Web design legends: where are they now?
In 2004, Cameron Moll posted a cult list of ‘who is who’ in web design. Where are those people today?
Twitter: 339,000 followers
Dribbble: 8,300 followers
Once, I tried to explain to a non-Web design related friend who is Zeldman. I said: “What Michael Jordan is for basketball, Jeffrey Zeldman is for web design.”
Jeffrey did not start the browser wars. He is the most responsible person for ending the war and for the Web we use today. Without the adaptation of Web standard, we would not have Web technology we have today and there would not be AJAX, SaaS, and other Web industry revolutions. Steve Jobs contributed by killing Flash.
In the late 90’s Microsoft dominated 90% of browser market. The rest 10% made an alliance and introduced Web standards that render in browsers literally opposite than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. With 90% market share Microsoft said we are the one who should make rules and the war could begin. In the 90s, everybody hated Microsoft.
Zeldman roots are from the NYC 80s underground music scene and he stayed authentic and never sold out to the establishment.
Twitter: 101,000 followers
Dribbble: 76,000 followers
Now: sold Dribbble recently
Ironically, he was better known before dribbble, which by the way was created by him.
For some reason, I better remember Doug Bowman and Todd Dominey as my main influencers. Now, looking again at CSS Bits, I remember this website was a huge inspiration too. Dan published a first major book on CSS and he regularly contributed to cult A List Apart magazine with CSS techniques.
His website was always pixel polished and visually up to date. In his hands, he has a craft to do simple changes, yet to preserve original layout and make a huge visual change. Sounds confusing. Watch his blog evolution from the above.
3. Todd Dominey
Twitter: 3,000 followers
Dribbble: 244 followers
His blog was the most elegantly designed publication on the Web.
The biggest gentlemen in the blogosphere. Or at least I always imagined him as James Bond character in a tuxedo. I liked his other designs too. At MailChimp now.
4. Dave Shea
Twitter: 128,000 followers
Dribbble: 2,500 followers
The battle at CSS Zen Garden 15 years ago was a key victory in the browser war.
Dave has put some simple HTML and then a bunch of designers of that age supplemented CSS files that totally differently rendered the page. What Zeldman has put in the writting, the CSS Zen Garden showed to the masses. He did free icons when nobody did it and invented the term CSS sprites.
5. Jason Fried
Twitter: 206,000 followers
Dribbble: 1,000 followers
In design college books, next to Dieter Rams and Paul Rand, there should be a name of Jason Fried.
His ideas shaped the Web we know for the last 15–20 years. First, he did it with 37signals. The best web design firm ever who put all usability principles into practice. Later, he did it with Basecamp.
Today it’s common to have millions of SaaS products and millions of project management tools. It’s totally unimaginable that Basecamp in 2004 was the first of them in both categories and invented both categories: SaaS and project management Web apps.
Twitter: 215,000 followers
Dribbble: 3,000 followers
For me, the best web designer ever.
Everything that I learned about design and code, I learned from Doug.
He is the guy that Google invented special Design Director title for him only. And Google was at its peak at that time.
Unfortunately, he didn’t leave any mark in Google design. Long after Bowman moved to Twitter, Google started to change. Ironically, the same situation happens at Twitter. Only when Doug left, Twitter started to change for good. Great designer and a bad politician.
7. Mark Pilgrim
He has a list of websites named diveintomark.org, diveintohtml5.org, diveintoaccessibility.org, diveintogreasemonkey.org. His Wikipedia page says he did infosuicide (Google the term) in 2011.
8. John Gruber
Twitter: 369,000 followers
Now: Daring Fireball
The website looks today exactly like 15 years ago and has exactly the same content.
Also, author of Markdown.
9. Greg Storey
Twitter: 7,000 followers
Airbag Industries was a blog with the best branding.
It always reminds me of Russian websites from the 2000s. Greg later merged his studio into Zeldman’s Happy Cog. Then he moved to IBM. He is now at USAA.
10. Andrei Herasimchuk & 19. Donna Driscoll
Twitter: 6,000 followers / 66
Dribbble: 50 / —
Now: Booking.com / LinkedIn
Andrei worked at Adobe during the 90s. I remember his quote about his skills in Photoshop and Illustrator. Something like: “I consider myself an expert in Photoshop, because I designed UI for it.”
He comes out of nowhere with a website with interesting layout and colors and got exposure from some people on this list. Now at Booking.com. Donna is his ex-wife.
11. Jeffrey Veen
Twitter: 42,000 followers
This is a most connected web designer in the world. About 15 years ago, when I started to follow the blogosphere, he was already inactive.
So I never read something from him or saw some of his works. Yet, he has legendary status among his peers. His page reminded to today’s about.me pages. A big photo and a few words about him. He was one of seven or so co-founders of Adaptive Path. One of the first UX consultancies, best known for inventing AJAX term by one of their co-founders. Also known for a beautiful website done by Douglas Bowman.
Back to Veen. In the meantime, he manages to work at Google, Adobe and found the Typekit. Now at TrueVentures.
12. Eric Meyer
Twitter: 107,000 followers
Dribbble: 235 followers
Now: An Event Apart
We respected him because he was Zeldman’s buddy (think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and co-author of CSS, together with Opera guy with a strange name.
In 2014 Eric had a family tragedy, where his daughter Rebecca died. It was probably last moment where blogosphere reunited again and a lot of people from this list wrote a few touching words. The hex color #663399 was named “rebeccapurple” and added to the CSS color list in her memory.
13. Jon Hicks
Twitter: 34,000 followers
Dribbble: 5,000 followers
Author of Firefox logo.
A true artist and a great illustrator. Jon’s website was a killer app for new Web technologies. He has a fine touch to showcase to a world in a beautiful manner the possibilities of new technology.
First time when I saw Textpattern (early and at time more advanced competitor of WordPress), Parallax design and Responsive design, it was at Hicksdesign. Latest news from him is that he worked together with Ramotion at latest Firefox rebranding.
Twitter: 5,000 followers
Dribbble: 600 followers
I remember he was a cool guy with a cool website. I will quote my friend Dragan Babic who said about Keith: “I first noticed that we both liked the same music, and then I noticed his designs too.” He is at Atlassian now.
15. Andy Budd
Twitter: 48,000 followers
Cool guy too. He co-founded a web design company Clearleft and they are still in business today.
16. Shaun Inman
Twitter: 24,000 followers
Dribbble: 10,000 followers
Now: Game designer
Probably the best designer about them and the guy who would always win Photoshop Tennis or Photoshop Battle.
17. Jason Kottke
Twitter: 248,000 followers
20 years of fine hypertext and still rockin’.
18. Didier Hilhorst & 20. Dan Rubin
Twitter: 3,000 / Instagram: 721,000
Dribbble: 180 / 5,500
Now: Uber / Photographer
I remember Didier’s blog Nundroo. I think it’s from the period when he lived in Italy and studied at Institute Ivrea. It was a visual masterpiece. Now at Uber.
Dan Rubin has a cool name and I think some photography website, but I don’t remember more about him.
Who is missing?
Molly E. Holzschlag and the author of the text, of course. Cameron Moll. In a comment to the original article, he wrote that 80/20 revised is coming in a few weeks…
Bonus: Molly E. Holzschlag
Twitter: 28,300 followers
Now: academic career
She was the first women in Web standards movement.
I think Molly deserved to be on the original list. At the time, one of the best known female web designers. Hard to see where she is now, but she spends time between academic career and Web standards.
Bonus: Veerle Pieters
Twitter: 176,000 followers
Dribbble: 16,000 followers
Now: web design
The most exotic person on the list.
Veerle is a great illustrator, has strange subdomain name http://veerle.duoh.com/ and she comes from Belgium. It seems like she is still doing web design.
Bonus: Jason Santa Maria
Twitter: 339,000 followers
When Doug Bowman has some problems with his back pain, as replacement comes young Zeldman’s protégé. He has a cool yellow/brown website and later he experimented with some print media style art directing on the Web. Publishing articles where each article has its own unique design. 10 years or so before mainstream media.
Bonus: Stuart Robinson
Only thing I found about him is at his wife’s blog: “Catherine’s husband Stuart Robertson, is a web-designer, and creator of Designmeme. He works for the University of Guelph, and teaches in Toronto.”
I spent some time trying to locate the exact website, this is a very personal memory for me. Designmeme was the first website where I reverse engineered CSS and figured how it works. The year was 2002.
Bonus: Dunstan Orchard
Twitter: 7,000 followers
Dribbble: 13 followers
Dunstan’s cult website had one pretty cool feature for its time.
The panorama displayed in the header is a 1600 pixel-wide panoramic view from the top of his parents’ house in Dorset, England. The system uses an XML weather feed from their local airbase to provide an up-to-the-minute graphical representation of the current weather, moon, and daylight conditions at their house.
He worked in meantime at Apple and Flickr. He is now at Quora.
Bonus: Cameron Moll
Twitter: 52,000 followers
Dribbble: 13,000 followers
He was master of style he named ‘wicked-worn’ design, popular in the mid-2000s.
I liked his design style. A few job listings at the sidebar of his blog grew out in the Authentic Jobs job board. He has 5 sons and works at Facebook.