Changing chapters

After 6 years, 3 months, 3 days, my employment with Wired comes to an end today. What a ride it’s been.

Jumping back in time, I remember picking up an interest in bulletin boards in ’92 while I was still in college. I started at a marketing design firm named Mentus as an intern during my senior year. In my spare time, I spent countless hours exploring the concept of connected computers and online content using the company’s AOL account. Of course, with a 14.4Kbps WinFax modem, the majority of my time was spent waiting for the next screen to load.

At the time, the president of Mentus knew nothing about the Web, and believed it was a trend that would go away within a few years. He didn’t think it fair to charge our clients for Web design work. Any Web-related project was considered a “value-add” to their print projects, and was basically offered as pro bono work. (amazing, eh?) Since I had the least seniority as a designer, (and thus, probably the lowest salary) and a strong interest in the Net phenomenon, I was always given these pro bono projects. I gladly accepted them with a hunger to learn more. I was proud that I had taught myself the ins and outs of HTML. Eventually, I was teaching our production staff how to take financial numbers from the annual reports we designed, and place them into HTML tables.

In August of 1996, I packed up and left everyone and everything I knew in San Diego. A girlfriend, college buddies, professional contacts, and a rapidly blooming career as a print designer. I’d been following Wired magazine several years prior, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to move to San Francisco and join this relatively new online experiment called HotWired. I took the job with intentions of staying one solid year to see how it went. Little did I know what lied ahead.

I knew nothing about the Web then, relatively speaking. I knew the difference between a gif and a jpeg, how to center text on a page, construct a table, and had just been introduced to an incredible new browser from Netscape Communications. The Web was still young then. My friends and family didn’t understand what I was doing, online advertising didn’t exist, and “dot com” as a common phrase hadn’t even surfaced yet. HotWired was young, fun, courageous, inventive, and creative. If someone had an idea for a new content channel, we put together a team and launched it without hesitation. It was a playground for adults, and we were paid to play.

Fast-forward to the present. My, how things have changed. My tenure at this company has been filled with so many interesting events, people, and changes, I could write a book and still not cover everything. I firmly believe that 6 internet years is just as long, if not longer, than the equivalent in dog years. This hasn’t been one company — it’s been multiple companies, ever-changing. We’ve been the acquiree in two major acquisitions. We’ve transitioned from a small online experiment of Wired magazine to a huge international presence with multiple brands spread across the Web.

After several years of a love-hate relationship with Lycos and Terra, infinite title changes, multiple trips to Boston and Madrid, and many debates within myself, I’ve decided now is the time to gracefully walk away. I feel incredibly privileged to wrap up my career here with the redesign of Wired News. A swan song which dots the “i”, crosses the “t”, and places a huge exclamation mark at then end of a wonderful stint with the most talented, inspiring group of people I’ve ever worked with.

But this isn’t the end. I leave Wired with an unbridled excitement of going out on my own and starting a new business. The very one you see before you. Stopdesign is Douglas Bowman (for now). Designing, writing, speaking, coding, teaching, solving problems one at a time. Applying everything I’ve learned and experienced. Some say I’m crazy to jump into a still-depressed market, but others see and share my excitement and passion for what I’m about to undertake, and have no doubts. I’m young and eager, and can feel energy pumping into my veins just thinking about what’s ahead. If I fall to the ground in attempt to spread my wings, no big deal — I can pick up and start over with something else.

I woke up around 6am this morning to witness one of the most beautiful sunrises over the city of San Francisco I think I’ve ever witnessed. The sky lit up with the most powerful oranges, reds, and yellows I’ve ever seen, and they were all reflected in the waters of the San Francisco Bay below. What a great reminder that this is not an end at all. It’s only the beginning of the next exciting chapter filled with unknown potential. Join me on the journey.