This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

Yet another year in review

31st December 2012

Having summarised my year as both 2010 and 2011 drew to a close, I’m learning to enjoy writing these reviews now. Early worries about being a “show off” or the irrelevance of my experiences to others have worn off, and I see this as a cathartic task that teaches me as much about the coming year as it does reflect on the one just passed. So, here’s my look back at an incredibly busy 2012.

Again, this is mostly work and travel related. I’ll leave out most of the personal stuff as whilst some of it was unexpectedly wonderful, other aspects were expectedly less so.

Travel and talks in a nutshell

I made a total of 17 trips, mostly abroad. I visited seven countries: Iceland, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal twice, Canada twice, and United States four times. Cities of note included Reykjavik, Seattle, Helsinki, Porto, Vancouver, Montreal, Lisbon, Minneapolis, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Leiden, and New York three times. Many of those were related to the 11 talks or workshops I presented, and three were work retreats. I was away for 82 nights.


January began with my work split between two projects that would end up colouring my whole year; New Adventures in Web Design, and Rushmore.

Thanks to New Adventures my year begins with a crazy three weeks of prep, and it ends with a gradually increasing workload in preparation for the next one.

New Adventures 2012 was fantastic. The first had been far from perfect but still mattered to people, so the difficult second conference took a huge amount of effort, truth be told. Ultimately, I think we did a good job and I was incredibly proud of the whole thing.

Rushmore is a music project I started working on in March 2011 and as I write it is now in private beta. The aim is to bring fans and bands closer together through a beautiful music ecosystem. This year it’s been all hands on deck to get it ready, and it’s a joy to spend most of my time working on one meaningful idea.


For the second February in a row, I was back in my beloved Iceland, to speak at the iMark conference. The venue was the incredible new Harpa in Reykjavik. I’d seen it nearing completion the previous year and immediately dreamed of speaking there one day; luckily I only had to wait twelve months. My old friend Erla pulled a surprise on me, as she was attending the event, and catching up that evening after so many years was a real delight.

I also started sponsoring a child through Action Aid. His name is Americo and he lives in Peru. He’s smart, loves his football, and is doing well at school. At least, that’s what I can decipher from his scrawled Spanish.


The month started back in Brooklyn for my first Fictive Retreat. I left freelance behind and finally joined Fictive Kin as a partner, having worked part-time with some of the gang for almost a year. I’ve had some interesting offers over the last couple of years, but for me this is the dream job; collaborating, experimenting, shipping, and hopefully making a difference. With such a dispersed team the quarterly retreats are the perfect way to share ideas, work together, and most importantly hang out.


I spent a few days in Seattle where I presented a brand new talk at An Event Apart. The lineup was incredible and about thirty minutes before I was due on I freaked out, having to take myself outside in the rain to chill the fuck out and get my shit together. I don’t usually get nervous, but this event makes the best of them sick with nerves, so I’m not ashamed. In the end the talk went down really well, and the dreaded feedback PDF made it all worthwhile. My time in Seattle was all too brief, but I loved exploring the place with good friends and hope to return one day.


Following a brief overlap after moving full-time to Fictive Kin, I shipped my last freelance client job. I also designed and coded a new (albeit temporary one-pager) Fictive Kin site.

Mid-month I visited Helsinki to speak at Webshaped. The city is a treasure that feels half-Scandinavian, half-Russian, and it exceeded all my expectations. I loved the atmosphere, the people, the architecture, the bars, the weather! I truly hope I get a chance to return again some day.

Shortly after I was in scorching Porto to talk for the students at ESAD art and design school. We had a great tour of the facilities and met lots of students, and this experience made a big impression on me. It made me think even more carefully about design education, and how much better it can be in the right hands.


I made my second trip to Vancouver for another excellent Interlink conference, where I presented a workshop. I spent a whole week exploring, hanging out with brilliant people, and watching EURO 2012 games in bed all morning on Canadian TV.

Mid-month I was off to that London for Ubelly’s Critter Awards. New Adventures was pipped to Event of the Year by the wonderful Build, but I did somehow win Web Personality of the Year, which was nice.

As the month closed a bunch of us went to Manchester’s Heaton Park for The Stone Roses comeback gig. I was expecting my years of adoration to be thrown back at me, but in the end it was triumphant, and one of my highlights of the year. The beer queues however were a definite lowlight.


My second Fictive Retreat meant returning to Canada for the second month in a row. We had a blast in hot and sunny Montreal. Sure, we did some work, but also played football, rode bikes around the city, ate and drank far too much, and rode loads of roller coasters. I even made a video of the trip.

I spent a few days in London, and as a Bauhaus nut I had to visit the big retrospective at The Barbican.

I went up to Edinburgh to speak at Refresh. I spoke with a pint in my hand. I made some jokes about the Scots from an English perspective and didn’t get glassed, so that was good.


This was a pretty quiet month due to it being Summer, and watching the Olympics all day every day. Still, the Nottingham contingent of Fictive Kin moved in to a new office, and some work was done! As the month ended we finally launched New Adventures 2013, which sold out in just under a week. Boom.


I spent the first week down in Brighton for Reasons to be Creative (where I did a talk), staying on for another excellent dConstruct. For several reasons, it ended up being a week to remember.

Mid-month I was back in Portugal to speak at Refresh LX in Lisbon. In the space of three days I fell in love with the city, and on the Saturday our host Bruno treated us to an all-day city tour that I’ll never forget. The day ended with Old Fashioneds at Pavilhão Chines cocktail establishment, a meal overlooking the city, and numerous mojitos in the bustling early hours. Unforgettable.


The first couple of weeks were pretty hectic, and I spent them in the US. Firstly, I made the long journey to Nisswa in remote Minnesota to speak at AIGA Design Camp, managing a brief look at Minneapolis before a long journey up North in a van with Paula Scher, Chip Kidd, and The Heads of State.

Then it was straight to Brooklyn to speak alongside Jason Santa Maria at the Creative Mornings Kickstarter Benefit. For that talk I had a rant about noise backed up with some simple slides, and it went well, thankfully.

Later that day I switched to Brooklyn Beta mode, heading to The Invisible Dog to help my colleagues set up the show. It was my third BB and easily the best ever. Time in Brooklyn is always rewarding, but when the borough is full of great friends old and new it really takes some beating.

As the month ended, the excellent Insites book was released featuring interviews with a bunch of interesting people… and me.


As the month began I was on my way back to New York, which meant that I had to miss Build in Belfast. I had a good reason however, as the whole Rushmore team gathered in Brooklyn and Manhattan to work on the project. Sadly I had to return home early, but the trip was fun whilst it lasted.

I went to Germany for Beyond Tellerrand in Dusseldorf. I’d spoken at the event in 2011 and loved it, so it was great to return as an attendee and guest of organiser Marc Thiele. Just like last time, I also spent a few days in beautiful Cologne.


The month begins and ends as ever with non-stop preparation for the imminent New Adventures, and we’re pulling out all the stops to make this last one the best ever. Christmas doesn’t get a look in.

I made my fourth trip to beautiful Leiden to speak at Ready To Inspire, hosted by my good friend Robert. As I expected, he put on a hell of a show, and it was great to share one of my favourite towns with those visiting for the first time.

Finally, as the year ends the big interview I did for .net magazine is out (Issue 237, February), and aside from the dodgy full-page photo of me contorted with fake laughter it’s pretty good and a nice way to round off 2012.

Looking towards 2013

I have to admit it’s been a slightly downbeat end to 2012. That’s partly through mild exhaustion, but I also find myself unsure or unfulfilled about a few things, and Christmas wasn’t the best. That said, I think I’ve got a good handle on 2013 and the things I’m able to control.

The year begins with the last New Adventures, followed immediately by a week-long Fictive Retreat in the Peak District, but beyond that I’m avoiding making too many concrete plans, and saying “no” to lots of things.

I’ve been looking at how much I share publicly on social networks and stuff and although I’m not as crazy with that as some folks I will probably reign that in somewhat, maybe even abandoning some sites entirely. We’ll see.

Notably, I will definitely do less talks and workshops. I’ve been privileged to spend much of the last three years traveling, but I need to travel less next year, and I think most trips will hopefully be for personal reasons or work retreats. I do have some small talks lined up for March, and one bigger presentation in June, but so far that’s it. I need to get busy and focus on work, and learn lots of new things that might inform fresh perspectives in 2014. Ultimately I want to be more productive with my Fictive Kin work, and meet all the challenges that will bring.

Well done if you read all of that. I’m sure you have better things to do, but thank you.

Oh, and I made a video of clips from the year…

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Archived in Observations, Personal, Travels, Writing & Speaking

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