podcasts, Castro, and Pocket Casts, but not in Overcast and its developer does not provide support.
Update: Overcast now appears to be syncing my podcast properly. Not sure what the cause of the issue was, so unfortunately I can’t share any helpful info if you run into a similar problem.
Introducing my partner to my podcast.
I cannot believe I had forgotten that @aedison once made this super cool plasticine model of me. I don’t recall whether I ever saw it in person.
#newtwitter sees the Twitter web interface itself become a kind of platform. Previously, developers took data out of Twitter and into the context of their own applications and services. The new design flips this on its head, bringing rich embedded content into the site from a host of brand-name web properties.
—Alex Payne former engineer @twitter, Sept 15, 2010
I remember reading this post when it was first published and recognizing that the end of Twitter as I had come to know it over the prior three years was gone. In its place, an infamous #dickbar.
Most of you don’t know that I deleted my Twitter account. In fact, in 2013 I deleted almost every social media profile I had, save for my email and maybe a few other things.
I came back because despite the #newtwitter reality, people still wanted to live in a silo.
I wrote earlier today that there are some benefits to no longer having like and retweet counts and streaming in third party clients. I recognize that’s not the attitude everyone has about this. I’m hoping what comes out of it is a realization that humans operate more efficiently outside of silos, and that a lot more attention is paid to the idea of an Independent Web. Tools like text editors and RSS feeds may well end up the winners in the end.
Anyone else enjoying the feature reductions in Twitter’s third-party clients? They are starting to feel like they respect my time and attention more now than they did yesterday.
Thought I’d try out my new podcasting setup today while walking down the street. This could be almost too easy.
Yesterday, @roland sent me an audio message on Micro.blog. He then shared his process for recording, encoding, and publishing his audio.
I spent the next several hours working on my response.
I knew in doing so, I needed to make one important improvement to the process: I wanted to do everything – record, encode, and publish – on my mobile device.
Before I dove too deep, I needed to prototype my idea. I had to answer 3 questions:
- Can I record audio on my iOS device in a way that allows me to then encode it as an MP3?
- Can I encode that MP3 as a base64 string?
- Can I write the base64 encoded MP3 into the iOS Git client Working Copy using the base64 encoded string?
I opened up Workflow (which is being rebranded as Siri Shortcuts later this fall) and was pleased to discover the answers to questions 1 & 2 were a resounding “yes!” Workflow has a wonderful audio recording interface. Once I had the recording, I tested the base64 encoding by encoding, then decoding, then previewing the decoded audio file, proving that I was, in fact, able to record and encode an MP3 using Workflow.
Then came my first hurdle: trying to write the MP3 using Working Copy’s x-callback-url scheme.
While I could pass the base64 encoded string to the x-callback-url that would open Working Copy, and I could see a properly-named file sitting in the path I had specified, I could not get the resulting MP3 to actually play.
However, there was a progress bar that moved and a track length displayed, so I knew something was up.
To test my hypothesis that Working Copy was somehow failing to play what appeared to be a properly encoded MP3, I saved the file to Dropbox for iOS and opened the file there.
It worked perfectly.
(Until writing this post, I assumed the issue was that Working Copy had a bug in its media player. Turns out, it’s one of those apps that doesn’t play audio if the silent switch is engaged. Not sure why some media players on iOS respect that switch and others do not, but it’s a real pain in the ass to have to remember that when testing media on an iOS device.)
Once I had determined I would be able record the audio and write it to Working Copy, all that was left was to duplicate a Workflow I had created last year for posting to my Jekyll-powered blog and add the audio capturing, encoding, and writing actions to the top.
The result is the first audio post ever published on patdryburgh.com.
Of course, once I had done that, I knew I had almost everything I needed to publish a podcast from my phone.
So, I spent the next hour or so writing and validating and writing and validating a podcast.xml file that now lives at http://patdryburgh.com/feed/podcast.xml.
This morning, I received a confirmation email that my podcast has been added to the iTunes Podcast directory.
All of which is to say, I can now record and publish podcasts to my Jekyll-powered and Github Pages hosted blog and have it syndicated to Micro.blog, Twitter, and iTunes all from the comfort of my bed.
Now, to find something useful to do with all this magic.
This is how I recorded this one’s for Roland (@rtanglao)
- Created a Workflow based on a previous Workflow I had created for posting to my Jekyll site from my iPhone via Working Copy
- Added steps for recording and previewing the audio, encoding it to MP3 and then base64 and storing that as a variable
- Pass the base64 string through an x-callback URL that writes the file to my local repository
- Come back to Workflow to paste this text into a text field
- Store this text as a variable
- Pass that variable through to my standard x-callback URL for posting content on this site
- Frantically refresh my blog hoping I can spot and fix any bugs before Roland notices
- Quickly load the post in Working Copy and edit the incorrect
audioelement caused by an errant variable
- Come back and try it again when
site.baseurlis discovered to not work on my site
- Realize it still isn’t playing in Safari, so pull the latest from the repository onto my Macbook Pro and rebuild the site locally to test
- Realize that adding a
sourceelement inside of the
audioelement works, but wonder why Roland didn’t seem to have to do this on his post
- Go back into Workflow to update the Workflow to match the new markup
If you’re a Canadian citizen and plan to leave Canada for more than 183 days of the calendar year, make sure you first file an NR73 form to establish your residency status. I wasn’t aware of this law until a month ago when the Canada Revenue Agency demanded an additional $4,100 in taxes because I was out of the country for two weeks longer than permitted.
I have submitted an NR73 for the 2017 tax year and hope that I can prove I had maintained close ties to the country — all of my personal belongings, my family, and my common law partner were all here while I was away — but there’s no guarantee that they’ll change their determination.
Had I known about this law at the time, I probably would have used a tool like this one from Nomad List, which tracks the number of days you are out of your home country. (via Boris Mann)
Now all I have to worry about is what could happen when I plan to return to Uganda.
If you’re planning to live a nomadic lifestyle, please learn from my mistake.
A view of the #northshoremountains.