October 20, 2023

Reasons I'm Prioritizing My Personal Website

Why I spent time building my own website and my new perspective on sharing everything I do on social media.

I’m excited to announce that my personal website is now live. I want this to be more than just a portfolio website. It will also include glimpses of my personal life: fun side projects I’ve pursued, photos from trips I’ve gone on, and random thoughts about essentially everything. All of this is what I used to share in an endless unorganized stream on various social media platforms.

I decided to invest energy into building my personal website for two main reasons:

  1. I wanted to own all of my content and archive it in one central, organized place.
  2. I want to represent, share, and celebrate the totality of who I am outside of the work I do professionally.

Owning my own content, in one place

Previously, everything I did was fractured onto multiple social media platforms. My design case studies lived on Medium—and now they are pushing paywalls on content. My creative builds and trips lived on Youtube—and they are now subject to programmatic ads even though I haven’t reached monetization. My photography lives on Instagram—where it gets lost among memes and disappears into a past that I find it difficult to rehash. My casual observations lived on Twitter (now X)—which is doing who knows what anymore and charging people for it.

I was getting frustrated with the fragmentation, the lack of control, and the desire of the platform owners to make money off of what we create and share.

Fighting for my content Any similarity to actual persons is purely coincidental

As someone who loves to archive and constantly pursue every creative impulse, I am excited to document and centralize everything I create both personally and professionally into a single easy to navigate platform. I still can’t ignore the power that existing social media platforms have to be discovered and reach new audiences—but my approach to what I choose to post on them has changed.

My website will be the main host of my original content and I will merely use social platforms to advertise. I encourage everyone to consider a similar approach.

This is what the spirit of the web was before social media monoliths took over—and it’s something that I miss dearly. Everyone had their own website and promoted their friends and communities through “affiliate” logo bars and blogroll lists. I will be looking for similar ways to promote the personal websites of those in my personal network.

Sharing more than just my professional work

It is a truth designers fall into often: A lot of what we create is for others and not for ourselves. This past year, I found myself struggling to identify my own personal style, because so much of my work was defined by the tastes and preferences of my employers or clients. If I want my website to truly represent who I am as a designer and a person, it needs to capture projects and experiences that I pursue for myself.

James at his art show in 2017 Me at my art show in 2017

In the process of putting this website together, I remembered the art show I did in 2017, which I almost had forgotten about because it was buried as a single carousel post in my instagram feed that took several minutes of scrolling just to rediscover. I archived collages I made with my wife during our many creative bonding activities. I documented my process of learning how to use generative AI tools to help me learn animation techniques through the production of looping car videos. These were works that I did for myself and not for someone else.

James and Jess at Rattlesnake Ledge Jess and I at Rattlesnake Ledge

Our most recent trip to the Pacific Northwest now lives on my site, too. A year ago, I would have tried to record as much video as possible to make a YouTube video. However, documenting it in the form of a blog post, combining writing with both photo and video, felt way more true to the experience and allowed me to be way more present in the trip itself.

I used to think I had to hide these parts of myself in order to make myself more marketable for work or be more respected as a designer.

Now, I feel differently. I want people to see who I truly am and know that I’m a regular human just like themselves.

I hope you, too, feel inspired to centralize your thoughts, memories, and creativity onto a place you can call your own.

I’m looking forward to adding more to my personal website as I continue digging up more of my past endeavors and pursue new ones. Please check back often as I expect to continually add more pieces while also producing more detail to some of my older pieces.

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