If you scrolled through Twitter at the weekend, you might have stumbled across the quickly escalating Twitter storm centred around a poorly worded tweet from typography legend Erik Spiekermann.
The situation erupted after new author on the block Laura Kalbag proudly announced that after three years of hard work she'd written a book called Accessibility for Everyone (opens in new tab). Spiekermann took issue with the wording of the message:
A bitter argument (opens in new tab) ensued, playing out in the beats we've come to expect from heated Twitter exchanges: Spiekermann explained the intentional irony behind his Tweet; Kalbag accepted his apology; strangers accused the typographer of being a misogynist; and the hate levels rose.
JK Rowling even weighed in to give the story the status it needed to be catapulted to mainstream attention.
Congratulations on writing your first book, Laura. Other people edited, copyedited, proofread, printed and bound it. You wrote. Be proud xAugust 19, 2017
As is the case with these sorts of altercations, picking apart who said what, when, can be an exhausting affair. And while Spiekermann's original message is unnecessarily pedantic in its aim to highlight the valuable input of literal bookmakers, he was quick to apologise to Kalbag and to recognise the hard work of writers.
Ok, everybody. I wrote a bad tweet with a bad choice of words at the wrong time. Will never do click “send” so quickly again. Sorry, Laura!August 19, 2017
Is Twitter still worth it?
This isn't the first time an argument like this has boiled over on Twitter. Getting a nuanced or humorous point across can be difficult given the site's 140 character limitation: misunderstandings occur often and jokes frequently fail to stick the landing.
Throw in an increasing backlash to new logo and branding projects, and the question arises: is it time for designers to leave Twitter? Is the platform still home to the conversations, communities and opportunities that creatives can be part of to stay connected and informed?
To find out whether Twitter is still a useful way to keep up with industry news, promote work and discuss industry issues – or whether pedantic rows like this are all that's left – we, er, asked Twitter.
While an overwhelming majority of people who responded were committed to the platform, one clear message to emerge was that it's important to think before tweeting: keep a cool head and don't post statuses in a hurry.
Twitter IS still a good platform. Participants have to think first before tweeting though.August 21, 2017
100% – like any gathering there's spats, drama, cliques, gossip, jerks, praise, fun, exposure, opportunity, friends, heroes, villains etc.August 21, 2017
I think the rule, for designers and everyone else is simple: Don't be a dick.August 21, 2017
As long as you realize not everyone will like your designs and your responses always stay super professionalAugust 21, 2017
What's going on with Twitter?
One reason why Twitter might have become an angry echo chamber for some is because its position in the digital landscape has changed over the years. "Twitter used to be a gimmick, but it’s now become part of everyone’s life," says type and logo designer . "I initially used it as a place to get in touch with other like-minded designers around the world."
"It worked for me – I even eventually met up with people after only speaking to them online. It still is a great way to network and promote recently launched projects. I’m not sure it makes us better designers but it certainly keeps me up-to-date with the industry."
The increasing amount of hate on Twitter is worrying for Clarke, though, who has seen the aggressive behaviour which used to be limited to blogs spill over to reach a wider audience.
"I see it as similar to road rage," he explains. "Anonymous people behind their keyboards shaking their fists. Just seeing web links and animated cat GIFs is boring but I’m not sure Twitter, with it’s limited amount of characters, is the best platform for debate and discussion."
"It seems we are now living in a much more turbulent world of social networking so I think those with a large following and big reputation need to think/re-read before they press send."
Think before you Tweet
The whole situation might make Spiekermann revaluate one of the gems of wisdom (opens in new tab) from his recent Creative Bath talk, namely that designers shouldn't make excuses.
"We are judged by our work, not our words," he stated. Maybe in the future he'll add a caveat about Tweets.