At the end of 2019, I announced I was leaving the realm of full-time employment to restart my design practice. But shortly after, conferences went virtual, or had to cancel altogether; prospective clients realized they needed to wait a few months before starting that big design project. I’ve kept busy, all things told, but this year hasn’t followed anything remotely resembling the trajectory I’d expected.
After all, this was the year the world got sick. So I’d bet it’s not just me; chances are good your year didn’t turn out the way you’d planned, either. Among the people I know and love, plans were changed; routines shuffled, reshuffled, and then reshuffled again; lives were upended, or lost altogether. Of course, the pandemic wasn’t the only sickness we were fighting: Breonna and George died, as did far too many more. We marched; we organized; we unionized; we voted. And all the while, we got sicker.
So. Amidst everything, at the end of a long, stupid, scary year, I’m trying to write down some bright spots. Because despite 2020’s best efforts, some good things did happen to me, and I firmly believe that it’s important to note them. After all, the new year won’t magically make everything better. And if we have a few dark months ahead of us, I figure it’s worth having a few points of light to hold onto.
With that said, here’s what I came up with.
- I cofounded Autogram with Karen and Jeff, and it’s been as satisfying, as rewarding, and as fun as I knew it’d be. In fact, we just wrapped our first project, and 2021’s looking to be even busier. I can’t tell you how excited I am.
- I got a chance to contribute to the COVID Tracking Project (CTP). I spent a few months working alongside this remarkable team of volunteers, helping them with various design tasks, including a redesign of their website. What’s more, I got a chance to work with old friends Allen and Jason, and to meet so many remarkable people doing critical, necessary work. I owe Erin Kissane a heavy debt of gratitude for inviting me to contribute—and for everything else she’s done to make the CTP happen.
- Back in June, I released a series of short, five-minute video tutorials about web accessibility for the folks at Aquent Gymnasium. And we had so much fun, we decided to do more! I’ll be announcing the new (and longer) courses once they’re out, but I’ll say this much: working alongside Jeremy, Justin, and the rest of the Gymnasium team has been a sincere delight, and one of the brightest spots in this dumb, dark year.
- I’ve given remote talks before, but 2020 was the first year where I’ve only spoken remotely. I got to reconnect with friends at SydCSS; I keynoted this year’s Web Unleashed, giving a talk I love; I even gave a little talk on CSS layout for Mercari Gears.
- I made time for writing this year, and I managed a few things I’m proud of. I wrote about how design systems often fail to produce more consistent interfaces, and how they often make it harder for us to work together; I commemorated responsive design’s tenth birthday; I shared a small CSS Grid trick I’d learned; I wrote about how my website’s really more of a worry stone; I wrote about power.
- We adopted kittens. Every single day, Olive and Lily find new ways to be wonderful. (They’ve also turned everything in our apartment upside down. Twice.)
- Finally, and most importantly, I made it through this long, stupid, scary year.
Honestly, I feel fortunate to be able to even write this little post, because there were plenty of days where things felt impossibly rough. Of course, I made it because I carried some significant privileges into 2020: I work from home; I wasn’t forced into a workplace alongside others; I have access to health care. (Not every American can say the same.1) But additionally, and just as importantly, I’m here thanks to my friends and loved ones, the folks who texted, checked in, and carried me forward. And more than anything and everything, She got me here, bringing light into our little apartment every day.
As always, thanks for reading. I’m glad you’re here, and I’m glad to be here with you.
And after this year, I’m more committed than ever to working to ensure that someday they can. ↩