Friends in Generous Places

Today, I have only one Post-It Note in plain view. But it’s a rare day. I organize my week on 3×5-inch Post-Its on my living room wall. Post-Its at the top are priorities; Post-Its at the bottom are nice-to-haves; and all Post-Its are ordered chronologically from left to right.

I’d like to say it hasn’t always been this way, but I’d be lying.

Strategies for organizing my professional life infiltrate my personal life. An Excel spreadsheet to manage room-sharing for our Fire Island vacation; OmniGraffle files that help me think through furniture reorganization; Google Calendars and alarms to keep straight social events; Post-Its for every occasion.

That’s why when I started planning the redesign of my site, it made perfect sense to treat it as a web development process complete with phases: Planning, Information Architecture, Design, and Development.

One of the original wireframes for the site.

A good friend, Khoi Vinh, stepped forward to offer his help with the design. While I had planned to work through a redesign myself, this was worlds better. Khoi’s work is stunning and smart — he’s an exceptional information designer with a knack for publication design. A brilliant thinker. And he wanted to help. While we had collaborated on a project or two in the past, this had the makings of being a fun project because it was, well, all about me.

My previous site design used a wireframe metaphor, and while I liked keeping some aspect of it around, I wanted to focus more on content. I was contributing to sites and magazines more than my own and wanted to have a place to house that content.

I crafted wireframes in OmniGraffle and sent them off. Collaboration happened over Adium after hours, and there were a handful of questions. Not only was he working with my wireframes, but I had asked him to use a print piece as visual inspiration for the design. I had run across a redesign case study for the New England Journal of Medicine. I was struck by the Journal’s elegance and simplicity in organizing the information. As it turns out, Michael Bierut at Pentagram and Bill Drenttel at Winterhouse — two people whose style and talent I admire most—were responsible for the redesign. With Michael’s permission (and kind donation of a few journals), Khoi began.

The New England Journal of Medicine redesign, 2003.

Almost immediately, he revealed something beautiful and immediately recognizable as me while respecting the work I had done. A friend, after seeing an early design comp, said, “It looks more like you than you do.” I’m grateful and proud of the work.

Jeremy Zilar, a kind of WordPress blog czar at, showed me through the ins and outs of the files that make up the WordPress system. He translated the design templates and integrated them with WordPress flanking a trip to Belize to see turtles.

Since the last redesign of my site started with a whiteboarding session over Friday pizza, and this one with a small product development process, I’m thinking I like blurring the personal and professional strategies. It’s what I do. I’m just fortunate to have friends who will humor me.