Don't learn Python because you think that's a pre-req to do a tech startup. Fall in love with your idea, not the idea of being a founder.
Chris Coyier studied graphic design in college, spent a few years working prepress in the printing industry, and dabbled in web design. When a small studio needed some work in a hurry he joined and quickly fell in love with designing for the web. Since then, he wrote a book called Digging Into WordPress, shares his insight on CSS-Tricks.com, and travels the country and speaks about front-end development, all while working for SurveyMonkey in Palo Alto.
We were honored to be able to speak with Chris. We learned to code through CSS-Tricks, and many of the skills we used to build the site, we learned from Chris. We talked to him about his motivation behind CSS-Tricks, his definition of entrepreneurship, and his advice for how to make Kern and Burn a sustainable website.
Chris answered honestly when we asked him if he’s always wanted to educate designers, and if he views CSS-Tricks as a gift to the design community. He said, “It’s not as altruistic as that. I was reading guys like Darren Rowse of ProBlogger and wanted in on the get-rich-blogging thing. It wasn’t an awful idea but my heart wasn’t in it. CSS-Tricks was the worst performing of my blogs, but it was the only one I liked writing for.” He feels differently about it now. He said, “Now I’m more addicted to the community aspects. I write things and I get immediate quality feedback. People comment, they share it, and they use things I teach in the things they build. That’s a pretty powerful motivator. It’s bigger than money. The get-rich-blogging thing turned out to be more like live-comfortably blogging.”
Even though Chris planned to monetize his site from the beginning, he said, “I don’t really consider myself an entrepreneur. It may just be the word though. It sounds too fancy for me. I like working on stuff that is fun and that people will like and use. Things that I take pride in. My dad is a garbage truck driver and president of his local union. Is what we do really that different? We both work on stuff and help people when we can.”
Chris moved to California when Wufoo was bought by SurveyMonkey. We asked him if his new surroundings (and closer proximity to the startup culture) had any influence on his practice. He said, “I don’t find myself too affected by the ‘Silicon Valley’ thing. The same movies play here as everywhere else. People drive the same cars. They sell the same cheese. Serve up the same internet. The notion that you gotta live out here to do a startup is wacky to me. I’ve been to tech events all around the US and the startup spirit is strong all over.”
As far as advice for designers with entrepreneurial ambitions that want to get involved in that “all over” startup spirit, Chris said it’s all about passion. He said,”The thing that you want to build should be your drive. Say you have an app idea that needs a login system. You should learn to build that login system because you need it for your app. Don’t learn how to build a login system because you think you should, or because you think it’s generically good for business. Don’t learn Python because you think that’s a pre-req to do a tech startup. Fall in love with your idea, not the idea of being a founder.”
We created Kern and Burn to encourage our readers to design lives for themselves and to pursue their dreams. We love Chris’ advice to use design as a means to communicate and chase your ideas.
P.S. We’re chasing an idea of our own and today is the last day for our Kickstarter campaign. Please help us spread the word and consider pledging in support of our book.