Bill and I were co-teaching our Transformative Design course at the d.school when the following incident occurred.
I had given a short PowerPoint talk to the first session of the class. That evening Bill phoned me and asked “how did you think today’s class went?” I answered, “not perfect, but good.” I knew what I was supposed to say next, so I played my part: “and what did you think?” Bill replied, “Yes, it was a good class. But the next time please give me your slides the day before and I’ll fix them up for you.” I replied that I had not realized they needed fixing. I chuckled and let it go.
However, the next time he and I and our wives were together for our monthly dinner and scrabble evening, I felt it only proper to show my slides and get a group judgement. After showing my slides, I asked Bill to present his critique. He pointed out that I had not used the official d.school font typeface, and furthermore I did not have a consistent font format throughout. At that point his wife Karin told Bill to stop being such a “font-Nazi.” We all laughed. At the next class meeting I, of course, shared the story with the students. It then became a class joke that if they did not shape up their fonts, Bill, the font-Nazi, would get on their case. It was all great fun, and Bill enjoyed the joke. But clearly, Bill had been viscerally pained by my ad hoc use of fonts. The students and I gained a lot from this incident. It was one of many expressions of Bill’s sensibility and innate taste for what feels beautiful and what feels ugly.
Many things in my interactions with Bill had this same trajectory: good fun with an underpinning of a worthwhile life-changing lesson.