In praise of Pixelsurgeon

The hugely popular design portal Pixelsurgeon has breathed its last. Site creator Jason Arber takes you behind the scenes.

Many of you will be most familiar with me thanks to the design portal I co-founded with illustrator Richard May. For the last few years I've been the head honcho and showrunner of Pixelsurgeon, serving up interviews, reviews and news on a regular basis. And in mid-November last year I killed it stone-dead.

I was taken aback by the kindly emails I received and the generous forum comments. Many people wondered why I closed the site, but the reasons are quite undramatic: the time I had to devote to Pixelsurgeon was being mercilessly compressed by the success of the animation company I had started a year previously and my desire to spend what free time I did have with my family. I had also designed an extremely cool new version of Pixelsurgeon two years earlier, but a number of coders had let me down, beaten by the scale of what I wanted, and their repeated failure sapped my enthusiasm for the site.

But let's not be downhearted: Pixelsurgeon was still packing in tens of thousands of unique visitors a month, a great number of whom visited daily. I'm happy that Pixelsurgeon went out on top, rather than suffering a drawn-out death.

Pixelsurgeon was created almost seven years ago because Rich and I felt that many of the existing design portals were trying too hard to look cool and were not delivering on the content. Thanks to early plugs by our buddies at K10k and Surfstation, our readership soared, taking out an ISP who couldn't handle our traffic.

Our initial design was famously pirated by a Knot's Landing fan site of all things, and we scared the bejesus out of them by finding out their contact details on the Whois database and calling them directly. Pixelsurgeon had a subsequent redesign; the improved layout was rugged and flexible, and continued to be ripped off on a regular basis throughout its life. Those who copied our design were often outed by Surgeon fans to our great amusement.

One of the great things about Pixelsurgeon was the opportunities it afforded myself and the other core members. We were invited around the world to give talks and lectures at events and met and befriended a great number of amazingly creative folk.

As Pixelsurgeon's content began to gain respect outside of design circles, we found it easy to get interviews with our favourite musicians and film-makers. We chatted with Tim Kring, the creator of Heroes, Nick Cave, Shane Carruth, Chris Cunningham, Edgar Wright, Bruce Campbell, Gary Numan and Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess.

None of this would have been possible without a veritable army of contributors, who all toiled out of the goodness of their hearts to make Pixelsurgeon an exciting and engaging read. I'll always be eternally grateful to this motley crew of friends and random strangers whose enthusiasm for the site was both astonishing and heart-warming.

But all good things must come to an end, and seven years is a lifetime in internet years. Luckily the web is a dynamic and vigorous medium and there are plenty of other sites to fill the gap. It's been a fantastic innings, and I've loved every minute of it.