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Q&A with Phil Hawksworth

Web developer and technical director at R/GA

I think of myself as a web developer because that's what I've been doing since the late 1990's, but these days I write less code for a living than I used to. I work as a Technical Director at R/GA, an agency in London who make all kinds of site, application, services and products for our clients.

I'm a bit of a Web hippie, so you'll often find me talking about protecting the Web, optimising for both performance and inclusion, and all those considerations which go towards being Future Friendly.


My main workhorse is a 13 inch MacBook Pro. It's a couple of years old but it has the solid state drive and 8GB of RAM which make it feel really snappy, especially when working with virtual machines. I rarely plug it in to a monitor, since I'm often on the move and float between lots of teams, projects and offices.

I also have an iPad Mini which I actually prefer to the Retina iPad (which has become our coffee table computer at home).

Naturally there are plenty of devices around for testing, but I often turn to a Chromebook Pixel for experimenting with touch events and high DPI work on a laptop.


I don't need a lot of software. I spend a lot of time in the Terminal and have configured my environment to be more useful with the help of some excellent dotfiles which Mathias kindly shares.

All of my development is done in Sublime Text, which I've pimped a little with a number of its excellent plugins. I use markdown for writing, making notes and pretty much everything when I need to get some thoughts out of my head and onto the screen. Recently I've moved from using Sublime Text for that, to Mou which is a nice little Markdown editor.

Many people use MAMP for managing development sites locally, but I much prefer using Vagrant to provide a dedicated environment for each project which has any complexity.

I write lots of presentations and prefer Keynote for that. Along with Keynote, I use Caffiene to to avoid that "oh shit, my laptop has gone to sleep" moment on stage, and Osculator to let me use a Wiimote as my presentation remote.

I confess to being a Trello addict. I use it to plan everything from development sprints to my Christmas shopping.

Add Google Docs and Dropbox to the mix and I have a pretty lightweight basic install.

Dream setup

While I love being very mobile, I do sometimes crave a really nice big screen. I think I'd go for an 11 inch MacBook Air (the 11 inch because it is both light and a good size for using on cramped train or airline seats) and a beautiful 27 inch Thunderbolt Apple display on my desk to give me the clear thinking and working room I often want.


I draw a lot of inspiration from past and present colleagues. Being around people who are smart and driven to learn and create, is great at stopping you getting lazy and keeping you inspired.

I also find that lots of inspiration can come from attending the right conferences. We're lucky that there are so many good, affordable events in the Web industry. Hearing people give good talks about their experiences and emerging techniques can really kickstart your enthusiasm to go and create. Especially when it leads to talking more with other attendees.

I love working on side projects, but making time for that can be difficult. Luckily we have regular hackdays at work which are a really fun way for us all to experiment with crazy concepts and lead to all sorts of inspiration and ideas.