Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

2009 in review & goals for 2010

Posted on 30 December 2009 25 comments

Article illustration for 2009 in review & goals for 2010

It’s that time of year again: time to look over the year that was and look ahead to the year that will be. Although for many people 2009 seemed to be a year filled with financial instability, it seems like our industry has been relatively untouched, thankfully. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that 2009 has been a good year. Has it for you?

The good

In last year’s post, I set out a number of goals I wanted to achieve and I’m happy to say that I met all but one:

  • The first was to achieve the three failed goals from the previous year, which I did: I released a new version of this site, unveiled a major pet project (admittedly not the original one I was referring to, which is now officially shelved), and released a new EP of my music.

  • Speak at at least 8 events. In the end I spoke at 9, but in hindsight that was too much. Next year I plan to cut the speaking events down to around 4 or 5.

  • Fit in more travelling. Thanks to above, this was relatively easy to achieve, but again will be something I’ll probably cut back on next year. It’s such a productivity-killer and flying has sadly lost the magic it once had.

  • Not fall victim to the current financial climate. Bizarrely, business is better than it ever has been and I’m hearing the same thing from most of my friends, too. Perhaps this whole recession thing is just a load of hype, eh?

I’m also proud of some other things that happened this year, although admittedly they came in the latter part:

  • I set up a Limited Company. While on the surface this might not seem much different from being a sole trader, it was the impetus I needed to move things up a gear, both in terms of my professional conduct and how I want things to progress. I’m shaking off the ‘freelancer’ stigma and moving things more in the direction of a design studio.

  • I got better clients. By continually putting my prices up (there’s definitely something to be said for putting your prices up during a recession, even though at first that may seem like madness) and saying ‘no’ to many more jobs than I said ‘yes’ to, I slowly but surely got a better class of client. I don’t just mean ones that pay more: I mean clients who are absolutely lovely to work with, understand the process, and appreciate the importance of design.

  • I decided to do something I know almost nothing about. I’m talking about 8 Faces again. There are many things I don’t know about the world of print design, and creating a publication — a proper, mass-produced one — was certainly way out of my comfort zone. I decided to do it because I knew it’d be a challenge, and because I’d be wearing the hats not only of designer and writer, but also of editor, project manager, salesman, marketeer, distributor, and publisher. It’s scary, and that’s exactly why I’m glad I’m doing it.

The not so good

The goal I didn’t achieve was buy a house, but that’s ok. Neither the timing nor location nor finances were right and I hope to do it in mid-2010 instead.

My biggest regret is that I didn’t release EP 2 this year. I massively underestimated the time I’d need to get back on track after taking so much time out to do the new version of this site. It made a substantial hole in my wallet because I’d turned away client work in order to finish the site, and in order to fill that hole I had to work more. Not loads more by any means, but just enough to mean that taking more time off to write and record music didn’t seem too sensible.

Goals for 2010

I’m looking forward to next year and there are a number of very specific things I want to achieve:

  • Do less client work and more product-based projects. I’ve been saying this for quite some time now, and part of this will depend on the success of the magazine, but it’s my intention to devote a larger portion of time to making cool stuff. Even though I love my clients, I think the balance could be improved somewhat.

  • Blog more often. In the last month I’ve been pretty good and returned to a fairly decent blogging frequency of roughly one post per week. But for the majority of the year I was actually embarrassingly silent, and barely managed a post a month. Shame on me!

  • Release a new version of this site. Yes, you read that right. Even though I redesigned just a few months ago and put a considerable amount of time (i.e: too much time) into the project, I’m still not happy with the outcome, and as the months have gone on, I’ve once again found myself yearning for something new. I don’t necessarily think the new design has failed; it’s just that once again my needs have changed. Whereas last time the redesign was prompted by a change of focus from blog to portfolio, this time the change of focus is from freelancer to design studio. Things are moving around here, and yet I feel like the site is stuck in a place where my head was six months ago. That needs to be rectified.

  • Grow the business. Horrible, businessman-like phrase, but appropriate. This is a long-term, entire year sort of goal, and it basically involves carrying on what I’m already in the process of doing: solidifying the network of trusted freelancers I have, taking on bigger projects, and going after even bigger clients.

  • Finish writing and recording EP 2 and then release it before summer. And then, at the end of the year, release the physical album that combines the two EPs.

Obviously there are a few personal goals I have as well, but I’ve decided to focus more on the professional stuff.

What about you?

I hope you guys have had a good year. Is there anything you’re particularly proud of? Anything you’re ashamed of? As we’re moving into a new decade as well as a new year, I’d be particularly interested to hear about your long-term plans and predictions for our industry.

Please allow me to take this opportunity to once again thank you for all of your support, encouragement, and participation in 2009. Here’s to a happy, healthy, productive, and exciting new year!

(Photo by me)


  1. Magnus


    30 December 2009 @ 10:41PM #

    Happy New Year, and hope to work with you again in 2010!

  2. TheFella


    30 December 2009 @ 10:47PM #

    Well done for 2009 and good luck for 2010! I might even have some new album cover quizzes for you!

  3. Timothy


    30 December 2009 @ 10:48PM #

    The bit about making the transition from a freelancer to a design studio is something that I think a lot of designers & developers fail to picture. And it seems like the logical thing to do. Freelancing may pay the bills but there is so much you can do if you become a studio rather than a 1-person operation.

    Glad to hear you reached virtually all of your goals (minus the house).

  4. Slobodan Manic

    Slobodan Manic

    30 December 2009 @ 10:54PM #

    Happy New Year Elliot!

    Learning as much as possible about Wordpress and becoming a freelancer was my main goal for ‘09, and i’m happy to say that worked out great for me.

    Raising my rate (without being greedy about it), starting a personal project, being more active in developer community, traveling more as well as learning (jQuery and usability being things i’d like to focus on more than anything else) are my main goals for 2010, hopefully i’ll achieve most of them by December 31st, 2010.

    Don’t think i’m experienced enough to make any predictions, but individuals and small companies winning the battle against large agencies is what i think will happen in near future, if it hasn’t already.

    And before I forget, thank you for Starkers theme which was one of the most important WP learning tools i’ve had access to.

    Have a great 2010!

  5. Al Power

    Al Power

    30 December 2009 @ 10:56PM #

    Great idea laying things out! All the best for 2010.

  6. Keith


    30 December 2009 @ 11:03PM #

    Happy New Year Elliot! I don’t have any specific thoughts or predictions and, honestly, 2009 was a tough year that I’d like to forget (on many fronts) so I might not ever write them up. :) I do think things are looking up all around, so let’s leave it at that, shall we?

    I also wanted to thank you for being awesome to work with and let you know that you deserve the success you’re having! Keep the good stuff coming in 2010!!!

  7. Dan Howard

    Dan Howard

    30 December 2009 @ 11:19PM #

    Learning more about freelancing – more business (not hard, since I’ve only been in the business for 2months!), and expanding my skill-set and talents.

    Aside from ‘work related’ ones, it’ll have to be getting a few more non-technical qualifications, buying a car (which I can afford to insure!), and getting my own place. possibly leaving the country is quite high on the list too!

  8. Carlos


    30 December 2009 @ 11:59PM #

    Good things in 2009! Congrats and keep the good work for 2010. I also find interesting you new goal of moving towards a design studio. I think is the most logical thing to do for people in our business and even if the so called recession still going on next year, I think there will always be work for us.
    I wish a happy new year to all of you!

  9. Shane


    31 December 2009 @ 02:12AM #

    I definitely need to blog more – it’s difficult to find the time with everything else that’s going on.

    My next aims are to get a logo designed for my company, get business cards sorted and get some clients. I’m currently in fairly steady contract work, but need more variety and clients!

    The recession thing isn’t hype for lots of people, who are out on their arses. I’m sure your remark was meant as tongue in cheek, but I know a few people who’ve lost their jobs as a result of the downturn.

    Let’s hope we all have a successful and happy 2010!

  10. Amy Haywood

    Amy Haywood

    31 December 2009 @ 07:08AM #

    One of my goals is to build my personal brand. — It sounds like that’s one of everyone’s goals or at least their buzz word vocabulary.

    Building a brand is more difficult than it sounds. I guess that’s why it’s on everyone’s New Year’s resolutions list. It’s more than just throwing up a Wordpress blog and posting a couple times a week. —I’m a person and those complexities can’t necessarily be communicated in a blog. And with the variety of relationships I have…well…I can’t appease everyone with the posts that I write.

    —So, maybe that’s a better goal, for me: if I want to be part of the conversation, figure out who I really want to talk to, and being OK with letting go of everyone else (or at least letting go in my writing).

  11. Otis


    31 December 2009 @ 01:32PM #

    hey! Just found your website for the first time right now…

    cool beans!

    My goal is to dance and perform more… a lot more… like… twice a week.. so that by the end of the year i will end up writing about how i have to scale back like you-with-speaking!

    I know that’s sort of random and everything, but i figure if you put it out into the universe… funny things happen :)

    Keep being awesome

  12. Lorissa


    31 December 2009 @ 04:29PM #

    Happy New Year! Love the recap you’ve got here. I’m not one for resolutions to be honest, but 2009 has been a great year and I’m hoping 2010 is going to be even better! I’m excited to see what it has to offer.

    All the best for the new year. Hopefully all your goals are met, and a long the way you have many good laughs and great memories.

  13. Brian


    31 December 2009 @ 08:19PM #

    Congrats on your successes in 2009 and good luck in 2010!

    Really looking forward to your print book. That’s definitely inspiring me to do something outside my comfort zone.

    Switching to a more product-based business seems to be a good idea, and one that I’m definitely in the process of doing.


  14. Design Informer

    Design Informer

    03 January 2010 @ 07:39AM #

    Happy New Year Elliot! It’s really nice to read about your goals and plans for 2010, and also to take a look back at what you have done in 2009.

    I’m amazed at how motivated and driven you are. You have already accomplished much and it looks like you are even headed for bigger and better things.

    I hope you have a successful and prosperous 2010.

  15. samiinour


    03 January 2010 @ 11:17PM #

    Hi Elliot,
    I’m wrinting my comment only to tell waw!!! Nice achievements wonderful perspective. Good luck for your projects. I am following your career and I am amazed. keep inspiring us. thanks

    (SAMIINOUR a fan from Algeria; hope you heard about it)
  16. Siddharth


    05 January 2010 @ 01:56AM #

    Belated New Year wishes and all the best with fulfilling your goals for 2010.

  17. Guðmundur Bjarni Sigurðsson

    Guðmundur Bjarni Sigurðsson

    05 January 2010 @ 04:23AM #

    I really enjoyed this post, loads of fun looking into your head it almost felt like.

    It´s also fun to see that other designers share some of the same dreams and aspirations with one another. I just saw that Jason Santa Maria started Mighty and all the best wishes and luck to him.

    I´ve also been thinking of doing this, even though I´ve only been freelancing for a year now. And dont get me wrong it´s been fantastic. Get to work from home, get way more time with my wife and kids. It´s just great. But for some reason I want to start a studio with someone, maybe just to share the responsibility.

    Here´s also hoping to get an EP out some time this year.

    Best of luck with this year Elliot.


  18. Amy


    08 January 2010 @ 08:47PM #

    Just came accross you’re site recently as it has popped up so often on all the design blogs I’ve been reading! You’re posts are so inspiring and helpfull; if I had any goal this year it will be to be as motivated and organised as you are!

  19. Rex Stevens

    Rex Stevens

    10 January 2010 @ 05:11PM #


    Thanks this was a great post, I’m always interested in what goals people have in our industry for their businesses.

    As for my I’m looking forward to doing some more product orients projects as well and mix it up so i have a better balance of those type of projects with my client work.

    I’m also looking forward to doing some video blogging, not something i have done before and it’s a little nerve racking i must say :-)

    Anyway, thanks again for the post, and Starkers, its my base for every Wordpress project!

    Best wishes for the new year!


  20. Sunnie


    11 January 2010 @ 04:28PM #

    Hi! I’m your reader a couple of years already. In the beginning of 2009 I didn’t feel financial troubles when worked as freelancer (since 2007) in country where I was born. In april 2009 I moved to live in England. Working as freelancer didn’t work for now – I don’t know many people here yet, so most of the time I was exploring how things work here, improving my portfolio, my skills in Wordpress and SEO, made a website for the band I’m in. My biggest achivement in UK for 2009 was my band – we found a wonderful bass player Holly, started to gig in october and recording in december. Goals for 2010: 1) try to find a permanent job and get my confidence back, meet new people 2) definetly blog more often, have many ideas, just need to organize myself 3) finish my custom wordpress photo-blog-gallery 4) make a website for mobile studio of my husband, he made last year and testing these days with our band 5) try to find own customers 6) EP of our band and more gigs.

  21. The big design swap 2010

    The big design swap 2010

    22 January 2010 @ 07:02PM #

    […] reading some end of year reviews from the likes of Jon and Elliot this week (yes I know I’m behind!) it struck me with a thought; which may just be a thought, […]

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