2021 - Year in Review
In my newsletter a few weeks back, I mentioned Matthias’ tweet about looking up stuff on your own blog. Well if there’s one post that’s always worth looking up for me personally, it’s this one. My year in review. Last year’s post certainly helps me gain perspective on this year and what has changed… and what hasn’t.
At the very end of that post I looked ahead and wrote, “I’ve met someone that I really like and it’s weird, but fantastic, experiencing new love.” Well, it turns out that it was real love and it’s been the biggest change in my life in so many ways this past year, but let’s save the best for last and use my traditional order of things from 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Projects & Work
In terms of work, this year turned out very differently than past ones. At the end of 2020, I was working with Ueno on a Polish delivery service. But, as you might remember, Ueno was acquired by Twitter at the end of 2020. Little did I know then how that would change my work. At the time, I figured the project would end and I would return to freelancing. After all, I had already been committed to the project for longer than was usual. At the very beginning of 2021, I found out that the project would continue, but with new leadership. Aaron Shapiro (who founded HUGE) would put together a new team and finish the project. I had my first chat with Aaron and he told me his plan was to bring over as many of the team members as possible. Aaron brought in Allen Orr as an ECD as well as my dear friend Nicole Hampton - who I had already worked with on Herman Miller a year earlier.
In May 2021, I realised that I really enjoyed working with this team and that I enjoyed some of the things that a more permanent position brings: paid time-off, recurring (steady) income, and - most importantly - the possibility to work more with team management again. So after some back and forth, I decided to join Product Inc as full-time Director of User Experience.
Thanks to Product Inc I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with an amazing Polish company for the entire year and also work on, and lead multiple projects for Google. These are opportunities wouldn’t occured if I was working as an individual freelancer, so I’m grateful of getting to work on projects like these.
During 2021, I’ve turned down most freelance work except for coaching senior designers to do even better work. There are a couple of designers that I’ve worked with throughout 2021 and these sessions give me a lot of energy (and equally drains a lot of energy!).
The only additional work that I’ve taken on this year is for Hyper Island. I’ve been honoured to be asked to return to Hyper Island for a 19th consecutive year 🤯. This year I had the responsibility over two different classes, Design Principles and something that is dear to me (which is why I asked to cover it), Ethics in Design.
Design Principles at Hyper Island
Website & Newsletter
I am not sure if they are related but whatever success I’ve had when it comes to work has surely taken it’s toll on my website and the newsletter. I’ve written less articles than probably ever before and I’m not really keep track of metrics. I am fairly sure that the my newsletter is slowly, but surely growing and people tend to stay on longer and longer per visit, so that’s good enough for me at this point.
The three most popular posts from this year:
(Probably because these are linked from the homepage)
2020 was a year that was filled with a lot of heart ache: my dog died and my wife and I separated. But as my friend Toph said the other day, if life gives you lemon, throw them out and bake a fucking chocolate cake because everyone loves cake. And boy did I manage to bake a cake. The person I started to get to know at the end of last year turned out to be true love and it’s been a thrilling experience getting to know someone new.
Perhaps the biggest change this year appeared slightly out of the blue. We had been playing with the idea of moving to the country side in maybe 2-3 years. Then one afternoon Anna sent me a link to a listing of the most beautiful house. I asked her if she wanted to go see it as it’s fairly close to where her parents have a summer house knowing we’ll likely be in the area anyway. We had zero intentions of buying the house when we first arrived. But both of us instantly fell in love with the house and I remember doing some napkin calculations driving back if we could afford it. About a month later from first seeing it, we bought it. It became a pretty hectic autumn of change.
WE BOUGHT A HOUSE 🎉 pic.twitter.com/v4aE3SzGXs— Anton Sten (@antonsten) July 19, 2021
We each had an apartment in Malmö that we needed to sell. Things finally settled and a couple of weeks ago, we moved into our dream house. Only a couple of weeks in, I am already feeling much more at home in this house. I don’t find myself missing the city and I think I always knew that my apartment would always just be a pit stop.
I had high hopes for traveling during 2021, but as you probably can guess, it’s not been great. We did manage to get to Amsterdam (loved it), Copenhagen, and Finland to see some family members that I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic. I’m really hoping things will improve in 2022. Get vaccinated!
I’m overly excited about having a garden when the weather improves in Sweden. We were already growing veggies last year, but not having your own garden complicates things. While the house is beautiful, like all old houses it constantly requires work. So far (reminder: only a couple of weeks in), I’m really enjoying getting to work on tangible house stuff in stark contrast to something like advising Google on how to make privacy terms more humane and user friendly (I enjoy both, but previously I’ve hadn’t had the contrasting work).
Work wise I’m expecting a lot of 2022. There are a couple of things that are still very early stage and I don’t know what will happen, but I am excited.
I do hope that I’ll be able to travel more again in 2022. I want meet all my new friends in the US and reconnect with old ones. And, most all all, I want travel to be safe again so people can come visit and stay with us here! We’re setting up an AirBnB shortly so looking forward to exploring that domain too.
My friend Jessi shared something with me that stuck with me: Give yourself a hug. What a way to end the 2021 year in review post.