DesignInterview

Nick Disabato on Distance

Designer and publisher Nick Disabato tells us about his latest literary venture, Distance, a quarterly journal featuring long-form articles on design and technology

This article first appeared in issue 232 of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.

.net: What is Distance?
ND:
Distance is a quarterly journal about design and technology. Each issue has three lively, well-researched, long-form essays that share a common theme, take a confident stand – and offer a way forward.

Our latest issue is about extracurriculars, and it tries to confront the work we do outside of our careers. How can this help us grow professionally? How do we work in fields that need us the most? And what are the best ways to develop products meaningfully, with society’s long-term benefits in mind?

.net: Who are your writers?
ND:
Our writers run the gamut in terms of background, location, and publishing experience. We seek a new crop of writers for each issue, and we’re especially fond of amplifying new voices. It’s a lot easier to muster the confidence to write when you have an editor to support you.

If you are interested in participating in the project, here is more information about writing for Distance.

.net: What do you think this journal is going to add to the existing conversation?
ND:
A degree of thoughtfulness, care and confidence that is otherwise lacking in current design writing. I started Distance because I’d see writing split one of two ways: rants with good points that were buried within a sea of hyperbolic invective that likely existed to gather interest; and hand-wavy, equivocating articles with an ‘it depends’ conclusion.

There is a better way to express one’s confident stance on major issues. I come from a fairly academic background, so I think research is one way forward. Research ties your ideas to the world around you, and it helps justify your initial hunches to your readers and yourself. An essay differs from a rant by offering a solution. We need more essays and fewer rants. Distance goes against the prevailing tides of internet discourse, but I’m happy that it’s found a receptive audience.

.net: Can you give us a little insight into your publishing process?
ND:
I am fairly hands-on as an editor. Often, people come to me with an unrefined hunch about some major issue in our field, and I’ll help them turn it into a thesis, and then an outline, and then a whole essay. I help people with researching and building an argument, and then I do a low-level edit pass for grammar, style and tone.

As a small, independent publisher, I design and typeset every issue by myself, and I work with a copy editor as a final sanity check before an issue goes out the door. I work with a local printer, a two-mile bike ride from my office. Every copy of Distance is packed and shipped out of my office, and I frequently hand-deliver copies to friends and colleagues.

.net: Tell us something about your mission to make digital publishing simpler, easier and fairer for everybody to get involved with.
ND:
This past May, I launched the Publication Standards Project, which tries to raise awareness and action around digital publishing issues. It began with an essay at A List Apart, which you can read here. You can read more about our views at www.pubstandards.org.

.net: Can you explain a little to us about the slow web, and how does this ideology find its way into your work?
ND:
Jack Cheng wrote a blog post about this concept, which you can read here. The slow web might be best framed by what it isn’t; as Jack suggests.

“What is the Fast Web?” he asks. “It’s the out of control web. The oh my god there’s so much stuff and I can’t possibly keep up web. The create a destination for billions of people web. The you have 226 new updates web.”

I try to avoid these qualities whenever I can, and Jack’s post really hit home for me. It’s tied together a lot of personal beliefs about the way I want to live, and the way my work impacts others. I want people to develop significant relationships with one another, and I am very careful and deliberate about the things I put into the world. As an interaction designer, I try to avoid taking on short-lived projects for meaningless ends. As a publisher, I want writing to be durable and thoughtful.
 

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