880/20 and the design blogosphere

~ 14 April 2004 ~

You’ve heard of the theory. The one that says 20 percent of X something is always responsible for 80 percent of Y something.

Termed Pareto’s Principle or the 80/20 rule, this intriguing concept has kept me in contemplation for several weeks now as I’ve speculated the nature of the “blogosphere” in which we designers reside.

I think I’ve managed to create a theory of my own, based on a mod of the 80/20 rule. It goes something like this: 80 percent of the most vital new media design information can be accounted for not by 20 percent of all websites within the design blogosphere, but by just 20 individuals. Frequent these individuals’ sites and you’re likely to be keen on latest trends, new software, and just about everything you wanted to know about SXSW without ever having been there.

So who made the cut? Scroll down a bit. Chances are you’ve already bookmarked 80 percent (*wink) of the sites listed below.

  1. zeldman.com Jeffrey Zeldman
  2. simplebits.com Dan Cederholm
  3. whatdoiknow.org Todd Dominey
  4. mezzoblue.com Dave Shea
  5. 37signals.com/svn/ Jason Fried
  6. stopdesign.com Douglas Bowman
  7. diveintomark.org Mark Pilgrim
  8. daringfireball.com John Gruber
  9. airbag.ca Greg Storey
  10. designbyfire.com Andrei Herasimchuk & 19. Donna Driscoll
  11. veen.com/jeff/ Jeffrey Veen
  12. meyerweb.com Eric Meyer
  13. hicksdesign.co.uk/journal/ Jon Hicks
  14. 7nights.com/asterisk/ D. Keith Robinson
  15. andybudd.com Andy Budd
  16. shauninman.com Shaun Inman
  17. kottke.com Jason Kottke
  18. superfluousbanter.org Didier Hilhorst & 20. Dan Rubin

As for the rest of us? Who knows. I guess as long as the stats meter continues to spin, we’ll still be here.


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1   GaBuBu ~ 14 April 2004 at 02:29 AM

Translated to .es in the url above. I totally agree with you, and i totally agree that…. well, i already have 95% of the links (19/20) on my bookmarks. Petty is that yours is the 5% missing! xD

2   Andrei Herasimchuk ~ 14 April 2004 at 03:01 AM

While I’m extraordinarily flattered to be on this list, I must say I’ve been far more impressed with the design blogging community than with anything I’ve done so far. I don’t feel deserving. The design community’s work on the web and in the blogsphere is one of the reasons I wrote my tongue-in-cheek piece on the Guru thing. (I made myself a Guru only to be able to poke fun while not being accused of being overly mean, not because I think of myself as one.)

I have lamented the fact I have no heroes in the field of digital design these days. 15 years of working on some of highest profile projects, like Photoshop, and I’m left feeling in the dark. Truth be told however… I do have some new heroes. I get all of my latest inspiration from the blogs you listed, the designers behind them, plus so many more people, including you and Angie’s and all the rest. I have been pointing all sorts of design folk at Adobe towards this design community. I truly believe the next generation of great designers are amoung them.

A little bit of interesting history. When I was 19 or 20, working in Chicago, a bright, energetic little 15 or 16 year-old helped me on a logo design. I had met him through the BBS systems popular back in the late 80s (Before AOL and the ‘Net were big.) That little kid grew up to be Jason Fried. Just so happens we both got into the same field even though we only recently made the connection last month that we knew each other from so long ago. (He was the one who remembered, I was having difficulty making the connection.) Small world.

3   Didier Hilhorst ~ 14 April 2004 at 05:03 AM

I’m honored and flattered just as much as I was when Andrei published his satirical piece (honestly, who wouldn’t like to butcher Tufte. Oh wait, it was a satirical piece right? Damn!) I can’t deny that it gives me a warm feeling inside to know that people enjoy what I write and do.

Most of the persons/blogs you mention are also examples to me and as of late Andrei is now officially my new favourite guru (who cares about Tufte, Rand or Norman. Really?)

4   Cameron Moll ~ 14 April 2004 at 09:03 AM

Very interesting history, Andrei. One thing I left out simply for the sake of length was the fact that our blogosphere is quite small, both figuratively (i.e. Fried connection) and literally — I’d be willing to bet we comprise only a small fraction of the entire blogosphere at large, and yet we’re probably one of the most exciting segments of that “universe,” for lack of a better term.

(Give it up for Andrei, Didier!)

5   blake ~ 14 April 2004 at 09:28 AM

Nice read Cameron, I think a key to alot of these sites were that that they are pioneers in their area. See you at work. You forgot my site *wink*.

6   Cameron Moll ~ 14 April 2004 at 09:43 AM

Funny thing is, I almost mentioned you too, Blake, as part of this idea about the design blogosphere being so small (see my comments to Andrei above). You’ve been recognized by Zeldman on a couple occasions, as have I (only once, though) — and we work only 5 feet from each other.

7   Bryan Conners ~ 14 April 2004 at 10:01 AM

Someone should get all these people in a room together. Talk about an informative conference! Who’s going to organize this?

8   Ryan Brill ~ 14 April 2004 at 02:08 PM

Intersting list. My list would be very similar (as I’m sure most of ours would be). A large percentage (80? ;) would be on my blogroll, and most of the rest are bookmarked.

“I’d be willing to bet we comprise only a small fraction of the blogosphere at large, and yet we’re probably one of the most exciting segments of that ‘universe’”

I agree. I think this might be due to the fact that we are probably on of the most excited segments, and that energy translates into an excellent sense of community mindedness.

9   James ~ 14 April 2004 at 03:08 PM

I don’t want to take away from the contributions of the authors on this list. They’re all noteworthy and popular reads for most in the design community. But, isn’t it enough already? How many posts, and contests and showdowns involving the same group of bloggers do we need? It seems everyone with a ‘design centric’ blog these days is participating freely in what seems to be a revolving circle of ego and hyperlink masturbation. Cameron, you’re a bright guy, and a good creative talent. Write about YOUR experiences. I don’t need to be told that Zeldman is #1 or XYZ is #25. Who really cares?

10   eris ~ 14 April 2004 at 03:21 PM

on one hand, i’m going to agree with James. on the other hand, i’d say keep this list but at least explain why you’ve chosen these people and what contributions they’ve made that have influenced you as a designer. a list of design bloggers isnt as interesting or informative as a list of design bloggers and commentary on why you find their work influential and worthy of being listed.

11   Cameron Moll ~ 14 April 2004 at 03:55 PM

Fair enough, James and eris — very valid points. Ironic, somewhat, in that they partially validate the 80/20 idea. Your suggestions, however, are well worth considering.

12   eris ~ 14 April 2004 at 04:07 PM

hey, heh, i’m just a curious creature when it comes to this sort of thing. i like to know what it is that other people see when they look at the same sites/arts/etc.. as i do.

13   angie ~ 17 April 2004 at 12:25 PM

Similar ideas have been circling my thoughts for agres, Cameron - you’ve read my mind! I had been thinking more along the lines of “A” bloggers (essentially your list), “B” bloggers (the “rest of us” you mentioned) and “C” bloggers (those who are even more obscure than we).

But honestly, I like toiling in a bit of obscurity. I see my site as a personal play space first, and an informative resource second. Sure, there’s the ego thing - it’s always nice to know you’re appreciated. But in the end my most important critic is me.

I also have to say that most of the time I try to avoid the biggest memes/trends that the “A” guys blog about. Mainly because I figure everyone else interested in that sort of thing has already heard it from every other corner (Gmail… ahem) and they don’t need to hear my personal strokes on it.

You’ve got great stuff to say, and great style to boot. You’re a resource in your own right. :)

14   Garrett ~ 19 April 2004 at 08:54 AM

It’s funny, I came across this entry again today after having read it last week, and only this time did I notice your link to my site in the list’s follow-up paragraph.

I agree with what you’ve written, and I guess I’m flattered to be in the “rest of us” list. I’ve never been that good at hanging with the cool kids anyway.

15   Andrew ~ 22 April 2004 at 12:11 AM

I’m suprised that you don’t have WhiteSpace bookmarked.

16   Scrivs ~ 09 May 2004 at 01:16 PM

Nice list. I am just curious about one thing, do you think Donna actually talks about design?

17   Sunny ~ 18 May 2004 at 07:36 PM

Taking a cu from your selection. I have created a digest at Kinja titled design20. Instead of individuals, I have opted for 20 sites.

Of course the selection is really my choices and my interpretation. And apart from some of the uber rockstars in the list, some of them will be recycled when deemed appropriate. For now, enjoy!

18   Jeff Croft ~ 24 May 2004 at 01:22 PM

Neat topic, nice list. I definitely agree that there’s really only a small handful of individuals that represent at least 80% of the great info we have on standards-based design. There are two people on your list that I believe may not belong, but I’m not going to name them. They both have great sites and even better content — I just personally don’t look to them for design/development content.

While I do generally agree with your concept and your list, I think far too many people have blinders on when it comes to this stuff. I think standards-based design, particularly when it comes to blogs, is dangerously close to becoming “all the same.” Because of the respect we have for Zeldmna, Shea, Cederholm, and the rest, we tend to emulate them, sometimes to the point where all of our blogs start to feel the same.

These guys are all great, and I definitely owe them a ton for all that I’ve learned from them — but I hope we can all keep our minds open to other ideas, too. Especially when it comes to design. These folks all have their mind wrapped around XHTML and CSS development — probably more than anyone in the world — but there is a lot that can be learned about design from other sources, such as print media, TV/motion graphics, typographers — and yes, even from old-school table-based web designers.

So, props to these 20, but let’s keep our eyes open for other influences, too. :)

19   nokia tapety ~ 25 May 2004 at 06:02 AM

Cool Stuff !!!

20   Molly E. Holzschlag ~ 25 May 2004 at 12:38 PM

Only one woman in the entire list? That’s a real shame, considering there are quite a few women in the industry that are moving massive amounts of information around.

21   Cameron Moll ~ 25 May 2004 at 02:25 PM

*pulls bullet from side*

Hang in there, Molly. 80/20 revised coming in a few weeks.

22   Dinah ~ 25 May 2004 at 11:17 PM

I noticed the same thing Molly did. “Where are the women?” but I have been thinking about that a bit lately as I dig deeper into CSS. The people influencing me to do so, who talk about CSS and teach it are mostly men. The women who influence me are mostly doing other things, or at least talking about other things. For example, Heather Champ (visual design) or Christina Wodtke (information design). The biggest muse I have these days for good design and interface usability is Mena Trott and most of her public talking is devoted to business relationship design, to being a CEO.

23   Molly E. Holzschlag ~ 26 May 2004 at 01:04 PM

Cameron - I swear I didn’t mean to make you bleed ;-)

Dinah - your comment is intriguing. Dave Shea brought this up in a recent discussion - how few women have made an impact as CSS designers.

I come across both men and women working with CSS who don’t view themselves as CSS designers per se. I certainly don’t, and yet I teach, write about, and work with CSS all the time. So I think there are legs to the issue of female voices in the realm of CSS design, and would be interested in seeing it discussed more. CSS is a unique case, I think, because it can be seen as a language of design as well as a document management language - attracting different types of people who are using it for varied applications.

However, in this case, where Cameron is really looking at media at large and not at CSS specifically (although admittedly, the CSS buzz at SXSW this year was massive), there’s a significant case to be made for persuasive female voices.


24   Jon Ronnenberg ~ 28 May 2004 at 06:40 AM

Not that I’m offended by your list, but where the h*** is k10k.org???

25   meryl ~ 28 May 2004 at 07:47 AM

Don’t agree with the list — maybe about half. The other half is news to me. Kottke may be a prolific and popular blogger, but his blog doesn’t center around design like the others do. The sky didn’t come falling for saying that… whew.

26   meryl ~ 28 May 2004 at 07:48 AM

PS Molly makes a good point about only one woman on the list. BUT — when I think of sites on the top of my head, they’re mostly run by men. Very few woman come to mind.

27   Chris ~ 02 June 2004 at 07:28 AM

Where’s #19?

28   Cameron Moll ~ 02 June 2004 at 08:50 AM

Donna (see #10)

29   joel mitchell ~ 26 June 2004 at 03:14 AM

Please dont take this the wrong way, but its only blogging; its not pioneering surgery, its not warzone humanitarian aid or cutting edge art, its just blogging which has a small spill over into the real world and probably doesnt deserve quite such bonhomie and self congratulation. Not all of it is aethetically pleasing though I appreciate fully the technological prowess of a lot of the work here. Go on, get outside and kick a ball about!


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