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Changing the World

20 Jul

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

Sketch Pricing

8 Jun

Bohemian Coding, you asked for our thoughts on Sketch’s new pricing and versioning plan, below are mine. There were some gaps in your outline, so I’ve made some assumptions. If any are incorrect, I apologize.

The Price

Paying $99 each year instead of $99 every couple years after a major release, is not a big deal. As Sketch has grown it’s feature set and reliability has expanded to the point where it now feels “cheap”. So I’m cool with paying a little more for a better product. But be honest about it. It has nothing to do with fairness to users who bought a 3.8 release in comparison to those that bought a 3.0. The 3.0 users paid more money for a lesser product. It all evens out. What it’s really about is making more money. And that’s fine. As I said, I think your product is currently underpriced.


I hate subscription pricing models, doesn’t matter whether it’s Spotify, Adobe, or Verizon. They are decidedly anti-user. It saddens me that you’re dipping your toes into this path, but I’ll reserve condemnation until you fully cross over. But unlike Adobe, who bricks your software the second you stop paying for your subscription, Sketch will let you keep using the version you’ve purchased in perpetuity. It’s a quasi-subscription. Except it’s not. There’s one giant problem, and that’s that any file that is created in a new version is unusable. So if I get a file from a friend, or download the new iOS GUI Kit and it’s a Sketch 4.4 file, but I only have Sketch 4.3, that file is worthless. And eliminating the concept of major releases will make this more difficult. For this path forward to be a smooth one, you need to resolve backward compatibility issues, and continue to differentiate yourself from everything people despise about Adobe.

Declining User Base

I’ve worked with many developers that have purchased Sketch because at it’s current price point it’s economical for them to be able to view layered files as a part of their workflow. This will cease to be the case with your new pricing structure.


A word of caution, this new model will drastically alter the expectations placed on Sketch and Bohemian Coding. Historically there has been great pressure, as you noted, to pool major features into major release to encourage users to upgrade and new users to sign up. Now the pressure will be in 12-month cycles. If you’re not releasing major features within that rolling window then you will face potentially large group of users who need to renew their license/quasi-subscription without feeling like the received worthy value from their previous one. Communication will become even more important now. A public roadmap, as some have suggested, may be a good place to start.

Fanning the Flames

7 Jun

There’s an insidious side-effect (I assume unintended) of Senator Sanders’ platform of victimization. He has successfully undermined much of the public’s confidence in the very way we exercise our democracy. Voting. I have lost count of the friends and neighbors that have freaked out because the process of casting their ballot was not exactly as they expected, correctly or incorrectly. The baseless seeds of distrust have been planted and they will germinate and grow into full blooms of unintended consequences with the potential to undermine our electoral process. All because of one individual’s selfish actions. During his quarter century in Congress he hasn’t been able to change the game. Instead he’s decided to use his limited time at the presidential election podium to tell everyone that would listen that the game is rigged.

The Hawks, the Crows, and the Ducks

12 Feb

We have some ducks that live in the back yard. Three to be exact. They eat bugs and weeds, lay eggs, and chase away the occasional stray cat that wanders into the yard. They also “talk” to the other birds in the neighborhood. You can regularly hear the ducks in some sort of call & response “conversation” with the many crows. It was creepy at first, as if they might all be plotting to take over the humans. But I’ve come to accept it now.

Today I heard the crows squawking, as they often do, but then I heard the ducks shuffling down a little hill. I went outside to see what was going on and saw the ducks had taken cover underneath some bushes near the house. Overhead there were two hawks circling my backyard. Each one was being trailed closely by a crow. Shortly thereafter the hawks broke their pattern and headed off to the northeast, with the crows hot on their tails. A few minutes later, the crows returned to their perch in a neighbors tree with no hawks in sight.

This isn’t the first time the crows have appeared to send out some warning sign to the ducks. And it’s certainly not the first time the crows have gone after the hawks.  They’re always messing with them. But it makes me wonder why. What do the crows get out of it? Are the ducks giving them some eggs before we can collect them? Giving them tips on where the best bugs are? Chasing squirrels away from the fruit trees so the crows can get a taste? I doubt it. Which means the crows are just doing the ducks a solid. Looking after the lesser, defenseless kin in their kingdom. If you’ve seen American Sniper or are familiar with some of the post-9/11 military vernacular this may sound familiar. It’s similar to the wolves, sheep and sheepdogs comparison they use. But less about meeting violence with violence.

The crows remind me of a quote by the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Gustavo Dudamel, “If you know four notes, teach someone who knows three.” The crows may not be the top of the food chain, but they’re helping out where they can. We should all be more like crows.

In Defense of Teehan+Lax

17 Jan

Sort of.

On Friday the Internet learned what many at the renowned Toronto-based design firm Teehan+Lax had likely known for weeks, that the team would be going to Facebook. Again, sort of. The predictable see-saw of reaction followed as everyone parsed what had occurred. First there was the “Boooooo, Facebook is snatching up another renowned design firm,” followed by “Yaaaaaay, Teehan+Lax, hooray for them, they’re some of the good guys!” Then the “Another classic money-grab.” Next came the “Wait, they’re not all going to Facebook? That’s messed up.” It was at that point that we were left with little more than the obvious question, “why?” 

Admittedly, there are and likely will always be more questions than answers. But there are two large assumptions that most people are making. The first is that T+L made a butt-load of money in this move. The second is that the world was T+L’s oyster and the financial and business options at their feet were limitless.

The Money

Quite plainly, you don’t blow up your company after the most successfully financial year in it’s history, you ride that wave. Unless of course someone offers you some serious coin. However, if you do get that “big enough that you just can’t say no” offer you’re in an excellent negotiating position. Instead, the reason you detonate the company you built yourself is because you’re short on options. And when you’re backed into a corner, no one is offer you “fuck-you money”.

The Options

The Friday prior to the closure of Teehan+Lax one of my former employers closed their doors, on the heels of the company’s 50th anniversary. The owner had grown weary of the daily slog of running the company and the pressures associated with being responsible for the livelihood of the employees. Completely understandable. After efforts to find a suitable acquirer proved unsuccessful they were faced with the choice of continue on with the status quo or shut it down. An arrangement was made with a larger competitor for a few members of the staff, including the owner, to begin working there. The rest of the small staff was cut loose.

I have no idea if this is what happened at Teehan+Lax. Ultimately only Jon, Geoff, and David know. But there appear to be some similarities. The one conclusion that can be drawn is that this decision wasn’t taken lightly, and made because a few at the top of Teehan+Lax were ready to cash out and float off in their golden Facebook parachute. As their letter alluded to, this was likely the result of a long and arduous process where the sale of the entire company was not a viable option. They way their letter is framed, as if it’s the partners writing a case study about a recently completely project comes off rather callously. In the letter they often refer to Teehan+Lax, the company, when they should really be saying Jon, Geoff and David. The letter was written by them, about them, outlining the version of this process that they want the design community to see. I don’t believe they’re selfish are careless enough to have not considered all of their co-workers and employees best interests. But this is the kind of result you get when you’re short on options.

Succession Planning

Add this to the list of things we as an industry rarely talk about but should, behind rates/sales/money and contracts. There comes a time for any company/religion/government when the leader has run their course. Some organizations are better prepared than others. Governments typically have built-in succession plans. Public corporations have boards that are charged with leadership transitions. But when was the last time you heard about a small or medium-sized business with a succession plan? When there isn’t one, this is what happens. What if just one of the partners wanted to leave? Would T+L still have to be demolished, or could the other two carry on? If all three partners were leaving was there enough senior staff willing to remain and carry on? There are both operational and financial decisions to be made when transitioning leadership within a company that’s structured the way T+L was. But if the parties are willing, it’s not an impossible task. In this instance though, the partners appeared to view Teehan+Lax as less of a company unto itself, and more as an extension of themselves. If that’s the case it doesn’t matter how hard the discarded employees wanted to carry on together. It was never an option.

At the end of the day, the partners at Teehan+Lax made the decision they believed was best for everyone involved. By all accounts they’ve been stand-up guys and deserve the benefit of the doubt. It’s a sad day anytime we witness the death of a leading firm in our industry. But hopefully the displaced members of Teehan+Lax will find soft places to land.


20 Nov

Law of Jante: You are not to think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us.

The Next Bond

14 Nov

While a couple of friends were visiting Los Angeles this week an intense discussion of who would/should be the next James Bond, following Daniel Craig’s last film, the as of yet unnamed Bond 25, scheduled to be released in 2017.

There are a few predefined criteria for what it takes to play James Bond.

Height: 6’1″-6’2″ (Daniel Craig is the exception – 5’10”)
Weight: ~165-175 lbs
Age: 30-49 (Sean Connery and Roger Moore are the exceptions – 53 and 57 respectively)
Hair Color:
Black/Brown (Daniel Craig is the exception – Blonde)
Birthplace: British Isles (George Lazenby is the exception – Australia)


  1. Michael Fassbender
  2. Liam Hemsworth
  3. Chris Hemsworth
  4. Eddie Redmayne
  5. James McAvoy


  1. Charlie Hunnam
  2. Jeffrey Donovan
  3. Tony Shalhoub
  4. Henry Cavill
  5. Barry Sloane


  1. Barry Sloane
  2. Oliver Jackson-Cohen
  3. Luke Evans
  4. Liam Hemsworth
  5. Matt Bomer


These are actors that came up in the discussion but didn’t warrant serious consideration for one reason or another (typically age or height).


A Cause That Is Just

28 Oct

Truth never damages a cause that is just.


3 Oct

It's not enough to be busy. The question is: what are we busy about?
Henry David Thoreau

Great Acts

22 Sep

Great acts are made up of small deeds.
Lao Tzu