It only took over a year of (part-time) work, but I’m thrilled to announce that MANOVERBOARD is redesigned, revised, and renewed.
It was a huge ordeal because designing for oneself is a bit like being a psychoanalyst trying to gain insight into one’s own parents’ dysfunctions. I spent hours and hours anxiously thinking about what kind of company I wanted to project, what kind of voice the content should produce, and which clients to feature and how. Because the site has to appeal in equal parts me and the universe of potential clients, I sweated and squirmed my way through nearly every stage of the design and the content development. I spent a few mornings at various non-wireless coffee shops, getting away from email and folders full of projects, so that I could write simply and simply write. I came up with at least six potential designs for the new site. Some of them sucked a lot. Others were so good that I almost ended up using them, though I’m thankful I did not.
The resulting website forced me to really think through some of my core beliefs about design. They are as follows:

  • Create a beautiful container. I learned this when I designed the Barneys New York site a few years ago. There was no need for me to emphasize the decorative, the typographic, the obscure, the bizarre, or the visual form. I knew that Barneys would consistently present beautiful, unusual, and striking product and editorial imagery. My job was to create a gorgeous frame that could showcase the company’s photography and then get the hell out of the way.
  • It’s not about you/me. Too often, designers work hard to over-represent themselves and their cleverness in their designs for clients. Some clients might appreciate this but I suspect those that do will probably fail. A designers’ responsibility is to present his or her clients’ work in the best of many possible lights. If, coincidentally, the designer gains kudos for their work, that’s nice. But the focus of the design should always be the client—and their customers.
  • Everyone is equal. I’m a huge fan of Web accessibility and I feel it’s my responsibility as an educated designer to make sure that most of my clients’ content is accessible to most people. I know I can’t always do this, despite my best attempts. But keeping accessibility in mind in designing sites makes me feel that I, in a small way, am contributing to the democraticization of information online.
  • Make it easy. Too many websites, even today, ten years after the commercial Web’s birth and growth, are hard to use. It’s sad, really. Bad technical practices, lack of foresight, and plain old laziness on the part of designers and developers make the Web a sometimes overly complicated experience for the average Joe. When designing, I always try to get in the head of a potential visitor to a site; I know I don’t always succeed but I have a brilliant colleague that can set me straight when I stray from the path. Making it easy for visitors means, to me, making potential visitors’ lives just a little bit easier.

Extra special thanks to Michael Barrish for helping with every phase of the site’s design and development, including producing the stellar CSS code and markup.