The Manual 1 – Summary and Some Thoughts

The Manual is published three times a year and contains six texts and six lessons all written by people from the web industry. It attempts to widen our thinking about what we do. As publisher Andy McMillan puts it – The Manual is not about how, it focuses on why. The Manual is awesome. Here is what the first issue is about.

In first text Simon Collison touches a topic that I am trying to sort out for myself at the moment – how to choose well what to be interested in even though one likes a lot of things. But trying to nourish all interests just seems to lead to mediocre skills and knowledge. Simon Collison suggests we should determine our strengths and values, which should help to point us in the right direction when choosing what to do. Next step would be following the attitude of a craftsman. If you are interested in web design as a craftsmanship, watch this talk Simon Collison gave at Build conference last year.

In “The Space between You & Me” Frank Chimero looks at the web as a reflection of peoples needs and desires, as our mirror. “It’s people all the way down,” he says.

“We shape technology and it shapes us.”

The Manual - beautiful object


Also Jon Tan looks at the web as something that is alive, comparing websites to places rather that postcards. With this analogy he criticizes most website galleries as being “link farms” displaying just screenshots and ignoring web design as a process.*
* Free idea: a web design gallery that also includes description of the creative process and decisions taken.

Another strong idea Jon Tan comes with is thinking about web designers as “80 percenters”. These are people who master 80% of different disciplines which adds up to 100% needed to create a website. I personally like this idea, being person that creates design and front-end, whatever disciplines that includes. There is one thing I don’t understand though – why do most job postings from digital agencies pretend that everyone is specialized in one technical field and that’s it. Being Jack of all trades isn’t good for everyone, but a blend of reasonable amount of disciplines in one person could have great added value. I asked about this on Quora.

Dan Rubin reminds us of how much is the web still influenced by concepts originating in print. He says this connection isn’t usually well considered and causes lots of misconceptions, eg. concept of “the page”. He calls this situation identity crisis in which we still struggle naming and defining things specifically for the web (like our job titles).

Liz Danzico talks about how is the public changed by social media, people having many little identities on their social media. She says we now define ourselves and talk to each other more than ever.

The Manual


The last text of this truly thought-provoking book is written by The Standardistas and it is about something that probably should be said again and again – creating for the web isn’t just about how tos and functions, we need to put our work into much wider context. They suggest doing three things: Reading, Conversation and Writing.
Reading is meant to broaden our perspective so they recommend books from the fields of psychology, semiotics*, ethnology, anthropology and design thinking in general.
* eg. Mythologies by Roland Barthes, great and interesting reading about the meaning of language. I especially enjoyed the first half of the book with short essays on very real life topics from the semiotics point of view.

Conversation is something that helps shape ones opinions and understanding of the subject and it leads to new ideas. But I guess it would be worth it to mention that such conversation needs to be done with an open mind on both sides. Writing is described as being able to “explain, convince and inspire”.

As a huge bonus every text is followed by a lesson, something each of these fine folks learnt in real life. Essentially it seems like a push to have your eyes open and search for these lessons in your own experience. I think these lessons are often hard to identify because each person can learn something completely different from a very similar situation.

Needless to say, I loved this book. It’s a beautiful object with great content.


You can get The Manual 1 & 2 here.

post thumbnail


365 ideas is my personal creativity training. It's finished now.

See all the images.