Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

The Replacements, a Tragedy, Scored by Will Smith

Because the website is drenched in SEO hotness, a prospect stumbles across the designer through Google, and excited by the portfolio and the testimonials and the big idea, the prospect calls. Or emails. Or even does a @yourname thing.

First conversation. Excited ideas fly back and forth. Chemistry is good. The first date ends with promises to talk again, maybe meet in person, trade files, get schedules organized, engage in some heavy B2B petting. The future: verdant.

Contract signed. Boom goes the bank account with that sweet first deposit.

Lots more talk. Visual direction is intense. Huge. Vibrant color, bombastic messaging, ground-breaking technology, fresh ideas for interaction design. Designs start. Sketches litter the floor. Sweltering in front of PhotoShop, pushing pixels, feeling textures, drinking the brand Kool-Aid, exorcising the creative spark the client has lit.

Designs presented.

Days go by.


Feedback received. Took time because others needed to weigh in, you know, because it’s a big decision and no one can make a decision around here haha without the Senior VP of Global Sales, Marketing, Engineering, Research, Facilities and Decisions telling them what decision they should decide haha. Feedback is positive! It’s adoration and sign-off barring a few changes.

You know. Just a few.

Corners are curved. Edges are ground down. Textures recede, colors dim, logos get larger, somewhere a tagline is staple-gunned above the navigation. From some recess of the former receptionist’s hard drive emerge brand standards from an agency that did a thing in 1998.

Iterate, refine, deliver. Client service is first priority.

Just a few more changes. No, content is still not done. Just Greek it. Iterate, refine, deliver. Iterate, refine, deliver.

Then, approval.

HTML and CSS and JavaScript. Templates are ironed out, devices and browsers tested. Media queries, of course; a proper relative grid, hells yes; high score on YSlow, fuckin’ a. Client opens in IE 7 and wonders why rounded corners are not round but whatever polyfills and bam it’s all good. Disappointingly, no one notices the semantic use of the <time> element combined with event markup.

The deep dive into the backend. Content management, documentation, training, style guides, site visits, phone calls, support. At some point, someone faxes hand-written content changes.

Then, on a Saturday night better spent re-watching The Big Lebowski, a migration to production and then a final sprinkle of DNS glitter.

Success. Affirmation. “It’s everything we hoped for.”

Check is in the mail.

Six months, or maybe a year. Nothing on the site changes. Hey what’s up can I help with anything do you guys still like the site have you had any problems? Nah we’re good. Just busy.

A year after that. Nothing.


A bit later and there it is: the brand new NEW site. The previous design wiped away like the yellow puddle in a Bounty paper towel commercial.

It’s atrocious, of course, this new thing. Design from 2001, with actual bevels, 7px #999 Tahoma, a clunky $(”#billboard”).rotatorPlugin();, an embedded Flash video, a clusterfuck on anything but IE8. It is the antichrist the hellfires of early 90s desktop publishing prophesied, the embodiment of bad taste, crowned with a stock photo of shaking hands.

And the markup. A wasteland of useless meta, unsemantic class names, tags in ALL CAPS, no DocType, a swath of dead code left in the wake of an ImageReady export. Generated by a machine, with all the grace and authenticity of a middle-class Las Vegas suburb. It’s fucking trash.


The overwrite is offensive. Religiously offensive. But nothing can be done except the lighting of a small vigil.

Clients just don’t understand.