The Imposter Episode

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld show we talk Imposter Syndrome, whether designers should code and finding inspiration.

Skip to the discussion or this week’s links.

This weeks show is sponsored by Videoblocks and Currencyfair.

Paul: This week on the Boagworld show we talk impostor syndrome, whether designers should code, inspiration standards and making a contribution. This week’s show is sponsored by videoblocks and currencyfair. Hello and welcome to the podcast about all aspects of digital design development and strategy. My name is Paul Boag and joining me this week on the show is Andy Clarke from sunny Australia. Hello Andy.

Andy: G’day, mate.

Paul: G’day (tut) and Rachel Andrew from the US of A, well actually currently in the US I don’t want to imply that you are American Rachel sorry.

Rachel: No I’m definitely a Brit but I’m currently sat in a hotel in San Francisco where it is almost 9 AM in the morning.

Paul: Oooo, and we have Sam Barnes and Marcus Lillington from the heart of great British Empire!

Marcus: Hello Paul.

Paul: And I’m sitting in an airbnb in London. So we are spread all over the place. Currently out of the five of us three of us are travelling, that is the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle we lead.

Andy: It is Tuesday in Australia.

Paul: No, no it’s not!

Andy: It is.

Paul: Now that’s just confusing, that just hurts my head.

Rachel: Yes, the going forward in time is terrifying. I’m behind, I’m in the past which is where I usually am to be honest (laughter)

Paul: Yeah. No, no that’s not right. No, because I’m confused, Andy says it’s Tuesday… What day is it today, it’s Monday! For some reason I thought it was Wednesday today, you see this is my problem.

Rachel: Also, the clocks have changed in the UK but they have not changed in America so it is now seven hours different.

Paul: And that is the most annoying thing in the world. That two-week period where America and Britain are out of sync.

Marcus: But they are closer to us, that’s a good thing.

Rachel: Yes, that’s better because I’m travelling home.

Andy: Did you know that 48% of the UK population put their clocks back an hour and the other 52% put them back 60 years!

Paul: You so should have been on the Brexit episode.

Andy:Rachel and I have done our own Brexit episode.

Paul: I bet you have. (Laughter) so what did you… Andy I couldn’t resist when I saw that article about the fact that Apple have increased the price of all of their products in the UK because of the exchange rate. I just had to leave it on Twitter and wait for you to react. It was so funny.

Andy: It didn’t take long did it?

Paul: No. Have you got like this notification when anybody says anything Brexit related it causes a ping?

Andy:No I only have notifications when you say something Paul.

Paul: Ahh, see, I feel special now. So yeah, that was a bit outrageousa… A bit outrageous mind though wasn’t it. Well, it is a consequence of the decision that we made as a country I guess. Silence from Andy.

Andy: Do you know what I’m trying not to get upset it doesn’t do my blood pressure any good! My doctor told me not to talk about Brexit.

Paul: You’d never have been able to tell that about you from Twitter recently. You’ve been horrendous! You’ve been spewing abuse.

Andy: I cannot help it if 52% of our fellow British people are completely and utter blithering imbeciles without the brains that they were born with.

Paul: I was going to say you heard it here first but you haven’t heard it here first you’ve heard it continually from Andy on Twitter.

Andy: I can’t help it, I think I’ve lost a lot of friends because of my anti Brexit leave voting rants. But you know, hey hey not my fault, idiots.

Paul: So talking of Brexit and Apple and things like that we can’t not talk about the new Macs can we. It would just be wrong. So, let’s start with you Marcus. The most, out of all of us, probably the less tech obsessed. Is that a fair assumption of you? You don’t get quite as drool-y as the rest of us over technology. I’d be interested to hear what you thought of the latest set of announcements.

Marcus: Just a bit stupid really. A bit brexit-y of them.

Paul: In what regards?

Marcus: The fact that they yet again have not bothered to put useful ports on the machine, that’s one. Basically, the reason why this is at the forefront of my mind is one of our developers, Ian, has been waiting to upgrade his MacBook Pro for about a year now. Ahh, wait until the new one comes out, Ahh, wait until the new one comes out, then it comes out and he’s , hmmmm. Okay so it’s quite pretty then but it’s a lot more expensive and it doesn’t really, oh it’s got a touch bar, that’s a nice thing if you’re a developer.

Paul: Well it’s kind of… Just to play devils advocate, and I’m not convinced by this in any way, surely, perhaps this is a question for Rachel? Surely developers who spend all their time on the keyboard and don’t like touching mice. We rely on just keyboard shortcuts, surely the touch bar is a huge boon for your ilk Rachel?

Rachel: But you’d have to look at it! I don’t really look at the keyboard and also I don’t use my Mac keyboard. I’m sat here in a hotel room I’ve got my Mac up on a stand and an external Bluetooth keyboard and an external trackpad and that’s what I use. Most other people, I think a lot of designers have their Mac closed and they’ve got it plugged into an external monitor. Or it’s up on a stand and they using it as a second monitor. Who is using this thing? It just seems like a gimmick to me. I was hoping for new iMac to be honest because my iMac at home is on its last legs. Actually the whole issue has prompted me to think that maybe it is a time to change back to PC across the board. Not as a gut reaction thing but just as a kind of like, this is very expensive hardware I’ve had a run of bad luck with Macs anyway. I had real problems with Mac hardware recently. There are some very nice Windows devices out there.

Paul: Oh there are. Probably not so much for you Rachel but the new surface with the dial-y thing and all that kind of stuff. That is a designer’s dream. Andy, surely you must have been drooling over that one?

Marcus: He’s gone.

Paul: He’s forgotten to turn his mic on that’s what happened.

Andy:No, I was just muted, according to instructions. I sat there… Because don’t forget I couldn’t watch the keynote live because of time zones and stuff. So I woke up the following morning and then watched what everybody else had seen. I thought I’d woken up in some sort of parallel universe because the previous day I had been thinking “Ooo, that surface pro or whatever it’s called, surface studio, looks really cool”. If I was an illustrator and I could lay the thing down like a plan or a draft table it looks fantastic. And the dial-y thing for zooming into photoshop and all that kind of stuff looked bloody brilliant! So I did tweet something along the lines of Apple better do something “sexy” in their keynote the next day and do you know, they didn’t. I thought that 80% of what they did show was kind of filler. After all this time only to show off a MacBook Pro and not a new desktop or an upgrade to the regular MacBook or something like that. The things that they have done and taken away from that MacBook Pro I actually use them all the time. The number of times that the MagSafe adapter has saved my machine. And you know, that’s gone. I really use the SD card adapter, a lot.

Paul: Yeah, I do. umm

Andy: So, I just think “I do hope that this isn’t the beginning of the rot setting in”

Marcus: Why do we think this is the case though? Is it them being super clever and trying to save money and they have a plan that if they don’t make these as good as everybody wants them then they are going to buy other things and we will have more Apple devices on our desks and that’s what we want. Or is it just bad decision-making, not that I expect anyone to know that…

Sam: Based on the touch bar it does make me wonder how many people they have actually asked, you know. I didn’t see that people were screaming out for that. It’s a very confusing one for me.

Paul: I honestly just think they have lost their way. I think they’ve lost, you know… They were a company that was driven by a single individual and a vision of a single individual and I don’t think that they have managed to maintain that ruthless focus that Steve Jobs bought. Just look at the lineup itself, I mean, they’ve cleaned it up a little bit by dropping the air which was somewhat redundant. They have tried to literally fill every price point and every item all of the way up and as a result, I think that they have overstretched themselves. I think they are not putting the attention into the… They have basically abandoned desktops entirely haven’t they.

Rachel: Yeah, that’s what worries me. I was hoping to see a commitment to hardware and hardware for pro users with that keynote. That was kind of what I was waiting to see and I don’t think we’ve got that. I think that the features that they have added to the MacBook Pro are much more for, really for home users with money. That’s what it feels like, it feels like this is a nice thing for people who can afford it and like little gimmicky features. It’s underpowered compared to some of the competition. My Mac really is a shiny container for virtual machines. I run a load of virtual machines, I do all my development in linux VM’s. I want power I want a to run a load of those things without messing around with them.

Marcus: Sorry, they’ve dropped the air? I didn’t know that.

Sam: Yes they have.

Paul: Yeah. Essentially now you’ve got the MacBook which is the air equivalent.

Marcus: With no ports on it.

Paul: With no ports on it. Then you’ve got the MacBook without the touch bar. Then you’ve got the 13 inch MacBook with the touch bar and then the 15 inch MacBook with the touch bar. So the ports are gone Marcus, there is no way back from the ports you are port-less. That is just the way that they are going. I am kind of fine with that if you had something… For example, I’ll be honest we’re all sitting here slamming it but I have ordered the new MacBook Pro. The reason that I have done it is simply because I have got a very, very old MacBook Pro which is beginning to struggle with anything that is related to design or video editing and that kind of stuff. I haven’t got on very well with having two separate machines so I have gone for this new MacBook Pro. But as a result I have also had to buy a new monitor because my cinema display was on the way out. And even if it wasn’t on the way out it was incompatible with these new ports. But the nice thing about the new monitor, this goes back to your point Marcus, I am fine with their not being ports as long as I can plug a single cable into a monitor or a docking station or something like that and then have all my peripherals plugged into that. That is kind of okay for me, I wouldn’t say it’s perfect but it’s okay for me. But then you’ve got Apple going “Well we’re not going to build monitors either and we’re not providing any kind of docking solution” so it’s just, yeah. Go on Andy, you are itching to say something I can sense it.

Andy: No, just a bit of real-time follow-up because I am looking at, well this is the Australian Apple Store’s so everything is a bit different down here, but they have actually dropped the 11 inch MacBook Air but the 13 inch MacBook Air is still available.

Paul: Oh! See, that just shows you how messy their lineup is. It’s all over the place. And then you’ve got nothing on the monitor side, nothing on the iMac. Very peculiar. Have we exhausted our ranting on this?

Sam: Yes, I think so.

Marcus: Baa!

Paul: So, other than Rachel, would anybody else think about switching away from Apple?

Andy: If there was an alternative to sketch that wasn’t Adobe Illustrator, potentially. Or if sketch was available for Windows I may give it a look.

Paul: Sam, what about you? You’ve been very quiet through all of this.

Sam: That’s because as a project manager kind of person I can probably do my job on a brick with a chip in it to be honest. I wasn’t really into Apple products until I joined a couple of companies ago so I’ve only been using it about five years. Before that I was windows and I didn’t really have a problem with it. It just seems it’s getting less and less each year as well. That is probably something to note as well, you say it seems like they’re just kind of lost it but it is slowing down as well. I would consider it, I’ve kind of invested in Apple now really but there’s nothing new that even interests me. And all the stuff I have now is working fine. So…

Paul: That’s the trouble, what you said there, “I’ve invested in Apple now”. You kind of get sucked into the ecosystem. I think about all the cost of all the bits of software that I would need to replace and all of the rest of it and it’s quite an intimidating prospect isn’t it really?

Sam: Yes it is. Maybe people will ask one more round and then it could change a lot.

Paul: Especially if Microsoft keep coming out with really cool stuff like they seem to have started doing recently. And also their operating system doesn’t suck quite as much as it used to.

Sam: No, I installed Windows 10 for my Dad only a couple of weeks ago and I was pleasantly surprised. They’ve taken a good few lessons there. They got all the nasty stuff behind-the-scenes if you want to access it that way but there’s a nice little layer over it. So, yeah. It’s not too bad, not too bad.

Paul: Right, let’s push on from that. We had to talk about it! I didn’t feel we had any choice but we’ve done it’s death now so let’s move on. Let’s talk about our first sponsor which is videoblocks. As you will know if you have listened to previous shows Videoblocks is an affordable subscription-based stock media site that gives you unlimited access to premium stock footage but also videoblocks has a sister site Audioblocks which offers, as you might have guessed, unlimited access to premium stock audio sounds. So you get… Both of them work on a subscription basis so basically it’s got amazing value because you can get unlimited downloads on both of these services. They’ve got a great selection of over 150,000 videos and 130,000 audio files. Their average subscriber ends up paying effectively less than a dollar a download over a year because you’re subscribed to it and you download so much. There is great variety of really good, high quality video and audio and they are always adding new stuff. You can use it in whatever way you want. Now videoblocks… we’ve had on offer the last couple of weeks but they have come up with an even better bundle, in my opinion, which is they’ve bundled videoblocks and audioblocks together for $149 over the year. So that’s $100 discount off the usual pricetag for people who listen to this show. So if you’re doing a lot with audio or video files, which increasingly most of us are these days, then go check it out. You can find out more and get that offer at

Round Table Discussion

Paul: That brings us on to our discussion topic for the day. Actually I want to kick off with you Sam if I can because I think yours is an absolutely brilliant topic and is one I think a lot of listeners need to hear. So do you want to introduce that?

Sam: Yeah. So I would like to talk about impostor syndrome. So for anyone listening that hasn’t heard of it I will quote from Wikipedia just to clear it up. “It refers to high achieving individuals with the marked inability to internalise their accomplishments and persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud”. Now I didn’t even know this was a thing until probably a couple of years ago but once I heard about it and read about it it was like Bang! It explained an awful lot of feelings that I had had for probably well over a decade, I think. Elaborating more on the definition slightly, the quote indicates the worst sufferers of the high performing competent people and it manifests itself in several ways. It sounds crazy, I mean listen to it it is really strange. It says “high performing people often work hard in order to prevent people from discovering that they are imposters. This hard work often leads to more praise and success which perpetuates the impostor feelings and fears of being found out. The impostor person might feel that they need to work two or three times as hard so they over prepare, tinker and they obsess over details and so on and of course that can lead to burnout sleep deprivation you name it. Then as a direct result of the career progression,” and it sounds a bit Batman but with greater responsibility comes, it’s like Spider-Man isn’t it! “With greater responsibility comes internal doubt is that cost of failure gets higher and higher.” It is just a fascinating thing that I didn’t know it was a thing for a couple of years. You’d think by knowing what something is if you suffer with it it would ease the problem. That is not what I found at all. So really I’m going to use this panel as my self-help group and ask them if any of you have experienced or still do, have you got any advice on conquering it. Especially people who lead teams how do you help people on your team’s that suffer with it?

Paul: Rachel you look like you want to kick off.

Rachel: Okay, well I’m sat here and this afternoon I’m going to be doing my brand-new Event Apart talk. So yes the impostor syndrome is doing cartwheels around this hotel room right now. I don’t think it gets any better. As you say, the better you’re doing in your career then the more you think “Oh, at some point someone is going to find out that I’m actually an idiot” (laughter) I think, I don’t know, I always used to put it down to the fact that I’m completely self-taught. I’ve got no qualifications behind me. But you’d think by this point, I’m an invited expert to the CSS working group, there are various people who asked me to come and speak at these conferences, I must know something about what I am talking about. and yet it is at the back of my mind what if I say something really stupid then everybody realises that I am a fool. That is basically where it comes from.

Sam: It’s a fear of failure I guess, it’s the only thing I can put it down to.

Rachel: Yes, it is a weird thing and I think… Because actually I can say something completely ridiculous in my talk today, I could completely misinterpret something, say something nonsensical, someone will call me out on it a few people will call me a fool I will post some code and say “Oh yes, look I got this wrong. Here’s a correction to that”. Everyone will have forgotten about it in two days. I wouldn’t forget about it of course! That would just underline the thought that I am an idiot. But you know, it is like actually this impostor syndrome thing, there’s actually no… You sort of think what is the worst that could happen? Well the worst that could happen is that you are wrong about something or you do a bad presentation or whatever. But that is not actually the end of the world. And yet you make it out to feel like it might be.

Sam: Yes, I go through exactly the same emotions and it just doesn’t seem to help. I think things that have helped me, maybe, are recognising what it is and believing that I am competent. It is really tricky because at the same time I don’t want to be believing in my own hype. It is a really tricky balance because you can go too far the other way and I would probably become someone that I really… I think I’d rather have impostor syndrome than be that person. I’ve spoken to people like yourself, Paul, looking at you doing your talks and wondering how you did it without getting nerves and you do. And I’ve seen speakers on stage who they are giving a talk and it has just blown me away, they are just so powerful. I won’t name names but I’ve seen the same speaker down the side of the building five minutes after the talk hyperventilating. You suddenly realise that this thing is everywhere and yet no one knows how to make it any better.

Andy: There’s a difference though, between getting nervous before or after a talk, you know, wondering whether or not you have achieved your full potential and whether you’ve got it all right and what people think of generally as impostor syndrome. Which is really quite a strange psychological phenomenon, one of the things that some people know about me is that I actually know quite a lot about comedians. Are people familiar with Michael Barrymore? The comic, the TV show host.

Paul: Oh yes.

Andy: Barrymore is a classic example of this because the guy is a very high functioning genius. His talent was always to be able to find that one little thing when he was interviewing somebody on “Strike it lucky” or whatever it would be. And then honing on that one thing on the spur of the moment and mercilessly teasing them about it. The guy was a comedy genius and yet psychologically was always thinking that he wasn’t good enough that he was about to be found out, that his career was going to end. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy for the poor guy. There is this kind of classic being in, I think, creative people where of course nothing is good enough it’s never going to be good enough that is kind of the point when it comes down to creative work. So there is this difference I think between this sort of internalised checking and generally being not confident. Not everybody is confident to get up on stage, everybody gets full of nerves but I think that something slightly different.

Marcus: I think I am a genuine impostor. Because of the way I started my career in a completely different industry, and the thing that I studied my arse off for when I was a teenager has nothing to do with what I am doing now. And yet I am okay, I can deal with it because my character… I’m not a worrier so I can kind of deal with it quite well. But I feel that I will never be an accepted part of this industry because I’m not a designer, I’m not a coder. I just think that applies to quite a lot of people in our industry because a lot of us have come from somewhere else. And that certainly describes me

Paul: The question there is, and probably a big part of the problem is what makes you an impostor? You say that you are an impostor, you’re choosing to define yourself as an impostor. Because from my perspective you’ve been working in the digital field since 2000 and something?

Marcus: Me? 1999.

Paul: 1999. Well that’s way longer than the vast majority of people in the industry. So in that sense you’re not really an impostor. You are no more an impostor than anybody else. It is how you choose to define yourself and you are choosing to define yourself as an outsider. In the same way as my manifestation of this is that I feel like I am a ball-shitter, right. My talent is being very good at ballshitting. But if my ballshit and what I am saying is I am ballshitting is actually helping people then surely it has a value to it. Do you know what I mean?

Marcus: Absolutely. I’ve got a long track record of being part of a team that does good work for clients over and over and over again. So I’ve got to bring some value to the table otherwise I would have dropped out years ago. It is just the kind of black and white nature of “I did that thing and it stopped and the I’ve picked up this other thing” and yet 20 years later, almost, I accept, I’m intelligent enough to work out that I’m not really an impostor anymore but I don’t think the feeling is ever going to go away. I can deal with it, it’s all right.

Sam: The thing is, I mean what I notice, I don’t think I felt this early in my career, I was just excited to be doing it. It was only when I started to write or started to speak, started to get promotions that it’s suddenly… That seemed to be the thing that changed it for me. So I remember being at university and I would always think that I had failed an exam or something and it turns out I didn’t. It really took hold once, I think, again I think the failure would be perceived as worse by me though, not by anybody else.

Rachel: I mean that I think… there’s a couple of things. I think partly, this industry, people are very vocal if they think that someone hasn’t done something well as saying something that is nonsense and there is a lot of opinion that flies around. So I think that for people that are doing well in the web industry they are exposed to an awful lot of potential criticism that doesn’t really happen in other industries unless you are a very high profile celebrity. I am a little bit famous in my corner of the world, you know, of CSS, whatever! Which exposes me to far more stuff coming back at me then if I was in a lot of other fields equally high-profile.

Paul: Do we know that’s true mind? Because if you’re a dermatologist…

Rachel: Yeah, I know people who are in the medical profession who are very high-profile in that. It’s not a case of you’re going to open up your computer and look at a social media platform and see a hundred tweets telling you that you are an idiot. In my case, a man explaining something to me! Or whatever. That doesn’t happen in other industries. Yes, you might get criticised academically or what have you but I think the very direct nature of it in this industry of people who actually aren’t that high profile. You could have 200 Twitter followers but say something that gets picked up and gets retweeted everywhere and suddenly you have this huge onslaught of people telling you you are an idiot. I don’t think that so much happens, certainly not so publicly. There is a big element of public… Almost being shamed in public of something. Particularly if you have a bit of profile because that’s important to you, it’s important to your career.

Andy: Can I recommend a really good book that I read in its entirety on the plane out to Australia a couple of weeks ago. It’s called “So, you’ve been publicly shamed” by Jon Ronson. It does actually talk about a couple of things that Rachel has just mentioned and it’s a brilliant book it’s really well written and I would recommended very strongly.

Paul: The other thing you could check out is the latest season of black mirror. Which looks at this as an issue but that probably won’t cheer you up quite as much. (Laughter) The other thing, I think, one of the problems with social media especially as time goes on and you get more followers behind you. When you’ve got thousands and thousands of people following you, if you make a mistake then all of those people or a big percentage of those people are going to respond to you. Even if it’s something quite trivial, I’ll give you an example, typos or spelling mistakes. I’m always making spelling mistakes on a blog post. Somebody very helpfully tweets me “Just to let you know there’s a spelling mistake on that”. And that’s fine but when 50, 100, 150 people are all telling you the same thing then it starts to get magnified in your mind and that is what really drags you down, really makes you paranoid. It’s that kind of repetition of something again and again, at least that’s what gets to me.

Sam: So I mean, has anyone got any tips? For the listeners, for me, for everyone really. Has anyone found that they have experienced it and eased it even by a percentage. I think everyone would be interested in that.

Rachel: I don’t think I’ve managed to ease it. I think what I tend to do is I collect the positive stuff that people are saying. Not just people saying “Ooo, that was a marvellous talk” but when someone directly says “That really helped me solve this particular problem in work today” or “Your book was the thing that got me started”. I try and collect bits and pieces like that just to remind myself because I think you always focus on the negative stuff.

Sam: So it is sort of taking away the vanity of the both positive and negative and focusing on the real substantial feedback.

Rachel: Yes, because it’s easy for people just to say “Oh that was a great talk” or whatever and they say nice things and that’s great but it’s where I can see that actually I have really helped someone or I’ve managed to make a difference with that. “Well I’m not doing a bad job if I’ve managed to do that”. For me that is what it is all about. That’s what talking and writing is all about. It’s about helping other people learn about this stuff. So I try and circle back to that when I’m feeling “Oh I’m terrible”. No, “I’ve managed to help these people and I’ll be able to help some more people with this stuff”

Sam: Good advice.

Paul: I tend to look at people I respect and admire and when I discover that they suffer from impostor syndrome to, when you can find that out then that is reassuring. You know, if Jeffrey Zeldman has moments of self-doubt then surely it’s okay for me to stop well it shows well actually it can’t be a valid feeling because I know damn well that Jeffrey Zeldman does amazing work and has been an incredible influence on me et cetera et cetera. So if he has that same feeling as me then the feeling can’t be that worthwhile or hasn’t got validity to it that makes sense.

Sam: Sure.

Paul: The funniest one I’ve ever had, will move on from this… To be honest I hope that people that are listening to this, the fact that we’ve got Rachel Andrew and Andy Clarke and Sam Barnes on the show and they are all suffering from imposter syndrome hopefully will encourage other people as well. There’s one little story that I wanted to leave you with before which is probably my biggest moment of impostor syndrome where I was giving a presentation at the European Commission. She took me into the room where I was going to be presenting and it was the room that they do all of the national negotiations in. A massive circular table with all the country names and the flags in each of the places around the table. Also there are banks on either side, all around you and behind, of seating, and people just streamed in all sitting along this table and all behind it and they were all of a certain age, you know middle 50s, greying hair. These are super high achiever people they speak 15 languages and there I was and honestly I have never felt more like a 14 year old boy in my life. I was giggling on the inside with slightly hysterically at the fact that these people were listening to me.

Sam: Did you have your union jack suit on?

Paul: No I didn’t (laughter) which I think is probably a good… I’m never wearing that to Europe again now. I think that is just dead as a jacket unfortunately because of the way things have gone. So anyway let’s move on. We are never going to cover all of the topics again but I’m just letting them run as long as they do now. I wanted to talk about Marcus’s topic because I think this is a really interesting one as well, which is a long time in discussion but Marcus, do you think that maybe things have shifted a little bit? We’re talking about designers and coding and that kind of stuff. What made you bring this conversation up again?

Marcus: Last week I had a couple of days away with one of our designers, Ed. We were doing a two-day workshop up in East Anglia and as you do you end up in the pub and start chatting about stuff. This was a subject that Ed bought up and he is a designer. I have to say this isn’t really my subject for the show, I’m supposed to talk about kind of business-y stuff but it was an interesting point that made me raise an eyebrow and made me think “Oh really” I hadn’t thought of that, I didn’t think this was a thing. Obviously 5, 10 years ago the discussions that we were having on this show were very much around the idea that “if you are a designer then you need to know-how to code to be able to do it properly”. In a nutshell. Ed wasn’t saying that you don’t need to be able to code but he felt that the quality required to produce production code is maybe, and he wasn’t saying it’s a black and white thing, but he was saying maybe that’s something that doesn’t necessarily… It’s not something he should be doing. He should be concentrating on being a designer rather than concentrating on being a top flight front-end developer, I guess. And maybe that the two tasks, if you like, have gone off in different directions. Inevitably so probably. I guess from a business point of view, somebody who runs an agency it made me think “oh okay, so in the future if we need to employ people then we need to be considering maybe a more definite roles than jack of all trade kind of roles that we have done in the past.” It was just an interesting point that I thought I hadn’t thought of that, it could potentially be a good subject of discussion for this show. If anybody thinks that that is true, that being able to do both to the highest quality is asking too much of people? Maybe?

Andy: I think things have changed massively over the last 5 or 10 years. Idiots like me used to be able to actually write code for websites and they could go live! I could write the HTML and the CSS and a little bit of jQuery plug-in here and there. But things have just changed massively and have got more technical, I think there’s more involved in actually writing production code. There’s the performance issues and whether or not things are compiled or grunt or gulp or gawd knows all this kind of stuff I have no idea what it means. Actually, do you know what, it’s probably okay that I don’t know how to do that stuff now. I still need to be able to actually convey my designs in markup and CSS in some form or another, you know. It doesn’t have to be the best code, somebody else will write that but what is important is that I can take my design, even if I’ve made that design up in sketch in the first instance which I still do lots of, I get it into HTML and CSS and I can look at it on my phone or look at it on an iPad or where ever, adjust the typographic’s scale and do all that kind of stuff I need to do. Then hand it over to Joe our developer and he can actually do the proper stuff that hits the client’s browser.

Rachel: Yeah, I am quite interested in this because I’m very interested generally in layout and a lot of the stuff I’ve been talking about is to do with modern layout methods. I think particularly with grid layout we are going to end up in a position where visual design tools for the web are going to be far more of a possibility. Now I don’t think that those things are going to be able to create marvellous production code, I think there’s always going to be a level of needing to take output of something like that and turn it into really robust production code that deals with all browsers and different devices and is really performant. But if we can have visual layout tools for the web that use web technologies that mean that designers can work visually yet output stuff that they can then look at in browsers and they can look at on their phones and things, I don’t think this is a bad thing. Because yes, it is getting far more complex, is getting far more complex to build really great production code and it is a shame if the web becomes simpler because people are working within parameters that they understand rather than just going for it and actually really designing, and with our new layout methods people should be able to design and do a lot more things that we haven’t been able to do in the past. So I’d be really keen to see more actual visual tools that use these technologies. When these things appear people get very upset and they’re like “Oh this code is terrible, terrible code” but that’s not what it should be about. And there will be people who will shove that straight into production but I think actually using web code to create an interesting design and then handing that over to a developer to say “Right this is kind of the prototypes, let’s rebuild it so it’s very robust” that is an interesting workflow.

Marcus: I thought this was going to be a contentious subject but it doesn’t seem to be. It seems to be that that is where we have got to and maybe I shouldn’t have been as surprised. I guess it’s because I don’t work in that particular area. Yeah, it sounds that were all in agreement! So not such a good topic.

Rachel: I think out there on the web there would be people who get quite upset about that. As I say, you’ll see it every time a new visual tool shows up. Even if it very much is for prototyping, people feel like it’s generating terrible markup therefore it’s a bad thing. I think it’s more how these things are used is the bad thing really.

Paul: Yeah, it’s like anything it’s what you do with it. And like you say, there will be people who use those tools and push them out as live, final production code. It is also sometimes about how those tools are presented and sold. Take for example Dreamweaver back in the day where Dreamweaver had this visual WYSIWYG element. There was actually nothing wrong with it, I found it quite a handy tool for jumping around in my code and finding a bit of code. I’d just click on the element that I wanted to edit, so it was quite useful at times. The problem is that it was being sold as this thing to produce websites, you know. But even then, is there not an argument, it depends on the kind of websites that you are producing. If you are somebody who produces websites for £500 for little small businesses, you know, if the code is terrible you get what you pay for. Is there not an element of that?

Rachel: Well, yeah. There is yes. There are lots of different ways that people are working on the web and I very much wouldn’t want to see that easy entry point into building stuff for the web to go away way because it all become so complex and you’re not allowed to… The only reason I got to do this stuff is because it was easy to get started. It would be a real shame if we lose all the future people like me who have got a terrible computer and are just trying to figure out how to do this and how to publish stuff and how to write HTML, it would be a shame if we lost that sort of accessibility of this industry by making it all so complex. Yes, people will create terrible code with WYSIWYG tools but some of them will look at that code and say “hey, this isn’t great, I wonder how I can make this better” and then they will move on from that and they will start exploring, they will find out what else is out there. For us as an industry we shouldn’t rubbish those people as they are making their steps in. Because their steps in going to be different from mine because… all there was when I started was HTML. There were no WYSIWYG tools. So now people are coming in differently.

Paul: I certainly started the same as you wear there were no WYSIWYG tools and you had to code everything by hand. There was a period of time when dream Weaver came along and other tools similar to it where I stopped coding because it became so complicated, with nested tables and all of that. And tables within tables, it was easier to put it together in something like Dreamweaver.

Rachel: Yeah, I think without Dreamweaver I think the whole nested table thing would have driven most of us out of the industry again (laughter). It was awful! So, I think that it served a great purpose there. As I say, there are always gonna be people who… Their web design is going to be editing themes or they are using WYSIWYG tools or whatever and that is fine. Because as I say some those people are then going to look around and say I think I can probably do something better than this and they are going to look at the next steps and I hope that as an industry we are there to take those people on and say “Yeah, yeah look this is where you go once you want to move away from using whatever WYSIWYG” this is your next step. And be welcoming to that because that’s going to be the route in.

Paul: I think that’s a really good point Rachel. Because I am very conscious that a lot of people who listen to this show are amateur web designers who are doing things in the evening or weekends and so much, sometimes we can make things so inaccessible because you’ve got to do it in the super professional way and that is so sad.

Rachel: I think, you know, we need to make sure we say who we are speaking to when we are talking about certain things. If I am speaking to web professionals then I am very happy to say no you should not be using this thing, or you should not be working in this way. Because if you are a certain level then you should be levelling up basically. But if you are new to the industry or if you are just taking those first steps then, you know, we need to be kind to these people! Because otherwise the never going to make it through, you know!

Paul: Absolutely. Let’s move on because I want to get Andy’s subject in, simply to ridicule him really. Because Andy has got as a subject “Ahh, all us designers we need inspiration budgets”. How are you possibly going to justify this ballshit Andy?

Andy:Well listen, I am not one of these people that thinks that you have to have inspiration to get going in the morning like bloody cuppa coffee. Because sometimes you get to work and you don’t want to do the job and you know you’ve just got to kind of muddle through and do the best of it. So, you know, I’m not a kind of poncy designer that thinks “Where will you be getting your inspiration from today, Andy”. But, I haven’t made much of a secret that I think web design has become too formulaic. I think I’ve been fairly clear about that. Part of the reason for this is that few, I think, web designers that I talked to look outside of the web for their inspiration. They don’t look at magazines, they don’t look at newspapers or posters or other media and I think this is a mistake. So, for the past couple of years I’ve been building a fairly inspiring collection of little boutique magazines. And I know that my work has improved because I’ve got a wider variety of stimuli. I bought so many on a trip recently that Sue has now set me this inspiration budget every month. She won’t let me spend lots of money on magazines in magazine shops. I guess my question is should employers give designers and developers and whoever else a regular budget to spend on things that can inspire their work? Be that magazines or trips to arts galleries or museums or even trips to the cinema, Don Draper style. Should employers be fostering this creative environment in giving people a budget to go out there and find it?

Paul: I think this is a good one for you to talk about Marcus. Because for a long time at Headscape we had, we called it a training budget, which is nowhere near as exciting as an inspiration budget. But that was a similar thinking was it not?

Marcus: Yeah, I was going to be flippant there and say “No, everybody should be working very hard all the time”. We don’t do enough of this, I think we should. So I’m agreeing with you Andy. We are quite relaxed, Chris and I, about how everything runs. We are not hard task masters at all, we kind of hope that people will find this inspiration in their own time. We are quite happy for people to do that, in their own work time. I think that is an assumption on my part which is wrong that actually we have to say to people “We have this budget or time or whatever it is, use it” because otherwise they won’t. So yes, I think it’s a good thing and we don’t do enough. We’ve been so flaming busy the last year that all of these thoughts about spending a bit of time thinking about outside projects and inspiration and stuff like that and maybe different ways of working have just gone out of the window. It’s been kind of niggling me a bit that we have lost that. It’s because you’re not nagging me for about these things as you used to. So, yes I agree. Particularly if you are trying to do high-quality work which we always have been and always will be, you need to make sure that the people working for you are a) happy and b) feeling inspired to do the work so yes, a bit of a no-brainer really.

Paul: The big one is that it’s not just about financial budget as it. It’s not just about “here have a load of money.” It is also about having the time to go to museums to do all of this kind of thing. Even to find the boutique magazines, it all takes time and it all eats into chargeable time, a time people are working on projects. So Sam, from a project management point of view you don’t want your members of staff pissing off to the cinema in the middle of the day do you?

Sam: (laughter) Well, if it’s inspiration…

Paul: Be careful now

Sam: No, I mean, my short answer is yes. I think this should happen. From a project, I guess a commercial company perspective, when I’ve seen this happen there are some interesting downsides that anyone thinking about doing it really needs to consider how they manage it. So, when we had the ability to give time and the money to certain people you had to think about the people that weren’t getting this in the company. So when you’re working in a place that doesn’t just have tech and creative but HR, finance and other customer support, that kind of thing. There are instances where the education wasn’t there for those people to understand why these people had that. And it actually caused some friction. There’s always things like that. It is also how people use that time and that money, one man’s pocket money is another person’s inspiration. It was very subjective and actually caused… Once it’s the right thing to do people think they can just put it in place and everything will be great but there are all these little areas that are nothing to do with anything other than human beings that really need to be considered to actually get leverage, the value out of that budget because it could possibly be counter-productive.

Andy:Of course the best thing that people can do is to let their employees by action figures and have those around the walls! (Laughter)

Paul: Well yeah. As somebody that has also done that I couldn’t agree with you more Andy.

Andy:I find them very inspiring.

Paul: Every time you look up from your desk you are confronted by somebody else’s creativity. And also Andy I’ve heard you on more than one occasion on Twitter essentially saying to your apes come on were going to have a good day! So there you go.

Marcus: There is another view you can take on this that grown men who have action figures around them are actually quite worrying.

Sam: Now that’s contentious Marcus. (Laughter)

Andy: Paul, you can’t agree with that!

Paul: Well, my problem with that statement Marcus, is the idea that there is such a thing as a grown man. I think we are inherently childlike and actually I think it is very sad when we don’t still embrace our desire to play. Because it is through play that you discover and do new things!

Marcus: You’re reading off a page Paul.

Paul: That is why you, Marcus, are so restrained and so uncreative like a dried up old husk.

Marcus: Yes, yes, that’ll be it Paul, definitely.

Sam: My therapist asked me once how old I thought I was and I said 12 and she replied, that old! (Laughter)

Paul: That’s a true story isn’t it?

Sam: It is actually a very true story.

Paul: I thought it was.

Marcus: Isn’t that interesting though because I been asked “how old do you feel” that kind of thing, I think I’m 18 so obviously I am ancient and grown-up compared to you.

Paul: No, I would say about 12.

Marcus: In my mind I am 18 years old and I look in the mirror and go (sharp intake of breath)

Paul: Have you noticed how Rachel’s Mike has just been turned off she’s keeping well out of this conversation? (laughter)

Sam: Dignified silence.

Rachel: Yes. Yeah, that’s what it is. No, I don’t really… Despite the fact that in my past I’ve been a choreographer I don’t particularly see myself as a very creative person. Yeah, I’m kind of… I don’t… Even with writing and things I’m very much a kind of I will just sit down and I will write that 2000 words and they might be rubbish but that’s fine because that’s the starting point and I can go back over it. I don’t kind of wait for inspiration. There’s no waiting for anything to strike, I don’t have time for it! (Laughter)

Paul: I’m the same writing actually.

Rachel: With pretty much everything I’ll just do it and may be I guess if I spent more time thinking about this stuff… I don’t know… Maybe I could be more creative but I don’t see myself in that sort of role any more.

Paul: But I mean, you must still have to invest in training and staying up-to-date with stuff. So is that… Do you do that by… Do you set some money aside and go and do something or buy something or is it that you just spend time fiddling.

Rachel: No, I think it’s… Partly, obviously the stuff I do around say around new CSS, I don’t get paid for that. I don’t get paid for being on the CSS working group. That is essentially my weird hobby! So I guess that stuff is, because to me the big thing about being on the CSS working group or being a Google developer expert all these things it means I am exposed to other people who I think are far brighter than I am. And I get to talk to them and I get to contribute as well which is pretty cool. But I can actually have these discussions with people and that I guess, is my inspiration. It is putting myself in these places where there are people who, maybe I only understand half of what they’re saying, but it informs me and it helps me to think of new ideas around code and around CSS or what ever that I wouldn’t have otherwise if I wasn’t exposed to those people. And those conversations. I know nothing about how to develop a browser rendering engine for instance. But I get to hang out with people who do. They write that code. To me that is fascinating I know so much more about how that actually works now, that then informs the sort of stuff that I might try to do or try to demonstrate to people. So I guess that is kind of my take on this is that time I spend and being with the people who can really inform that.

Paul: Yeah, it’s being inspired by smart people. Which is always a good approach. That would come on brilliantly to the topic that you wanted to talk about which is this idea of contributing to open standards and things like that but I’m really sorry Rachel, we need to wrap up this week’s show. But we shall definitely get onto that next week because it is a fascinating area.

Rachel: Yeah, we’ll pick that up next week.

Paul: You’re around next week are you?

Rachel: I believe so, I think, yes I think I am actually in one place, I shall check. I think I’m back in the UK by then.

Paul: If not, whenever you are next on the show I definitely want to talk about that because I actually think that is a really important subject to cover.
Okay, so let’s just do our final sponsor for the day. And then we shall wrap this baby up. Our final sponsor is currencyfair where you can save 80% on international transfer fees and exchange rates. I’m about to use this myself actually. I haven’t quite got round to doing it yet, I’ve got this big chunk of money sitting in PayPal that is in dollars and so instead of transferring it through PayPal who are going to give me a rubbish rate and they screw you over, I’m going to try and do that via currencyfair instead they have none of this kind of getting commission out of a bad exchange rate. So many organisations do this, it just drives me nuts. Currencyfair on the other hand have got an average rate of 0.35% above the base rate. The rate that you would see on Google if you did a search on rates. Their rate is constantly live it is updating based on whatever the current exchange rate is and you can go to their homepage and actually see the rates and what it is. And you can set it up so that it either transfers immediately across or you can say set your own rate, so when the rate hits this then transfer at that point. Which is exactly what I’m going to be doing. There are many different types of people that use currencyfair, in lots of different situations but one that is quite common is moving abroad. Somebody I know has recently moved across to Australia and it would be great for handling the transfer of something massive like the sale of a property or even if you still have some bills back in the UK you can manage all of that kind of stuff. So there are lots of scenarios where it might be useful. If that is you then go and check out So that about wraps up this week’s show. Marcus, do you have a joke for us?

Marcus: I have Lee’s joke from last week that he didn’t get to tell. And I’m saying that because then you can blame him and not me for a change. Here we go. My friend recently got crushed by a pile of books. He’s only got his shelf to blame. (Laughter)

Sam: That’s, oh,… Why do I do this! (Laughter)

Paul: So there you go! Let’s do a quick round the table and say where people can find out more about you. Andy, where can people find more about you?

Andy: They can have a look at my website at or you can look at me on Twitter which is @Malarkey.

Paul: and Sam?

Sam: My site is and on Twitter the same @theSamBarnes.

Paul: and Rachel?

Rachel: I’m @RachelAndrew on Twitter and on the inter-webs

Paul: and finally Marcus?

Marcus: and @Marcus67.

Paul: So there you go. Thank you everybody for joining us this week on the show and thank you for listening. We will be back next week but until then Bye-Bye.