wo weeks ago I wrote a column about T-shirts. It wasn't really about T-shirts. It was about Magic history using a personal filter as a connecting device. I expected it to be well received, enough so that I made it a two-parter, but then something interesting happened. It became one of my most divisive columns ever. By divisive, I mean that some people really liked it and others hated it.
I don't mind writing divisive columns (Elegance and Playing with Memories being two of my most famous examples —make sure to read the follow-up to each of these articles if you've never read them before, here and here.) But usually when I write one, I know what I'm getting myself into. My T-shirt column was not intended to be a divisive column. As a designer (and a writer), it's very important to understand your audience's reactions to your work. When they react differently than you expect, there's a learning opportunity.
So what happened? I've written plenty of Magic history articles before. Here's a two-parter about the Pro Tour (Part 1, Part 2), one about the Invitational, one about the first Worlds, and one about the first Japanese Grand Prix. None of these generated the response I got to "Out of the Closet, Part 1."
The column had a personal angle, but I've done countless articles with a personal angle many of which have been some of my most popular columns (such as this, this, and this). So what was going on? After spending a lot of time reading email and comments and talking to many people, I got to what I think the crux of the issue was. In the past I've tended to tie my personal columns into holistic design issues. My personal connection to all my past history columns was experience; I would talk about what I did at the event in question. What I had done in my T-shirt column was take two different things that have worked in the past and tried blending them together. The combination, though, was off-putting for the majority of my audience. (Yes, I do know there were many people who liked the column as is.)
What this all boils down to is that I'm going to try an experiment today. I'm going to approach Part 2 very differently than I approached Part 1. (Think of this as Aliens to last column's Alien.) My plan is to create something that keeps everyone who liked Part 1 happy but adds something for all those of you who begged me not to write Part 2.
Click here and we'll start this column off the right way.