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Designer, writer, teacher. I love building things.

The startup where I work is going to launch their product to the world this week. As I write this, our website hasn’t yet been updated, the software isn’t widely available, and our only users are beta testers. But soon we’ll step out on stage, and that will all change. Before it does, I want to write some notes about how it all feels from this side of the curtain.

I’ve been working in tech since January 2000, and held my breath and gritted my teeth through lots of big launches. In 2001, I was at RealNetworks when it bet…


Lots and lots of people like dark mode on their phone. I’m glad they have the option, because a lot of people find it more comfortable. But I’d like to explain what it’s like for someone like me. White text on a black background gives me a headache in about thirty seconds. If I try to suffer through it, it can give me a migraine. It’s awful.

Imagine if reading a few lines of text could throw off your entire day. That’s what the dark mode phenomenon is doing to some of your users if you don’t give them the choice to select a different theme. I’ve skipped articles and stopped using software because of a forced black background. No headache is worth it. I may not be in the majority, but I’m not the only one, either.


The first book is done! It will be here in a few weeks. But I’m not really feeling as excited as I was hoping I would. That was really hard! Even for someone who knows that creative projects are always harder than you expect.

“The first 90% is fun. The second 90% will almost kill you.”

Humans are funny. We under-estimate how hard something will be, and over-estimate how good we’ll feel once we succeed. Here I am, with my goal complete, and it’s hard to explain how I feel. I don’t feel like celebrating, and I don’t feel like…


When Covid hit, and everyone was glued to the news, we all learned a lot about health care together. That’s how 9/11 felt too. When the towers were still rubble in Manhattan, and the smoke still filled the air, we all jumped on the internet and began doing research. Who was Osama bin Laden? Why do these people want to kill us? And where in the world is Afghanistan? Are Afghans our enemies?

We Didn’t Start the Fire has that line about “Russians in Afghanistan,” and a quick wikipedia dive filled in the gaps in our memory. There was that…


Today I got a copy of my first book in the mail. In issue #8, I talked about how the previous version was much too small. This one feels much nicer, because the book got a lot longer. And I’m still thrilled about how the cover looks.

First draft on the left, latest revision on the right

There are still some issues that I’ll need to work through.

First, the typeface is set too large. It’s fine, but feels just a little too kiddish. I’m going to dial it down about 5%, which will make my nice and thick book a little less thick. …


Last month my friend died, so I started putting together our digital archives. I wanted to back up our emails and iMessage chats, because we chatted about everything starting in 2010 or so. Emails are easy. I have 699 emails from him, and Google cheerfully documented them all, including a bunch of GMail chats. iMessages are harder, so I’ve been spending a lot of time figuring out how to best back them up.

A few minutes ago, I found my first iMessage with Mike. But it wasn’t from 2010. It was from 2015. My heart sank.

I vaguely remember this…


As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really writing five books this year. I’m just arranging five books worth of words I’ve written over the years. Much easier.

Yesterday I finalised the cover for my first book and ordered a copy from the printer. With one item checked off my list, I looked to book two: a collection of bedtime stories that I’ve written for my kids over the years. This is going to be a fun one.

The Kingdoms of Ku-Mulkalt

The world map

A few years ago, we made a fantasy map as a family. This was the original iteration of it. Look in the top…


This was put together by the wonderful Cadence Chen, and I’m really excited to slap it on the cover of my almost-done book.

The background

My son is turning 14 soon, and I thought it’d be nice to write him a book that I originally called “What Your Dad Believes.” Because it wouldn’t be sold to other people, I wouldn’t need to put the normal stuff on it like a title or my name. I just needed content and a cover.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered old essays I wrote when I was 21. So I decided to change the title…


The performances of 11 songs over 148 shows, all made up

About 18 months ago, I created a make-believe band that plays make-believe shows around the world. There are no actual songs, lyrics, or music. I come up with song names, a tour itinerary, and an algorithm produces the setlist for each night. Read more about the algorithm here and there’s a very long explanation here if you’d like to learn more about the band.

Today I’d like to talk about the green, red, and black dots up above. There are 11 rows, which represent the first 11 songs the band ever wrote. (Now they’re up to 104 songs) The columns…


The day after his wedding

Here are a few stories about my friend Mike, who recently passed away.

[Update: a memorial page has been posted. Go there to find ways to help or be notified of further information.]

His reputation preceded him

When I went to work at frog design, I noticed everyone kept talking about this client named Mike. He was apparently a great industrial designer who had done some cool futuristic stuff at Nokia. But more than that, he made people happy. He loved telling jokes, he loved the people he worked with, and that love rubbed off on my coworkers. “Mike’s great,” people told me. “You’ve…

Jon Bell

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