A Global Design Refresh: James Widegren on the May 1 Reboot

by Patrick Faller

posted on 04-24-2017

Imagine it’s the year 2000, and you’re a designer working with a team of friends and colleagues all around the world. Everyone has big ideas, different projects and dreams. You all love collaborating and showing each other your work, so you decide to take it one step further. On May 1, 2000, you all relaunch your portfolios, websites, and design projects together. ‘May 1 Reboot’ is born.

A lot’s changed for James Widegren since that year, when he pioneered the first May 1 Reboot. He went on to co-found his own creative agency, Your Majesty, based in New York. Since then, the May 1 Reboot tradition has changed hands several times, but now it’s back in full force with Behance as a partner. We talked to James about the idea behind the May 1 Reboot, and why this global movement is just as relevant in 2017 as it was in 2000.

Where did the idea for May 1 Reboot come from?

I was working with a very tight-knit group in 2000. Our industry was developing fast and, at the time, you could redesign your website in a day or two.

We were working hard. In the evenings after everyone else had gone home, we designers were still there challenging each other, experimenting, and swapping Photoshop files. Sort of mish-mashing each other’s work.

It came to a point where we were all working on something new, and we said hey, ‘let’s launch it all together at the same time.’ Out of that came the date, which was May 1.

We announced we were all going to relaunch then. That garnered a lot of attention. We got a big response and people really wanted to be part of it.

So you made it a yearly tradition?

We made it public the next year in 2001. That just blew it up and the whole community bloomed, there was so much excitement. It was such a success.

How has May 1 Reboot evolved?

Tobias van Schneider (who was net Magazine‘s 2016 Designer of the Year) worked with us and totally modernized it. We can basically run it via Twitter, which makes perfect sense.

There were over 3,000 people last year, and this year we’re at 2,000 so far. Tobias has a bigger reach than we did. The vibe and excitement is huge. Just looking at the hashtag is pretty exciting and it’s from all over the world.

It’s giving designers and makers an incentive to stop procrastinating and get stuff done.

Why do designers need that push to get cracking on their own projects?

Well, it’s almost like a project manager for you. May 1 Reboot pushes you and rallies you, and once you actually say you’re going to do something, you have to do it because the whole community is with you. You don’t want to miss out.

How has that design community changed since 2000?

On the whole, I think the whole community is much bigger and the awareness of design is much wider. It trickles into other sectors and industries and that’s why we intentionally mentioned why it’s for ‘makers’ in general. So if you’re a knitter who wants to relaunch your website on Adobe Portfolio, there’s a chance for you to take part.

Another difference is it is much easier to create something new now, but at the same time design is much more refined. You have to worry about responsiveness and it has to work on any device. There’s more pressure.

Back then, I thought there was more experimentation. Nowadays, what you do at work is all your output, and you rarely experiment in your spare time.

What do you hope the Reboot does for designers who take part?

If they manage to get into the showcase, it’s a great PR opportunity for them to get exposure and maybe even get a career out of it. It could change their lives in a sense.

Secondly, it revitalizes the whole community. There’s a lot of new stuff that comes out and all the design portals have a fresh batch of new work they can feature. There’s content for everyone.

Thirdly, for all the recruiters in the world (including my wife). They can just log on to the showcase and grab people, and they do. It’s a win-win-win.

OK, but what if you miss the deadline?

A lot of the people who just come across May 1 Reboot after the fact say ‘oh damn, I missed this.’ It is kind of a sacred date. There’s good energy in it.

If you’re going to launch it at a different time, it takes major discipline. Don’t procrastinate, but we all know how that goes.

Really, I would tell you to wait until May 1, next year (laughs).

Check out the May 1 Reboot website for all the details, and head over to Behance to see creative work from the world’s best designers, and showcase your own.

Topics: Creative Inspiration & Trends, Design

Products: Photoshop, Creative Cloud