Why I switched my site to the WordPress Twenty Fifteen Theme

After years of custom theming my own site and working to showcase web design skills—even using my site as a playground for some innovative XHTML and CSS concepts—I’ve intentionally switched to WordPress’s excellent Twenty Fifteen theme instead. For me this is a counter-intuitive but strategic move.

Why would a designer/developer use an “out-of-the-box” theme?

I’m also a writer. And I do far too little writing these days. Being able to rely on the responsive stability of a theme like Twenty Fifteen affords me the opportunity to focus my energy on producing content here rather than tinkering with design and code. I do that in plenty of other places (ITeams and SDG in particular). So, I’m looking to Twenty Fifteen as a way to avoid tempting distractions from my writing here.

Update: Web design is an evolving target and I’ve already discovered a couple oddities about Twenty Fifteen I feel compelled to look into. One (Disqus comments plugin layout discrepancies) I’ve already solved by adding a few lines of custom CSS to the Twenty Fifteen theme within WordPress. The second (slowly shifting—almost animated—displays on some mobile devices), will take a little more consideration.

So, here’s to the hope of increased and interesting content!



Interact: “Most of us have been trained and educated for a world that no longer exists.” —Mike Breen

In many (if not all) disciplines this statement rings true. Education is constantly reaching back into history and looping forward the things of the past. I believe there is tremendous value in history, but educational innovation must model present-tense interactions with the past in order to amplify insights that inform the future. Leaders will always find themselves on the uncomfortable edge of the unknown. In the grip of a visionary imagination, history informs the future.

When work-flow becomes work-overflow

I have been swamped with work lately, in large part due to losing several days of normal productivity to technology issues and a more challenging than expected launch of a leadership event. Today I was reminded that as important as this work is, there are more important things in life that tend to get sacrificed when work-flow becomes work-overflow.

Carl Honoré’s TED Talk In Praise of Slowness reflected on his once upon a time speed-reading to his son at bedtime. This was his wake up call. Reflecting on the culture we live in, Honoré remarked, “These days even instant gratification takes too long.” There’s so much to do that it’s tempting to rush past things that take time and presence to cultivate—things like family, friendship, love, creativity and innovation…

I read Eric Meyer’s comments about Facebook’s Year in Review app and the insensitivity of algorithmic design across the web. Reading about his six year old daughter’s battle with an aggressive brain cancer broke my heart. Meyer’s new focus (A New Chapter) on designing for crisis, or empathetic design (#EmpatheticDesign) is a heroic response to his own suffering—and one that engages designers on behalf of others who suffer, too.

Both of these have me looking at my inbox and growing list of challenging (but worthwhile) projects and tasks and thinking I need to push pause long enough to be a little more introverted. Susan Cain’s TED Talk The Power of Introverts is well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. (Thanks @DHH for flagging her work on this topic on Twitter.)

And with that, it’s time to wind down work and see what winds up on tonight’s agenda…

Connecting dots: launching ideas that will change the world (Tim O’Reilly)

In a Q&A with Tim O’Reilly on Launching Ideas That Will Change the World in 99U‘s new book Make Your Mark, O’Reilly responds to a question about entrepreneurs wanting to make an impact:

O’Reilly continues this thought:

You have an idea about the way the world ought to be. You have a theory about why and how you are going to connect the dots.

That’s the line that really got me. The idea of connecting dots hooked me emotionally. One of my frequent frustrations as one who translates everything through a creative grid is that there are so very many “dots” that feel part of me that don’t seem to connect. Whenever several dots do connect, it feels as though something mystical has just happened. The world is a little bit more “right” in that moment. But this passive posture has been slowly changing in me.

O’Reilly’s comment above, and his own example as an entrepreneur, awakened me to a new perspective of the dots, a more active vision—and new questions to explore. What if I could have more than a vision for the dots themselves, but for their integration? …a vision of bringing together things that others tend to see as completely separate? This idea, for me, feels like getting closer to the core of my design.

It’s the difference between being a musician who also has a vision for what others are playing and becoming a composer or conductor whose role is to have and act on the fuller vision. If such an analogy is right, it would seem I need to find a way to set down the instruments I’ve been playing in order to step up to the platform and see the bigger picture.

Do you see dots that don’t seem like they should be connected, but you believe the world would be better if they were? (I’d love to read your thoughts below, and be inspired together…)

Interact: @benhuh Your piece @medium is inspiring. Too many of us downplay hardship. Authenticity should be our brand. You’re paving a new way. Thx!