David DeSandro is the amazing creator of the popular jQuery plugins Masonry and Isotope and he’s now Web Designer at Twitter (can’t wait to understand how David mastery will end up integrating the Twitter UX). We reached out David from NY to ask him inspire our community with insights and suggestions about the act of creation, creativity and enjoyment in doing what you love.
[SuperThemes]: You’re a successful folk, with diverse interests and a bunch of different experiences: all is permeated by a urgency to create, “make things”. What are your suggestions to young creatives these days?? What is being creative? How do you succeed to keep your creativity alive in time?
[David DeSandro]: I consider “creativity” to be the literal definition — to create and to make things. This does not include coming up with new ideas, or expressing yourself outwardly — just making things. Personally, I’ve learned that if I’m not making things, then I’m not happy. It’s not just something a talent or affinity. I have to be creative. My livelihood depends on it! When I’m not making things, I get cranky, and no one likes that.
In our world, we have so many other inputs coming in, capitivating our attention. It’s easy to forget that we can be producers of content, instead of just consumers.
If you are an inspiring new creative, I encourage you to consider what makes you happy. Is it making things, or sharing work, or gaining the attention and respect of your peers? Identifying this core motivator helps put everything else into perspective.
[Superthemes]: And what is the role of becoming a first hand creator, maker and deal with all the process of making a product or idea real?
[David DeSandro]: It’s funny. Most of the things I make aren’t that great. If you poke around on the web, you come to learn that the threshold for quality is actually pretty low — my work included especially. This insight can be encouraging for creators. You can assume an attitude of “Hey, why not?”
Most of the time, when I’m starting a project, it will be the first time for me working with a certain resource. I enjoy shipping stuff that is “good enough” because then I can move on and work on something else.
I advocate a “quantity over quality” philosophy. Make stuff that just about works, and make a lot of it.
[Superthemes]: You experimented with creating open source / freely available software and also you experimented with licensing and pricing for commercial use (think about isotope), reasonable payments, etc… There’s a huge amount of freely available work that makes up a “common good” available for every designer to adopt and people often deal with the doubts: shall I make it commercial or maybe leave it free and monetize visibility?
I know there’s an amazing “presentation” that all readers shall check but, is there any opinion you wan to share about how to make this work?
[David DeSandro]: The openness of the Web is one of its core pillars. Being able to build upon the work of others, and contribute to the greater good has generated an incredible, vibrant environment for development on which the Web thrives.
But there is a another side to open-source development. Once a resource reaches a certain level of popularity, it attains a critical mass. At that point, it’s untenable for the original author to support it. In my case, I was tired of responding to email after email regarding Masonry. I saw commercializing Isotope as a possible solution.
Charging money for honest work is a legitimate economic exchange, yet it goes against open-source philosophy.
My experience with Isotope has been a tremendous success. My customers are happy to pay for a product they love, and I’m happy to work on a product that rewards me. I hope others try out this model, because too many creators go unrewarded for their valuable efforts.
[Superthemes]: You’re new to work at Twitter: shall we interpret this like there are news coming in Twitter design?
[David DeSandro]: I am absolutely thrilled to be working as a designer for Twitter. Twitter has a long history of great and innovative design and I’m excited to contribute to that history in what ever way I can. You can interpret my recent employment like this: Twitter hires great designers, but sometimes get lazy and hire chumps like me
[Superthemes]: Regarding visuals: the grid layout that you actually contributed to *invent* has taken much more visibility since the early days you released Isotope and Masonry; Pinterest finally declared this a visual blueprint, a first class citizen in content focused websites.
What is the next big thing in this context? What interaction design frontiers could we expect to cross thanks to the latest technology advancements? Will the browser concept itself change anytime soon for something radically new?
[David DeSandro]: Right now there are two forces pulling at opposite ends of interaction design. On one end you have the mobile revolution. There are more cell phones out there than there are people. It’s exciting to think that we can reach people in remote developing countries through their phones. As designers, we have a responsibility to cater towards them. Consequently, this means that designs are going to need to be able to scale down to lightweight and simplified forms.
On the other end, there is the constantly-evolving world of first-class web browsing. Web designers are lucky to work in an environment where the browser vendors are pushing hard to implement new features and ship the most capable browser out there. So we now have WebGL, CSS 3D transforms, CSS filters, animations, transitions, and so many other features that push the limits of web design.
For the past couple years, I feel that the pendulum of web design has swung further into the simplified, mobile-first side. This was a good thing as it re-aligned our perspective. But now, the pendulum is primed to swing in the other direction. I would love to see wildly innovative and expressive web experiences that challenge long-standing paradigms of interaction design.
As to what that looks likes, I have no idea. But I imagine most everybody is tired of seeing Masonry layouts, and fancy-scrolling sites. Now is a great time to get weird and make something new.
[Superthemes]: Do you like Superthemes product?
[David DeSandro]: Wow, this is a fantastic product. I’m all for any resource that makes it easy for people to express themselves. Too often I see web resources that are targeted just to web developers. It’s great to see a product that can have a wider audience. And the implementation of my resources is a nice touch.
Photo Credits: CC-BY-NC by Joel Beukelman