Not Mike Monteiro:

I can’t tell you how many designers I know who are either self-employed or own their own companies, yet never have I once heard anything about a design program offering any business education at all…. Like, you know, budget[t]ing. Billing…..

[T]he things I need to do every day as an independent designer (learning how to read a client who’s on the fence about a new piece, structuring my assets so that all my eggs aren’t in one basket) – who’s teaching students these common-sense things of how to live as an artisan? […]

I certainly don’t remember being handed any practically-applied information like that at all, which resulted in an amazing loss of money and, in some cases, being utterly taken for a ride by employers. I remember lots of colo[u]r theory and endless hours of critique, but not one single seminar on how to get paid.

Design Is a Job is beloved blowhard porkchop Mike Monteiro’s new book for Zeldman. It does something that has apparently almost never occurred to design authors: It tells designers how to run a business and how to stick up for themselves while doing it.

Of course I’m going to break consensus, but not because I dislike or cannot recommend the book. (I don’t and can.) In no respect do you need a “book review” from me here. Monteiro does what any Internet-successful person does: He sells to his fanbase. Everyone who already likes Monteiro already knows about the book and has already bought it. @Mike_FTW has assiduously retwitted seemingly every mention of the book. Individual Twits are what book reviewing has devolved to, it seems.

Design Is a Job does not need reviews, and I submit that Monteiro’s installed userbase basically doesn’t need his advice: It already comprises the highest-function Web designers short of Andy Clarke. (His anecdote: Client idly wonders if Clarke can gin up a comp based on the client’s new idea. “Of course. That’ll be £1,250, please.”) Monteiro’s fans are already the people who can talk about money and stick to their guns. Well, then: What’s the other audience? It isn’t half-assed designer milquetoasts (tables for layout, pirated copy of Photoshop, Arial). They’ll never have the balls to stand up for themselves and will shrink back into their corners at advice delivered this baldly.

The task then becomes getting this advice into the hands of design students and recent graduates. I have some ideas there, but then again, design students insult me to my face with the implied backing of their professors. (So do designers who aren’t good enough to become registered graphic designers in the only place with such a registry, Ontario.) Design Is a Job could seriously help these little shits. But I won’t.


At my request, Monteiro sent me a prerelease ePub. He was annoyed that I kept reporting copy errors. I’m not sure what he was expecting from the man who wrote an entire tutorial about producing clean copy – one of several failed Zeldman projects. In some ways, Design Is a Job demonstrates the limits of Zeldman’s artisanal publishing imprint, A Book Apart.

Setting aside the page layout, which looks like an MS Word default and breaks atrociously in iBooks, my chief complaint is that Design Is a Job seems unedited. Structurally it doesn’t make sense in the sequence presented, repeats itself, and promises things it doesn’t deliver. You need to be a pretty sharp editor to notice structural flaws. Editors weaned on XHTML structure should be alert to such things, but obviously aren’t. Unbeknownst to many of you, I have edited enough books to have an aversion to unstructured rambling.

I’m sure typical readers already sold on Monteiro will not consciously notice the lack of structure, the gaps, the repetitiveness as they read through the book. The faction that is his core userbase either won’t notice or won’t care. But most people don’t notice Helvetica vs. Arial, so you need to understand that such an argument won’t fly here.

If you think expert opinion counts for nothing, you aren’t a designer, design isn’t your job, and Design Is a Job isn’t a book you should be reading. This isn’t a client briefing and I don’t have to watch my tone. I am telling you I noticed flaws nobody else has yet reported that, had they been spotted and fixed, would have improved the achievement of goals. As I understand Monteiro, that is the designer’s job. It is an editor’s job too.

I will also state that Monteiro’s endless “jokes” and “witty” asides are grating and unwelcome. His humour in the book is atrocious and comes off as a nervous tic from someone without the temerity to say what he means without any kind of coating, sugar‑ or otherwise. Mike Monteiro counsels you to gain courage presenting and defending your design ideas, yet lacks the courage of his own convictions in making his own case without giggles. Nor did his editors, to the extent they did any editing, buttress and provide succour to their author, helping him face up to what he really means.

Monteiro is scabrously, mordantly funny on Twitter, his natural medium. The promise he made – to us and himself – never to Twit about clients freed him to say exactly what he thinks there. That includes a lot of swearing, but he knows how to use it. Design Is a Job includes two variants of fuck and a few variants of shit. It strikes me as an American approach, an MPAA-compliant self-censorship. When this happens to documentaries about bullied kids, liberals start a protest campaign. When it happens to a guy who, by his own reckoning, looks more like a longshoreman, why do so few notice?

No fan of Mike Monteiro should sit idly by as he issues one groaner after another while keeping it clean. What Design Is a Job dearly needs are Bea Arthur’s tits. To paraphrase Barack Obama, Mike Monteiro without swearing is like Rahm Emanuel with a truncated middle finger: Nearly mute.

I started making notes with iBooks annotation features, but at long last I realized I was essentially re-editing the book on spec. (“That’ll be $1,250, please.”) Yes, Design Is a Job, but so are editing and book-reviewing.

A designer tells a client why his designs say what the client means. Young designers need Design Is a Job to learn how to do that. Design Is a Job needed an editor.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2012.04.12 15:02. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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