Off the Grid
On July 24th, 2012, a couple of friends and I put up an mp3 on my website hosting that was hoped to be one of many episodes of a podcast. It was awkward, unkempt, and probably a little forced. But we wanted to get together regularly and talk about anything related to design and figured we could record it and let others join in and lend their ear. At the time we hoped anyone would listen, no matter how many or how few. We called it On The Grid because every other idea was much, much worse.
I personally had little faith that the show would get as big as it did. This wasn’t because of Matt or Andy by any stretch of the imagination. I was a stubborn and overly-critical designer that quietly lived with depression and anxiety all while diving into a speaking-intensive project with two guys I didn’t know intimately well. If you’ve met me in real life, you know I don’t talk much. Who would stay for that?
I was flabbergasted time and time again when we put out an episode and people — actual people! — were listening and responding to us. Folks had opinions and were genuinely engaged with what we were talking about. We started by being entirely too caustic about logos and other minutiae nuggets of design news. But as we grew up together, hunched over our microphones, our way of thinking about design refined and broadened to become more thoughtful and considerate.
More importantly, all the things we cared about also grew up. We wanted to talk about race, gender equality, mental health, and a slew of other topics that weren’t about graphic design. Those were the things that mattered and shouldn’t have been shied away from. Our bond tightened when we desperately waded through a sea of gray hoping to find any sign of black and white. The problems we talked about became tougher. The show stopped having resolutions, often ending with frustrating non-closures. Aside from any metric of listeners or downloads to measure “success”, this is what made the show truly better.
One important piece for me throughout the show is that I became much more open and comfortable with talking about mental illness. I’ve lived through a stretch of my life with anxiety, often with its close cousin depression stopping in from time to time. It became obvious to me listening back to shows that some weeks were effortless to be on the air. Other times, trying to find the words to speak felt like trying to strike a flame from a wet match. But I decided to work on it and become more in control with it instead living scared of things I felt I couldn’t control. But the best thing that came from this was so many people coming to me individually being thankful that I’d bring this up on air; they felt like they weren’t alone and that’s one of the most valuable gifts I feel like I’ve given and received.
Looking back, I couldn’t be happier with how things panned out. And we did so many things together! We introduced “happy endings” to the show because they started to become way too depressing. We even made a neat little newsletter based off of them, which was our little venture into text-based content. I eventually said enough stupid things on air that gave Matt enough content to make a soundboard (which could, at any point in time, legitimately replace me). Matt also made a place for people to let us know when they disagree with Andy. We created a monster on Twitter and had our own little corner of Reddit.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to do the show alone. We had guests stop by pretty regularly to make sure three white guys from the suburbs didn’t get too comfortable in our reservations and broadened what we thought about and how we thought about it. Though I really want to thank each person individually, I’m incredibly thankful to have met Satchell through the show. He’s become a very kind and thoughtful friend I never thought I’d be able to connect with if not for On The Grid.
Four years later, we’re in a very different place. We’ve talked through job changes, birthdays, anniversaries, home purchases, holidays, engagements, divorces, and a lot more that I probably wouldn’t remember without Matt or Andy reminding me. We’re all very different men now. We kind of grew up together in a sense. Matt made a very good point over these past couple of months:
“When you become an adult, you have to do something to force time to spend with your friends so you can stay in touch.”
It’s incredibly true, so I hope the guys and I find a way to keep in touch outside of a podcast.
I’m incredibly thankful for everyone that listened, everyone who joined us on the show, and everyone who helped make the show happen. But to be honest I didn’t write this for you. This is for the same thing I cared about when we started the show: me and two of my friends.
Matt and Andy, thanks for everything. I can’t wait to see all the amazing things you guys do with the new shows. I’m not going anywhere, but you can bet that I’ll still be half an hour late.
Listen to the catalogue here: http://onthegrid.co