Web Design is Not Burger King

Days after my eighteenth birthday, or perhaps the very morning of, i woke up early at my dear friend Bonnie’s house in Eugene, Oregon, and headed out with her to a local tattoo parlor. I’m not the type to get up early by choice—and “early” in this context means probably about 8 a.m.—but Bonnie is, and she had made arrangements for me with the place where she’d gotten her navel pierced to take me in before they even opened up to the public for the day, so that i could get in & out before having to head off to the airport or the beach or some such. I can’t remember exactly. I was in Oregon for my summer visit with my dad, and i had decided to get my eyebrow pierced.

I’d envisioned a delicate silver ring looping around my eyebrow, glittering in the sunshine, calling attention to what i considered to be my best asset: my eyes. I was deep in my poetry phase and i think i thought a facial piercing went with the whole “artsy” look. I wore silver rings on most of my fingers and had even worn one on my toe for a while. My long hair covered any earrings i wore, so an eyebrow ring would be more visible. I’d be more visible. It would set me apart, just like every other kid who would be starting out at Iowa State University that fall with a fresh chunk of metal in their face.

So we went to the shop. The piercing artist guy let us in. I signed a paper confirming that i was “over eighteen” (“But… i am eighteen…” “Yeah, that means you’re over eighteen years old.” “Oh—right.”). I think the guy discussed proper cleaning of the site and how long to keep the ring in and such. And then i sat up on the table and he brought out his instruments and put his latex gloves on. I took a look at what was on the tray as he cleaned my eyebrow. And i saw a thick pewter-colored barbell lying there.

Barbells were for goths. They were for girls with greasy black hair and fishnet sleeves. They were for guys; the ones who listened to Metallica and wore chains and rode skateboards. Barbells were NOT for me. I told the guy i didn’t want a barbell. He explained that i had to have a barbell rather than a ring to start out with so that the hole would heal properly and not leave a gross scar. I started to cry. I decided i didn’t want the piercing if i had to have a barbell. By this point, the owner of the shop had come in and the artist guy and Bonnie were telling him what was going on, and he got pissed and starting ranting at me, which made me cry harder.

“This isn’t [expletive] Burger King! You can’t just come in here and ‘have it your way’! We’re gonna do what’s safe and what needs to be done, not just whatever you [expletive] feel like!”

Eventually he calmed down and Bonnie smoothed things over by buying some new jewelry for her navel, and the shop owner showed me some of his unusual face piercings and talked about how careful they’d been while figuring out how to do that sort of stuff. He was passionate about piercings, and he was dedicated to doing them properly, even at the risk of upsetting his clients.

Some day, i want to work for that guy.

Or better yet, i want to be that guy, because i’m not a piercing artist and i’m pretty sure this kind of character doesn’t exist in the world of web design. Not in Des Moines, Iowa, anyway.

I’ve wasted a lot of your attention on my story, but the point i want to make is that every web designer and every web developer out there with only a few exceptions is a yes man by necessity, and i’m tired of it. The Oatmeal has already illustrated the phenomenon in full color, so i’ll just direct you to his comic How A Web Design Goes Straight To Hell. We’re not listened to, we’re talked at. We’re told how to do our jobs. We’re used as tools, because we know HTML and Photoshop and you don’t. But you know that you like the color blue, and so you tell us to use it. And you think you know that big flashy banners get people to buy stuff, so you tell us to make them. You tell us that you want a delicate silver ring in your eyebrow and we give it to you, even though we know that it’s going to travel and it’s going to scar and it’s going to do more damage than good in the end. This is why i’m tired of this industry. I want to be an expert, damn it. I want to be consulted for my knowledge and expertise, not just my skills. I want to be able to tell people some day, “I am not Burger King,” and still take home a paycheck of some sort.

I read a fantastic article on smashingmagazine.com this morning that puts this issue in the spotlight and suggests that designers need to take their profession back by refusing to compromise. I want to be like the tattoo parlor owner, and take my job back from other people’s hands. Oh, but how can i?


Year In Review 2010: Life

It hasn’t been a very productive year for me in terms of blogging, but i’m pretty sure that’s one of the most obvious and overused statements in all of human existence. I have however read ten books, watched about 75 movies and listened to many new albums over the course of 2010. I’ve also gotten quite a lot done in terms of the upcoming wedding, but more about that later. Let’s take a blog moment to reflect on the year.

Last winter was actually a pretty content one for me. Having an SUV and big ol’ ear muffs and not paying too much attention to the bitchers all over Twitter kept me in really good spirits despite the crap that rained down on us for days on end. There was this day when i drove to work and everything was coated in a layer of frost and it was one of the prettiest things i think i’ve ever seen. Our downtown loft felt kinda like a warm cave—especially since we didn’t have to worry about paying for heating—and not having to shovel snow was a definite bonus. But the thin walls and high price eventually drove us to find a new place to stay.

In the spring we moved to our new house and i fell into a funk that lasted a couple of months. I had to stop paying attention to any and all news because hearing about the oil gushing mercilessly into the Gulf put a grimy layer of frosting on my not-so-happy cake. Luckily all of that junk passed and i had a very happy summer & fall planning the wedding details with Nathan and going to parties & shopping with my girls. My brother came to town for a couple of months and instilled in Nathan and me a humble appreciation for a really good IPA (i.e. beer). That was a very awesome way to spend the summer, if i do say so. We also took a trip to California to visit my dad’s family, including a handful of cousins who came to the U.S. from Belgium for three weeks to see the sights. It was a real treat to see them all again.

Come fall i’d been driving my stick-shift Honda almost every day for a year, and learning to drive it well taught me perseverance. I’ve gained a certain confidence that i might some day become good at other quotidian tasks, such as doing my hair, frying an egg or maintaining eye contact while speaking to people. When i lost my job in October, i was prepared to spend a couple of months doing very little and then go back to school to become a programmer, and i contemplated using my down time to practice playing guitar again. Okay—to be honest it was the hair thing that i was most looking forward to practicing, but—luckily i got a job as a web developer for August Home Publishing in November and was relieved of having to worry about what to do with my free time. ‘Cause when you work eight-to-five, you A. cook, B. clean up or C. watch movies when you aren’t at work. And on the weekends you sleep a lot and go out shopping/eating/hanging out with your friends. That’s just how it is. Well—for me, anyway.

My new job is awesome, and a major part of that may be that it’s just awesome to have a job. I was really lucky to get another job so quickly, and honestly if it wasn’t for the connections i’ve made via Twitter it wouldn’t have happened and i probably would’ve had to buy myself a new set of textbooks for Christmas. Thankfully, i have an income instead and i’m spending too much money on holiday steals and insurance premiums instead. The people i work with are awesome. The work i do can be challenging (which is great) and frustrating (which is not so great) at times, but it’s not a bad gig at all. The websites i work on have a LOT of potential, and i say that in the most loving possible way.

I’ve started working out again, thanks to the free gym access i get through work. And no, i’m not trying to lose weight for the wedding; i’m just fearful that with osteoporosis & heart disease running rampant in my family i’ll probably end up pretty miserable down the road if i don’t start taking preventative measures now. I’m getting married; that means i need to take care of myself, right? So i jog for 20 minutes twice a week and i’m going to work on finding ways to increase that and/or supplement it with some sort of weight-bearing exercise. I’m really afraid of building muscle, though. Especially in my legs. They tend to get muscular and i really don’t want them to be any bigger. But enough whining—i can already see the comments i’m going to get in response to that tangent.

I don’t really know how to segue into this topic, but a couple of people i knew from high school died this year and it’s been a really strange experience for me. The first was Tiffany Robb who frankly gave me more of a hard time in school than anyone else i can think of. She was my cheerleading captain freshman year and she was a big reason that i only lasted two seasons with it. When i heard that she had died i was creeped out by how little sadness i felt. But then i heard that she had been shot, and i just felt so angry knowing that her life had been stolen from her at such a young age. Whatever happened between the two of us back in high school is of so little significance compared to the fact that she’s been forcibly removed from the earth. It got me thinking about whether any of us is really entitled to life and for how long, and it made me wonder who would miss me and who wouldn’t if this happened to me and whether any of that really matters. And just on December 17th, Brittany Hall, who was a good friend of mine in high school, died of complications caused by her epilepsy. I had let her slip away from my life almost completely, except for a comment here and there on facebook. She was so passionate and unique and troubled and here again i’m angry that during her short life something of great importance was just stolen from her. But that’s probably not my place to really talk about. I know it’s natural and okay for people to drift apart after school, i’m just sorry that i never sat down to catch up with her over a cup of coffee or something. I wish i had heard her stories.

On a lighter note, i’m looking forward anxiously to what 2011 has in store. This is the year i get married. It’s something i’ve always secretly wanted but rarely dared to believe could actually happen for the right reasons. But here i am, and here we are, and i am so excited i can hardly breathe when i really think about it. The wedding is about five months away now, and i’m going to savor the days from here until then carefully, because the anticipation is so sweet. I’m definitely looking forward to actually being married to Nathan, but i’m also enjoying the planning and designing and choosing and checking items off the to-do list in good time. The day itself will be wonderful no matter what happens or what color the flowers end up being. And then there will be a honeymoon in Cancun. And then a long and happy life together. And i. Am so. Pumped.

Autumn Update

Due to recent developments in the life of Steph, i may have to come up with a new theme for this blog. I’m more like 50% Disaster and 50% Dreamer now. I’ve been laid off from my position as a web designer, and that’s three strikes. I don’t plan to return to design again; from here on out i’m either a web developer or studying to become a programmer, depending on what happens in the next few weeks.

In the personal realm of life, Nathan and i have been enjoying the season together quite a bit, despite having opted for Thai food and a zombie movie at home rather than a party on Beggars’ Night. We made a trek to Iowa City a few weekends ago and visited an orchard, picked up some seasonal microbrews, had dinner with Nina & Karl and went to a hookah bar after discovering that the band we had traveled to see had cancelled the show due to van troubles. At the orchard we picked a couple of ill-fated little pumpkins and enough apples for Nathan to double our current stockpile of delicious homemade pies.



The treasure was a small decorative gourd.

Day 2

Day 4

Fucking figures.
Day 6

Evidently the squirrels around here have a taste for pumpkin.

More recently, i walked the Race for the Cure with my mom, a thirteen-year cancer survivor. It was quite a sight to see a river of pink filling the streets of Des Moines and all the names written on their backs of survivors and victims alike. It wasn’t quite the feeling of accomplishment that i got two years ago when i ran/walked it, but it was definitely more of a sense of sisterhood. This time it was about relationships rather than endurance.

Autumn has been pretty kind to us this year; we haven’t seen a snowflake yet, but it is getting chillier as the days pass. Most of the leaves have fallen now. It’s time to pick up the pieces.


Our tree

Transitions & Adventures

Happy Monday, everybody! This weekend was marked by some fun new experiences. At the end of the day on Friday my workplace bid adieu to one of our designers by having a happy hour drink with him on the company’s dime. Gotta love that – especially because it means my job security just increased a fair amount. That’s a feeling i’ve been waiting for for years.*

Saturday we celebrated my friend Calee‘s move back to Ames from Des Moines by hitting the town with her. We got barbecue at Uncle Wendel’s and then went to see the Des Moines Derby Dames‘ roller-derby bout. We lost to the Old Capital City Roller Girls, but it was a fun experience despite the fact that i had to sit on a concrete floor in my short skirt. Hopefully next time they’ll do it in a venue with more seating.


After that we headed to The Lift where i had a grand total of 3.25 drinks and ended up drunk enough to say quite a few silly things, but unfortunately not so wasted that i couldn’t remember them. That Bradie was trying to kill me. I don’t really want to talk about it except to say that i’m sorry if i offended anyone but i had a good time. 🙂

Yesterday evening we went over to my grandpa’s house where my mother had been seeing barred owls in the trees for the past few nights. At first we didn’t see them, but Mom was sure they were around because of the commotion from the smaller birds. Sure enough, we spotted one just as we were about to leave. There are four of them hanging around; two adults and two nearly-full-sized babies. We watched all four fly from branch to branch, saw them get pecked by the smaller birds, made noises at the juveniles who made noises back at us and bobbed their heads, and saw one adult feed her babies a small animal.

As it was getting dark, one of the younger owls perched on a post right in the backyard. I got about five paces away from it to try to take photos. It didn’t really work out because of the darkness, but it was amazing to just watch her calmly examine the ground for mice and occasionally swivel her head around to look at us.

This is how i wish my photos had turned out.

It’s been hot and humid here the past couple of days, and that will probably continue for the rest of the week. I’ve been working out several times a week in preparation for dress shopping, but i’m not sure how i’m going to run outside now. I don’t do hot & muggy.

*EDIT: Oh man, i forgot to write about our awesome waitress on Friday night! We went to a place called Paradise Pizza in WDM that we’d never been to, and we had a waitress who was probably just starting out. And had probably never been to a restaurant before. She brought us our beers with straws in them, and brought the check out to us before asking how the meal was or if we wanted any dessert. She wandered around looking bored when she wasn’t helping us. It was an all-around hilarious thing to see. 😆

2009 Wrap-Up: Life

A lot of people are enthusiastically shouting “good riddance!” to 2009 today, and that’s totally understandable. Our economy went to crap, everyone is up in arms over health care reform and some would-be martyr just tried to blow up another goddamn airplane. I, however, will be a little bit sorry to see it go. Two-thousand-nine was probably one of the best years of my life.

In early ’09 there was snow. And more snow. And then Nathan and i went to Chicago for Valentine’s day and stayed in a delightful little B&B for a couple of nights. I don’t know what it is about Chicago, but it’s just really fun to go there and stare up at the giant buildings and wander around lost and then stop by IKEA on the way home. Feeling romantic, we also stopped into a few stores in the Windy City’s Diamond District and ogled some sparklies while we were there. It was an indicator of things to come.

In March we moved into our lovely downtown loft. It was really awesome at first until we discovered more recently that 1200 square feet is a LOT to keep clean all the time and that being able to hear everything your neighbors yell at each other isn’t really all that fun. It’s been a nice setting for a few parties, but we don’t do that kind of thing terribly often, and even when we do it’s only a handful of people. We’re hoping to rent a house this spring, and hopefully not being able to hear our neighbors will be worth the effort required to keep the lawn mowed and the driveway shoveled.

In the spring Nathan and i started running together. It was a slow start for me again, but i eventually got back up to the three-mile marker again before deciding to take an extended break. It’s still extending, in fact. I got to a point where i could think about nothing but breathing and the pain i was in and that i needed to STOP every time i ran, and for the entire time that i was running. If i run again this year, i’m cranking my music UP and i’m not going to bother trying to breathe correctly. But, more likely, i’m going to get back into dancing instead. And Nathan will be joining me! We start in January, and hopefully it will help me to fit back into the jeans that have recently become too tight to wear. 😦

In the summer a cute bird couple laid their eggs in our sad little garden box, and we watched their babies quickly grow up & fly away. We took a trip to Oregon on what was probably the hottest week there, ever, and enjoyed visiting Portland and my family despite the shroud of fog out on the coast.

Shortly after we returned my job petered out, and so i signed up for a couple of programming classes at DMACC and started the job hunt, bidding working from home a tearful goodbye. Javascript proved to be very intriguing, and programming logic came pretty easily to me. I only applied for about three jobs in all. One was located right across the street from where we live and dragged out their hiring process so long that by the time they finally rejected me, i had started my new job at Spindustry through Robert Half Technology. I learned recently that I ended up getting A’s in both of my DMACC classes (for whatever good that will do me) and that i get to keep my job at Spindustry! Beginning January 18th, i will no longer be a contractor through RHT, i will be a full-time Spindustry employee, and i couldn’t be happier.

This fall we got engaged, and i’m learning what it’s like to have a heart that is both peaceful and elated at the same time. I bought a 2004 Honda CR-V, and it is getting us safely through the mass amounts of snow that are falling upon Iowa this winter. I’m looking forward to starting to plan our wedding in the coming year (well, i’ve kinda started) and meeting the challenge of becoming even healthier. I have everything to be thankful for and everything to look forward to, and i’m sure 2010 is going to be a great adventure.


Hello again to the five of you who still have a subscription to my blog! Now that i have all sorts of things going on in my life to talk about, i of course have less time for blogging. I do miss it, though. It’s good to be back. 🙂

Three major life-changes have taken place since the last time i wrote. The first was a new job! I started work at Spindustry Interactive a little over three weeks ago. I’m still doing web design, and i actually have a full work load for the first time since college, and i really enjoy it. I won an award for fitting in right away, because on my first day the office prankster sent out an email to everyone and spelled my name wrong where he mentioned me in it. I hit reply-to-all and corrected him. They apparently loved that. 🙂

On my third day of work, Nathan surprised me when i got home with a note which he instructed me to read in private. The note was beautiful, and featured a series of little drawings. At the end it said “come find me,” and when i went to him he knelt down and asked me to marry him! Needless to say, I said yes. I cried and cried, and then we went out to a nice dinner and called our families to tell them the news.

The Ring

Photographic Proof

So with a new job and a new jewel on my finger, i figured the only thing to do was buy a new car. A few months ago i sold my Saturn and bought Nathan’s Blazer for insurance purposes. The Blazer was great for plowing through the snow last winter, but the body was rusting badly and it needed at least one repair, so i decided to trade it in on a newer snow-worthy vehicle. I won’t go into the details of that story because car-buying proved to be quite a stressful process. Suffice it to say i have a new 2004 Honda CR-V and – yes, it’s a manual transmission.

My new ride!

Prior to my test-drive, i had driven manuals on all of two occasions, and both attempts had involved an abundance of tears and frustration. But, hey, everyone told me i’d learn to love it, so why not? Right??

I’ve been driving my Honda to and from work this week, and today was the first day that i managed not to kill it even one time. I have not been a quick learner with this. Digital stuff is easy to learn – Javascript? No problem! But physical things take a lot more practice.

Speaking of Javascript, i will still be taking classes on Monday and Tuesday evenings for five more weeks. If i take a class next semester it will only be one, because now that i’m working full-time, six hours of classes each week is cutting into my free time a little more than i’d like. Learning programming has been pretty fun, and i think next i need a refresher course in Flash (especially since i’m supposed to be the office Flash expert at Spindustry).

As beautiful and wonderful as last fall was, i think this one has definitely rivaled it. I had never heard of any such thing as “engaged bliss,” but i’ve discovered that it exists. Or maybe that’s just understood to be the state of being engaged. 🙂 Everything is so lovely. I feel terribly fortunate.



sucks. I guess this is the consequence of sleeping ’til noon. Okay, 12:40. Why not though, right?

I’ve never really understood people who look at sleeping as bad. It’s essential. It’s enjoyable. I’ve got nothing better to do, as far as i’m concerned. And dreams can be really, really interesting. The other morning i met Björk and we talked about fashion and she took my picture. This morning i played giant-size roulette with my family. And some asian guy. Wha’d you do this morning, check your email? Yeah, that’s what i thought.

I like to watch Top Chef, but not being able to taste or even smell the food they create always makes me feel gypped. How am i supposed to judge them? It’s like listening to a radio show about paintings, trying to pick a favorite. Project runway is way better, ’cause the main appeal of the clothing is the way it looks.

I’ve been thinking about becoming a freelancer. I don’t know if i’m ambitious enough to always seek work like i’m doing now, though, and working from home would bore me. Being in a new environment every few months could be interesting. I could even do photography and graphic design along with web. Or even writing… though i still don’t know what i’d enjoy writing beyond drivel about my own life. I’m good at that stuff, but crap like ad copy would not float my boat.

By the way, i took two Advil PM about two hours ago. Not doing jack.