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Five Years, Bearded

Yesterday Bearded turned five years old. That statement alone just about blows my mind. But more than simply longevity, the current team is fantastic. My fellow Beardeds are smart, talented, highly-skilled web nerds that I not only respect, but look up to. Plus, you know … they’re my best friends. Lucky? Yes, indeed.

So what did 2013 mean to Bearded? Let’s take a look.

This year has brought incredible (and humbling) speaking opportunities to me and the crew. We spoke at great industry events like Artifact, Breaking Development, Converge, Web Design Day, and more. Getting to share our ideas with our peers face-to-face – and getting their feedback – has been fantastic. Not only that, but I’ve been able to meet many of my web heroes in the process – talented, generous people who I now have the privilege of calling my friends.

I started writing for A List Apart in 2012, but in 2013 it’s really kicked up a notch. In fact, I’ve recently agreed to begin writing my own column there, called Matt Griffin on How We Work. Flattered? Yes. In disbelief? Also that, too, yes. Like many of us, I’ve been reading ALA since I don’t even know when. Having those folks encourage my writing and welcome me into the fold has been unexpected, thrilling, and honestly a bit surreal.

And because clearly we didn’t have enough going on in 2013, we’ve started making a documentary about the multi-device web. So far we’ve interviewed a bunch of folks for it, including Ethan Marcotte, Luke Wroblewski, Stephen Hay, Sara Wachter-Boettcher, Josh Clark, Jenn Lukas, Greg Hoy, Jennifer Robbins, Val and Jason Head, Jason Grigsby, Stephanie Hay, Kevin Hoffman, and Ben Callahan – with even more to come. The experience of recording the ideas of all these super smart people in our industry has been profound. Humbled again!

But wait – there’s more! At the beginning of this year, we made the decision to focus on our business more. In the past our approach was simple: do good work for great clients, and hope the finances work themselves out. In our first years, I think this was the right approach. It kept us focused on what’s most important: the work and the people. But over time, and especially as we grew, it became clear that the business side of things needed some attention, too.

We work on the internet. And the internet is in constant flux. We’re always willing to change our working processes, techniques and technologies when it seems warranted. We aim to fall forward, and iterate our way to better and better products. So why not apply that iterative creative thinking to our business processes, as well? This year we looked at people’s motivations, at our values, and of course at the data. Then we made (sometimes difficult) changes to how we structure our estimates and invoicing, our contracts, how we manage client relationships – anything that seemed like it could benefit from our attention. For most of Bearded’s existence, it was feast or famine, and we were just scraping by every month. But now Bearded is on solid financial footing for the first time ever, and we did it without compromising our values or mistreating anyone. Feels good man.

What else has 2013 brought to the Beardeds? Well, in a few weeks we’ll gain a full-time content strategist. As far as I’m concerned, designing our content will be a hugely important addition to what we do at Bearded. The clarity it brings to our design and development work is invaluable, and I can’t wait to raise the bar on every project we do.

We’re also moving into a new, larger space in a few months. It’ll be rad, I’m sure – so be on the look out for a belated five-year party there in early 2014.

Is that it? Hardly, but we have to keep some of our secrets, right?

Thanks for hanging in there with us, friends. It’s been a terrific journey, but as I seem to say every year: we’re just getting started. See you on the interwebs!

– MG

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Bearded at Artifact Conf East in November!

Bearded will be at Artifact Conf in force on the East Coast (Providence, RI, to be exact) in November! The first responsive design conference in Austin, Texas was a rousing success, and this time around none other than the legendary Ethan Marcotte has been added to the bill, along with other RWD giants like Brad Frost, Ben Callahan from Sparkbox, Dave Rupert from Paravel, O’Reilly author Jennifer Robins, some of our favorite Happy Cogs, and more! It’s seriously the best damn RWD conference you’ll ever have the chance to be at, so get your butts down to the Artifact site and reserve some tickets before they’re all gone!

Not only that, but Bearded’s own Matt Griffin and Patrick Fulton will be teaching an intro to Sass and Compass 1/2-day workshop after the talks are finished. All of our front-end secrets will be revealed!

The talks are aimed to get web designers up and running with responsive design, regardless of their current skill level, and range in topic about how RWD effects everything we do, including:

  • Design Process
  • Technical Implementation
  • Team Environments
  • Client Interactions
  • Business Concerns

Our workshop will be a deeper dive into Sass and Compass for those who are hungry for it, RWD or not: here’s our description:

Are you still writing plain old vanilla CSS? Well, then your life is about to change, my friend.

Sass is a CSS preprocessor that does everything you ever wanted CSS to do, and then compiles down to regular old CSS for those pesky browsers to consume. Remember how, way back when, linked stylesheets made your life a million times better than using repetitive, inline styles? This is going to feel like that all over again.

In this workshop, Matt Griffin and Patrick Fulton from Bearded will get you up and running using Sass and Compass. We’ll start with the very basics and help you incorporate great Sassy benefits like:

  • Using variables to update color and size values across your whole site in seconds.
  • Creating mixins so you can apply multiple lines of CSS (think: button styles) to elements throughout your project.
  • Mastering the joys and pitfalls of nesting your SCSS so it reflects your markup, without getting carried away.
  • Discovering the wonders of Compass’ built-in mixins, so you never have to think about browser extensions again.
  • Implementing Breakpoint to wrangle your media queries, and provide better fall-backs for old IE.
  • Organizing your files into sensible groups of partials that will be imported into your final master CSS file, to save you and your team headaches later.

So please do join us. By the end of this workshop you’ll be happier, taller, better-looking, and you’ll never ever want to go back to plain old CSS again. Or anyway, at least the first and last ones, we promise!

We’ll see you in Providence!

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It’s that time of year again: time to go retrieve your SXSW PanelPicker username and password  (because who remembers what they were doing last year?) and vote for your favorite panels!

We’re hoping you like the idea for this year’s SXSW Interactive panel Working with Clients and the Multi-Device Web. It’s being lead by Lullabot’s Jared Ponchot and includes Paravel’s Trent Walton and Sparkbox’s Ben Callahan, as well as our own Matt Griffin.

Enough lollygagging, though, people: go cast your vote!

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Client Relationships and the Multi-Device Web on A List Apart

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Today we launched a new responsive design for Pittsburgh architecture firm Astorino. You can read our project write-up here.

On the development side, something we’re really proud of is our approach to image optimization.

On the site we’re doing everything we can to avoid traditional image files. We’re using vector-based SVGs and icon fonts all over the place, including on Matt Braun’s fantastic services illustrations on the homepage. Because of that approach, all of those items have smaller download sizes and they look tack-sharp on high-resolution displays like Apple’s Retina.

We also made use of Scott Jehl’s picturefill to serve differently sized images, responsively. So small browser widths get smaller images, and wider browser widths download wider images. For such a photography-heavy website, this seemed like the perfect time to dig into picturefill, and boy are we happy we did.

This site was a great effort from all Bearded gents: Matt Braun, Brett Bender, Mark Frey, and Patrick Fulton. Nice work, fellas. Glad to have you on my team.

Now on to launching this week’s other sites …