Last Thursday, 30 september 2010, was my last day at Cinnamon, the company I helped build and where I’ve worked for the past eight years.
Ten years ago, I left my career as art director in print design and joined the company that—two years later— would evolve into Cinnamon. I had been learning about and creating websites since 1995 and I welcomed the opportunity to work full-time on the Web.
As many baby-faced entrepreneurs, I knew nothing about running a business, and less about “doing” business. Hungry as I was for new opportunities, I didn’t stop to think about what running a business meant; I was on board to lead creation of the product.
After some management Musical Chairs, I found myself in the position of having to get clients, keep those clients, and lead our team. Not to mention the usual financial responsibilities. I was schooled as a fine artist and graphic designer. The first time I sat across from a potential client, knowing I needed to get the business, was terrifying. I didn’t know this stuff, I just learned as I went.
It was hard at first, but I began to get the hang of it. We built a pretty stable team and decent focus. The main team has been, with one exception, the same since 2006. It’s kind of like family, and that makes it hard to step out and move on. So why?
I love the Web. I love what we do. I can imagine no better job for a creative person who always craves New Stuff. Making the Web means parsing information, giving it meaning, making it accessible, making it usable and (in my opinion) making it beautiful. There are new challenges every day, and with those challenges come new ways to meet them. And if those methods don’t suit you, you can come up with your own. There are rules, yet there are none. The Web, for me, is where my main interests—art and technology—meet, flirt and make babies.
When I started this adventure, I did it because I wanted to make cool stuff. Pretty stuff. Useful stuff. Through the years I ended up selling stuff and managing the People Who Make the Stuff (while periodically sneaking some art direction, design and production work in for myself). And we did do cool stuff. Cinnamon was one of the first companies to combine professional design with web accessibility. Lots of firms do that now, but in 2002, accessible almost always seemed to mean “looks better to blind people”.
But now it’s time for me to get back to why I got in the game. It’s time to focus by removing operational distractions. It’s time for me to create a more balanced work-world, which can allow me freedom to do what I love to do and enjoy my personal life as much as I can. I’ve learned a lot about clients, and as an independent contractor, I want to help them stop being their own worst enemy. I want to help developers do the same. I want to spend more time with the technologies which will allow designers to do more with the web (yes, that includes CSS3 layout). I want to focus on helping clients with what we now call the Mobile Web, which I believe will catalyze some new, platform-agnostic thinking about information, what we can do with it, where and how. And I’m always so full of ideas… it’s time to write and speak about these things more frequently.
I wish my colleagues at Cinnamon all the best. They’re all great and talented people and they’ve been incredible, and they will continue doing great work for some really exceptional clients. And they’re not rid of me completely; there are at least a few projects we’ll be doing together (do I hear profanity?). And next time we go for beers, I’ll be their peer and not their boss.
I’m pretty nervous about it, to be honest. It’s like bungee-jumping—I’ve never done that either. It’s too easy to look down and imagine what it will sound like when the cord snaps. But I’ve done a lot of good work. I’ve helped other people do good work. And I’m looking forward to doing that in the future—of my own design.