Do what works best for you, not them

~ 06 January 2010 ~

Of the many things we do well as creative professionals, we often forget to think for ourselves, relying on thought leaders to determine what works for us and what doesn’t.

Paramount in this failure to think for one’s self is the fact that these thought leaders often struggle to encourage others to explore new thinking without belittling their methods—or worse, ostracizing them—in the process.

Whether or not the title of thought leader can be applied to myself, I’m just as guilty as anyone else. In “20 tips for better conference speaking”, I offer this short-sighted observation:

There is absolutely no reason in the world you should use anything other than Keynote. Period.

Admittedly, I still struggle to see why anyone would prefer to use something other than Keynote. But the phrasing of this observation with its absolute terms leaves little desire for anyone not already convinced about Keynote to explore my preferred method.

The simple fact is this: You, and only you, can determine what works best for you. Regardless of how biased or objectively the advice is phrased, you would be unwise to not consider alternate methods and ideas throughout your entire career. You would be even more unwise to be swayed by every new compelling or forceful argument that comes along merely because it was spoken by someone notable.

Mac vs. PC, Photoshop vs. Fireworks, print vs. web, GTD vs. to-dos on a sticky note, 4-hour workweeks vs. 40 hours, XHTML vs. HTML5… the list is endless.

Rest assured a “better” tool, a “better” process, a “better” way will always come along. However, what will remain unchanged is the need for you to know what works best for your personal, project, and client needs—and to adapt when it really is a better way.



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1   Matt Williams ~ 06 January 2010

Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t need to follow me, you don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals!

The Crowd (in unison): Yes! We’re all individuals!

2   josh ~ 06 January 2010

Amen. There are two designers I read regularly who speak in the absolutes that you describe above. I respect them deeply as designers but am sometimes bothered by their condescending tone and what I interpret as disdain for those who don’t have processes similar to their own. Oddly both have the first name of “Andy”.

3   Ted Goas ~ 06 January 2010

How could I disagree with that? Great point. I just hope this doesn’t help people stay in a rut without trying new things. Like trying to build a page in HTML 5 even though XHTML would do just fine…

4   Michael Locke ~ 06 January 2010

Wow, this is straight up real talk here. Cameron, this couldn’t be further from the truth. You touch on something that’s been at the core of my thinking, ny DNA since I started in the web business (back in 95/96ish). Heck, since I was a kid for that matter. I always paid attention, but in the end if it felt right, I followed my gut. Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn’t (for example, I wish I had started bloggin earlier when my gut told me blogging’s only for “writers” …boy was I wrong and now trying to catch up quickly…you started early and you won.). But we all learn and correct our mistakes. When everyone graduated college, I dropped out to try and start my own silk screen printing biz (that was around 95, but soon found love in web design, long story). When everyone in the industry used Phhotoshop, I remained on Fireworks (why?, because it was just convenient for me and it did what I needed to do). When everyone in my industry started using Mac’s, I kept pumping out work on my PC because I couldn’t afford a Mac (though, I might switch soon). When everyone said switch from static websites to flash or you’ll be left behind (this was back in 98’), I kept making static sites and became pretty good at it. When everyone one said learn how to create sites without tables or you’ll be left behind (I kept and remain to this day using tables….this includes all my work at, as well as FOX where I’m currently at today). If yoru code is clean, if it validates and it’s compatible across all browsers, who cares what tool or code you used to do it. Just get it done. Not one of my clients have ever cared whether or not I worked on a Mac or whether or not I used tables vs. divs, or whether I used Photoshop or Fireworks. All they care about is an aesthetically beautiful site that is user friendly and that convert visitors into paying customers, period.

You’re so right about this and I’m glad you bring it up because it’s at the core of what I will been thinking and talking about a lot lately. And in an upcoming video blog/tv show that I plan on putting out on my site. Basically, all these things are tools. The game does change and you always have to be able to adapted when necessary or you will get left behind. For example, if I had to use Photoshop over Fireworks to produce web graphics, I would learn and get comfortable with Photoshop’s UI within a few hours. The point is, these are all tools (facebook, twitter, etc.) they will all change and new things will evolve. The best thing to do is learn the game. Know the game. Know what you want, and go after it.

When I make my first million with that book deal that I’m sure I’ll get one day, you’re one of the guys I’m going to thank in my book because I learned a lot from guys like you. Been following your work since 98 back when forum was the place to be - remember those days?. And that’s just the point, the tools and format changed, but the game hasn’t… communicate, interact with people, etc. You’ll learn a lot and get where you need to go. But do in the end what works for you.

Great post.

5   Travis Isaacs ~ 06 January 2010

Nodding along in agreement. Successful products/outcomes have very little to do with tools or processes.

6   Marcfolio ~ 06 January 2010

4 hours a week would work for me. Maybe not my monthly obligations though.

Great words of wisdom.

7   Phil Coffman ~ 06 January 2010

Thanks for this valuable reminder Cameron!

8   JoshuaNTaylor ~ 06 January 2010

“Design is thinking.” Isn’t that what they say? And if that holds true, then every tool, process, and method should always be scrutinized. Maybe it works for one scenario, but next week it would be a failure. That’s the nature of the world we live in.

I think good “designers” are always good thinkers.

Great post - and thanks for the transparency.

9   Ben ~ 06 January 2010

I absolutely agree, but I think that sometimes this advice is perverted and misused by people who are too lazy to improve. “Characters without hips or groins is just my personal style, it’s how I draw,” says the art student who doesn’t want to take a Life Drawing class. “I like building everything from scratch,” I said because I was too lazy to learn jQuery.

Also, Michael, “couldn’t be further from the truth” couldn’t be further from your intended meaning. I was expecting a spirited rebuttal, from that assertion. An argument for objective truths and optimal practices. Oh well!

10   Aaron Irizarry ~ 06 January 2010

Great insight Cameron, thank you for sharing.

In the creative field it can be so easy to use whatever our peers, or the “thought leaders” say we should use, even if it isn’t the best solution for us or projects that we are working on.

I definitely think we should try new technologies/platforms, but in a way that benefits us, and is within the right timing.

thanks again

~ Aaron I

11   josh_kg ~ 06 January 2010

Yes, but who’s going to tell me what’s right for me? Because I just don’t have the time!

12   Keith ~ 06 January 2010

I’m so glad you wrote this. One of the reasons why I’ve recently decided to get back into writing is that much of what I was reading was good, but a bit heavy handed.

“Web desingers *must* code!”

Really? Guess I’m not a web desiger then. (I’ve actually been coding a bit lately and despite a two or three year hiatus it’s all coming back.)

Anyway, I’ve been feeling that some good advice (like understanding HTML and CSS is good for web designers) is being lost in all the very authoritative sounding “do this” “don’t use such and whatever” and that’s too bad.

I plan on giving lots of advice in the next year. All of which is based on my experiences. Sure I’ve been around for a long time and been fairly successful, but all of that comes from trying things out and finding what works well for me.

Very well said Cameron!

13   Donnie Bachan ~ 06 January 2010

Great post Cameron, I’ve met more than a few of those types of characters who tend to speak in absolutes about things. I also agree with Ben, if you just blank out all the absolutes you are also lost, instead we should all nurture our curiousity because this is what allows us to make decisions on what works best for each of us.

14   Cameron Moll ~ 06 January 2010

@ Michael Locke:

Been following your work since 98 back when forum was the place to be - remember those days?

Ha, yes I do. That was the coolest joint on the block back then, wasn’t it.

@ Aaron Irizarry:

I definitely think we should try new technologies/platforms, but in a way that benefits us, and is within the right timing.

Completely agree, and I hope that was clear in my post.

@ Keith:

One of the reasons why I’ve recently decided to get back into writing…

Wow, Asterisk 52 is live already? Totally missed the news. Congrats. Looking forward to your stuff.

15   Tony Antunovich ~ 06 January 2010

Great words of wisdom, Cameron. It’s good to be reminded that we all need to choose what is best for us, and that we need to follow ourselves too while listening to the advice of others.

Having said that, I do choose Mac over PC, Photoshop over Fireworks, 40+ hour work weeks, XHTML over HTML5 (for now anyway - I’m going to remain on the fence here), Textmate over Notepad (yuck), etc.

Just curious what you guys and gals prefer?

16   Nathan Fitzsimmons ~ 06 January 2010

Thanks for this post. It’s encouraging to see that not all ‘thought leaders’ are missing the point that leading doesn’t mean your followers are all yes men. I’ve noticed the full on ostracizing before, from people that should know better. Great leaders can admit not just that there are other ways of doing things, but that sometimes they might actually be wrong.

I agree about Keynote, by the way, though 280slides seems nice, too.

@josh Haha, I know at least one of the Andy’s you’re talking about. I disagreed with him once on Twitter and was instantly blocked. I wasn’t even suggesting that design means creativity! :)

17   Nathan Fitzsimmons ~ 06 January 2010

By the way, I assume the exception to not doing “what works best for them,” is when we steal their ideas? :)

18   Mike Locke ~ 06 January 2010

I just noticed, in my post above, I started out saying ”this couldn’t be furthest from the truth.” That was a blunder. I was thinking one thing and writing another. You know what I meant ;) …I need to review my posts next time.

19   Vladimir ~ 07 January 2010

This is probably one of the wisest tips that someone can give to you not only on web but in general.

I prefer this but you can do what works best for you.

I think we all humans suffer from the syndrome “of preaching” and “teaching” other people.
The problem comes when we try to impose our methods to the others by “excluding” them from the community.
Example: You are not cool if don’t have iPhone or if you are using IE7 there is definitely something wrong with you.

So in my opinion OK to share and teach but not to impose.

Thank you for the post

20   Mark Wallis ~ 07 January 2010

Very well put Cameron, i could not agree more. Recently there has been a big push on designing in the browser and ditch Photoshop. Yes it has it’s benefits BUT so does Photoshop.

I personally do both dictated by the task/project at hand.

The idea of one method being the best is ridiculous. Only a fool would follow that advice.

Thank you for posting this article with some great advice.

21   Kevin Mist ~ 07 January 2010

It is a fine edge you have to walk between using the ‘tried and true’ -vs- the ‘new fangled / most popular’ of anything out there. Use a method a long time you can get very efficient but you might miss out on a newer easier method.

I guess it comes down to walking that line.. not too far one one side or the other.

Thanks for yet another thought provoking article.


22   David Bertling ~ 09 February 2010

Hi Cameron,

Just a quick note to let you know that I’ve linked to one of your archived posts in our blog at

Thanks for the great content!



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