Ampersand: Interview with Mandy Michael

Ampersand is back! And with it a stellar lineup of speakers for our first conference in 3 years. In the run up, we caught up with Mandy Michael about her career and what’s new in the world of typography…

What developments in typography are you most excited about right now?

I am all for variable fonts right now! I remember the first demo I saw back in 2016 and knew it was going to be an exciting time, so it’s great to see more demos, articles, talks and tools like Axis Praxis showing off the power and potential that this new technology gives us on the web! We don’t just get the typographic and design benefits but also technical benefits like performance improvements — that, to me, is pretty amazing.

What change, if any, would you like to see in our industry in the next 3 years?

I would love to see more creative web layouts, with CSS Grid, Variable fonts, flexbox, blend modes and all the other new and existing things. We have never been in a better position to create new and interesting layouts to share our knowledge and information. We have so much to learn from the history of print design and typography — I’d like to see more of that online.

What do you make of the emergence of variable fonts?

Honestly, I could just listen and talk to people about variable fonts all day. I am loving variable fonts. I’m probably doing unintended things with typefaces, and for that, I apologise, but there are so many possibilities! I just want to inspire people to get out there and see what they can come up with. As I mentioned above, there are so many opportunities!

Tell us about your first role in design or tech. Who did you model yourself on?

My first job in the industry was as an Online Communications manager, I did design, web development, communications, tech support. Basically, I was responsible for anything that involved a computer. The best thing about this job was that I worked with an amazing woman who taught me how to stand up for myself, share my opinions, say no to things, determine what my morals and ethics were and stick to them. I applied what she taught me to my future and I feel very lucky I had someone like her to be inspired by so early on in my career.

Generally, I try and learn from everyone around me, I run a meetup group in Perth and it’s full of amazing people from all parts of the industry; designers, developers, writers, strategists. They each have different experiences and approaches to life, I don’t know how I’d manage in the industry without such a wonderful network!

What advice would you give practitioners who are just starting out in their careers?

Keep learning, get involved in the community, share what you are doing and take the time to experiment and have fun with things. Most of my good ideas have come out of experiments and exploration rather than the usual day to day. But, most of all, don’t stop iterating on your work!

What challenges are you facing at the moment and what are you doing to overcome them?

I feel this might be a common struggle, but my biggest challenge is managing my time. I love to experiment, read, learn new things and stay up to date with design and development but also get involved in the community. Balancing that with work and life is pretty tough sometimes. My solution at the moment is allocating set amounts of time to each “thing” I want to do and not over-committing. I try to be organised and plan things but to be honest I get excited about things and the time disappears. I’m still wondering how it’s March 2018 already.

What’s your proudest achievement?

In 2016 I ran a conference in Perth called Mixin with a great group of people, we went into it not really know what we were doing but in the end it was a fantastic event. We had a lot of people tell us that we’d never run a successful conference in Perth because there wasn’t a market for it and we proved them wrong, Perth loved it, the response was great and the event exceeded our expectations. We poured our heart and souls into it, I’m really proud of that.

Anything else on your mind at the moment?

I’m a CSS lover first and foremost and I’ve been thinking a lot about all the great new features we have been given in the past few years. A lot of people seem to forget how powerful CSS is for me it has never been more exciting, we have so many opportunities for typography, layout and design right now I’m really excited to see what the web looks like in the future as a result!

Join Mandy and a host of other international speakers when Clearleft’s Ampersand Conference returns on 29th June 2018 — tickets are on sale now!