Falling Leaves: the Ardes blog

Archives filed under "argument from design"

Happy Birthday

Ray Drainville

Unfortunately I’m currently nursing a particularly nasty flu right now, but I couldn’t let the day pass without comment. As of today, ArDes is ten years old. Let the confetti fly! And before I say anything else, I want to say a big thank-you to all our clients over the years: we literally couldn’t have done it without you.


I didn’t know what I was getting into: that was part of the fun. I was an “accidental entrepreneur”.

After getting my second master’a degree, I worked for a very large organisation—a university. Large organisations can provide a lot of security, but—for me, at any rate—I find them frustrating for their inability to move quickly. Anything I wanted to do had to go through a number of committees, the decision-making process took a year & in the end the answer would be “no”. Plus, I was the lone arty guy in a department full of techies. I often felt like the odd-man-out.

So I decided to leave. Figuring that a small organisation would be more nimble than a large one, I started working for a local graphic design firm. But while small may equal nimble, small doesn’t necessary equal good & it doesn’t necessarily equal a good fit. Whereas in my last job I was the arty guy in a sea of techies, I was now the tech guy in a…well, pond… of arty types. That wasn’t a great feeling (I’m always misunderstood!), but what was awful was the eventual realisation that the owners didn’t have a clue how to sell websites to their clientèle—and that moreover, I couldn’t go out to help sell the new service. I found myself doing more & more print work in Quark XPress & (shudder) FrameMaker. And I learned a lot about how not to run a business. Whilst a small company can be more nimble, it can quickly manoeuvre itself into the ground.

I spent a month or so moonlighting, building up some work & laying the ground so I could start immediately: building a website & portfolio of my own immediately available upon hanging out my shingle. I planned to leave the design firm in June, but the company, not having sold any websites in a year (in 1999, mind you—the height of the dot-com bubble!) let me go.

So that was it. I was off—off on my own. I was frightened & oh my God did I make mistakes. But they were my mistakes. That was truly liberating.

The Value of the Ever-Changing Landscape

Web development is a fantastic business—if you like constantly learning new things. That’s one of its greatest attractions to me, along with the potentially close association of art & technology. And we’re only now entering into a golden age, with a combination of powerful tools for layout (like CSS), interactivity (like Javascript libraries) & back-end development (thanks to clean, clever frameworks like Ruby on Rails). But of course it won’t stop there. All these things will be refined & engender new tools.

There’s something humbling—and exhilarating—about a field that changes so much year upon year. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Edit: Name changed from “Argument from Design” to “ArDes”