Jonas Downey

April 9, 2021

Surviving through creative low points

The past couple of weeks have been shitty, for no specific reason. I've been generally unfocused and lacking confidence. I haven't been as productive as usual, and I don't have an exact explanation for it. For me, this sort of thing is cyclical. I've been through it enough to recognize when it's happening. Sometimes I'm riding high and...
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March 26, 2021

The exaggerated importance of right now

Have you ever noticed that whatever you're currently working on seems EXTREMELY IMPORTANT until the moment you stop working on it? And after that, it's not such a big deal at all? This describes just about every project I've ever done. I get deeply invested in something, and hyper vigilant about all the finer points. Then in retrospect...
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March 11, 2021

NFTs and the paradox of selling ephemeral digital art

It's so wild to see the explosive valuations and paychecks that NFTs have suddenly enabled for digital artists. Back in the early 2000s, I spent several years making conceptual digital art, and trying to figure out how to make a living at it. The answer at the time (and for the last 20+ years until now) was: you'd better just be an art...
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March 4, 2021

On making HEY World

One of the reasons I've stayed working at Basecamp for almost a decade is our stubborn commitment to the fundamentals of the web. Even when we invent complicated things, we always do so in the spirit of the web's basic materials. HTML. CSS. Progressive enhancement. Email. RSS. Original, core, basic stuff. As a designer, it makes me so ...
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March 3, 2021

Software gardening and death

This is grandpa's orchid. Grandpa was an avid gardener, and he kept a batch of lively orchids in his basement. When he passed away a few years ago, most of them didn't survive in his absence. We retrieved this one, and now we take care of it. Software is a bit like this house plant: its wellbeing depends on the folks who constantly ten...
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February 23, 2021

How money dictates design decisions

Since we launched HEY, I've been thinking a lot about how products get started. As a designer, there's one important choice you have to make at the beginning of a project, which sets the stage for every other decision you'll ever make… 💰💰💰 How you'll make money. 💰💰💰 That's it. That's the only thing that matters. Your entire future, and...
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