Hicksdesign's Ramble through 2009

There’s a lot of sneering about end of year lists, but I love looking back personally, as well as reading others (like Jeremy and Elliot) as well. Anyway, I’ve been doing it since 1990, so I don’t see why I should stop now…


With the exception of Vampire Weekend, 2008 didn’t have a great deal that excited me musically. So much so, I didn’t list any favourites for that year. In contrast, there has been a shipload of albums that have done it for me in 2009 (and in no particular order):

Silversun Pickups: Swoon
Placebo: Battle for the Sun
Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
The Clientele: Bonfires on the Heath
Mew: No More Stories Are Told Today… (long pretentious album title, but another great Mew album nonetheless)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It’s Blitz!
Mos Def: The Ecstatic
Mastodon: Crack the Skye
Pelle Carlberg: The Lilac Time
Bat for Lashes: Two Suns
Bombay Bicycle Club: I had the blues but I shook them loose
Brendan Benson: My Old Familiar Friend
The Duckworth Lewis Method: The Duckworth Lewis Method
Idlewild: Post Electric Blues
Imogen Heap: Ellipse
Editors: On this light and on this evening
Kasabian: West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
Graham Coxon: Spinning Top
School of Seven Bells: Alpinisms

iTunes also tells me that the most played tracks this year were Silversun Pickups’ “Panic Switch” and Placebos’ “Bright Lights”. There were also good albums such as Grizzly Bear’s “Veckatimest”, The Flaming Lips “Embryonic” and “Julian Plenti: is Skyscraper” that had some winning tracks, but not enough to hold interest for the whole album.

I’ve put my favourite tracks into a Spotify Playlist, although they don’t have the latest Pelle Carlberg, so I’ve substituted for ‘Bicycle’ by Memory Tapes.


I couldn’t mention the last year without mentioning our little ol’ Podcast. In March we moved out of our offices at Rissington, and took ourselves down the road to Webble Mill in Burford. At this point we still intended to carry on with the podcast, but not long after John made the move to London for his job with Scholastic.

It should be pretty obvious that the Rissington Podcast has ended. It was enormous, huge, immeasurable fun, and it was it was - chaps talking rubbish as if they were in the pub. However, the practical difficulties of distance just make it nigh on impossible to do. We never managed to get it together to record the joint podcast with Boagworld, and our slot was later taken by ClearLeft. I’m rather sad that it’s all over, but part of that sadness is that I’ve lost John as a colleague.

Hey ho, onwards and upwards. Stiff upper lip.


Opera logo

After spending the first half of my employment at Opera in secret, it was thrilling to see so many releases later in the year - Opera 10, Mini 5 Beta and we even squeezed in a 10.5 Pre-Alpha before the bells tolled January 1st. I know that for the Opera developers it’s particularly exciting to see Unite and the new Core, Carakan and Vega engines to the see the light of day, as they’ve been working on them for a long time.

I’m particularly excited about 10.5. It’s very fast, has better theme integration on Aero, Mac and Linux, and brings many welcome CSS3 goodness. There’s even more that we’ve been working on that is planned for a post 10.5 release.


Only one discovery this year that coloured me excited, and that’s Opacity. In my search for a Fireworks competitor, it’s the only one that’s shown that it can more than hold up it’s own. Yes, a big blog post is overdue on Opacity.


I only spoke at two conferences in 09 - at @media in London and the Web Developer Conference in Bristol. There were more offers, but I’m still not all that keen on speaking. I only want to speak on subjects that I’m confident talking about - which sounds bleedin’ obvious - but I do get asked to speak on other subjects. My work is particularly focussed on Icons, Interface Design (not interaction design) and illustration these days, but these tend to be subjects that web conferences don’t want! ;)

Plans for 2010

I’m rubbish at planning. I’m not one of these people who have the next 5 years mapped out, or the next week for that matter. I don’t even have any secret side-projects that I can mention in that irritatingly teasing way that folks do. There are a couple of things on my mind for this year. 2010 brings with it a new challenge: as there aren’t enough people to share Webble Mill when the lease ends in March, the rest of the Millers either need to find new offices, or Leigh and I need to buy a house with enough space to work in. Both directions have pros and cons, but at this point it’s hard to tell how it will go.

I’m also still umm-ing and ah-ing over making Helvetireader 2. When I released the first version, I quickly fell back into the trap of working on it to satisfy other people’s needs, moving away from my intention of hiding as much stuff as possible. I had an idea of creating two versions - the first being a ‘core’ stylesheet that removed a lot of blue, changed type styles and colours, but not much else. The other one would use the core stylesheet, then add all the fancier stuff, as well as hiding a lot of it.

It’s nice to have side-projects like Helvetireader, but I can’t help thinking that I need to be spending more time away from the screen. I really enjoyed doing Daniel’s Daily Monsters in 09, and in short, I want to get back to doing more drawing in 10. I found the immediacy and speed of black and white ink drawing quite liberating, and artists like Tom Gauld have inspired me.

Looking forward to…

Instead, it’s easier to list the things I’m looking forward to this year:


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