A few things I have learned along the way about design and business that have stood the test of time.

What are your design maxims? A few things I have learned along the way about design and business that have stood the test of time.
What are your design maxims? A few things I have learned along the way about design and business that have stood the test of time.

My design career — if I can call it that — has now spanned multiple decades. The first thing I created that I would consider a proper design was a seven-inch record for a friend’s band sometime in the ’90s. By the early 2000s, I was designing websites. By the end of the 2000s, I was building brands. In the 2010’s I was growing a business and learning about the power of strategy and process. …


Why brands put aesthetics ahead of everything else but need everything else for design to truly succeed

Why brands put aesthetics ahead of everything else but need everything else for design to truly succeed
Why brands put aesthetics ahead of everything else but need everything else for design to truly succeed

Aesthetics are an expression of purpose. What we believe, the choices we make, and the products and services we choose to use are bound up in our individual worldview and belief system. Our choices in life are a reflection of how we see the world. The same goes for brands.

How we visually perceive and experience a brand is the entry point into our perception of it. Before we use our rational mind to read the back of the bottle or learn about where something is manufactured, our aesthetic senses drive a visceral and emotional assessment of the brand’s surface…


How Flash changed my life and what it has taught me about the future.

Volumeone.com. Macromedia Flash. Spring 1999.

For those of us who came of age in the Dot Com Boom of the late ’90s and early 2000s, Flash was one of the most creatively liberating web technologies to ever come along. Before the adoption of the Flash Plugin, the web did not have a reliable way for people to experience sound or animation online and designers were limited to making still images and primitive animated gifs to express themselves.

For me, Flash was the equivalent of going from morse code to having color television overnight and as a designer, it opened up…


Embracing a more sophisticated approach to build better design and brand systems.

Remote work has required all of us to divide our days into smaller and smaller chunks of time. A barrage of social media notifications, Slack messages, breakneck sprints, and virtual stand-ups seem to have left designers with less time for deeper, richer, and more meaningful work.

With persistent distractions, how can we make a collective shift to focus on personal engagement, design craft, and creating more sophisticated work? …


The future of creative leadership will be driven by collaboration.

Creative leadership within the brand and design disciplines is fundamentally changing. With more designers working from home on distributed teams, creative leadership and decision-making is evolving to adapt to new paradigms of work. Compounded by global, cultural and social shifts, workplace culture is rapidly shifting to embrace empathy, diversity, and shared accountability, recasting and reframing our preconceived notions around creative power and management. …


A brief history of my 25 years as an independent designer

In 1991 the internet did not exist as an industry, and by 2001 the web had become a massive cultural force that changed our lives forever. Ten years later, smartphones fundamentally transformed culture yet again, and now, in 2020, designers, like many of us across the globe, are working from home as we grapple once more with fundamental socioeconomic change.

Looking back on the last several decades I have grown from a graphic design student to a design “professional” and wanted to take this moment to reflect and try…


A few simple truths that can help solve bigger digital challenges.

Designing and developing for the web has always been a moving target. Browsers and technologies have been perpetually changing requiring constant evolution of skill set but there are still some overarching truths that remain. In this article I have outlined a handful of what I think are some of the most commonly overlooked challenges when designing for the modern web that we should consider more deeply as we continue to define the future of web design practice.

The web is inherently rickety

HTML and CSS do things that they were never intended to do back when they were originally invented. My guess is Tim…


Thoughts on the external perception and internal reality of creative practice.

For many designers like me, we assume that the external brand mythology that creative agencies project to clients and competitors is a seamless reflection of their internal values and culture. Sometimes this is true, but often the perception and the reality could not be more different. In this article I try to uncover how and why we sometimes experience a disconnect between how a creative agency externally brands themselves and their work and how their internal values are actually made manifest by leadership, teams and individuals.

Finding out what’s behind the music

Like a great…


Making a stronger argument for better creative work

We all know that our behaviors often repeats themselves. Call them habits, biases, routines. These are the individual subjective thoughts and decisions that can get in the way of real creative progress. When personified, I prefer Ray Dalio’s term “another one of those.”

Within any project, negotiating the aesthetic and intellectual subjectivity, habits and biases of clients, designers and teams can become a project in and of itself. …


How being inspired operates and keeps us moving forward

Inspiration is such an abstract concept that it’s sometimes hard to pin down and really make sense of. How does inspiration really function for a creative person? To this end, I have tried to make sense of how my creative brain interprets what has and continues to inspire me and how it translates into making and thinking.

Inspiration is a tricky ingredient but crucial to keeping us fresh, alive and growing as creatives. In the process of thinking this through, I can’t help but mention a bunch of people and things…

Matt Owens

Creative and Project Leader, Partner at Athletics

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