Joining Big Medium

Well I’ll be, I’ve now been running my own business for over a decade! In January 2013 I left agency life and set out into the world of self employment. When I announced I was going to start my own company, here’s what I envisioned I would be doing:

At the beginning of the new year I’ll begin a new adventure doing a mixture of consulting, front-end design, workshops, speaking, and writing.

And here I am 10 years later doing a combination of consulting, front-end design, workshops, speaking, and writing! It’s been a wild journey, and I’m so enormously grateful to everyone — collaborators, clients, conference organizers, conference/workshop attendees, the community, people who read my book, family, friends, you reading this! — who’s made it possible for me to operate for all these years.

But here’s the thing, it’s never just been me. I receive emails from potential clients that read something like “We’re a humongous organization, sooooo can yoouu(?) help us, Brad?” The answer is of course “yes!” but it’s not just me. I’m part of a dynamic team composed of brilliant designers, developers, producers, architects, documentarians, and a slew of other specialists. And if you’ll indulge a bit of bragging, there’s a fair-to-good chance we’ve helped build, evolve, and guide more enterprise design systems than pretty much anyone on the planet.

We’ve got firepower galore, but it’s been confusing because we’ve historically presented ourselves as a loose collection of individuals, which isn’t how we’ve operated in years. So we’re addressing that by explicitly flying under a single flag. So I’m pleased to announce I’m “joining” Big Medium!

“Joining” Big Medium!

“Joining” is in quotes because I’ve been a part of Big Medium for the last 10 years. Josh Clark and I began our partnership a decade ago when he brought me on to build and launch responsive redesigns of TechCrunch and Entertainment Weekly. It was through those projects that atomic design transformed from an idea in my head into An Actual Thing; Josh was instrumental in bringing atomic design into existence. Fast forward ten years and we’re still here firing on all cylinders!

While the tools, trends, technologies, and tactics have changed over the years, our mission remains the same: we help organizations implement digital design best practices at scale. The newly-refreshed Big Medium website does a good job at explaining what we do:

We guide big companies doing big things. We combine strategy and practice to help our clients build the right products and build the products right.

  • We build and evolve design systems for the world’s biggest companies.
  • We design web and application interfaces across brands and product lines.
  • We do organization design and change management to bust silos and help sprawling digital teams work better together.
  • We craft product strategy for emerging technologies including AI, connected devices, and the latest web technologies.
  • We provide education and inspiration via workshops, executive sessions, and keynote addresses.

But here’s the thing: a lot of agencies and consultancies do UX/UI, product strategy, design systems, new technology, and similar kind of work. As we often say in our design system work, success has far less to do with assets and more to do with people and their relationships to one another. And it’s deftly navigating humans and all their intricacies that is Big Medium’s secret sauce. And so much of that sauce has to do with the specific individuals that make up our jolly company.

A truly special crew

As I’ve written about before, my family has endured some incredibly challenging years. On multiple occasions, I’ve had to step away from work for super long stretches at a time, and when I returned I certainly wasn’t back to my old, productive self. Through all of my trials/tribulations/trauma, my Big Medium partners picked up the slack, moved mountains & timelines, provided shoulders for me to cry on, gave me time & space to heal, exhibited infinite patience, and supported me every step of the way. Their words and actions during those challenging times were undoubtedly the nicest, kindest, loving things I’ve ever experienced in my life, and me and my family are forever grateful.

I’m not just sharing this to thank the team at a personal level; I’m sharing this sentiment because it speaks volumes about the character my colleagues demonstrate every day in our work. The nature of our work involves jumping into the muck of all of our clients’ politics, high-pressure deadlines, ever-morphing redesigns/replatforms, competing stakeholders, interdisciplinary/interpersonal conflict, messy architecture, and all the stress and frustration that comes with the territory. It’s in these thorny environments where we thrive.

We jump in with a genuine desire to help improve peoples’ day-to-day lives. We do that by establishing/evolving design systems, building best-in-class digital products, and providing training on digital design/dev best practices. Obviously we get the job done; we’re true professionals that have built top-notch design systems in seemingly every tool and technology out there. But it’s ultimately not about buttons and design tokens. It never was.

We have the privilege to help our clients work in healthier ways — to be better, kinder, more collaborative human beings. We do that by listening and learning, modeling better processes, helping teams through difficult/challenging/contentious situations, educating & training, gently guiding teams through change, and inspiring them to keep moving forward after we’ve gone. In order to do that critical work, we need to show up as our whole selves. And that’s why I feel so incredibly lucky to work with such warm, kind, authentic, passionate, honest, curious, fun, and even goofy human beings.

I’m convinced it’s those human qualities that have led to over a decade of successful work. We’ve been able to take already-healthy organizations from good to great, but even more satisfying has been helping organizations really do a legit turnaround. “Digital transformation” is a bit of a buzzword, but holy shit I believe we’ve actually transformed quite a few digital organizations for the better. It’s so incredibly rewarding to alleviate frustration in peoples’ lives, and I love being able to inject a lot of humanity and a bit of fun along the way.

Full steam ahead!

I feel like our merry crew of Big Medium-ers (err, we’ll have to work on that) have really caught our stride, and I’m so excited for what’s to come. We’re still overhauling the Big Medium website to better reflect what we’ve grown into, but in the meantime I want to thank my wonderful colleagues for everything, back-of-the-school-yearbook style.

  • Ian, I love you like a brother. Oh wait, you are my brother. But seriously, who’d have thought a former meteorologist could transform into such a front-end machine. Not only can you blaze through front-end architecture and implementation, you’ve evolved into such an effective and gentle teacher to our client teams and colleagues. Thank you for being an absolute rock on both the professional and personal fronts over the years.
  • Jessi Hall, you are truly one of a kind. Your vision and can-do attitude is second to none. Somehow you’re able to keep the trains running on time while demonstrating kindness, understanding, and warmth every step of the way. I’m awestruck how much you are looking out for everyone not just to keep projects running smoothly (although that is obviously important!), but because you genuinely care about everyone’s wellbeing. You’re an inspiration to everyone, and our client teams pick up the best habits from your leadership.
  • Kevin Coyle, you are bloody brilliant (had to throw a Britishism in there). Your AI wizardry and invention is so inspiring and amazing to witness, and your technical mastery is matched by your sincere and warm guidance to our clients’ developers. I don’t quite understand how we can throw the kitchen sink at you and you’re able to turn around thoughtful, elegant solutions so quickly. Truly amazing.
  • Sam Solomon, I so appreciate your thoughtful and thorough approach to Figma architecture and conventions. But more importantly, I love your steady, cool, calm, ego-less, and pragmatic approach to design and education. Our clients’ design teams love working with you to help them elevate their game.
  • Veronika Kindred, welcome to the party! We’re so incredibly glad you’re here; you’ve already proven to be a massive help in making our projects run smoothly, but also your sharp wit and kind demeanor is infectious! We’re all so excited to continue showing you the ropes and witnessing how you grow.
  • Katie Breuil – you’ve now been on the Big Medium right for a while, and while I appreciate your razor-sharp front-end chops, I more appreciate your wit, goofiness, and Floridian humor & energy. Thanks so much for all of the great collaboration and rapport!
  • Southleft – Thank you for being a such trusted developer partner with us. TJ, you’ve put together a hell of a team, and thank you Greg, Kelsey, Mitch, Ben, and the rest of the crew for being so delightful to work with! We love collaborating with you on projects and also talking shop about this ever-shifting technology landscape.
  • Thank you to our constellation of trusted collaborators, some of whom I can’t mention because they’re moonlighting with us (you know who you are). Your expertise is invaluable, and we all love working with you and learning from you!
  • To all our clients, thank you for giving us the opportunity to work with your teams to help you make great things happen. I’m so grateful that we continue to be friends with many of our clients long after the work is done; it’s so genuinely amazing to create these lasting connections through our work together.
  • And of course there’s Josh Clark. I owe you so incredibly much and it’s impossible to really thank you in words. You are inspiring on so many levels, showing me how to work better by setting aside my opinions and listening with kindness and empathy. You truly are the Organization Whisperer; I continue to be awed at how you’re able to take a room full of competing directions/stakeholders and get everyone aligned and inspired to move forward together. But more importantly, in so many ways you’ve inspired me and countless others to be better human beings. There’s a lot more to say, but for now I’ll leave it at THANK YOU SO MUCH.
Until we get more of a professional photo, here’s as good as we’re going to get. Here’s most of the core Big Medium team: Ian Frost, Josh Clark, some weird guy, and Jessi Hall

It’s an absolute honor to join Big Medium, and I’m so excited to see where we go from here. If your organization needs help establishing/evolving your design system, improving processes, building rock-solid digital products, establishing better digital practices, or strategizing on adopting new technologies, feel free to reach out! I promise we’ll have some great fun working together.