A pillar of the World Wide Web and digital design passed away this week. His name was Christopher Schmitt, and he was a friend of mine. He was a friend to every first-generation web designer I know. I first came across his name back in 1996 through his work on a digital design magazine called High-Five. The publication featured the best design work on the Web. I think every web designer on the planet devoured each issue. The site is long since gone, but Christopher always swore the entire archive is on a Zip disk…somewhere.
A champion of web standards, Christopher moved on to be a prolific writer and speaker on web design and development. He authored five books and co-authored eight with some of the other smartest minds in the industry. Christopher spoke regularly and co-founded an events company that hosted several conferences a year. He also hosted podcasts—Schmitt was an education machine.
Though we were friends online for many years, I didn’t get to meet Christopher until 2008 at Ethan Marcotte and Lizzy Galle’s wedding in Boston. I tried my best not to talk his ear off about the “old days” of web design. I mean, I would have if the Rocket Scientist hadn’t been there to pull me away. Thankfully, years later, we moved to Austin, Texas, where Christopher and his family live. Fortunately, I got to know him a bit better and talk his ear off about web design, old browsers, and websites.
When you met Christopher, the first thing you did is look up because he was incredibly tall. And then you would look down to see if he was wearing his signature pair of Chucks Taylors. The shoes were always prominently featured in a unique series of photographs documenting all of the places he visited—each photo taken from his vantage point of looking straight down.
I think it’s safe to say the Web and web design and development would not be the same without Christopher Schmitt. He leaves behind a legacy of inspiration and education that is unparalleled in our industry. We all owe him some form of gratitude and a place in the Internet Hall of Fame. And he owes us one more thing, another photo looking down with his black tennis shoes in sharp contrast to the white clouds beneath.