Editor's Note

Why One Portland Monthly Editor Left Old-School Web Design Behind

And now prefers to write about design in all its many forms.

By Marty Patail September 18, 2018 Published in the Design Annual: 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

Long ago, in a previous life, I designed websites from scratch—for myself, for my friends, for my wedding, and, every once in a while, for money. It was a hobby turned on-and-off career (mostly off) that I enjoyed: tinkering with the code until some colorful finished page revealed itself. My favorite tool was PHP—a comparatively unforgiving programming language that gave you second-to-second feedback. I’ll spare you the details, but it was like finding the perfect words, in the perfect order, to build something pretty on the internet. It was satisfying.

Over time, the internet changed. I, ever the dilettante, couldn’t keep up. Websites—at least the ones people paid for—threw off their calcified, ’90s-era bones and evolved into living, amorphous things with dynamic menus and live news feeds, constantly rearranging themselves with or without human intervention. The shift was probably for the better, but the craft of making these unwieldy news tickers lost its appeal for me. If the art of old-school, (mostly) static web design was like painting a portrait with code, the new world of Web 2.0—as humans once unironically called it—felt too much like a trying to face-paint an antsy toddler. 

And so here we are in 2018. I, an editor at a lifestyle magazine, still doing almost the same thing I always have been: trying to find the perfect words, in the perfect order, and then having them criticized on the internet. But my past in web design is undoubtedly why I’m drawn to Design with a capital D, and why it’s one of my most well-trod beats here at Portland Monthly. It’s a subject so broad it can encompass almost everything Portlanders do: cooking is designing with food, is it not? And dancing is, in a sense, designing with movement, no? Going for a run is designing with Google Maps? (OK, that last one’s a stretch.) Let it suffice to say, Portland’s creative world is awash with people making things—designing things.

This issue is a testament to some of the best examples of that superabundant local creativity. Here, you'll find six gorgeous bathrooms. Spot some stunning A-frames here. Or, get inspiration for your future retirement with a sophisticated, high-design Mt Hood cabin built so deep in the woods construction trucks couldn’t even get to it. We also cover goofy tiki mugs, nonfiction comic books, and vintage car obsession. We explore the possibility of a baseball stadium, resurrect a 1970s-era black fashion shoot, and profile one architect leading the charge on Portland’s changing skyline.

There’s much more. And yet here we capture only a slice of what you could call the “Portland design scene.” The breadth of its creativity testifies to what I learned back then: what we call design is really just the world evolving.

Marty Patail

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