Shift Happens

Shift Happens book prototypes animated gif

A series of prototypes of Shift Happens

I first discovered Marcin Wichary from his Medium posts. As a Medium employee he wrote extensively about a subject I so rarely encounter: details. His style is to go very deep on a subject and make it exciting. This includes software, typography, and even bridges. Here are a few notable posts written by Marcin that inspired me to become a better designer and put more effort into details:

He also gives lectures where one can get a better sense of his passion for storytelling:

I was thrilled to hear he was going to write a book about keyboards. Knowing his ability to hunt down the history behind small decisions that impact us today, I knew this book would be special. I also believed his book would be an opportunity to learn about a tool I have used every day since my parents purchased a Mac LC in 1990.

One could assume the story ends here. Marcin wrote a book, I purchased it, and now it’s in my home. This is not the case. Not even close.

Marcin started a newsletter in 2017 and wrote detailed stories about writing chapters, rewriting chapters, buying old keyboards on eBay, and discovering particularly unusual keyboards. A post would conclude with a photo of the keyboard he was using to write the post with. At first I thought this was a goofy addition but I grew to love it. Every post felt unique. I would read knowing that the conclusion would be a photo of a whacky keyboard I had never seen before. Along with his stories about traveling to museums and interviewing retired engineers, the occasional photo of a wall covered in post-it notes tracking the book’s progress was also shared. Clearly, this was a daunting task.

Post it notes on a wall

The book became more than a book as the years passed. It was an odyssey: an unending journey filled with quests, anecdotes, surprises, setbacks, and celebrations. Finally, in 2023, the Kickstarter campaign launched. Marcin got incredible press after the launch. I watched as the dollar amount climbed hour by hour until it was fully backed and the campaign’s extras started to unlock. With this excitement also came a small sense of dread. Was the journey coming to end? The books would eventually materialize and knowing Marcin’s style there would be an onrush of posts about finalizing details, printing, packaging, and shipping books. But then what?

The books (Marcin ended up releasing the book as two volumes) are now in my home. I see them every day since they reside next to a few other special books near my desk like Kenya Hara’s Designing Design and Josef Müller-Brockmann’s The Graphic Artist and His Design Problems. As I feared the journey ended. Marcin found a way to continue sending updates by sharing customers’ photos of new, crisp books in homes. For me the books patiently wait for a childless vacation where I can dig in. My two year old daughter occasionally asks, Can I look at the keyboards?” We flip through one of the books until she gets bored and asks to look at Massimo” meaning Gary Hustwit’s Vignelli: Photographs.

Shift Happens books in their binding

I’m sure Marcin is relieved to end this eight year adventure, but I have a feeling he’s not done.