As a result, my personal growth is evident through DESK. For one, my writing skills have improved significantly. Looking back on my first few articles, I can see immense growth through the simple practice of writing consistently each week. My thinking has also evolved as I researched and formed my thoughts around new ideas and topics for each article.
As a reflection of that growth, the blog reached beyond design to philosophy, to psychology, to VR, to photography, to freelancing, to productivity, to new creative communities. (What is design, anyway, without the greater context of the world?) We launched new series, we brought on a few guest writers, we started publishing more often.
Just this week, we refreshed and optimized the blog design. For the most part, I’m still pleased with the original design and believe it’s held up well over the years. But these latest updates (if you read DESK regularly, you will notice them) are already helping us tell better, more compelling stories. We will continue tweaking the styling and optimizing the site to keep it running nicely for you.
With the help of my editor, we’ve also continued shaping the voice of DESK.
From the beginning, I wanted this blog to be the antidote to your typical design publication. We avoid industry bullshit and buzzwords at all costs. We strive to write as simply and clearly as possible. We aim to be straight with our readers and cut out the fluff. It’s these simple principles that guide each article we write, influenced in part by my team’s style and values. We don’t always hit the mark, but we try.
So today, we will share the core values that guide every post on DESK, some innate since the beginning, others we constantly work toward. This is in part a mission statement as we enter our fourth year, in part a style guide of sorts we can hold ourselves to. May it also serve as an introduction for you, the kind you see at the beginning of a book, giving you insight into who the author is and a deeper appreciation for what you’re reading.
1. Say it straight
While we want to inspire and write beautifully, we never do so at the expense of clarity. Don’t substitute a fancy synonym just for the sake of it, when a more simple word would do the job just as well. Don’t write a thousand words when 200 is enough. Speak in natural terms people understand.
Simple and straightforward is the hallmark of all the work I do. With writing, I didn’t have much choice at the beginning since it’s my second language. But I believe that’s what people appreciated most about my humble, typo-filled newsletter at the beginning. It felt real and personal. I will always try to keep it simple, even when simplicity requires more work.
"One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up your household pet in evening clothes." Stephen King
2. Don’t take yourself too seriously
Ego is the killer of curiosity. When we try to impress or think ourselves smarter than we are, we stop learning and our writing suffers. If we fear what other people will say about what we write, or lament the fact that it’s all been done before, or worry we are doing it wrong, we would never write anything. Don’t try so hard. We don’t need to be intellectual “thought leaders.” Just write what you know, research what you don’t and edit later.
3. Be honest
Do right by our readers. Never intentionally mislead them, confuse them or take advantage of them.
We debated for a while before finally opening our blog to partners. We never wanted to feel pressured to say something we don’t believe or promote a product we couldn’t stand behind. When we finally did launch our partnership program, we did so with firm rules in place. We make it clear anytime we use an affiliate link or get paid for what we write. We will never try to sell our readers on something just to make a buck for ourselves. We will always tell the truth about what we know in the best way we know how.
4. Don’t sensationalize
We don’t write clickbaity headlines, even if that means fewer clicks. We don’t exaggerate the truth. We try to avoid unnecessary adjectives. The world has enough sensationalism. Tell it like it is.
Writing comes with responsibility. It's too easy these days to scan a headline and misinterpret the truth. It's too easy to retweet a post without even reading it. Before we publish anything, we do our research. We not only try to back up what we say, we try to prove ourselves wrong. While a majority of our content is opinion-based, we owe it to our readers to explore both sides of the story and seek hard facts.
What's next for DESK
We will be inviting more guests to write for the blog, so if these values align with your own and you think you may have an interesting or useful story to tell on DESK, let us know.
We will always be a blog written by designers for designers. This is not a team of marketers pushing out content purely based on trends and SEO. We are in the field designing with you.
We will continue working with select partners to introduce useful products or stories – that we believe in and stand behind – to our readers. If you think your product or offering would be a good fit for our audience, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let's talk.
We will continue exploring new design communities with our Design Around the World series and talking with the companies we admire through our How to Get a Job at X series. We have a new series or two in the works as well, coming soon.
We plan to publish more, and more regularly. If you have ideas or want to hear from us about a specific subject, send a tweet to @vanschneider.
And we will do our best to write simply, with honesty and clarity, about what we know.
Thank you to Lizzy, my editor (editor's note: please insert "beautiful and talented"), to Lu, for helping design this blog, to Stefan, for building it, and to our guest writers Nika and Terri, for taking the time to share their perspective with us. Most importantly: Thank YOU, our readers, for supporting DESK for the last three years and hopefully more to come.