San Francisco, California

An Astronomical Clunk

Sometimes I forget what the web is capable of. I watch the code and the text and the opinions fly around and it feels like I’ve seen it all.

But then there are the other times. The ones where I have an idea, jot it down with Codepen, and send the link to a pal to see what they think. Or there are those rare and special moments when a stranger emails me with a link to a doc or a project they’re working on—websites about books or books about design or random fonts wrenched out of the aether.

It’s these moments when the web holds up to its original promise; the web standards, the infrastructure, the open web. With eyes wide open I watch as this beige suite of specifications link together until they’re like constellations out of stars in the sky. It all begin to makes sense. But it’s not just the technologies that fit together in these moments, it’s the skills, too. When I’m excited about design, and writing, and coding all at the same time, and when each of them can be seen as the same thing, just from different angles.

There’s this feeling when this happens; an immensely satisfying clunk.

When someone asks me what I do I tend to say “web designer” but that’s not quite right because when someone hears “web designer” they think of that as building some giant boring e-commerce thing. They don’t see the excitement or the punk rock pamphleteering side of web design, the gathering of strangers. They see the web as this meaner, more horrid thing perhaps. Or they think of web masters and hacking. I’m not sure what they’re thinking about when they hear those words but the bored look is heartbreaking because I want to grab them by the lapel and say no! Do you not see the stars aligning? Have you never pressed the big green publish button? How can you not see that the web is the most important thing we’re all making together? That we continue to make together?

I don’t get this feeling with the web and writing everyday. But when I do it reaffirms every decision I’ve made in my life. Earlier this evening I was helping my pal Lucy work on a small website and all these feelings struck me again; when you just can’t type fast enough, when every idea is possible and teasing you to explore it further, and where you get to question what a website even is.

I guess my point is that I’m extraordinary lucky. Just look at this satellite of beautiful web weirdos I’ve surrounded myself with! This astronomical clunk of technologies and most unlikely skills.