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Q&A with Carolyn Wood

Copywriter, editor, brand consultant, creative director

I'm Carolyn Wood and my consultancy is called Pixelingo. I see so many terms to describe what people do, and I don't think what I do can be summed up in one title. I was the editor in chief of Digital Web Magazine, acquisitions editor at A List Apart, editor in chief for The Manual's first three issues and for Codex (which was first called Codex, journal of typography).

But they weren't my main jobs. I do what some call UX copywriting, which I'd just call smart, aware, people-oriented writing; I edit all sorts of things and help people express themselves in their writing; I take on an entire site and redo it from the brand to the finished work and beyond—collaborating with the client or the client's team or a designer/developer; I help a startup reiterate its initial rush to market, or help someone get a dream project started. I enjoy guiding people as they figure out what they want to do professionally, and strategizing how to get there—and how to present themselves. And, I am a content strategist. A number of people insist that I'm a creative director on some of these projects, and I suppose that is my approach, though it's probably a Mad Men type of creative direction, without the cigarettes. Despite some top designers saying I should use that title, I'm still shy about it.

I'm also working on some personal art projects. One is In the Space Between, where I try to capture, with no editing allowed, my first few minutes of experiencing a photograph, painting, collage, or other work or art. But I've got bigger plans, if I can find people to join in.


I have an old iMac and a 2011 Mac Book Pro. I have Harman Kardon Soundsticks for listening to music, but I rarely listen while writing or editing. The music speaks to me too much. I use a Kinesis ergonomic keyboard at times, to help prevent problems with repetitive stress injuries in my hands and wrists and an Evoluent mouse, for the same reason. I have an iPad but have to wrestle it away from my husband to use it.


My software needs are very simple. I can use Text Edit for most writing. I love the writeboards in Classic Basecamp, and so I use Basecamp for organizing projects. I use Mail for email, Fireworks for a number of tasks, Pages, Little Snapper, the Twitter app (because I now have two accounts), Safari, Chrome (when Safari has a glitch). I frequently use Skype (audio) for speaking with clients and working on projects together. I use Backblaze and Time Machine and SuperDuper for backing up (learned that the hard way)—Dropbox, too, for file sharing and for some backup. I've just started to use Harvest and love it, though it takes time to adjust to working with it. I have never been satisfied with any to do list system, so I use pen and paper. (The only pens I will use are Pilot Precise extra fine P-500s.) I do toy with returning to TeuxDeux, because it's just beautiful. I'm thinking of using Evernote more, have BBEdit, use Rdio a little bit. I also have a Nikon D90 and a couple of lenses, but don't use it much.

Dream Setup

I have a small, beautiful office. Three walls are mostly windows, one wall has framed prints—mostly gifts from people with whom I've worked and related in some way to typography. One of the windowed walls has built-in shelves just beneath the windows, running the length of that wall, filled with books. I have a Thunderbolt Cinema Display and a lovely desk. I just got the NeoLucida for drawing. I need a new iPhone, and probably my own iPad. Other than that, I think I already have my dream setup.


Without a doubt, my husband is my greatest inspiration. I am also inspired by people who love art and create art, by typographers, by books, and by the very large number of amazing people I've met through the web and through all that magazine work. Laughter is very important to me. So are people who are true and honest and humble, and those who fight alongside the underdog or tend to people in need. I don't care if someone is a celebrity or not, an intellectual or not, a high achiever or not. Where is their heart? What are they like inside? How do they treat people? I was very political in the past, at the grassroots and national level, and I was a midwife. I've had many experiences that have marked me for life.

Where do I find inspiration for my work? This is impossible to define. I was once watching a crime thriller on TV. Violence and mayhem. I'd stopped working for the day. Suddenly, I cried out to my husband, “Hand me that pen and paper!” I'd just found the voice to use in intro paragraphs for the Veerle Pieters blog. I had the first few sentences in a flash. Here I'm watching blood flying everywhere onscreen, and out of the blue, I had the first sentences to set the tone, and knew how to express her voice, her being: imaginative, lively, gracious, professional, feminine, authoritative, distinctive, and passionate. When you figure out how that happens, please let me know.