Andy Clarke is back on the show. This time we discuss whether age dulls your creative passion and how to stay enthusiastic about the web as you get older.
Paul: Hello and welcome to Boagworld.com the podcast for all those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. My name is Paul and joining me is Andy Clarke.
Paul: Welcome back to this show.
Andy: I think this is the fourth.
Paul: You must have been on loads more than that?
Andy: No this is number four including the multi-verse one where all the superheroes from all of the different universes came together. That’s wrong isn’t it?
Paul: You’ve been watching too much Supergirl as you’ve just confessed a moment ago.
Andy: Not supposed to tell everybody.
Paul: I just have now.
Marcus: Yes, wide you watch Supergirl?
Andy: Actually I do have a small fondness for Supergirl because I have this theory that you can never ever make a good Superman film. Not ever, including Batman vs Superman which is supposedly…
Paul: Have you seen it yet?
Andy: No I haven’t, but according to Mark Kermode whose word about films I trust very much, it’s just utterly terrible. So I really don’t like Superman films but I do have a bit of a soft spot for Supergirl and I don’t know why because it’s just really, really cheesy.
Paul: I know why.
Andy: No it’s not the obvious reason, I don’t know what it is. But Supergirl and The Flash, not Legends of Tomorrow because that is just truly terrible, but there are a couple of good shows and I quite like them.
Paul: I went to see Deadpool yesterday. Have you seen it yet?
Andy: No, and I know we can talk about age and being old and curmudgeonly today but I was actually put off by the bad language in the trailer.
Paul: Then whatever you do Andy, don’t go and see it. It is the crudest, most disgusting, violent, hilarious thing I have ever watched. I just laughed so much.
Andy: I do like comic book violence though. I like Sin City or that kind of stuff. I love comic book violence. Also, I don’t mind bad language. I sat through three seasons of Deadwood and you just get attuned to it. But I just didn’t fancy Deadpool.
Paul: There is something, I don’t know how they do it but there is something because he is so mouthy and so obnoxious, it really offends much deeper, at a much more fundamental level but in a funny way. I really enjoyed it I’m ashamed to say, I am sure I shouldn’t. But I did.
So we’re not doing what was supposed to be doing. You’ve already identified what we’re going to be talking about. The weirdest show ever this week, because we could be talking about getting old.
Andy: Thank you. Thank you very much for inviting me onto the old geezer episode.
Marcus: They’ve all been like it though. Every single episode – we might have had the odd young person on but it’s escaping me.
Paul: I am thinking about last week when we had Ling on.
Marcus: Yes, and it was a lot more optimistic and less moany than the majority of these shows have been. Hopefully we do it in quite an amusing way that we are old geezer is moaning basically. So let’s have a whole show on it. I reckon it’s a great idea.
Paul: Well the thing that we were going to get Andy on to talk about was staying motivated which would have been a much more upbeat subject, but it occurred to me that we did that with Leigh earlier on in the season and I had just forgotten. So I thought, okay what else does Andy know about? And after struggling to think about what it is actually Andy knows about, I settled on being old.
Andy: Thanks. Thanks a lot.
Paul: So there we go. No, you’ve got some good stuff. And he’s been sending through some PDFs of some new workshop thing you’re starting. You look very slick and professional; I was most impressed.
Andy: Well we do try our best. We’ll probably talk about this throughout the show but we’ve been thinking that we needed to more formalise some of the stuff that we’ve been doing for long time. For the last few years we’ve been teaching clients about style guides in one form or another and it goes back 5+ years to when we worked out in Geneva. And one of the things that we did before they became fashionable, we did this kind of modular process that was all formalised around the design of the style guide and that was one of the reasons why we got the job there. And been doing that kind of thing regularly, we did it for Stem and you did it for WWF last year and you did it for a whole bunch of others we thought we might as well make a thing out of this and turn it into something where we could go out and teach and share the knowledge. I thought let’s just focus on that area and some other kind of stuff that we’ve been teaching for a while and we put it on the website recently and we made a nice PDF because old people like to actually download and print something.
Marcus: It’s nice to hold paper in your hand isn’t it?
Paul: It would be nicer if it was a shiny brochure and you sent it through the post via carrier pigeon or something.
Andy: But I sent it to a few people that I trust, you included.
Paul: Oh I thought it was just me. I thought I was your special adviser but no, you are sending it out to everybody.
Andy: Well I did actually send it out to three people. I sent it out to you and I sent it out to my friend John Jones who is a UX guy and I also sent it to my friend Joe Symons who is probably the best salesman that I’ve ever worked with. Joe is even older than us, he’s in his mid–50s.
Marcus: And still working? Unbelievable.
Andy: But Joe over the years has created and bought businesses and sold them on for millions and he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to sales, unlike us and he’s accumulated this knowledge on what people want to read up front and how you hook their attention. So I sent it to him and that was why I think the final PDF is so much better because of everybody’s contributions. It just comes back down to knowledge and experience and I doubt that if somebody was just falling out of salesman school or read 101 ways to sell a product, that they would have given me the same kind of feedback that somebody who had been doing it for 35 years.
Paul: I really like that, you’ve managed to turn that background to the subject matter for today. I liked that, the way you seamlessly moved that back into the subject. And talking about changing subjects, there is another thing I need to say before we talk about our first sponsor and then get into a discussion. And that is, I’ve changed my mind Marcus about what we’re going to be doing next season.
Marcus: Okay. When you only had two ideas anyway.
Paul: I’m not going with either of them. This is the third one. I’ve settled now announced it and everything so it’s got to happen now. Next season we’re going to look at, it occurred to me that if you get stuck on a development project you go to Stack overflow and ask your question. If you get stuck with a design thing there are hundreds of sites you can get inspiration from and get endless articles that provide best practice. But what if you get stuck with a management problem, like a project management problem or people problem or a culture problem or a bureaucracy problem? They are all kinds of problems that we need to overcome and deal with, so what I decided to do is that next season we’re going to collect these kinds of issues from people and we are going to have a load of different people that we do short little interviews with each week to get their answers to those questions.
Marcus: So it’s a project management season? I don’t think we’ve ever done once that’s new.
Paul: No we haven’t. But I didn’t want to do just how to manage a project. So if you want to contribute a question because we’re going to need a shitload of questions, we are going to need a lot of questions so if you can go to boagworld.com/show/season–15. Can you believe it we are on season 15?
Marcus: Well if this is Andy’s fourth time on the show I think we are around about 400 episodes now. So you get one in every 100 Andy.
Andy: That sounds about right.
Marcus: Does it make you feel special?
Andy: I am the 1%.
Paul: I am almost hesitant to invite Andy on the show again because I feel like we do it all the time.
Andy: Well you come onto Unfinished Business which is my podcast which I should be starting again very soon. We talk about Doctor Who and other politically incorrect things and that’s probably why it seems more regular as we guest or cross over into each other’s universes.
Paul: And when we go to the pub and things and the fact that we sit there with microphones in front of us, that’s the only way we can converse with one another, that might be another aspect to it.
Marcus: Really? I’ve been on Unfinished Business once but it wasn’t with you Andy.
Andy: No, I know. We need to rectify that. But yes it will be back probably in April if I can be arsed.
Paul: Fair enough. Your level of commitment is amazing.
Marcus: Shall we go back to the motivation idea?
Paul: I think Andy needs to listen to that show. Right let’s do the sponsor and will get into the conversation that we can talk about.
Our sponsor is obviously Freeagent who have supported us through the entire season and it’s particularly poignant. Freeagent is right in the front of my mind because it’s now end of year. It’s the 29th as we record this so were just about to end the financial year and I am so glad I’ve got Freeagent to do it all with. My accountant absolutely loves me because I just put everything into Freeagent and it makes it so easy for her because it’s all just there and she doesn’t need to ask me any questions get anything from me at the end of the year. She just logs into Freeagent and it’s all there. She says from other people she gets cardboard boxes full of receipts and all kinds of crap. But no, it’s all just there so don’t have to worry about the end of the financial year as it’s almost been invisible to me. It’s great because Freeagent contains all my invoices, all my receipts, all my expenses, all my dividend payments, everything. Everything is all they’re ready to go for the end of the year.
The other great thing about that is that there are no surprises. I don’t need to be worried that I have reached the end of year and have to go, oh shit, what’s my corporation tax going to be? It’s all just there so you can get a good estimate of what you are owed. Actually if you are a sole trader, you can get away with not even needing an accountant. You can actually submit your self-assessments through Freeagent which is absolutely brilliant. So it’s actually really good. It’s all sorted and I have discovered because of learned quite a lot of money I need to buy some gadgets in order to reduce my expenditure, so that’s what I have had to do.
Marcus: Your accountant is telling you to buy a Ferrari?
Paul: Yes, basically. Well Freeagent is telling me that. It speaks to me while I sleep. So yes, I bought myself a new MacBook. A MacBook 12 inch for when I travel. It’s very exciting.
Andy: What colour did you get?
Paul: I got the silver, the dark silver – space grey. Very cool, is a lovely little machine. It makes an Air look big and ungainly.
Marcus: That’s not possible.
Paul: It’s basically invisible. It’s like holding water. Water can be quite heavy really, that’s a really bad analogy. I was going to say it’s like holding air, but they’ve done that already.
Anyway, Freeagent, try it for free for 30 days by going to Boagworld.com/freeagent. Also if you do a good job at it you can get away with never paying for Freeagent which is really good because they’ve got a really good referral program.
Do you use Freeagent Andy? This is a dangerous question because you’re going to say no.
Andy: Well I am going to say no because nearest and dearest, my soulmate, the lady I’ve chosen to share my life with also happens to do our paperwork and all of our accounts because I am rubbish at it. She’s not a natural accountant person and she’s learnt how to do our accounts stuff using Sage on a PC which means when we switched her to using a Mac six years ago, we installed Windows on the Mac and the knackered 15-year-old version of Sage. She really loves it and the accountant knows how to get the files and stuff and for the last few years I’ve been saying we’ve got to use Freeagent – all the cool kids use Freeagent and she’s like, I won’t tell you what software to use two designs don’t tell me what software to do the accounts in.
Paul: I know your pain. For years at Headscape I had no clue what was going on moneywise because Chris had his witchcraft. He uses some kind of arcane system and I don’t understand it. He uses Excel spreadsheets basically doesn’t he?
Marcus: Mostly yes.
Andy: The whole not having to pay for things because of referrals though, I decided last year on my podcast but I wasn’t actually going to have some sponsors because I didn’t want sponsors and I decided that I would talk about some things that I liked instead and one of the things was Cornerstone who sell shaving supplies, really nice razors and gels and stuff like that. And the thing with Cornerstone is that if somebody signs up with your code, you get £10 credit and they get £10 off their order.
Paul: We need to make sure we get your referral code for that.
Andy: No! I don’t want it; I don’t want the referral code mentioned ever again! Because I now have £675 worth of credit and they won’t send me the money. I just basically have to shave.
Marcus: So all your male friends get shaving stuff the Christmas and birthdays?
Andy: Well the thought did occur to me to send you to some cornerstone stuff.
Paul: That sounds like a brilliant idea. I like the sound of that very much. Thank you please thank you.
Marcus: It’s more than welcome.
Paul: It’s my birthday… Oh no, that was last week.
Marcus: When is it your actual birthday?
Paul: The actual day is this Thursday. But we celebrated it last week didn’t we? Because last weeks pod cast goes out this Thursday. All very confusing.
Andy: In keeping with the topic of this conversation, how old were you at your last birthday?
Paul: What, this birthday that I am having in Thursday that I’ve already had in pod cast world?
Andy: Yes, that one.
Paul: 44. So I am the youngest on this show.
Andy: Well we should for disclaimers and the information of the general public, say that I am 50. I turned 50 last November.
Paul: So you are the oldest here.
Marcus: I am 49, just turned.
Andy: I am the oldest anywhere.
Marcus: So you were born in 66. I was born in 67.
Andy: No I was born in November 65.
Paul: So you guys are children of the 60s. That’s much cooler.
Andy: There was me being born, Winston Churchill dying – the two things were unrelated, and Edmund Hillary climbing Everest, all happened in 1965.
Paul: I have no idea what happened in 1972.
Marcus: I thought Hillary climbed Everest much earlier than that. You sure? I’m going to Google.
Discussion with Andy Clarke
Paul: That brings us on to what was supposed to be talking about. Got a vague feeling that this whole conversation is actually politically incorrect because if you mention age, are you being ageist?
Andy: No. Who gives a monkeys?
Paul: It’s all right is it?
Marcus: We can talk about what we like, Paul.
Paul: I know we can socially talk about women?
Marcus: I just need to go back to the previous point and say on the 29th May 1953, Edmund Hillary and his Nepalese Sherper Tenzing Norgay became the first mountaineers to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Andy: Well something else happened in 1965, I don’t remember what it was but it was something to do with that. Now you’re going to tell me that Winston Churchill didn’t die?
Marcus: I think he did. He definitely did die.
Paul: There is some kind of implication there that Winston Churchill died and you were born therefore the spirit of Winston Churchill has been resurrected and you.
Andy: Because more like Winston Churchill you can’t get.
Paul: I often think that. Well, there are some similarities. You are both good orators.
Marcus: You’re both English.
Paul: You’re both male. He was quite a portly chap, which you are not any more.
Andy: He was a portly chap and I have much more hair than Winston Churchill.
Paul: Yes I have more in common with Winston Churchill in that regard, and Marcus Moore with the portliness.
Andy: Oh harsh. I did it would talk about age in fact I think we should talk about age. We joke about being three curmudgeonly old men but everybody’s going to get that at some point and I think what we have to do, and I have to confess that it’s taken me a while to come to terms with it, but you have to be just happy with the fact that you can’t do anything about getting old and you might as well just make the most of it. I don’t feel 50.
Paul: That’s the other thing. I think the older you get it changes your attitudes towards things in the world. Both in a good and bad way. One of the things that I have noticed is that I’m a lot more mellow now than I have been in the past. When I was young I was uptight about everything. I feel a lot more laid-back now, but the flipside of that is that does it mean that we don’t give a shit as much?
Andy: No, I think you can give as much as a shit but I think that you potentially have more of a balanced view on things. I think that’s one of the things that I think about in terms of age. I’m not exactly Mr Sensible a lot of the time but when I look back, for example, when I was 15 to 25 and when I discovered politics back in my younger days, I was a member of the Labour Party and Young Socialists which was more of a front for what was in the day called ‘militant tendencies’. I was extremely radical or thought I was and went to art school and realised I wasn’t extremely radical at all because there were crazy arse people there! They were bat shit crazy because we were young and we thought we could change the world and we thought that we knew everything and everything about what we wanted to achieve was just easy. Let’s overthrow capitalism! We can do it by Tuesday afternoon!
Obviously every young generation feels that they know it all already and that’s just part of the natural cycle. As you get older you realise that no, it’s not actually that easy or that is necessary that advantageous to want to just rip things up and start again. We see it now with people who talk about destroying the patriarchy. Yes, we can properly do that by 4 o’clock this afternoon. It’s exactly the same immaturity that I had and I’m sure everybody else had and you get past that as you get older and you realise that actually things do require a little bit more of a balanced view.
Paul: You get that as well in the web quite a lot but to some degree that’s what’s driven the web as well, this willingness to tear up what we did before and do something differently. So I can’t help but wonder whether because we are older, are we the people that are holding back the web now? Is there an element where we are slowing down innovation?
Andy: No you speak for yourself when you talk about holding back as well. Because I have got to say 50-year-old me talking about work on the web now, I just wish people would do better stuff and more stuff and more different stuff and far from holding people back, I want people to go further and do much better and much more creative and out there things and that’s not what people are wanting right now. When I look at the web now from my perspective having designed for it for a number of years I am bored to tears by the unimaginative nature of design and the desire for everything to be homogenous and to be the same somehow. That’s not just in terms of the designs we see on screen but it’s in how people don’t want to hear a contrary opinion. Everybody seems to think that things need to be the same to be good. Bullshit.
When I was a kid, 1977 when I was about 14 to 15 years old we used to go into Corby town centre and just hang out and beat people up. But used to see one corner of the town square where the Mods were hanging out and then another corner where the Punks were and then there were the Teds and you could tell there were these different bits of youth culture. Music was different and music changed over a period of time. I can still remember late 70s, early 80s, the new wave of British heavy metal I’m going to see Motorhead for the first time. That kind of thing just seems to have gone now.
Paul: Young people today…
Andy: I am so far from holding people back, I just wish somebody would make something really ****ing daring. But they don’t. They don’t do something daring because everybody is afraid of upsetting somebody else. Jesus!
Paul: I have to say as well, on that same line I feel it about writing and what people are saying and writing online as well. Everybody has to do their keyword research and identify compelling headlines. You got to frontload it and make it scannable, you got to do this and you’ve got to do that and you got to do the other. At some point surely you just want to write great content and say something with a passion and does it really matter whether it’s got grammatical errors or the headline isn’t as engaging as it could be? Blogging has had the soul sucked out of it as well.
Now we really are sounding like can be old men.
Marcus: The music one, that rings true with me because I started listening to music in the late 70s and was listening to stuff from the early 70s as well at the same time and all the way through the 80s as a musician . So I really, really listened to lots of music. I went through most of the 90s when I stopped listening to music because we were having kids and then got back into it thinking, this is all rubbish. But over the last five or so years I started getting back into music again and I actually think I am wrong and is just nostalgia. There was fantastic music around in the 70s and the 80s but I think there still is. I think it’s harder for musicians in these days but that’s another conversation. I think people are just as creative musically whether they are on the web I don’t know. I know what you mean talking about design. I think we’ve all written about how we have a desire to have a more creative outlook towards design but I wonder whether that’s just because a lot of people just want a site for a certain amount of money and they will take the simplest route. Maybe we are trying to compare web design to music and is not a fair comparison because often the website is a supporting a business where as music is truly artistic.
Paul: You said a really important word there which is nostalgia. I think there is a degree where the older you get; you do get a rose tinted view of what things used to be like. If we take the web example, I remember us having incredibly creative sessions and producing totally outlandish websites and trying new things and innovating. Everything was new all the time. You never did things the same way twice. But is that just the way that I am choosing to remember it? I’m not saying that it isn’t true but I think I am also forgetting the amount of shit that went on with it as well and the problems. Were those websites actually that good? Were they that effective etc. Nostalgia is a big element in this surely?
Andy: I think it is an element but I don’t think nostalgia is necessarily a bad thing if you are remembering the good stuff and you can apply it to what you are doing today. Great typography is not nostalgic and yet we see very, very little good typography on the web. I’m not talking about web fonts; I’m talking about somebody really knowing how to use a typeface creatively. Great layouts, distinctive layouts, web layouts inspired by great magazines or other pop culture elements. That’s not nostalgic, that’s a good thing that we can make distinctive and imaginative websites from. The older you get I suppose the more inputs that you have. The fact that Marcus and I can remember flared trousers is probably a good thing for our sin terms of our approach to what we are designing on the web now whereas if he were 25 we would have a lot less by way of input. Which is potentially why so much of the web looking visually similar right now because the majority of it is being designed by people that haven’t had our remarkable breadth of experience.
Marcus: Absolutely, yes.
Paul: Okay you could say that but you we both know that me and you have slightly different views over this particular thing. I wrote a post recently over design convergence not necessarily being a bad thing. I do wonder whether we have this longing for those creative days where actually now best practice has emerged. There is now best practice out there and we need to accept that things have changed.
Marcus: I think that there is best practice from a UX point of view certainly. I think what we’re talking about here is more of the aesthetic aspects of design and it seems that when I go around the Internet looking at different websites, people take the simplest route when they don’t have to. I’m not saying it’s necessarily bad that you follow another design or simple route but you don’t have to. Half the reason why that there aren’t that many interesting looking websites out there is from a budgetary point of view.
Paul: You do say that and I do think budget is a big issue but do you think that age is an aspect in that as well? The older you get the more you’ve seen. The more designs you’ve looked at, the more life you have lived, you can remember the 1970s as some of the amazing record covers back then. You don’t even have record covers now. Do you think that breadth and depth opens you up to more possibilities?
Andy: I think the more inputs you have the more potential combinations of those things you can make. That has to be a good thing when it comes to design. That’s why people should get out from behind the computer and go to an art gallery at the weekend or go into a magazine store and spend 50 quid on magazines or go to Smiths and tear out the content pages to get as many creative inputs as possible.
Paul: You are right, you can be old and not have seen anything. You can be young and have seen a lot. It’s just that the probability goes up the older you are.
Andy: I think one of the other kind of things about being older is that you become a better editor of these things. You might have seen something really good last week that was new and funky. You can take parts of that and combine them with something that’s really traditional. For example, you can produce a beautiful layout which is based on a Swiss grid and you can combine that with some beautiful forms of animated interactions. That’s the kind of thing that I think is important about getting older, you continually absorb all of these things and you know when to pick one thing and combine it with another.
Paul: That’s partly because you’ve messed it up a lot. The older you are the more mistakes you’ve made and the more opportunities there are to learn from those mistakes.
We should have had someone young on this show as well shouldn’t we, to bring some balance because the trade-off of that is that when you have made so many mistakes and when you’ve seen so much, what works and what doesn’t, sometimes I think you have this tendency of going, I won’t try that because my experience tells me it won’t work. The truth is that the world moves on and it changes. What didn’t work in the past may work very well now. So sometimes you don’t want to be held back by that thinking.
Andy: You also don’t want to rule out new ideas. I don’t want to work with a young designer and for them to be thinking I’ve got a copy something that old. You want to still be open to new ideas and new inputs. The danger of becoming older and set in your ways is settling on a house style and only look in certain places for creative inspiration – the same way you think yourself you’re only going to listen to 1970s heavy metal music, which of course would be silly and you’ll be missing out on a whole world of creative opportunities. So it’s about combining everything together.
Paul: Do you think you’ve had some of your enthusiasm knocked out of you as youth aged? You’ve gone through some rough patches as everybody does in their lives at various stages and you think that knocks some of that energy and enthusiasm out of you? Is that okay?
Andy: I personally still have enthusiasm and lots of it for good design. I appreciate good design and I want to be creative in lots of areas. It’s what I’ve always done. I’ve always wanted to be creative and carry on being creative and I have a lot of enthusiasm for that. I have lost an enormous amount of enthusiasm for the web. Part of that is because of the industry and people in it to be honest and partly because of just the way that things have been going over the last five or six years where we have seen this rise of homogenous design and data driven, user experience driven, product design. Therefore, the thing that I tend to design for is not what people talk about any more. So yes, I’ve lost an enormous amount of enthusiasm for the web. And that’s why I have less to talk about at conferences and I have less to write about on my blog – because I still have a blog even though I never bloody write on it. And it’s why the podcast that I do doesn’t really talk about web stuff anymore because my interests are somewhere else.
Paul: So your interests are in design and creativity rather than the web. The web was always a platform for delivering that and it’s less of a platform for that now.
Andy: I think that’s exactly right. And from a business point of view, my livelihood relies on designing for the web and teaching people how to design for the web.
Paul: So is that not a problem then? Because essentially it sounds as though you have lost enthusiasm for your job.
Andy: To a certain extent. But I think what has helped, these dry periods help you focus on what it is you are absolutely 100% interested in. The web is such a vast area of expertise from content strategy through to making something look pretty and I am very much interested in the creative ideas part of the process and not at all interested in some of the other areas. I think that’s fine because as you get older you are honing your skills all the time and I can’t be an expert in everything. My brain doesn’t work as quickly as it used to so I can’t learn as much about all these different things as I used to be able to. So you find yourself specialising a bit more.
Paul: That’s quite interesting isn’t it because also, your career path can take you into an element of the web which may be is not most suited to you. Because you engaged early in the web standards movement and that made sense to you on the move to CSS and all the rest of it because it opened up loads of creativity that wasn’t previously possible, so you went down that route, but a natural progression from the web standards movement and that kind of thinking in terms of usability and the standards of development and those kinds of things because there is a whole other side the web that we don’t get exposed to talk as much about, is the advertising and marketing side of the web where they are doing much more creative brand building pieces rather than functional websites. Do you think in hindsight you would have preferred to gone down that route?
Andy: I think we’ve always trodden a very fine line between the two. Yes, I was interested in accessibility and usability before it became UX. I was interested in standards and is interested in CSS because I want to control how something was going to reach the screen so that’s why I learnt how to make HTML and CSS because there was no good having a bright idea photo shop, I wanted to actually see it finished.
I’ve completely lost my train of thought – is because I’m getting old.
It’s been more recently that we’ve really tried to focus more on ideas again. I will say to people quite often that I’m not interested in product design for the most part. We do it sometimes but it’s not what butters my buns. I don’t make products, what I make and what I want to think about is designing the website that convinces somebody to buy the product rather than somebody else’s. And it’s that area that is about communicating ideas and it’s not about UX. It’s not about visual design to a certain extent but is not what people talk about. And that’s why I think I’ve drifted away from the web in terms of wanting to talk about it or on it for a while because my interests are not in the same place that align to what most people are thinking about.
Paul: I don’t know whether I agree with you over that or one part of it. I see what you’ve just described as part of UX. Just as much as usability is a part of UX, so is persuasive design, which is what you have been talking about – that engages, infuses, excites and nudges people into action. In my view both of those are equal partners in UX. The user experience, the very word experience countries up a lot more than just making something functional. A screwdriver as a product isn’t an experience but it is an experience of your creating something amazing with that screwdriver. What you are interested in is getting people to think about the potential of that screwdriver to change their lives. If they own that screwdriver, they could create a great new piece of furniture for their house. But equally, the other side of the equation is that if the screwdriver doesn’t actually work it’s no good. So in my view the to sit side-by-side.
Andy: People say you don’t buy a drill, you buy a hole in the wall or something like that.
We’ve just finished a nice little job for a nice little firm of solicitors that specialise in divorce. That was funny, because I was dealing with the client before we actually got hired for the job and I was sitting there with Sue one night showing her some designs that I’ve been working on and you know the Mac has a notification centre that pops up, all of a sudden this thing from Gavin at 123Divorce pops up in the corner of the screen, and she’s like, this is something you want to tell me?
Paul: I thought you were going to say that you showed her the design that you were doing and it was so compelling she filed for divorce.
Andy: You can’t say we are just selling divorce services or selling a legal pack or time sat somebody. What are you selling? You’re selling a potential different future or you’re selling a certain amount of peace of mind or whatever it is. Freedom or however you want to describe it. That’s a very different thing. Thinking about that kind of stuff is very different from thinking about actually how the tool works.
Most people are still about how does the tool work and they’re not thinking about the bigger picture, the why and the emotional side of things.
Paul: And that, coming back to our topic, I think that comes with age. The older you become, you do start to think through a lot more. You understand a lot more about the why you are making decisions. How you are making decisions on what influencing you. You see the world in a much broader holistic sense that maybe is lost a little bit when you are younger.
Do you think that our industry is ageist?
Andy: No I don’t think it is and the reason why I don’t think it is, is because despite what some people may tell you, it is a very egalitarian, you can make it if you want to, industry. I have reinvented my career path several times since I started working in 1988. So I’ve done lots of things. I started working in photography, I got into sales and I became very good at it and I went back into doing digital stuff and became more interested in that. And I’ve reinvented my career path and taken turns along the way and even now at 50 if I decide that I want to potentially take a slightly different direction but still staying on the web, working more in terms of consulting and training or teaching alongside the design work are enthusiastic about, I can do that. In fact, anybody can do that. If for example, I remember a guy I knew many years ago. Do you remember COBOL, the programming language? He was a COBOL programmer and he’s been out of work for two years because he couldn’t get any COBOL programming jobs stop I kept saying to him you’re never going to get a COBOL programming job because nobody uses it anymore. Go and learn Java! So if you don’t put the effort in and you aren’t adaptable but it’s not going to happen for you but if you are adaptable and you are interested and you want to keep learning or changing then you can do it. It doesn’t matter how old you are. I think that our industry is actually really very good from that point of view and we’ve all seen friends of ours who have gone off in slightly different directions when they’ve hit a fork in their career or they set up another agency or they’ve set up a publishing company or launched a side project that takes up more of their time. I think the industry is great for that so I don’t think it’s ageist on that side at all.
Paul: I actually asked the question expecting to get a different response from you but I actually do agree with what you’re saying. The key isn’t anything to do with age is about adaptability. It’s about being willing to change and adapt the constant altering circumstances. Where this has become really apparent to me at the moment is this whole thing about agencies going way and everything moving in-house. My response to that is maybe, but so what? Let’s just adapt to the situation. That is one thing that is quite nice about being older. Answering what would have been a lost question about what advice we would give to the younger generation, is that you will see through your career many changes. The whole industry will flip in a different direction and you need to be adaptable to that change. Whether it be the rise and fall of Flash or some it’s all about ColdFusion and in the next week it’s not, all of these kinds of things, is about being able to adapt and move quickly. I think having seen that a lot of times does make it easier or make you more confident about it.
Andy: I think it’s also about being age-appropriate. I wouldn’t be able to rock up at a nice young agency or start-up and do a job as a regular designer of front-end developer because I’m not going to fit in. I’m not going to fit in and that’s fine. Sometimes I will see Cameron Moll tweet some kind of authentic job link and at a pure curiosity I’ll take a look and sometimes I’ll follow the link to the agency and you’ll see a bunch of under 30s and you think, I’m not going to fit in there is one of those people. But what I could be is that I could be a mentor or their creative director.
Paul: An adviser, a support.
Andy: Yes, a more senior level kind of thing and I think that’s absolutely okay. In the same way that I think that it’s perfectly okay for us to think about us not fitting into that environment. I’m not going to go to Dropbox for example were all the cool kids work and sit there and just be one of the lads, because it’s just not going to happen. I accept that and at the same time it’s okay for them to say, we wouldn’t want to accept you either. We don’t have to make inclusive environments because everybody’s going to be different and some environments are going to be good for some people and some are going to be not good for some people. I would probably really, really enjoy working with you two because we have lots of similar interests. But I would be completely the wrong person to be working up Dropbox or any number of these other start-ups. And you know what? It’s okay. So I’m not going to grumble about things being ageist or discriminatory or non-inclusive or any other such bollocks because some places are okay for some people in some places are okay for others and that’s just fine.
Paul: I certainly believe that there are different stages in your career path and you need to let go of some parts of it and accept that you’re not going to fit in where you did in the past. You’re not going to be a to exist in that environment any more but you have new things to offer and there are new environments where you can fit in and contribute valuably to.
One of the things that I do is mentorship and I am working with a guy who has set up an agency in Switzerland and is doing really well, working with Rolex and all these big luxury brands. I’m advising him, and I am thinking, what am I adding that is value to this? This guy is doing incredibly well! But here is the thing, that guy is 19 years old. He is still in school and he has managed to build an agency of half a dozen people that are working with these world-class brands. He sees value in me simply because of the years of experience, the advice I can give him from the outside. But equally I look at him and I am in awe of him for his enthusiasm, his drive, his energy. So it’s that recognising that you have different things to bring to the table at different points in your career, that is absolutely essential.
Andy: Yes, I think that’s absolutely right.
Paul: Let’s wrap up at that point. We could go on forever but that seems a good point.
Marcus: I want to add one more thing.
Paul: You always do that Marcus! Is becoming more of a joke now!
Marcus: Just going back to whether our industry is ageist. I don’t think it is and I agree with that but I think that there are only a handful of people older than us in this industry so I don’t think we know yet whether it is ageist and not. Let’s see how we are treated in 15 years’ time if we are still wanting to work. Then we will know.
Paul: So that brings us on to our second sponsor which is me. Which is weird. But I had these two empty sponsor slots and I thought let’s say little bit about what I do because nobody ever understands.
Last time I talked about how I did a lot of strategy, digital strategy stuff and that it a lot about cultural change and that kind of thing. This time I want to talk about areas that we’ve already touched on so I will be very quick, which is training and mentorship.
The training falls into four areas. I seem to spend a lot of my time doing motivational presentations, so essentially I get wheeled out in front of people who are not digital natives, often senior management teams and I enthuse them. Put energy into them in terms of investing into digital so probably business case presentation sounds better but a lot of it is an emotional oomph behind them. I do a lot of workshops, pretty much like Andy actually but while does a lot more creative and practical stuff, my workshops tend to be around more organisational issues. Although that said, next week I am doing one on persuasive design and one on creating a superior customer experience.
I also do a lot of training material, videos, books and that kind of stuff that help with comms strategies. Organisations that have a digital team in and that digital has to communicate best practice to the rest of the organisation, how do they do it? That kind of thing.
Then there is the mentorship and that falls into two areas. I do mentorship for companies, for not for profits, charities and people like that who have digital teams and those digital teams are often isolated and frustrated by their organisation and they need outside help. They need somebody to help bounce ideas around with and given direction to keep them moving forward in bringing about change in their organisation. And then I do business coaching for other digital agencies, like the guy mentioned in Switzerland. I have actually got two mentorship slots available at the moment so if anybody is interested give me a shout.
Marcus: I’ve got to use Drew McKellen’s from the Boagworld Slack channel because it made me giggle.
Some people say that the Roman Empire invented Vasoline. They are wrong, it’s ancient Greece.
Andy: Oh, that’s very good.
Paul: That is a good one.
Andy: It’s almost politically correct as well isn’t it. Living in Wales I can tell Welsh jokes and nobody can complain to me as I class myself as a Welshman now. So when I ask a question like, what’s the best thing that comes out of Wales?
Marcus: I don’t know, what’s the best thing that comes out of Wales?
Andy: The M4. I can say that and be completely above board. You about the Welshman? He was on his driving test and the examiner said can you make a U-turn? He said, I don’t know about that but I can make your eyes water.
Paul: That’s when I really like. But I am not allowed to laugh at it. See there’s the problem. You have now made me politically incorrect.
Marcus: I’m gritting my teeth through these. There aren’t any more there Andy?
Paul: We’re going to stop at this point.
As the next week, I have no freaking clue. Had all these plans next week but don’t think I’m going to be a to pull them off so I don’t know stop I wouldn’t bother tuning in if I were you. It would probably be rubbish but I will try. I will see who I can scrape out the bottom of the barrel. It will probably be Leigh again; he always likes it when I do that. No, I’m going to find someone and make it happen. But till then, thanks for listening and goodbye.