You may not recognize the Toronto-based design firm Teehan+Lax, but you probably know some of the hit products it’s behind, like the social publishing platform Medium and the reading app Readability. Now, the firm is closing, as Facebook–in a play for total publishing domination— has hired three of the firm’s three partners, Jon Lax, Geoff Teehan, and David Gillis, while the other ~40 people at the firm appear to have been laid off.
Lax and company tell the whole story in a lengthy goodbye letter, outlining how Teehan+Lax’s fourth partner Jeremy Bell and their technical lead Peter Nitsch, decided to pursue a new product of their own, leaving the remaining three partners to contemplate their futures. They reached out their feelers and found Facebook in what was ultimately a “very personal” decision-making process, and they justified their thinking as such:
We could see that if we wanted to keep making the things we enjoyed making, working with the clients we enjoyed working with, continue investing in R+D through Labs, attracting and retaining the best talent, and—perhaps most difficult—getting ahead of the business to imagine and implement future visions of Teehan+Lax, we would need greater and greater resources (both human and financial).
But over on Medium, Brian Krogsgard criticizes the letter mercilessly, pointing out that it neglected to directly address firm-wide layoffs, called the decision “a pretty sad representation of client work at its supposed best,” and asserted the goodbye letter “could’ve done with a lot more real talk and a lot less decoration.”
Regardless, Facebook has just acquired a few of the most talented minds in digital publishing design. The company has already redesigned once to have more of an authoritative news feel, but as Facebook becomes increasingly powerful in the publishing space, now serving as the number one traffic referrer to many news sites (Fast Company included), it could prove an important hire. Nobody really knows Facebook’s next move in publishing. But maybe Facebook just grabbed the three guys who are going to design it.