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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. When he is not writing or speaking at a conference, he’s most probably running … More about Vitaly

The Seven Years That Changed Everything

Quick Summary

Today is the day when it all started — the day when this little website launched back in 2006. Today, we celebrate our seventh anniversary, and you, dear readers, are the ones who have made it possible and kept us going. The Seven Years That Changed Everything A couple of months ago, I was on a night train on my way to one of those countless Web design conferences. Being offline with a ridiculous roaming rate is always a good excuse to get some work done, and the music streaming from my good ol’ headphones helped me to focus on the draft of the chapter I was reviewing for our upcoming book.

Table of Contents

Today is the day when it all started — the day when this little website launched back in 2006. Today, we celebrate our seventh anniversary, and you, dear readers, are the ones who have made it possible and kept us going.


Sorry about that heavy 0.5Mb GIF, but after all it’s our little birthday today and this GIF has been circling around the office for ages now.

Time For A Little Story

A couple of months ago, I was on a night train on my way to one of those countless Web design conferences. Being offline with a ridiculous roaming rate is always a good excuse to get some work done, and the music streaming from my good ol’ headphones helped me to focus on the draft of the chapter I was reviewing for our upcoming book.

Further Reading on SmashingMag:

At a late stop, a dark-haired guy in his 30s stepped into my coach, politely asking whether the seat next to me was taken, then carefully placing his bag right next to mine. From his bag, he pulled out his laptop, his Moleskine and a set of exquisite Japanese pens — ones you wouldn’t find in any regular stationery shop. He looked like an artist at first glance, but at the same time was running Coda on his laptop.

Once he had everything in place, he pulled out a few books from his bag — all of the usual suspects, I assumed: a couple of Five Simple Steps books, a few printouts with sketches and mind maps, some A Book Apart volumes. Then I kept my breath for a moment — I suddenly glimpsed our very own Mobile Book, still neatly and tightly packed and wrapped.

You see, I’ve never seen someone read our books before then. You know how it is: You create something, send it into the wilderness of the Web, only to be surprised when you discover that people out there actually use this thing whose trail wanders from tweet to tweet, from one designer to the next.

Conversation in a train
Best things always happen to you when you don’t expect them at all. A random conversation at any point of time can change and redefine everything. (Image credit: Duane Romanell)

I struck up a conversation with my neighbor, asking him his name and where he comes from, whether he is an artist and what he does for a living, what it’s like to be a freelancer, and what the industry is like in general. He replied eagerly, and so the conversation led from design to development to culture to UX to personal struggles and successes, as the train moved along in the dark night.

“So, how do you keep improving your skills?” I asked.

“You know, experimenting with stuff, playing around with what’s out there.”

“I guess going to conferences as well, then?”

“Yep, that too. And then there is this pretty cool magazine. It’s called Smashing.”

I smiled, resisting the urge to say something.

At some point, the conversation drifted off, and I returned to my editing duties, while my neighbor started drawing in his Moleskine, jumping from one Japanese pen to another as the light was dimming. Suddenly, he slowly leaned towards his bag, reached for the Mobile Book and started examining it. He unwrapped the book slowly and gently leafed through its pages. He kept turning the book from one side to another, helped only by the flagging light from the side of the coach. Not long after he unwrapped it, I could hear a page flip every two minutes as my neighbor was reading the book.

I couldn’t look away. The book we’d been working for almost 10 months was actually being read by someone right in front of me. At this point, I knew almost every single page of the book by heart, and I knew exactly which pages contained grammar or spelling mistakes that our readers had flagged. I didn’t say anything, though — of course.

As the time passed and I continued editing the chapter, I kept hearing the pages flip. The coach was silent and almost empty, yet this little whisper of flipping was full of something… remarkable and meaningful — something that I would remember for a long, long time after that trip.

I spent almost the whole night editing that one monolithic chapter, finishing just before the sun rose, as my neighbor continued flipping through the book every couple of minutes. I will never forget how, upon closing my laptop, I realized that even hours later the Mobile Book was still there, serving its purpose as the night wore on.

Blow Out The Candle!

Since then, I always remember how worthwhile and empowering every single minute we’ve invested in Smashing Magazine felt in those few hours on the train.

Seven Years — And Counting!

This little website was launched exactly seven years ago today. We didn’t have an ambitious goal. We didn’t have a master plan. We just wanted to do what matters to us and provide value to our colleagues, fellows designers and developers out there. That train trip of mine is one of the reasons we are still doing it today. The trip throughout all these seven years changed everything for me, and these years still drive us in new directions and towards new challenges. And for this I am eternally, eternally grateful.

These seven years have changed everything because what we do does matter after all, and because you matter to us.

Our Birthday Present — To You.

We put our heart and soul into producing books that we love and that you will hopefully love, too. Good is not good enough, and we do everything we can to create beautiful and valuable artefacts of their time and keep them affordable to everyone worldwide.

Here’s To Another Seven Years!

The journey has just begun. We have a lot more in store, and we aren’t afraid of new challenges. In fact, we are happy to take this journey with you. A huge thank you to you for being so helpful, engaging and supportive, and for staying with us all this time, and for reading our books on night trains. It means the world to us. You mean the world to us.

Happy Birthday! It’s time to make a wish and blow out the candles. Happy Birthday, SmashingMag. Happy Birthday, everyone!