Digital Computer Arts - 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game

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18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game PUBLICATION No. 01 Blake Thomas / Morgan Allen Knutson / Alexandru Paduraru / Chris Coyier / Jan Losert / Cristina Conacel / Hoang Nguyen / Dave DeSandro / Drew Wilson / Justin Mezzel / Haraldur Thorleifsson / Kevin Yang / Bradley Bussolini / Filip Justic / Steve Wolf / Matej Justic / Pip Jamieson / Goutham Raj JAN - FEB 2017 Digital and Computer Arts Publication for the Independent Creator

Digital and Computer Arts. Pubication for the Independent Creator.


Thank you to CEI Constructors and Mile High Station for allowing us to rent your space. Special thanks goes out to Samuli Nivala whom designed the cover and many of the graphics throughout this piece in addition to Arif Waryanto for beautiful line weights. Jesse Reed and Mina Markham thank you for letting us into your world of design excellence.


Jon Westenburg, James Altucher, Ben Noble, Blake Thomas, Morgan Allen Knutson, Alexandru Paduraru, Chris Coyier, Jan Losert, Cristina Conacel, Hoang Nguyen, Dave DeSandro, Drew Wilson, Justin Mezzel, Haraldur Thorleifsson, Kevin Yang, Bradley Bussolini, Filip Justic, Steve Wolf, Matej Justic, Pip Jamieson, Goutham Raj












Blurb Publishing

JAN 31st 2017


Samuli Nivala

Colfax Ave.
80204. reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without written authorization. All rights reserved. Printed in the USA.
Copyright 2017 by DACA Technologies. 2027 W.
Denver CO

This quarterly publication is presented nal and entertainment purposes. tors for DACA Technologies are counting, or other professional material factual in its own record. been used in preparing this publication, tributors and DACA Technologies or warranties of any kind and assume kind with respect to the accuracy contents and specifically disclaim of merchantability or fitness of Neither the author nor the publisher responsible to any person or entity or incidental or consequential to have been caused, directly or tion or programs contained herein. and design for something greater.

presented solely for educatiopurposes. The authors & contribuare not offering it as legal, acprofessional services, nor is the following record. While best efforts have publication, the authors, conTechnologies make no representations assume no liabilities of any accuracy or completeness of the disclaim any implied warranties of use for a particular purpose. publisher shall be held liable or entity with respect to any loss damages caused, or alleged or indirectly, by the informaherein. Read at your own risk greater.

It's Jan. 2017

Digital and Computer Arts Publication proudly releases our first edition featuring 18 digital design pioneers that helped change web design in small and large ways. As a first edition in the long line of periodicals, we are excited to begin serving the inventors, creatives, students and philosophers of the digital realm. It hopes to resides in your collection of design resource library and is meant to be picked up when you need a helping hand, inspiration or acknowledgement that you're not in this alone. Welcome.

Creative Culture Interviews Techniques Publication No. 1 Introduction Ship Better Designs Faster Today is the Day you have to Reinvent Yourself I’m always Distracted How to Write like a Graphic Designer The Just Build it Movement 18 Designprenurs that Changed the Game The Old Donkey - Inside Clinton’s Brand 14 18 22 26 28 32 34 128
Opinion CC O I T O O CC I T O


Over the course of 3 months we interview and documented today’s upcoming and next generation pioneers of the digital design medium. These individuals are creating products, agency’s and design assets that make way for new markets. Read about 18 design entrepreneurs as they tell their break out moment story.


Edition Inside UENO's Rebranding
18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game Haraldur

"Built from the heart"

Jan Losert, Lead Designer, Tapdaq Cristina Conacel, Founder Creative Tim
Paduraru, Co-Founder Creative Tim Chris Coyier Co-founder CodePen
Allen Knutson, Co-founder Vela
66 42 108 66 78 48 114
Hoang Nguyen, Designer Interactive Labs Dave DeSandro, Founder Metafizzy Drew Wilson, Founder Plasso
Thorleifsson, Founder UENO 60 A look behind 18 individual creators that pushed their design careers in a different direction, entrepreneurship.
Matej Justic
Justin Mezzel,
Team Deluxe 84 54 90 94 72 102 34 94 124
Jamieson, Founder The Dots Steve Wolf, Founder Steve Wolf Designs
Bussolini, Founder Bussolini / Designs
Justic Founder Balkan Bros.
Founder Balkan Bros.
Raj, Founder Coco Labs
Thomas, 3D, Graphical Artist
Yang, Designer Digital Ocean

Be a contributing member of DACA by either writing or sharing a story, person of interest or tomorrow's inspiration

Become engaged with the DIGITAL DESIGN COMMUNITY

da·tum / datem, 'datem/ [noun]
a piece of
a fixed starting
point of a scale or operation.
Join us on the web at Subscribe for free Publication Downlads Submit Become a member by signing up for DACA's weekly newsletter. Being a member means you receive digital design and graphic art stories, inspiration, tools on the web, in your inbox and in addition recieve free downloads of all publications. In order to be a creative leader, one must be immersed.

As the only very close and personal publication, we thank Joe and Celeste O'Dea, and to David Joseph Freund. An amazing team creates a world dreamed.

Digital and Computer Arts if for independent creators. It is by no means meant to be persuasive, academic or treated as a standard manual. It is purely observational, identifying those that create the future.

DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017 Introduction


The brass voice concentrated on the emotional high that was in the air at 2:34am on the morning of November 10th, just hours after the US election. Tis the movement, dawn of the new era it seemed. The Trump election instigated a transfer of power from the unsettled into the cold fog that morning. It seemed true, that both the Brexit and election of Donald Trump moved a certain set of people to mimic much of what occurred in the good 'ol days of the 60's and 70's. Focusing on the positive, one can say that, 'it's not necessarily a revolt as it is a coming together'. For the right or wrong reasons that is up to you.

Within the design industry, can we say we did our job before the 10th. We concentrated on social media and other outlets that promoted 'tipping' point statements about each candidate. Many could say that WikiLeaks was on a role, as Julian Assange took to the media podium much like Benjamin Franklin did when he purchased the Pennsylvania Gazette. To Franklin, media was a preemptive layer of the constitution. The media, defined as a fourth layer that could truly embody "the truth", for if the time when the three branches of government turned. Media to Franklin was set forth to give the public a voice. When we look back, did the media do its job this past election? Did we as designers convey our opinion justly through 'memes' and infographics? This wasn't a question DACA came up with, this is a question that our industry now assesses.

I toss and turn, looking up at the ceiling most nights. I don't know how and why I started DACA (Digital and Computer Arts) Publication and especially nervous, like many I have spoken too about this coming year. When we sleep next to one another I can tell that he can feel my wild thoughts blanket over him. I certainly am not qualified to produce a publication that seeks to empower, inform and give outlet to this truly magical industry. I work in construction. I have been for 14 years. But I live a lie. I am that lone coder that shimmies out to Burger King on my lunches and makes websites as a freelancer. Where I work is rural America, out East in the plains of Colorado. People don't "code" out here, and if anyone voted for Hillary, well, they might as well "head into the city" for the nonsense. On my break I open my personal Microsoft Surface Pro and code Node JS applications, design landing pages in Sketch 3 or Photoshop. I found a good pocket of quite time on the jobsites to get work done, while I wait for suppliers to arrive.

I launched my first web site in 2004. It was for Concrete Express Inc. the company I work for now. It was cutting edge at the time with an image slider and a gradient blue and green menu. The buttons lost their borders and there was a very "Mac-like" shine to it. The website took me 4 months. During this time I learned CSS, HTML and I played with Paint and Photoshop 2. I will tell you that day, when I combined all the files and transferred them to the Host Gator server and I got an error instead of my beautiful webpage, I cried. I realized 4 days later that it was simply because I labeled the index.html page as home.html. I thought to myself, wow did HTML for Dummies really leave that crucial tidbit out? The 4 months afterwards created a buzz in this office that I will never forget. Our estimator leaned back in his chair and yelled across the hall, "we got another one!". In reality, the construction industry runs on the lowest bidder method and most likely will remain

18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game

that way, but it made the 22 employees in the office feel empowered. They had a presence.

Soon after word got out that I could make a website. I put up 10 more that year to other suppliers, DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) consultants, environmental control subcontractors and others. It was interesting that every time I launched a new site for a client they would immediately critique it. "All I really needed was a banner image and some text below it", they would say. I was stubborn though. I knew they really needed the 3D rotating text and the image carousel that would say, "Buy it Now!" every time you rolled over the image with your curser. This was 2005 I thought, branding is everything. I understand now that that wasn't branding. It was a design strategy that resembled the pushy car sales guy that yelled, we-have-the-best-car-in-town kind of statements, (I probably did his website too).

Design is touchy. Preference is touchy. During the 12 year entering this industry I lived by the moto, "People don't know what they want". However, entering in 2016, still as a freelancer, I live by another moto, "People have a very biased perception of what they want and it is up to us as designers to teach them otherwise". I also see a very dramatic shift in the specialization of our industry. When I started, web design encompassed a full spectrum of activities with a common goal of 'putting up a web site'. Today, there are distinct roles in the process that blend marketing, graphic design, programming, research specialists. I fear the day when there is a Web-Graphic-Standard and a "web-designer" would have to study 9 years to become certified much like architects.

Between the abundance of specialization, the abundance of funding unicorns that give value to these new roles and globalization we have entered a world defined on processes. Which isn't a bad thing. Most new industries evolve this way. Today, at least 5 individuals will touch the website that I release to a client. That is the minimum, many of the large agencies and tech mega-firms have well up to 200 people that physically alter a set of code. After speaking with my "freelance" network, this is generally the consensus. But as an industry, let us ask the question that most already know the answer too: Where do these 200 people work? And does it matter?

In 2016, the amount of independent contractors in the United States increased another 6.5% or another million from last year’s 15.5 million, (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). The Intuit 2020 report shows that 40% of the US workforce will be made up of independent contractors. The rise of the "freelancer" is not only upon us but is beginning to show a tipping point in the digital design industry. 3D modelers, animators, graphic artists, web designers and frontend developers are not only one of the largest growing industry segments but they are also showing a particular strong hold in all types of businesses. As an industry, we now see this reflected in our pay checks. We have the power to generate unique ideas and convince others to buy them. Companies now see the power of good design and well thought out products. Designers, whether in a firm or on your own are in high demand. So, it seems our hourly rates went up this year and we circumvent under large libraries of assets, selling our unused ones in market places such as Envato, Creative Market and for our end of the year bonuses.

We have reached a high point in design. Our clients don’t just want any website, they want that website. The one with red ribbon, the shiny animations and the pixel

DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017 Introduction

perfect retina displayed vector images. They want the one with parallax and added Java Script to make the flippy-do’s flip with shadow. The want illustration and photography to move people.

It seems that we truly are living in the best time to be a "designer", the best time for freelancing, the best time for releasing that-next-most-downloading-application or game, the best time for 3d, the best time for advancing hardware, the best time for animators and interactive design and the best time for creating new markets, agencies and graphical assets.

It was my deep honor to interview and connect with 18 moonshot designers that truly are the best at what they do because have taken the fearless jump into spreading their passions as far as they can go. They are entrepreneurs by trade and designers by passion and they have a sense of urgency to continue the industry's progress. I want to humbly thank each of them for allowing me to email them constantly and call them in the midst of their day to showcase how they imagine the next frontier. May our readers enter their stories with an open mind so that one can see for themselves how great of time we live in.

That ‘ol break out moment

18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game

Ship Better DeliverablesDesign Faster

Its 11 am and you have a 2 pm deadline. We have been there and we know the feeling of having to get a project done quickly. At the end of the day, process work and deliverables are all about stimulating a conversation, so we present 6 ways that can achieve that best.


Hand Drawings work wonders and with a 20-40 minute exercise you might have all that you need. Remember the basics: hand texture quality, arrows, upper case text and the original graphic standards that all architects live by. Artists, web and graphic designers have the same

2. 3. Start with Hand Drawings

brain waves, so put them to practice and show your client that you have an authentic touch to your work. Spare yourself 10 minutes and start drawing on your Surface Pro 4 or iPad Pro and see the same hand quality but on a digital format, easy to send multiple iterations to your audience.

Start your really busy projects earlier in the morning instead of staying up late. Using your natural sugar levels to your advantage will assist in getting the crucial things done faster.

Batch Your Work Use Templates

This is a no brainer but takes years of practice and knowledge of the program one is working in. It is a quality that separates junior designers from their seniors. Start batching in Illustrator and Photoshop. A simple exercise is open up 7 artboards and immediately produce the header and footer first and duplicate them on every page.

Don’t be ashamed of getting ahead start from other designers. For $12 dollars that pattern pack could save you hours of your time. Understanding that great artists build upon one another is something that we all practice. During time forsaken circumstances, you can get by turning your process work layered on top of the

downloaded asset so that your client or manager can best see the direction. Then go back and make your own. Remember making it your own is not difficult or time consuming if you know what corners to cut when. Combining your original piece with pre-made elements from the downloaded asset is something that can create a more professional product for your client. If your client is wanting something entirely custom, look to portfolio sites such as Dribbble. com,,, and and for inspiration.

18 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017 Ship Better Design Deliverables Faster

4. 5.

These are quick and easy to install (try to do so before the day of the deadline) and can save you hours of time when producing final deliverables. Head over to https://madebysource. com. The team has spent countless hours so that you don’t have too. Our favorites are Pixabay where you can instantly insert free stock images inside PSD containers, iOS Hat which lets you build iOS apps from Photoshop, and Uber Faces which is a beautiful way to add faces inside PSD containers.

Wireframing is good for multiple reasons and when done beautifully (include callouts) these presentations can blow your clients out of the water. Start with a template and grow your asset library. CreativeMarket and UI8 are great marketplaces to purchase wireframing assets that you and your team can grow upon, talioring them to fit the needs of the project.

Mastering good practices in wireframing will make you faster. These include labeling layers, grouping and isolating elements within Illustrator to quicken you time creating the piece’s architecture.

For fine arts, graphical or 3D projects, wireframing will come handy when giving your client a preview of the finished product. Line work in your 3D program of choice or illsutrator can show deminsional space framing, scale, volume, and repetition.

Take advantage of freebie websites. There are dozen of ready made templates that can save you hours. Make sure to have all of these bookmarked before the big project day.


PSD / Sketch Plugins Wireframe (A Lot) Show Process Work

Showing your client process work is something that is a quick way to start conversations about the work but also lets the client inside your brain and builds a personal relationship, something clients will bill more for. Process work should be titled and dated to always present itself professional and complete. Spend 5 to 15 minutes to describe the thought process behind the work and ask questions, allowing the conversation to transfer back to the clients.

T 19 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game

Every five years you need to start learning new skills, practicing new efforts, trying on new careers for size. Everyone I’ve ever had on my podcast, 200 successful artists, billionaires, astronauts, athletes, writers, entrepreneurs, inventors, have reinvented themselves over and over. There is not a single exception of the 200 I have interviewed.

1. Why Today Is The Day You Have To Reinvent Yourself - By James Altucher

2. I'm Always Distracted - By Jon Westenberg

3. How to Write Like a Graphic Designer - By Ben Noble

20 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017
21 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game O

Why Today Is The Day You Have To Reinvent Yourself

It’s going to be a shitstorm and I hope I have my umbrella. Incomes are getting lower every year. This will never stop. Since 1993. Income for people ages 18–35 have gone from $36,000 to $33,000. This seems like a small amount. It’s not. It’s the first time ever that income has gone down over such a long period (more than a year).

This means: relying on a college, job, promotion, security, stability, retirement pension, retirement income are things of the past. It doesn’t exist anymore. Meanwhile debt has gone straight up. Student loan debt, credit card debt, housing debt. Even worse: asset values have gone up (houses, stocks, educations, etc). So prices for things you want to buy have gone up but incomes and job satisfaction have gone down.

Of course a key to survival that I’ve written about many times is: don’t buy a house, don’t go to college, don’t contribute to 401Ks that rob your money, and either don’t get credit cards OR stop paying back your debt. But there’s a more serious problem: Demand has gone down: Because of outsourcing and automation, the basic equation of all economics throughout history has been reversed. Supply is almost infinite (it costs nothing now to make an iPhone in China.) But, demand has gone down. I haven’t upgraded a computer or phone in years. They’ve stopped improving for 99% of the features I used to buy for. For me, personally, I’ve thrown out everything I own. Many people are, correctly (I have to admit), not going to that extreme but they are realizing the basic equation:


The rich are getting richer for a reason. This is not a political post. Or a revolutionary one. Or a socialist one. Or a

whatever. It’s just facts. Every year, the Forbes 400 of billionaires gets wealthier. Here are three reasons why the rich are getting richer.

1) The bailouts saved the economy. But at a cost. I won’t get into the technical details. But in 2009, the US Central Bank printed up a few extra trillion dollars.

The theory is that that money would spread throughout the economy. Poor and rich. It didn’t. Banks got bailed out. Bonuses went up. And a rich person puts the extra dollar in the bank and a poor person pays the rent. So the money went into the banks, which then stopped lending money out to “high-risk” people because the Federal Reserve also started paying interest to banks on any excess reserves. In other words, the Fed gave banks money, then gave incentives not to lend to avoid any lending catastrophes. But it backfired.

2) Some of the extra money went to infrastructure projects that the government did. This is great. Doing research to increase the supply of food and the supply of technology is great. But see above: supply increases without demand increasing. Equals deflation, less jobs, less happy jobs, lower income.

3) Asset prices are going up while incomes are going down. Rich people make their money off of assets (they buy and sell companies and other assets). They do not make their money from incomes. This is why often the richest people (Warren Buffett, George Soros, etc) want higher income taxes. Because they don’t pay income taxes. They pay capital gains taxes, which are significantly lower (20%) than income taxes (39%). Again, this is not an article about economics. Or about government. Or revolution. Or “the top 1%”.

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This is about why I am scared and what I am doing about it. Here is what I am doing:

A) I can’t rely on any government, bank, or educational institution. Any institution that makes money when I borrow money. They will advertise, “improve yourself” and try to lend me money. They are primarily designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. I do not say this in a political way. I have ZERO interest in political issues. This is simply what is happening. This is what the data is showing. They will want you to succumb to their pressures: go to school and get into debt with the government with no guarantee of a job. Borrow money from the banks that got their money from the central bank so you can buy a house where the price will go up slower than your ability to maintain the house. Take a job working for the rich shareholders of massive corporations so you can get paid less while increasing supply for the few who can have access to expensive cancer drugs, driverless cars, robots, etc. While you are at your job, they want you to put a good portion of your salary into mutual funds or 401Ks that get managed by bankers and you aren’t allowed to touch for decades. Good luck with that strategy while your income is going down or job satisfaction is going down.

B) Choose yourself, which, of course, is my thesis. But let’s take it a step further. I always say it first has to come from within. Physical, Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual health. The change you want in the world around you has to start with the world inside of you. i.e. write down ten ideas a day. Be around good people. Be grateful, etc.

But you also have to really look at an important data point: the IRS says the average multi-millionaire has seven different sources of income. When you have one source of income (Me, Inc.) for instance, a single

job you are falling into the trap. You will be one of the masses instead of one of the people who will survive. There is a tiny circle in society made up of people who have corporate and traditional jobs. Then there is a much larger circle of people who are no longer civilians. Who have stepped outside the comfort zone and are making money from all of the alternatives. So you constantly have to be on the lookout for the other sources of income I write about repeatedly. You have to remove yourself from the civilian (i.e. single corporate job) population.

C) Reinvent yourself: the world is changing quickly. A few years ago we didn’t have tablets or smartphones. Now a billion+ people have it. A few years ago we didn’t have search engines. Now everyone has all the knowledge in the world at their fingertips. The greatest artists: Picasso is a good example, reinvented themselves every five years. Mozart reinvented himself every five years. Warhol reinvented himself every five years. The best leader (Steve Jobs is a great example. Elon Musk another. Richard Branson another), reinvented themselves every few years. Branson is a great example. He started in the music magazine business. Now he builds spaceships. Every five years, you need to start learning new skills, practicing new efforts,trying on new careers for size. Everyone I’ve ever had on my podcast, 200 successful artists, billionaires, astronauts, athletes, writers, entrepreneurs, inventors, have reinvented themselves over and over. There is NOT A SINGLE EXCEPTION of the 200 I have interviewed.

D) Well-being: When I was in my 20s I had no idea what well-being meant. I thought “happiness” meant a private plane, a big house, fame, whatever. As the director Tom Shadyac (who gave all his millions and moved into a trailer park) told me: “Happiness is based on the

23 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game

world ‘happenstance’, which refers to something outside of yourself.”

You need to find well-being from within. And here is what it is:




Increase those every day and you will find well-being. If all you do is the same thing every day, you will never increase those three things in your life. So reinvention occurs every day. It’s not something you wake up every five years and say, “hey, today is reinvention day.”

E) Plus, Minus, Equal:

-Finding mentors to teach you.

-Finding the next generation to teach.

-Finding friends who build you up and challenge you. This is your ‘scene’. Everyone going through reinvention needs a scene.

F) The 5×5 Rule: You are not just the average of the five people around you. You’re the average of the five habits you do, the things you eat, the ideas you have, the content you consume, etc.

I am an optimist. it might not seem like that because of what I’ve written above. But I am hopeful these ideas will help me survive. I have been through every failure imaginable. Loss of family, loss of health, loss of mind, and Loss of money. I’ve applied these techniques for myself. Sometimes they’ve worked and sometimes they haven’t. I’ve made big mistakes also.

Over the past ten years, I’ve also seen others apply these ideas. And in the past three years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of other people who are aware of what is happening. They have reinvented themselves. They have thrived. They have surfed the rage that is simmering underneath and ridden that rage to greater highs and greater hopes.

These people will save the world. They are not the 1%. They are outside of the category, in my opinion. You and I can be like these people. They have all started where we start. They have done it and made it to the finish line and beyond. This is now the time to do it. It's going to be too late tomorrow. And it was too early yesterday. Today reinvention begins. And tomorrow it continues.

24 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017
James Altucher
25 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game
more at O
Today Is The Day You Have To

I'm Always Distracted

I’m often distracted. Ask my partner, she’ll tell you that shiny things grab my attention in a way that just isn’t healthy for a grown ass man. Every time I read something or think of an idea, I’m zooming off at a million miles per hour with this crazy urge to build, do, try new things.

Every time I see someone building a product that I love, I’m distracted. I want to build something like that, I want to solve a problem like that. It’s got nothing to do with my core mission, or the reason that I do what I do. It’s just something shiny that I want to try.

Every time I hang out with my friends who are musicians, I want to start a band and go back on tour like I used to, playing crummy shows in crummy pubs, but I can’t. It doesn’t work like that. I know what I’m doing with my life, and getting back into touring is just another distraction.

Every time I see a service based company, I want to start that. Every time I see a software based company, I want to start that.

I want to sell sneakers, paint murals, write sitcoms. I want to start a food truck, start a game studio, do anything that looks exciting… But these are just distractions. They are distracting me from doing the work that really matters, they’re distracting me from doing the work that is going to have an impact on the direction of my life and the things that I want to do and achieve. They’re even distracting me from just relaxing and enjoying my down time, because I start to fill up every waking hour with exploring new distractions, every day.

So what do you do with these distractions? What do you do when you get those momentary flashes of inspiration that tell you to abandon everything and focus on something more fun? You let yourself get distracted.

Seriously, try it. When a distraction comes along, give yourself 20 minutes to explore it. Write some notes on it. Save those notes. Treat it like ideation, not distraction. What

If you treat these distractions as creative diversions, it can actually be really good for you. It can shake things up, free your mind a little, and get you to think outside the box.

Use a scratch pad.

I’ve written about scratch pads before. I’m a big believer. I keep a scrappy little notebook nearby at all times, and when a distraction comes along that I don’t have time to think about or ideate over I just scribble it down on the page and move right along. Getting it out of my head and into ink is a great way for me to stop it blocking my work.

Distractions don’t have to break your flow completely, if you can just deal with them quickly and move right along. This is a habit that can be tough to get into, but it’s super useful.

Keep a mission statement. If you’re finding yourself being distracted by something, by everything, write a mission statement that sums up what you’re really trying to do. For example, at Creatomic, I’m helping people find new ways

26 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017
looks like a waste of time right now could be a life changing idea when you return to it later on.
Jon Westenberg

to talk to their audience. At Speedlancer, I’m helping people redefine what it means to freelance.

By always returning to those two statements, I can identify whether some new idea fits into the wider picture of what I want, what I need to do. And when I refocus in that way, I tend to uncover newer energy and excitement about what I’m really doing!

Make yourself accountable. I’m a pretty lucky guy. My partner is also very startup/tech/entrepreneur oriented, and she runs operations at a service marketplace here in Sydney. If I feel like I’m distracted, nothing helps like running through my ideas and challenges with her over a bottle of wine, because she does keep me accountable.

She’ll ask me, “how does that fit into project X, that really matters to you?” That question is hard to answer if I’m not focused and working steadily.

In general, the best thing to do with distractions is to treat them like challenges, treat them like blessings, and focus on the way you manage them. There’s never any use to getting shitty with yourself for being distracted in the first place if you’re at all creative, you probably can’t help the distractions. I know I can’t.

A distraction doesn’t have to mean you completely lose your way. It can mean you find a new way, find a new outlet, or find a second wind on your real focus.

27 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game
Read more at or follow him on Medium at O

How to Write Like a Graphic Designer

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last four years sitting next to graphic designers, watching them work, collaborating on projects, marveling at the beauty of what they make. I am jealous of their talents.

Writing is not a visual medium. You cannot hang your latest blog post on the wall or post an impactful, flashy photo of it on Instagram. For anyone to get any joy out of your work, they have to sit down and read it. And odds are, they’re just going to glance at the headline or, at best, skim.

Writers have no way to pack that immediate feeling of awe and beauty into a single second the way a visual artist can. I guess that’s why they say a picture is worth 1000 words.

Envy has led me to education. I’d like to express myself both visually and in writing, so with fluctuating degrees of seriousness, I’ve spent the last year studying graphic design. I still have a long way to go, but I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable with my limited skills. While I realize not every writer dreams of creating logos or posters or t-shirts, design is not a worthless pursuit. I’ve discovered a few aspects of the design process that can help any writer grow.


There are millions of beautiful websites that can feed a designer’s creative spirit, Designspiration, Dribbble, and Panda to name a few. And beyond the Internet, the stuff of life can serve as inspiration too the typography on a sign, the shape of a building, the color of a package.

Writers can be visually inspired as well, but the oftquoted advice is that to become a great writer one must first become a great reader. Books, magazines, and blog posts are our patches, logos, and fonts.

"Reading fills our toolbox with different linguistic styles, new vocabulary, novel approaches. And while I’ve been a bit delinquent lately, I keep a 'commonplace book' to save quotes and ideas from bookvia", Ryan Holiday. Like a designer, the goal isn’t to copy and paste, but to use those bits and pieces as inspiration, as the spark for our own ideas.


With the proliferation of programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, it’s easier than ever to create art without ever picking up a pencil. And yet, it’s still quicker and more effective to test a visual idea with a rough sketch before moving to the computer.

At the beginning of the writing process, we should be treating our words like hastily scribbled sketches as well. The first sentence we write probably won’t make it to the final draft unaltered. So don’t be afraid to make the first mark.

I have a document full of scrap sentences, like this one: "She yawned. Saliva stretched between her teeth like spider webs." I don’t know what it means. I don’t know if I’ll ever use it. It just popped into my head and I thought, “well that’s interesting,” so I jotted it down. It’s a rough

Ben Noble 28 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017
Designers mentally and physically add these tidbits to their toolboxes for future
use. They freely borrow and remix elements in their work, and those artistic choices define their style.

sketch. It’s in no way final.


If you’ve ever looked at someone’s Illustrator art board right before they export their final design, you’ll see an insane, serial-killer-esque jumble of past concepts, discarded shapes, and unused color swatches.

Designers keep all the steps of their process intact they never know when something thrown out in version 3 will come back in version 14.

Word processing programs make it easy (and encourage) writers to overwrite their previous work to type a new sentence on top of an old one, thereby eliminating a previous version. When I submit a first draft, it often has “_v2” at the end of the filename. Why? Because “_v1” is just for me. It’s a collage of chaff. It’s full of the same sentence or paragraph rewritten dozens of times as I try to find exactly the right words or structure.

Rather than continually writing over past work, I hit “return” and then write it all out again. I never know when something I wrote four paragraphs ago will be useful in the future. Digital paper is free! There’s no reason to delete anything. Unlike physical hoarding, digital hoarding is to be welcomed, not discouraged.

When you look at a final logo or poster, you can’t see all of the resources and effort that went into creating it. But if you can get a designer to open up about their process, they’re able to clearly connect the dots — from sources of inspiration and past versions to the final work. I know far fewer writers who are able to do the same.

Writers are eager to overwrite past work. We’re oblivious to our sources of inspiration. We like to believe that

the first draft is the final version.

While the impact is less immediate, writing can be even more powerful than an image, if someone takes the time to read 1000 words. But in producing those 1000 words, it would benefit us writers to work more like designers along the way.

Read more at or follow him on Medium at

29 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game


Designers that rode a different tread. Entrepreneur ship

"Under the covers or in the shower" was what all 18 designers told DACA for when they think about ground breaking advancements in design and product development. The stories of 18 designers living a dual life between Photoshop and running a business is not only inspiring but give us that kick in our butts to go build something.

30 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017


"I probably would have happily lived this lifestyle for a while, however, an unexpected relocation from New York to Los Angeles resulted in me becoming an accidental freelancer after a few months of not being able to score an inteview in-house anywhere."

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“I know that it can be daunting— terrifying even—to figure out where you fit in in this big community. But you can. You do. All you have to do is be willing to be a part.”

"Go Forth and Build..."

Walking underneath the highway viaduct, I can hear the cars zooming above me. It was much quieter from the events that were taking place on the other side of my office. I was on my lunch break. I dial franticly Morgan Knutson's number, holding my pencil in my mouth and my notebook under my arm. "I doubt he will even answer", I think to myself. He does. What happens afterwards was depressing. His story was exceptional. First, focusing on his early beginnings and by the end we convinced ourselves we have saved the world. However, every time I spoke I said the same sentence, and what the girls at school would call it, word vomit came spewing out every time I tried. Being a good sport he said, "Thank you". I said a mash of words, "bassho, edo, you". I don't know what happened, it was as if I had a combination of dry mouth and a dose of amphetamines.

In our world, we tend to focus on the forthright individuals, those that shout about the renowned state, and can hold a persuasive vocal tone and usually has a gallant state, staring outwards into something we can't see. Choosing the cover of this magazine was difficult. After speaking to the 18 individuals that have truly laid out functional stepping stones into our digital futures, we realized that none of them would want to be on the cover. They were humble; empowered by their work

and work only. While each of the following design and business talented individuals had different stories and embodied different styles, there were more similarities than differences. A clear one was that all 18 had a difficult time saying a project was done. "There is almost always something more you want to do to it", was comments that I heard frequently. 12 out of the 18 designers started in Flash and before that worked in the Paint application. 13 of 18 entered their current position as a sort of mistake, and was a byproduct of their current "plan". 16 of the 18 prefer Dribbble and Instagram for sharing their work. 4 out of the 18 quoted each other as either individuals that they look up too or have worked with. 6 of the 18 have a developer's background. 18 of the 18, when asked to give advice to upcoming creatives, said to "Just do it. Engulf yourself into what you love".

In the following section we dive lightly into the details and portfolios of 18 designers that have a twist to their character. They are entrepreneurs. They perceive products, conceptualize their utility and build them. They take the risks on and they give themselves to their work, their clients and their end users. Focusing on the next digital frontier, as part of this issue's "breakout" series, we present the next stories that present challenges, advice and style spoken by some of 2017's pioneers.

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Blake Thomas
34 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017 Blake Thomas
Written by Monica Vialpadras 3D and 2D Freelance Designer

Inside the 3D Details with Blake Thomas

Illustrations and Images

Provided By Blake Thomas

3D Designer and Freelance Artist for clients such as, Bloomberg, Businessweek, Giphy, Macy’s, Microsoft Outlook, The New Stand, Vox and more, Blake Thomas laughs as she remembers her childhood, cruising on her skateboard, gymnastics and Nintendo.

Blake, 26, liked to do it all as a child. “Perhaps I can credit my lack of hobby commitment to the quantity of times I moved as well. I grew up between Orlando, Atlanta and Orange Park – and attended about 8 different schools between K through 12th grade as a result. I suppose changing things up so much in my youth made me perfectly groomed to pursue a field that’s always changing and flexible to a variety of lifestyles”, said Thomas. For Miss Blake, experience seemed to be her currency.

There was no doubt in her mind she wanted to enter the creative field once she got to college, particularly anxious to focus on advertising and branding. “It was my college counselor that said advertising would be a poor fit for me and he confidently re-directed me into graphic design”, she said with a slight smile. 5 years later Blake Thomas has built a client resume that one can dream of with clients such as Macy’s Adore Me, Avondale Type Co, Bloomberg Businessweek, Electric Objects, Giphy, Happy Socks, Kvell, Lazy Oaf, Microsoft Outlook, Nooklyn, The New Stand, University of Florida, Vox, just to name a few.

Starting at Macy’s as a Junior Art Director straight out

of college allowed Thomas to experience the bustling street of New York as she combine her graphic background with advertising and photography. Being a part of the shoots, ad campaigns and the inner context of company portrayal, she thought she found happily ever after, until after 2 years she quit, moved back to LA and accidentally became a freelancer. “I realized I had wanted to pursue a more hands-on career path vs. the more managerial path of an Art Director,” she said with confidence. For her, the big NY office was stepping stones to a diverse landscape of the unknown and the robust portfolio that she was on the bounds creating. Her style is focused, taking particular interest for human qualities and transferring hidden meaning that mixes color and symbolic repetition, balance and pattern. Her work transcends the still life painting. Using 3D has her preferred medium she takes an new approach to what you would call advertising.

She’s humble and humored as she speaks to DACA about her past, her style and her early beginnings.

Start from the beginning: “I wouldn’t say I had an especially creative childhood, outside of doodling on class notes I preferred to play Nintendo or cycle through hobbies. I’ve tried a good bit – guitar, skateboarding, roller-blading, hip

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Blake Thomas 36 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017
37 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game
To the Left Top: Trial and Error, Elle Luna's 100 Day Project, Left Bottom: Just for Fun, To the Right: Avondale Type Co's second annual Artist Series

hop, gymnastics, cross country, soccer, the list goes on. However, growing up in the notoriously weird Florida I realize now how much creativity was embedded in my environment. From kitschy touristy art to one of the biggest surrealism museums, or county fairs eclipsed by a city of theme parks. There was no shortage of entertainment and new experiences.

Do you remember a particular time when you knew that design was something you wanted to enter or pursue? When entering college I believed I wanted to study advertising having had an introductory course to graphic design in high school. A college preview counselor, who was cycling through a different student every 10 minutes offering advice, was sweet enough to spend the extra time to tell me that advertising would likely be a poor fit and confidently re-directed me into graphic design.

After graduating college I moved to New York to work as a Junior Art Director at Macy’s. About 2 years into it I realized I had wanted to pursue a more hands-on career path vs. the more managerial path of an Art Director. At that time I babystepped into freelance by contracting at a tech company, where I was able to design and illustrate full-time. During that time I also began to moonlight – learning 3D design to stay fresh from working in-house. I probably would have happily lived this lifestyle for a while, however, an unexpected relocation from New York to Los Angeles resulted in me becoming an accidental freelancer after a few months of not being able to score an interview in-house anywhere.

You have started a diversity of different project in mediums such as 2D and 3D. What is your favorite and how are they different? Is your process different? I personally don’t have a preference between 2D and 3D work, it really comes down to the scope of a project. From an aesthetic stand point they’re definitely quite different, perhaps as opposite as you can be on the digital front. However, process-wise I have the same steps for both. After a project briefing I start out with a handful of sketched concepts, with included mood boards to inspire proposed color palettes, layouts, or style. After honing in on a particular concept it’s a sweet and swift dive into digital from there.

You have a distinct style in much of your work with a shimming purple, pink and light green color choices. There are also a lot of human objects and shapes. Is that intentional? My color palette often changes from more technical reasoning, I enjoy brightly lit compositions and reflective materials that are easy on the eyes. Recently I’ve worked with more iridescent materials mainly due to switching to a render program Octane and creating the material by complete trial and error in a weekend experiment. Per human elements – I’ve always found hands and lips especially beautiful. They’re also insanely difficult for me to create in my 2D aesthetic, so I must be filling a void there!

You have worked for many clients considered large, what has been your favorite project? Definitely an equal playing field there, depending on the day and time I’ll vote a different one every time. Currently I’m quite proud of an icon set designed for a conference – Vox Conversations. It was a large set design that included minimizing a handful of DC landmarks, some of which look quite similar,

Blake Thomas 38 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017
39 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game To the Side: Bloomberg Businessweek, I

Eros Mortis in collaboration with Young Blood

Blake Thomas 40 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017

a very unique and rewarding challenge. Are your clients mostly referral based? Almost 100% through social media! An extra special shout out to Instagram and Dribbble for creating communities that mix personal work with professional presence.

Do you work with others during these projects? When I was younger I worked at a very customer-centric grocery store for 6 years which has caused me to be quite big on client satisfaction. I generally work solo but highly value what the client brings to the table, from a brief to a very specific idea. Integrating the small details give a project that extra dose of magic.

You have a couple other side projects, Beer Brewing, Coaster Collecting, Gardening, how do you make time for these? I strive to not work on the weekends, I broke that

habit often the first half of this year and it affected my work flow noticeably. It’s difficult to work off of a low battery constantly, not to mention slows you down! With two email free days a week making time for new hobbies and adventures is effortless.

Finally, what is next for Blake?

What are you currently getting your hands into and are there any new surprises or client work launching?

I’m hoping to work more and more in animation, at least on the personal side. I’ve found it so inspiring to put out an animated piece and see an audience create their own story around it, or share with others to compliment a fond memory. Professionally, I’m working with a few new clients which have been challenging me in fun and less charted ways – can’t wait to share in the upcoming months!

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"I strive to not work on the weekends. With two email free days a week making time for new hobbies and adventures is effortless."

Jan Losert

Lead Designer at Tapdaq Jan Losert Written by Tayler O'Dea

Complex system design is what keeps this man up every night, as he reinvents the toolbox dashboard design user interface.

Our phone call started at 5 AM Mountain Standard, hearing Jan running from the office to the gym, we decide that we will postpone the interview until after work. There is a consciousness he seems to have for schedule. The only schedule he breaks is his nighttime routine, where sometimes he goes to bed at Midnight, while other nights he doesn’t get into the covers until after 3 AM. During these nights is where the magic occurs.

Jan works full time at Tapdaq, starting at the mobile promotion platform when there were only 2 others. He has designed every pixel from corner to corner, as their lead designer, crafting both the company’s image and other clients. He seems entertained by complex challenges, focusing on the feature packed dashboards. “I design all day and night long”, Jan describes himself. But he is not obsessed, simply focused.

Jan and his girlfriend live in the UK, seeking travel in between projects. We speak about the cross between client life at Tapdaq and his projects at home, one project in particular which shines light on his talent and advances him into digital designer stardom.

UI Kits were something of interest to him early on has he crafted complex dashboard interfaces. Dashboards of style, color and simplistic nature so that end users could adopt the particular tool quickly. In essence, the faster an end user can catch on to a new program the more money that particular user will save. At night, Jan uses his same practices to his UI Kits, an online store which contains library packs of screens and elements that other developers and designers can purchase and implement into their own projects.

The complexity is simplified into layers embedded into Photoshop and Sketch 3. “I made the Mobile iOS UI kits first, both the 90 Cities kit and Night & Travel kit, converting the elements into multiple screen sizes made pixel ready for the iPhone 5, 6 and 6 Plus. It was mainly out

of practice, to best understand the iOS principals. Then I worked on the Apple Watch UI Kit, creating 40 screens and 10 concepts.” – Jan. It humored me that out of practiced he managed to acquire 3,500 downloads for just the Watch Kit alone. His style is thought provoked and resembles a dark hazy night. A flagrant blue and purple seem to be his choice of color, accented by an emerald green. The colors work quite nicely together, complementing each other in his scenes, like a personality he has created with in the kit.

Challenged by complexity, Jan focused his latest project on his Dashboard UI Kit. When you first download it, you can see his perspective. This kit resembles a tool for teaching, for “Mastering the Art of Product Design & Dashboard Interface”. With over 60+ Screen and 400 elements the kit shows a new height for pixel layout and guides the purchaser through an insanity amount of titles and description for each layer. “The project took me over 3 months, first producing it in Photoshop. When I took it into Sketch I notice that it was 3 pixels off. So I spent another several weeks redoing all of the screens. Even my girlfriend assisted with the layer titles. It was an all-night sort of project”.

The kit went on to generate over 1000 downloads the first week on and later the 3rd bestselling kit of all time within the marketplace. Jan humbly acknowledges his method of teaching by producing a sound ideological example of professional grade digital layouts which as taught thousands of users. “The emails keep pouring in, which makes my job exciting to hear and listen to what customers are looking for in the kits. My updates keep me busy”.

The complexity of the future is something Jan continues to iterate in all of his designs, “The question is, how will current apps adapt their experience to new devices? We took this question seriously and have tried to create an experience which users understand. We are curious what you think about these apps and maybe you can take our progress further”. Progress seems to continue to be determined by his pixel perfect visions, visions on the future and a strong prec-

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44 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017
Jan Losert
“I strive to connect people around the world together and change their thinking about themselves.”
45 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game 2 3 4 I

Jan Losert

edent study to creating the UI your grandchildren will continue to use. You can continue to see Jan’s Designs on personal website, his UI Kit store and his Dribbble profile.


2 1 3

"There is definitely a couple. First - I started making cash on the side, I was 18 and I was making comparable income as my parents, which was exciting. That’s when I’ve realized that all these long friday nights in front of my computed finally started paying off.

A big break I had was definitely during my first job in Socialbakers where I started as one of the main designers straight from the start and I’ve realized I’m probably doing something what people actually like.

1.. iWatch Marvel UI Application Kit, 2. Left: Dashboard UI Kit Sketch Version, Right: Tapdaq Insights Dashboard elements, 3. Left: Tapdaq Landing Page, Right: Tapdaq Dashboard, 4: Left: Style Guide Resource Download, Right: visual overview, 5. Dashboar UI Kit Homepage

And third, was personally a big challenge for me and the biggest change was me moving from living under the roof of my parents in Badoo to London. Before that I was just Junior Designer only 3 years ago. Today, in London, I’ve been working every day late nights until 3AM on my dashboard designs. But the excitiment keeps me going. Once I’ve got 2000 followers in 2 months on Dribbble. It has changed my thinking about design a lot." 5


Let’s start with your story, How did you begin your creative journey? "I was chatting online with people about various topics on one a forum back in the day. The majority of people on the forum used to have amazing graphic signatures in their profiles, which would appear under all of their posts. Curiosity brought me to Photoshop and I started designing my own signatures. The next two years following the creation of my first signature, I spent around 2 years creating various photo manipulations, matte paintings and wallpapers. Four years later, I moved to web designing, and I have been pushing pixels ever since."

What community do you contribute your early influence to? "Deviantart community and czech designer. I’ve learned everything alone in my room on my parent’s PC. I’ve been recreating tutorials on Tuts+ back in the days. I wanted to do something different than every kid in my neighborhood."

When your under pressure how do you deal? "As I’ve mentioned before. It means to be able to deal with everything. Things gets complicated. It’s not only being able produce nice dribbblish pixels for likes anymore. It’s all about being able to present to the whole team your designs. Being able to produce copy hand in hand with your copywriter. Be able to test hypothesis. Spend time with contractors and chase them to deliver the best possible results for the whole company.

But mainly be responsible and stand for your decisions and designs. Be able to say this is where we went wrong and this is what worked."

You have a lot of work under your belt, what is one that stands out to you or that your most proud of? "Definitely Tapdaq. I haven’t been in any job for more than a year before and I’m already in Tapdaq for 2 years and 3 months and it’s still exciting, at least sometimes :) It’s amazing to work hand in hand with one of me best friends and one of the best developer out there on something what people are actually using. I’ve put everything into Tapdaq. When I’ve joined as 1st employee I’ve got empty paper and I’ve created every single pixel and every single interaction."

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ABOVE: Jan enjoy's working from local cafe's and the office.

Drew Wilson takes the VC Plunge with Plasso

With his son next to him, Drew Wilson describes that he is a family man. “Having kids changed my life”. Having a business and family is a long term balance, one that many of us struggle with. To Wilson, he has made a lifestyle that collides both and it has worked, very well actually. Wilson has fostered a new convention of building products that takes on both frontend design and backend development, combining both facets in a blender type of digital entrepreneurship while colliding the creative aspect to test markets quickly. Testing markets quickly is something of a gift to Drew. While many say that his method is unorthodox, or he releases products too prematurely, this is exactly what he was born to do. He fosters a strange convention of “doing”, starting in a creative light that enters prototyping after a couple hours of brainstorming in Photoshop or Illustrator and then going right into code. He previews his work quickly, making sure the thesis will be well digested and then continues forward, hitting the utility of the product hard now. His philosophy is that all products are living and breathing entities and use your inspiration and a series of set aside days to be completely immersed in building your product. This method works.

Drew Wilson is a figure that our industry has looked up too since his and Picos Font Set days. Tall,

48 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017
“This isn’t just business. It’s your life. Enjoy the Journey. Write a story with your life. What do you wish existed? Build that”, said Drew. Josh Long, calls him an Uber-builder, one with super human building ability with multiple skills. The title is fitting. Drew Wilson loves his family, is a surfer and pioneer, but not of web apps (that’s the bi-product), he is a pioneer of a particular building practice.
49 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game I

focused, he speaks with a kind, low key persona. Drew said, “gravy” after he was asked to part take in this interview for DACA, nonchalant but excited that his particular software Plasso just got funded.

“It’s Takes Repetition”

In the course of over 36 products, Drew has a process of output that works and design style that can transfer from concept to code for efficiency but also can be tailored to bring a unique new look for each product. Living in California, his early years started at his Father’s creative Mail-to-Order Comics Catalogue business, shipping out runs for movie stars. There he was introduced to Photoshop 2. Wilson obtained a particular fancy for the digital medium. “I think it might have been Paint or something similar that got me into just having fun on the web”, Wilson said. In 1996, he remembers that he explored HTML and CSS and that quickly mixed into his first small projects made with Flash in early 2000. Having a competitive edge in learning new programs quickly, Drew fostered the idea of swift output in the digital scape and used this all his life, producing much of the product in 1 or 2 days. “So, instead, launch the simplest possible version and build upon that”, Drew stating that when you find a need, build something that focuses solely on solving that one thing. “Sit down and set aside time for you to just do it”.

In the early 2000’s, forums were home to most of the inner debates and world-saving ideas. This community grew into a tightly knit organization, one that Drew fell into. Being public on these forums and building his own allowed him to enter the digital community and find inspiration from key-idea holders. “It was there that I started Muse, and I interviewed creators on building products, tools and tricks they used”. Muse was series of interviews that he conducted and published on a self-produced and maintained website.

Firerift was Drew’s first piece of software and first software later sold. Being the first and only self-service CMS that promoted creatives to download a HTML maker on their own servers. “I put an immense amount of work into the documentation so that users could analyze their download and customize to fit their needs”. At the same time Wilson would take on client work, and even had a wedding photography business, working from the first poster he designed and sold at 16. “It was hard for me to do client work when I can make money at delivering products that help people”.

Early Products

Pictos Font Set was the bi-product of Quixly a software that helps sell and deliver files. “At that point, 2009 was the worst time financially,” Drew states with hesitation that being his father’s son means that there was an internal drive to be an entrepreneur. At the time of Pictos, the Wilson’s were bringing into the world their first son, and selling all of their furniture to make ends meet. Drew was currently working on another product when he was looking for icons and with seldom in the market he decide to make his own. With over 300 icons in the font pack, Pictos was sold for $30 dollars and sold like hot cakes. Today, Drew has expanded the set to over 800 in extension packs. “It was at that time I felt a sense of security and I could do this”.

Screeny and Build It With Me (later sold) were his next creations that really were the first products he built just for him. Screeny, the Mac app that allowed a user to video and record your screen while cropping it at the same time got off the ground in less than a couple days. Wilson, marketing it to individuals in his network, created a small but successful product launch. Build It With Me, a network for designers and developers to meet and share projects was Drew’s first product that was featured on TechCrunch. Both applications had a sense of bold design, much like one would see in the 20082009. Using the gradient buttons and silver trimmings showcased the “Mac” style with a large intent of exposing all of the functional apparatus.

Its time for Plasso

On the contrary to Drew’s products, Spacebox was particularly long in terms of design and development. Now called

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Drew Wilson
51 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game
Filtron Application
KidCam Application
“Do projects when you don’t know how to code. Then you’ll know how to code.”
- Drew Wilson. Excerpt from Long and Wilson's book "Execute"

Plasso, Drew’s functional approach was to make accepting payments quick & easy. Built on the Stripe framework, Plasso is an easy way to sell anything and manage the sale without coding. “At the time Stripe had a pretty robust application that wasn’t necessarily easy to manage for their clients. You would need a third party or work with their api to build out a payment gateway. Plasso does this for you and you can link out any product to their space page.” The building of Plasso was featured in an interview-like book written by Josh Long.

The book Execute co-written by Wilson and Long describes the five day building process of this particular app as something that is derived from inspiration while finding a large court of time that you can solely focus on just that first build. It is in this book that Drew’s philosophy and building practice is outlined. In the first section Long illustrates the philosophy of Uber-mined people, a definition that is solidly formed from Drew and how he builds products. Said to empower a diversity in skill sets and having no structure of boundaries in commodities one can exhibit a distinct power to learn and learn quickly and produce and produce quickly. “The secret weapon of the Uber-builder is design. In the 50’s and 60’s people found the power of advertising. They realized that they could combine imagery with carefully crafted words and convince you to do, or buy, anything”, (page 30, Execute). With a combination of design and production, one can transcend the inner inspiration from the builder outwards on to its audience in the most compelling form of advertising.

Drew embodies this complexity of design. But he also simply builds product’s well. “They look good and work”, Drew says humbly in a ShopTalk Podcast Interview. If one looks at his latest product, Plasso they can see that it embodies a certain sophistication in the application and a clean and modern take to both its function and brand. Its definitely a Drew-Wilson-Product. There is a sense of mystery in the gradients offered on the newly designed landing page and an entirely comfortable attitude as one proceeds through the on-boarding experience. And he did this in five days (the original build). While the products are beautiful and targets the market well, the take way from Drew Wilson is much more. It is within his building practices that he has grown his following and an inspiration to many as we take his approaching to continued creation.

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Drew Wilson
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Plasso Dashboard

Bradley Bussolini

Enter the Mind of Bradley Bussolini Founder of Bussolini / Design and his thoughts on UI’s next Frontier

Written by Monica
54 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017
Vialpadras (Photo Background, Bussolini's Desk) Bradley Bussolini


"In an ideal process, the concept is validated and there is real market value. From there doing research into the specific areas is insightful, I find comparative and competitive research highly valuable. I usually have the client send me examples of what they are looking for, or in the cases where that is not easily available I begin with ideation work. Once I have a direction it is pretty easy to build out the initial aspects, and I usually have a round of feedback for the work. I start in lower fidelity for the initial stage and depending on how complex the design is I may go right into high fidelity. Once the client approves I make sure the file is organized for final delivery, and depending on the scope may provide specifications or production assets".

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Illustrations and Images

Under the California sun, Bradley smiles into the camera, eyes wide and filled with excitement. We both agree that designers today live in a really ex- cited time. “Maybe its economics”, I say. “No, its much more than that. Designer’s have a particular power today because we have shifted the value.” – Bradley

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Bradley Bussolini

Today, when one starts diving deep inside a particular design entrepreneur’s success story they can see a different type of creative attitude for product development while filling a need that demands creativity, attention to detail and human approaches to design. “Design is not only important for defining your business but it can tremendously assist in growing your business” – Bussolini.

In the depths the Bay Area, the rising talent of firm Bussolini / Designs is seen as a proxy of diversity in style and a master of serving small businesses, giving them a face lift they would kill for. Bradley creates digital pieces that transcends a particular complexity into small simple solutions complemented by a beautiful interface, animations and screen transitions that set the tone for many other independent creatives. When speaking to him he is conservative in his language and optimistic in both the area he lives and the industry he continues to uplift.

His start began intertwining school with graphic design gigs, particularly creating custom business cards. “I was skeptical at first, but ended up nailing the design first try. The client was really happy, and it began from there. I started working with clients to do print layouts and produce those layouts with local print shops”. In 2010 he completed a graduate level project (Going for an Advertising Degree) where he designed and helped develop his first mobile app. After graduation he was offered a contract role for Inside. com where he was able to help them with the designs and presentation used to secure their series A. “Jason Calacanis offered me a full time role and suggested the title of Director of Product. I embraced the opportunity and realized my skills in managing development. From there, I helped internalize the creative process for a product roadmapping tool based on my experiences working with an angel investor and continued to refine my skills and process. When I discovered vector art early on in addition to print production, it laid a foundation and curiosity that drives me today”. – Bussolini.

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California houses top tier designers each having a competitive edge. Small business, still the heart of areas such as LA, San Jose, and San Francisco, have been shadowed by the rise of the startups and larger tech companies. With the onslaught of these large firms, can we still believe that the Valley’s core talent belongs to those that build in the depths of their garages? Talking to Bradley Bussolini and his uprising we tend to see that these stories still exist.

B / D

He started his agency Bussolini / Designs in the same way providing small businesses with design deliverables. This includes both design and development for websites and mobile applications ensuring that his clients gain the professional details they need to drive home their larger than life messages through to end uses. “I am making more mobile applications these days, and with that comes a particular professional layer needed on both the frontend design and the backend development”, Bradley continues in saying that finding a talent developer, Anton, allows his service to not only advance the app or website’s quality but also allows him to be more creative. It seems that designing for Bradley means that development is transparent throughout every stage. Design and development are working in harmony, development being thought of during every step and a fluid mix is not only at the start of the wireframing process, but throughout every element in the PSD or Sketch file. “I design for development in addition to designing for client objectives. It’s a mix of both”. Using Invison and other prototyping software’s, the team of two can intertwine the look and feel of their concept through every animation, transition and screen. This process seems to be Bradley’s special sauce.

So what does being a creative leader mean in today’s fast pace world, where you are expected to turn out deliverables at record speed? – “It means being fearless in how you approach your work and constantly learning”. And Bradley is fearless. As one gazes through his portfolio, one can see the vast amount of work he outputs and through different mediums of screen sizes. From dashboards to landing

pages to mobile interfaces, Bussolini takes on the approach for a stylized utility category, paying attention to the lines, shadows and spacing in his graphs. This methodology creates “tightness” to his work, a total sense of completion, where each piece offers a greater story, and not afraid of color to complement it.

It is in this technique that makes Bussolini / Designs an agency that continues to operates through referral, and is seen to be a backbone to many small business in the Valley area. To him he acknowledges this exciting time in Silicon Valley and he expresses the responsibility he has to continue to uplift the main foundation of this ecosystem. “Be comfortable with your path in design and life. Wake up everyday and have something that drives you to succeed. Understand that the barriers that might come up will only hinder you and keep a focus on your practice and developing your skills. At the end of the day the real value I see with design is how you approach and share your work with the world. Ask questions and never loose curiosity. Have fun, be kind to yourself and others, and do amazing work” – Bradley.

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“My success is measured through my client’s success. Every project I take a personal stake in to create the best work I possibly can.”
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Bradley Bussolini

Q & A

Who or what influenced your beginning designs? Early on I was inspired by traditional designers such as Paul Rand and artists like Andy Warhol. The raw passion of art was interesting to me, along with the commercial aspect. I would look at sites such as Behance for inspiration and magazines like Communication Arts. The biggest thing that pushed me early on was having people around me that saw my passion for design, and were able to provide the right opportunities for me to establish my process and find my strengths.

Walk me through a busy day at Bussolini / Designs? I usually wake up around 9:30 and will start my day with a nice stretch. I start by checking emails, which will usually determine any priorities I have for the day. I keep one or two primary clients that take the majority of my time. I checkin on my progress and will usually start any pending design tasks. Depending on the team I usually have a stand-up with designers and devs, then its back to work. I keep a priority on current work and will set aside some time for business inquiries or administrative things for the business. I try to do a project for fun everyday. It helps me reconnect to my interest in design, and also gives me a great deal of perspective when approaching new projects. Depending on deadlines I may spend more time on a particular project, but for the most part I like a petty consistent effort across the board.

Do you have any advice for others starting an agency? Keep a strong network of successful and like-minded people around you. For me getting the intellectual property stuff figured out took a lot of time and without the right resources there are a lot of other aspects that go overlooked. I was lucky to have a family friend who is a CPA, which was a huge part in my success. Between taxes and contracts and also learning the sales model and rates you should be good!

Finally, Bradley what is next for you? I am excited to have met and work with a developer that I look up to and respect immensely. I am looking to build a virtual agency model based on my experiences, and I also am looking forward to sharing my story and helping the next generation of designers. I am taking on a few interns and looking to do more work to spend my love for design.

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1. Ace Matrix Ipad App 2. Chat Application 3. Sketch Screens, 4. Fusion Application for the Mobile Email, 5. Intricate Dashboard
UENO Rebranded: Viewing the shape shifting Business Cards 60 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017
Haraldur Thorleifsson

Haraldur Thorleifsson

The Man Behind UENO

Mastering the freelance network and providing playful and colorful sites are an understatement. Thorleifsson and UENO are changing the game as they take company visions and makes them tangible to end users.

The ability to contract is a skill. Mastering negotiating takes years of practice. Client deals, persuasions and closings are all something that one must continue to balance practicing their trade with growing a business. Haraldur Thorleifsson, has been growing this skill set all of his life. Negotiations and building a network matched with user focused design has been the foundation UENO was built upon.

On the other side of the phone, I can hear the brush of his beard and the North Germanic accent. He speaks with conviction as he describes his early beginnings. Thorleifsson studied Finance in college and like many of us was unsure of the professional avenue that was set before him. Taking a web design class as an elective seem to be simply an credential filler, but it was the start of a career in design, business and transforming brands forever.

Thorleifsson’s personal site introduced him to HTML and CSS and quickly turned to Flash to play with animations, transitions; turning small stories into dynamic presentations. “Web was a hobby for me. At the time I was going to school and studied Finance and Philosophy. Towards the end I was interested in engineering and architecture. I never saw web as a career choice really until I started freelancing” – Thorleifsson.

As a freelancer, Haraldur was able to pay his way through school, allowing him to work anywhere on and off campus. It was a natural fit for him to continue this work once he graduated. Moving to and from New York and Iceland, Thorleifsson connected with an ex-employee that was creating a small agency, Upperquad. “At one time I was working 50 hours freelancing for 2 – 3 back in New York. They were able to attract big names. Google being one of them”.

“Lets start from the Beginning Thorleifsson collaborated with Upperquad, producing work for Google’s newest product, a social platform called Google+. You can see his the immense amount of text, icons, and graphics that were funneled down into a concentric layout within one of the many landing pages produced. Haraldur’s profile describes the project as “…a need for a central place filled to the brim with information about the service so unregistered users (there are still a few) and registered users looking for more information about how they can fully utilize the possibilities of Google+ can drop by and find what they need”.

Going back to Iceland for 6 years allowed him to pursue this passion while expanding his techniques into continued sophisticated deliverables. During this time his efforts allowed him to continue to partner with Upperquad to build other Google projects with similar challenges and needs. The density of material with the More Than a Map (, Santa Tracker and Google Drive landing pages, custom icons and graphics challenged Thorleifsson in a way that allowed him to see evidence that his design style worked. It was at this time both the

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“I am excited for the evolution of the browsing power so that users can access the best of what UENO has to offer and we can continue to push the envelope”
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Work in Progress Piece from the UENO case study page for a project we made with RedBull TV Haraldur Thorleifsson
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portfolio confidence and freelance network built over the years made it easy to open up shop. His design shop called UENO.

Thank you Dribbble

“Aside from all the actual work that needed to be done I knew I also needed to get better at managing my personal marketing. To do that I started with two things. One was to make a decent portfolio. And two, I decided to build up a professional social media presence, something I had deliberately not done in the past since I thought it was a bit silly” Thorleifsson speaks about this number one marketing trick, building an audience on on his post on Medium , stating that he owes his claim to fame from his fan’s comments and “heart” clicks.

It was after he posted his first shot of a GoogleProject, he acquired over 350 followers, “By the end of year 2012 I had about 1600 followers, which was a big improvement from earlier in the year. But even so, I still ranked #660 of all the people on the network. That meant that if someone searched for a designer, they would see #559 designers before they found me. (it’s worth noting that you can also search by skill type and geography which would narrow your search but in the interest of keeping this relatively simple lets just stick to the overall results.) As a new years resolution I set myself a goal to get from 1600 followers to 5k in year”. Thorleifsson continued in conceptualizing a strategy to keep his audience interested by setting goals to post continuously and tracking the feedback and number of followers and likes. Neither an obsession or a tick, Thorleifsson focus on building a reputation that highlighted his style was something that many of the greatest designers of our time had done in the past (look back to Robert Moses, NY architect different business cards). Connecting with other designers, seeing the latest trends; this what Dribbble was founded for and Thorleifsson was leading the way.

Growing a Network of Talent

In addition to marketing, Dribbble was also Thorleifsson place to connect and build his talent network. “At the time, UENO was mainly hiring other Freelancers. In the beginning I used the friends I made in the past years to cultivate a network of talent”. Thorleifsson focused on acquiring his talent network remotely

and supplied himself with contacts that were specialized in particular qualities. In doing so, Haraldur positioned himself as a duel-designer, one that created and one that acted as a project manager fostering communication techniques and inspiration that transpired others to work with him. It was obvious that as he grew his network, he brought the best out of people, pushing their limits to design and develop work that also pushed the boundaries in terms of technological limits, browser capacities and clean ways present client material. Thorleifsson, still fosters a demand for structured and simplistic solutions. He has said that he still dabbles in client projects as he grows UENO.

Thorleifsson seems positive with the 2 year growth. Growing from 1 to 40 is evidence in a demand for modern, creative and user centric design. Focusing on the modern business, the everyday objects and bright colors, one can see this professional persona in all of their landing pages, mobile apps, print designs and logos & icons. As one travels down the agency’s portfolio one can understand the magnitude of stylizing a product and easing users through this product’s features. Their use of whitespace harnesses a sense of mystery, while providing a hint of animation to help nudge the viewer along. Fonts and mockups are seamless intertwined and provide for a reading and viewing experience that is timeless.



UENO is currently going through a new brand overhaul and effectively getting used to its grown-up face-lift. The new brand marks a change in era for the company. Now,

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working with the largest companies in world, which would create any inner discomfort or other entrepreneurs, Thorleifsson is just excited, and confident in his team. The branding offers multiple takes on still life and takes and plays with everyday projects. Touching on the pastel pallet, their colors are a complement to the objects that are featured in all of their wallpapers (download through their Dribbble), their business cards and their print ads. The color choices continue to be always prevalent, something that the team have now well defined as a trend for 2017.

UENO produced less than one minute videos of staff, managers and designers taunting the social network, Instagram in fun and choreographed, silent short ads. They represent, in their UENO style, a non-mockery of studio life, sharing that issues that all agencies face are common. The new branding and the videos tell us that Haraldur Thorleifsson can be hypothetical, fun and quirky. When asked, “What’s next?”, there is a pause on the other end and he softly speaks that he’s most excited for the browsers. “I am excited for the evolution of the browsing power so that users can best access the best of what UENO has to offer and we can continue to push the envelope”. day projects. Touching on the pastels pallet, their colors are a complement to the objects that are featured in all of their wallpapers (download through their Dribbble), their business cards and their print ads. The color choices continue to be always prevalent, something that the team have now well defined as a trend for 2017.

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1. UENO Rebranding. Notebook Covers, 2. Medium Redesign 3. Famous : Micro Templates and webpage. 4. UENO Making of their"Movies"
Introduce the World to Creative Tim
66 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017 Alexandru Paduraru Cristina Conacel

Make Me Think - A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug ”

Digital marketplaces for web and graphical assets are one of the most time consuming projects. Taking after Envato and Creative Market, a new marketplace must find both talent for creating themes, templates and graphics and sellers all in the same day. When faced with this challenge, Alexandru and Cristina said, “Bring it on”. Understanding product placement is something that Creative Tim was founded on, targeting the sole freelance creators that are in need of dashboards, landing pages and other colorful assets to make their product or next project look professional and bright. Alexandru Paduraru and Cristina Conacel created a network called Creative Tim as an upcoming fresh independently crafted HTML / UI Bootstrap template marketplace that sells stylized kits for the next generation of design forward founders, focusing on creating products that users wanted to see themselves in. Grids, cards, and UI elements for building the next social network have been crafted in a way that shows authentication. The simple Bootstrap HTML, CSS and JS assets are said to get the job done, and done beautifully with the team working wee-hours into the night.

Before Tim

Before Creative Tim, Alex and Cristina had a small design agency positioning themselves to create simple one to three page websites for clients. “We were working on different web projects for our faculty courses, then our friends asked if we would like to create a simple website that they could use. Since we liked to create ‘out-there’ and user focused products, our friends loved what we built and then we’ve got other clients, seeking a website of the same breed. At the time we were only 2 people working from Starbucks”.

You should try to solve a problem with your design and not to create one just because you like how the “buttons can fly over the page”. I recommend the “Don't
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During their design discovery process for a particular project, they realized there was a large amount of redundancy in creating new assets for every client. “Every time we created a website for a client, we had to recreate all the elements from scratch. Because there was two of us, we needed to optimize this process in every way in order to give our clients a prototype at a deadline they required”, Alex said and continued by saying that in simplifying the elements through its CSS they created basic templates and plugins that they “template” to speed up our development process. “We thought that if we had this problem there must be other agencies or freelancers who also have this similar issue. So we decided to share these elements for free with others” – Cristina .

“In the beginning we got inspiration from Apple. Starting with their iOS7 we loved their apps design, their colors, their gradients, their buttons, their minimalistic interface, everything seemed as it should. We knew that the best way for us to learn how to create great web design was by setting a very high standard. Then we started to move to different design trends and ideas, most of them inspired by top designers from Dribbble”, Alex said. The team at Creative Tim has grown to seven, whom all of have a unique sense of style and have the technical resources to deliver large HTML files again focusing on the quality and richness in code, layout and color options. Alex, at the beginning self-performed most of the Design and the HTML/CSS conversion while, Cristina took care of platform growth. Now with five more designers, marketers and coders the design implementation and product promotion is shared, and the success is obvious. Their assets and kits are in

homes of over 110,000 designers and developers.

Finding Time to Sleep

We sit down with the team to cover the ins and outs in starting an agency for design assets and where they are headed to next.

So Alex, walk me through a busy day for you. Where do you start?

I’m not a morning person, so I arrive at the office around 11am. Today, we have a small team, 7 people, and we are a group of jacks-of-all-trades and master of none. For a couple of hours I take care of the customer emails and support, helping the team with different items and management stuff. In the afternoon I implement different design ideas for current products or our ways to uplift our website. I am also looking to get new collaborations and affiliations with other companies. My creative spark comes to me in the middle of the night. Here, I go deep into design mode, to test creative or crazy ideas all between 1am and 3-4am.

Share with us your success and how you measured it: I think that I can measure my success and our startup’s success by how many people we help with our web interfaces. We want to see that there are great website everywhere, that’s why we offer a lot of great web interfaces for Free. At this moment our products were used by over 110.000 web developers, some of them use them for their projects, some of them used them for their clients projects. If we take into consideration that each website, built with our products, is used by thousands of viewers then the success scale is continuously growing.

Starting a new product or kit, what

goes into it? Most of our products are a result of what our customers requested so we start by getting a lot of feedback for new products. Then based on the trends and ideas that are on the web, we create a product that will help our users and is following a current web design trend. If we see buttons and elements with big colored shadows, then our users deserve the best so we add those to our products. We create a big list that outlines features, pages and sections that will be created for the new product and then we spend a lot of time doing research on Dribbble. I also like to keep in my “secret ideas folder” everything that I see during the day: if I see a new interesting animation or a design idea on a website, I save it there and on the first occasion that we have, I add that idea to our products.

Out of all of the kits, which one is your favorite and why? At this moment I’m very proud of the UI Kit that we’ve built over Google’s famous Material Design. It’s called Material Kit and it is taking the Material Design to the next level by adding to it some style, class and elegance. We like the structure of Material Design and how Google created a standard for all devices using Android, but we didn’t like how it looked. It was like a product that was released in the development mode, they didn’t want to polish it. So we joined the game and added our design ideas. At this moment this is our most popular product, based on downloads and revenue.

Marketing is said to be one of any agencies largest hurdles. How did you start to market yourself? We used multiple platforms for sharing our products. Since the kits were well designed and used a verity of color schemes, they sold themselves, and

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many times were featured on communities like Product Hunt, Reddit, Hacker News. We are also sharing our products on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, Behance and Dribbble pages. I think the best strategy is to be present on all the mediums, so you don’t have to depend on a single source of traffic.

You mentioned Apple was a large influencer for your team. Do you have a runner up? We are still looking at what Apple is launching and what design trends they are setting. We like Startups that are design-driven like InvisionApp, Stripe, Medium etc. We also follow what our Romanians friends like Cosmin Capitanu (https://, Ionut Zamfir (, or Virgil Pana ( are posting on Dribbble because they are trendsetters with tens of thousands of followers.

Would you tell your younger self to freelance or start at an agency? I think the best way, for a young creative to learn quickly is to go into an agency so he can learn the basic staff, get some experience and also get paid routinely. Then after the job, he can work at home to develop his own design ideas. In this way he gets experience from both sides. If he is a great designer and wants to take this to the next level and work only as a freelancer, then he can slowly move from working with the agency to getting his / her own clients.

What is Creative Tim’s largest challenge right now? Our largest challenge would be in updating our kits. I would like to be able to change the way web developers and freelancers interact with web templates, ui kits or dashboards. Today, when user down-

load or buy a web kit they get it as an archive on their computer (like in the olden days, when one purchased CDs and DVDs). So, when there is a new release, our users have to download the kit again and replace the files with the new ones. Moreover, they have a lot of dependencies with the new files. Probably each web developer or designer is using just 10% from what they buy, and that 10% is always different depending on each end user’s needs. In the future we want to change this with a solution that is in the cloud. You will be able to configure what you will buy and you will have always everything updated.

Looking foward to 2017, Alexandru Paduraru fosters a creative approach to the term agency.

1. Paper Kit PRO, Post Page, 2. Headers for Material Kit PRO 3. Paper Kit UI, 4. Bootstrap Dashboard Pro, 5. Making of Material Kit, 6. Get Shit Done Kit, 7. Creative-Tim Christmas Card
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"Don't be afraid to show people what you've created and you shouldn't take the feedback about your creation too personal (I know, this is the hardest part when you present to the world your awesome baby)."
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Pip Jamieson

Founder of The Dots, The Creative Network founded on Creative Relationships

Pip Jamieson, coming from a diverse background of Economics and Design seems to be empowered by meeting people. Located in Shoreditch, London, her textured accent is filled with words like, "rubbish" and "mum", which allows Jamieson to be much more of your best friend than one that may sell you something. To Pip, relationships matter and they matter more today than ever before.

"I’m an Antipodean / British hybrid; born in New Zealand but educated mostly in the UK. I was really dyslexic as a kid and struggled at school in the early years. This was back in the days when dyslexia wasn’t really a thing, so my teachers just assumed I wasn’t that bright. My incredible Mum wasn’t having any of it, and worked tirelessly to make sure I got the support I needed and thanks to her (and some amazing teachers and friends), I managed to get to university. My mum and dad cried the whole way through my graduation, I

can still see their faces now – it gives me goose bumps every time!"

After graduation, Pip (now 37) looked forward to carving out a similar path of her fathers. Surrounded by creatives as a child she shared a passions for creating and fostering better ways of doing things; ideas that could make lives easier and do so creatively. "I was lucky to have a father who worked in the Creative Industries

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and extensively across Europe, Asia and Australasia, so we spent much time travelling and experiencing all the amazing things that go with discovering new cultures and people. We were never living in one country for more than four years; and maybe goes to explain why I’m endlessly curious, love meeting new people and embracing change – it was ingrained into me during those early years." She said with a shy sigh, that after graduation she joined the UK Government thinking of ways to inspire on a larger scale. After years in shifting paperwork, she stuck to her creative ways and decided to position herself in a creative outlet, MTV.

MTV said to inspired The Dots, and allowed Pip to learn how to find talent, work within a budget and market grand ideas with only pennies to spend. Talking to Pip we come to find that creating a product is much more than just a design you upload to Invision. It is about the thought process behind it. And she tells us that the up's and down's during the journey is what makes the product at the end of the day so much richer, (like thickening chocolate):

Do you remember a particular time when you knew that Creativity and contributing to the web was something you wanted to enter or pursue? Thanks to my father, I had this wonderful upbringing surrounded by creatives – it was our shared passion and my family just assumed that I’d follow the same path. However, my (slightly strange) rebellious nature led me to do an Eco-

nomics degree - maybe I wanted to just prove that I could make it on my own. After university I joined the UK Government as a fast stream economist as I had somewhat naive aspirations to change the world. However, I quickly realized that an economist’s role in Government is often to produce results that justified political policy, not inform them. So I jumped ship and followed my passion (the creative industries), working first for the Brit Awards in London then in various roles at MTV around the world.

Did working at MTV or another employer provide the experience you needed for creating The Dots? Absolutely, it was MTV that inspired The Dots. I joined MTV Australia when I was 24 and only two years later they relocated me to Auckland as Head of Marketing to help launch MTV and Nickelodeon into New Zealand . It was both terrifying and exhilarating! We were this group of twenty-something-year-old kids running a TV channel! In a way it felt like a young startup, just that we were part of a major international brand. There was no real budget, just grit, determination, and passion. Within two years we’d turned it into the most profitable MTV channel in the world by margin. It taught me the importance of branding and strong creative strategy, how to build relationships, and how to be entrepreneurial.

I was constantly on the lookout for talent to work on projects, but existing networking platforms just weren’t working for me. As with most other creative businesses, the easiest way for us to find full-time and freelance talent at MTV was

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to hire friends and friends of friends. The inevitable result was a lack of diversity in thinking, skills, and background. Our creative output became predictable. That's when a colleague and I came up with a 'LinkedIn for the creative industries'.

Our vision was to create a platform where everyone involved in the creative process could promote themselves online but most importantly – to connect them to something that helped their careers– be it a new contact, client, collaborator, freelance opportunity or job. There are plenty of places to show your work online these days, but what I’m most passionate about, is helping our incredible community connect to opportunities and businesses they really love. Not just showing, but connecting.

How did you start the development of the application, conceptually? To be honest, I never saw myself as an entrepreneur. I just wanted to solve this problem, and the product developed out of that mindset. When we started the platform in Australia 6 or so years ago, there wasn’t really a startup scene and we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. These days there is an amazing wealth of startup advice online, great books, mentor programs and incredible tools like InVision (prototyping), Jira/Trello (project management), Xero (accounting), HotJar (Heat mapping) etc. But back then it was all trial-and-error, before hit-and-miss was a thing (!). So we’d often just have to make it up as we went along.

We started by mocking up the idea for the platform; doing wireframes in Illustrator and then sticking them up on my (then) business partner’s bedroom wall! We’d sit there for hours trying to work out user flows and piece together how the platform would work. We briefed this into an agency via a pdf with annotations, and it took us 9 months from concept, to design, build and launch - which looking back on it, is completely ridiculous. What we should have done in hindsight is build a Minimal Viable Product – but the term hadn’t even really been invented then. We funded the project out of our life savings (which wasn’t much as MTV salaries weren’t great!), but it was so much fun.

In the first weeks of launch did you use a particular source of social sites? How did you first market the application? Did this strategy work? We wrote a strategy, but it evolved constantly. Initial growth came through friends-of-friends and we tried loads of promotional ideas; mainly online via Facebook, Twitter, SEO, content, PR etc.

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as they are easier to track what worked and didn’t. I don’t believe in just throwing money at advertising, unless it is showing amazing results. I was lucky to have a background in Marketing (thanks to MTV), so I’d learnt how to promote things on a bootstrap. MTV’s marketing budgets were tiny.

These days, I’m a complete data geek when it comes to marketing and community building; using great tools like Tableau that pulls in data from our various sources including Google Analytics, our backend, Facebook, Twitter, our accounting software Xero etc. This helps us track what’s working and what isn’t, and to tweak things accordingly.

Within a week of launching in Australia, I got an email from a freelancer, saying that they’d landed their dream job on the site. I can’t tell you how amazing it felt - to not only launch something - but that it was working!. I’m really chuffed when we get emails like that – it gives me goosebumps every time.

The business your started in Australia is called The Loop and here it’s called The Dots, why the change?

In 2014 I hit a classic startup hurdle in Australia, with my business partner and I wanting to take the business in different directions. My sights were firmly set on global expansion. So I made one of the hardest, but in hindsight, best decisions of my life. I exited the business in Australia, acquired the global technology rights and moved back to the UK to start from scratch. I sunk everything I made in Australia and started the business from Horace our Houseboat – and The Dots was born! The Loop and The Dots each now operate as completely separate businesses.

It has been the most insane roller coaster ride, going from startup to scale-up, back to startup again. But boy, it’s been worth it! It’s so rare that you get a second chance on the same business. All the mistakes I made in the first version of the business, turned into valuable lessons that helped accelerate The Dots.

The Dots boast a diverse team. Can you expand on the early creation of finding people that were equally inspired by connecting creatives as you? Is your team mostly remote or under the same roof? Team is everything when you start a business. Many founders focus on culture but I came to realize that only hiring for culture fit isn’t the right way to go about it. When you only hire for culture fit, you invariably hire people that you’d like to go

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to the pub with. This can lead to team homogenization, with a lack of diversity of skills, background and thinking. In the end if everyone thinks the same, how can you innovate? There is endless research out there showing that diversity is good for business. A Harvard Business School study found that teams with workers from different backgrounds and experiences come up with more creative ideas and methods of solving problems. Another study by the London Business School found that more gender-balanced teams better promote an environment where innovation can flourish. Work by McKinsey & Company found that the most racially and ethnically diverse companies are more likely to have better than average financial returns - the list goes on.

So when it came to building a team, my focus is on hiring people with shared values, not culture fit. Shifting your focus to hiring people with shared values acts like a glue that connects the team and aligns them around common goals. Our business values are Creativity, Diversity, Collaboration, Purpose, Curiosity and Positivity – with positivity being the most important of all. Starting a business is an insane roller coaster ride of highs and lows. I found that the trick to weathering the hard times, has been to hire happy, positive people that naturally focus on solutions not blame. It’s an inherit characteristic that I don’t think you can teach and leads to a very productive working environment.

Most of my team work here with me in London, but we also have team mates that work remotely including my SEO god in Leeds, Lead Curator in Byron Bay Australia and backend developers in Sri Lanka. I’ve been so blessed that a number of my team from the previous business in Australia, relocated to London to start up again. In the end, when I

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find good people who share my vision, I do everything I can to keep themand if that means they’d prefer to work remotely, then I’m super open to that. When it comes to finding them, well that’s the joy of having a professional creative community at your fingertips –I just use The Dots :-)

The Dots underwent a redesign to the platform, could you share any difficulties in redesigning the platform, was it outsourced, all in house or a hybrid of talent I inherited the technology from my previous business in Australia, so the code base was old and needed updating. No one really talks much about what happens in a post-agile age; with two, three or even four years of continuous design loops under your belt - I can tell you what happens - it’s like SPAGHETTI in a bowl! You change something over here, but everything breaks over there. Improving and iterating the site became increasingly hard.

We’ve grown so fast in the UK, that the site was really creaking under the strain of new users joining. Most problematic of all, was that we didn’t work well on mobile. No-one wants to look for a job on their screen while at work, in case your boss might see!

So at the end of last year, we raised money to improve our tech, in an investment round led by advertising legend Sir John Hegarty. We did the entire project in-house with a mix of full-time staff and some incredible freelance contractors. In order to really address the next evolution, we went right back to basics and took the time to research what our community loved (and also didn’t love) about the site. We then kicked into design sprints, doing rapid prototypes and testing those prototypes. We then worked through

UX, UI and more and more (and more) testing. Before undertaking a beast of all data migrations.

I think the biggest challenge was the migration; transferring all the data from the old site to the rebuilt, new site. We had to map 100,000s of users, over 2.5 million pages of content and endless interactions like who has followed who, who liked what project, who applied for what job etc. It still fries my brain to think that that actually we pulled it off!

Finally, what is next for Pip and The Dots? What are you currently getting your hands into, is there any new surprises for the redesign? It’s been magic watching the new platform spring to life. Our community has always been hugely diverse; not only in background, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference but skills too. Up until the re-launch, we did a good job of looking after the pure creatives (designers , photographers, illustrators, motion graphic artists, UI designers etc), but we also had a huge community on The Dots that weren’t necessarily “on the tools” and creating visuals but were fundamental in coming up with and executing on creative ideas (strategists, marketers, planners, creative producers, UX designs, and copywriters). All portfolio sites to date are focused on the shiny, beautiful output at the end, but creative projects aren’t just about how pretty something looks - It’s about the ideas, creative process and teams that make the ideas happen!

So we decided to reinvent how a portfolio works online, by allowing people to tell the story and case studies behind their work, their individual contributions to a creative project. They can then tag the people, team, brand and suppliers that were fundamental in helping bring those projects to life. In essence we

have created a giant living wiki of the greatest creative projects; how they were made, and the people and teams that made them.

Our industry creates incredible work all the time, but there is no living archive of human creative endeavors documenting why we created things, how we created things and who is creating things - a way for everyone to get credit for their work. What’s been magic to watch, is that since the re-launch, The Dots is quickly becoming a place where work (and the people that created that work) will live on forever.

This is just the beginning of the journey to roll the product out globally. What is so exciting, is that we are entering an age of automation. Soon machines will drive, serve customers, do our accounts and legal paperwork. Over the next twenty years, whole waves of traditional industries will almost disappear as they become increasingly automated ... finance, accounting, manufacturing and more. But there is no algorithm for creativity. So if we want our children and grandchildren to have jobs and our economies to thrive, we need to support the Makers, Doers, Fixers and Dreamers that bring creative ideas to life. That is what The Dots is all about; connecting, supporting and championing the people, teams and companies that make ideas happen.

77 18 Designpreneurs that Changed the Game

Hoang Nguyen

against Tradition, Hoang Nguyen
Freelancer and Lead Designer at Interactive
Labs Going
follows the Design
78 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017 Hoang Nguyen

“My family traditionally worked in the state-owned company. For that reason, when I grew up my mother directed me to the family’s tradition. So when I decided that I would follow the designed path, I had encountered a lot of critics from my family especially me mom.” Hoang speaks with a soft tone has he describes his early beginnings. His father was an artist, however pursing this path posed issues and supporting the family his greatest obstacle. Nguyen’s mother sought for him to pursue a more technical role as an engineer or technician. Entering the creative digital landscape was something that was out of the ordinary, however proved to be the right choice. Nguyen’s bold style and contrasting color choices has advanced him to one of the more unique UI UX designers today. “Until now, I am lucky to prove that my career choice is the right one, and my family has turned to support me a lot. I am thankful for that.” –Hoang.

Starting out, he fostered creative approaches to learning in school and enjoyed the art time. By time he entered the University he met 3 teachers that encouraged him to pursue a creative approach to technology and inspired him with love of the field. Interning at local technology companies, he started out in support, working in PHP and HTML. Getting invited on Dribbble allowed Nguyen to gain influence from trends around the world. “There are 3 popular designers on Dribbble like: Jakub Antalik, Barthelemy Chalvet and Tobias van Schneider which I am looking up to and get motivation from their work”. Nguyen understands that transparency from other cultures is important to advancing his own style.

Working for EngineThemes brought him to a level of a design prodigy, and seven of the thirteen WordPress themes were his designs and have been downloaded over hundred thousand times and are in three large marketplaces including Themeforest. Nguyen say’s he focuses on customer service the most and spending time listening to the owner’s direction, “I tend to pay more time on reading and understanding the demand of customers. I called it researching for inspirations. My view on this is that “you have to make it right before moving to beauty”. It means that when you make the right products to your customer’s demand, the

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There is a delicate season change in Vietnam. One where the trees turn a slight purple and the wind poses a swift brisk during November. Here, there are different challenges than what browser to test your HTML prototype on. Here, there is a standard of work that one is particularly held too either by The State or your family.
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80 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017 Hoang Nguyen
Above: Book Shef Loader Icon Gif, 1. IgnitionDeck Home Redesign, 2. EngineThemes Re-design, 3. Timer Picking Health Application, 4. PR Application 5. Unmute Application, 6. Horse Market Place, 7. Collaboration with Phong Luong, homepage for Interactive Labs HCMC
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revision process is much easier”. Focusing on multiple end users, those that download the themes, pose a difficult challenge. He focused most of his attention to the wants of the team and CEO making sure that he had all of the instruction before starting.

Today, working at Interactive Labs offers a more agency like atmosphere and with that comes more customer service, something that Nguyen has become an expert at. Balancing listening with design is something of an art and Nguyen takes complex customer challenges and diffuses them by installing strategy into the work and lengthly descriptions that explains why designed the things he did. He wasn’t afraid of charging more as these request got more challenging: “There was a time when customer’s continuously changing their request due to the influence of their competitors. They instantly changed their mind when saw a similar products. For that reason, I almost have to continuously changing the designs every time I have a meeting with them, but I did so with end user intentions. The upside of hourly charge when doing the job as freelancer is that if customer’s requests changed, it means your volume of works will expand. When I have to bill more, the customer generally either reconsiders or we compromise on features”.

His design process changes for every project and is tailored based on the needs of the client. Nguyen walks us through two different process that he frequently comes back too, altering based on different goals and data he acquires:

“Based on each works and design, I applied different kind of processes. For example, designing logo and applications have 2 distinguished processes: First my Common-Process, one that I generally use of all clients and includes activities such as, listening to your customer’s demands and their business’s goals, giving out the list of questionnaires to collect the data for designing, and researching and brainstorming their competitors. Second, start the Design-Process which includes activities such as providing customers with options of early prototypes, collecting feedbacks and amending the product, and repeat”. As most of his portfolio resembles platform and web application projects, it becomes obvious that Nguyen presents these dashboards and user interfaces with certain type of expertise that is unique and isn’t afraid to use bold colors or a layout this is organic. As an audience we are presently drawn through his application’s bold features and we are excited to click the rounded buttons, anticipating what will come next. “I think that the success of a designer is when you see that your products

are appreciated (recognized) by users. The client’s business is blooming with success by using my products. Moreover, the best feeling is knowing that your designs have inspired the others young-designers around the world”; Nguyen smiles.

What is a day like in Vietnam? When do you start work? It is humid here and I wake up around 10:00 am to read and reply the emails from customers. After that I work until noon then go out for jogging or occasionally football with friends. When I came back, the work is continue until 3 or 4 am. Mostly work on UX/UI for application, landing page or animation prototype of user flow.

What is the work your most proud of? The work I most proud of until now maybe is the redesigning the EngineTheme’s homepage. This website was originally designed by a really talented designer and honestly it was so good already. It makes the redesigning work become pretty challenging during that time. But the ideas come pretty natural and lucky for me I can complete that project to satisfy the demand of customer.

What is your go to for sharing and how did you start to gain exposer on the web? I’m sharing my work on Dribbble, Behance and Instagram. At the beginning, the recognitions weren’t enough to attract the attentions to my designs. However, time has proven that if you put all your efforts to every product. They will get the recognitions from users sooner or later. I always try to deliver my products with all my efforts to customers. For that reason, lucky for me, customers came naturally.

If you could do it again, would you be a freelancer or work at an agency? Choosing freelancing is always a bigger challenge. I think that at the beginning of anyone’s design career, the younger creatives should choose to work in the big agencies to gain experiences and have more knowledge on the detailed process of designing. After building up a good on-line portfolio, then you can choose based on the recent experiences and be a freelancer for other studios. I like to work at a studio that specialize in applications, and I like diversity in my projects, and for that reason I go for freelancing. Regardless, one must build up their on-line portfolio with all your efforts; focusing on your strong points.

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Photo Above: Tesla's Vehicle Mobile Application
at Code School, Co-founder of Super Team Deluxe Inside the work of Justin Mezzell and why ‘Super Team Deluxe’ will be Your Favorite Custom Pin Maker
Creative Director
84 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017 Justin Mezzell

“I’ve always enjoyed creating things. From spending countless hours spawned across the living room floor build Legos with my brother to making short films about time travel to tinkering around with a bootlegged copy of Photoshop, I can’t think of a time that I haven’t been taking part in some sort of world building in one medium or another. My brother and I spent a lot of time playing video games or creating our own tabletop games since it was exponentially cheaper than getting into Warhammer 40,000. We covered notebooks from cover to cover to serve as monster manuals, detailed world maps, and shop inventories. That was probably on the earlier side of when I began my attempts to design.”

Justin Mezzell, the co-founder of Super Team Deluxe teams up with renowned designer, Rogie King, a patch and pin collectible startup has a fundamental idea about starting your next big idea, “just do it, and do it with a team”. Justin’s focus on the small wins for companies and enjoyable cartoons, figures and landscaping graphics allows particular optimistic tones to be set for its viewers. Mezzell previously worked for companies like Google, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, and Disney and currently working full time at Code School has a diversity in graphic outputs while meeting the needs for situational de-

sign, however his character, style and gradient of colors are consistent.

As one scrolls through Super Team Deluxe site they can see the intense attention that was spent creating the brand, and one that seems to have a strong feeling of nostalgia for the 8090’s kids, bringing back their collection of characters and rubber line weights. Its blissful. Partnering with Rogie King, Mezzell presents a bubbly idea that makes you smile. His background, while diverse, engulfs a creative beginning and a fearless attitude. First studying film, Mezzell’s ideal job seemed line within the vintage photography and graphics. “Since film was a huge part of my design fascination, I took a took a lot of inspiration from movie posters. I loved vintage posters, specifically those from pulpy science fiction or film noir. There was such a richness in their (inaccurate) view of the future in those old science fiction films—particularly the more mid-century ones”. When looking at the Supper Team Deluxe brand you can see the film influence in the bubbly typography, color scales and line weights.

Continuing into University, Mezzell focused on communication, taking an internship at Relevant Magazine.

“At Relevant magazine and I had an amazing art director named Jeremy Kennedy who was willing to invest in a

young kid like myself who didn’t even know that there were programs in the Creative Suite other than Photoshop. He was an incredible mentor and I owe a lot about learning what it means to be a teacher to him”, Mezzell shares. Justin’s early freelance career leveled him up quickly and he worked for large companies such as Google, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter and Disney crafting digital graphics that involved his take on marketing new products and the portraying new technologies in a humanistic and graphically optimistic approach.

As the Creative Director at Code School, Mezzell brings this same resonance for the digital educator. While his duties are fostering a creative culture for both current and prospective students, Mezzell still works at installing graphic standards and creative approaches to education. The team has a choreograph approach to their brand and how a student navigates the curriculum is exciting, primarily because of the use of illustrations and gradients. Compared to his other work, particular Super Team Deluxe, his intensity continues to resides in his graphics.

Sitting down with Mezzell we compare his day to day projects at Code School and dive into the story behind Super Team Deluxe. As we quickly view the

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“In order to really kick this off the ground, we had to throw down some (seemingly arbitrary schedules) just to ensure that we were staying on track and actually launched”, Mezzell says, with focus in his eyes as he describes to DACA what it takes to start a project, be a husband and work full time.

pin's line up we noticed that much of the day to day objects that designers encounter are reflected in pin designs. We explore why he choose pins to be the 3D wearable meduim what next is in store for Mezzel and his "Pizza Love" pin:

How do you balance working at Code School and starting Super Team Deluxe? Since Rogie and I both work jobs separately from Super Team Deluxe, a lot actually! My days start relatively early, if it’s a pin drop day where we’re releasing new product, earlier than usual. A lot of the work that goes into Super Team we’re moonlighting in the evenings, so the day before, we’re probably up getting setup for the marketing for the pin releases. That can include anything from writing copy for each new pin, assembling and building out the email, creating all of the social imagery as well as accompanying copy, and prepping the actual pin orders (which is handled by my wife, Hannah).

Once we push it live, I’m pretty hands off while I’m at work. It’s important to me, while I’m at Code School, to protect the integrity of the work I do there, so that’s typically when I’ll transition out and Rogie and Hannah are handling most things on the Super Team front.

My day at Code School is mostly centered on managing my team of creatives (in course illustration, UI/UX, video production and marketing). I spend a lot of time in UX research sitting in on a lot of interviews as well as building out a number of prototypes.

I’ll typically pick back up the Super Team mantle in the evenings after Hannah and I put the kids down. Rogie and I have spent a number of nights up into the wee hours of the morning fleshing out product ideas. I’ve seen the sun come up a time or two.

Early on who was your motivational creative influence?

I love the work that Ryan Putnam does. He’s constantly evolving his own style and seems to set aside plenty of time to dedicate to his craft. I also really admire to work of my good friend, Meg Robichaud. She’s always pushing herself to invent new styles and techniques and that really shows. Alex Griendling is another designer that loves story, and it’s such a huge part of his work. You can see little pieces of it coming through even the smallest of designs; regardless of whether or not every user knows it’s there. I love that attention to detail and commitment to the craft.

“I’m really honored to be able to work side by side with my friend—and to be able to be on this journey with my wife in on it as well is such an awesome experience. ”
1. Pocket UI Pin, 2. Pizza Love Pin, 3. Pen Tool Pin,
86 DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017 Justin Mezzell
4. Death Before Spec Work Pin

How did you launch Super Team Delux and what was the break out moment for this project? That one’s a bit harder to say. I feel like, for Rogie and myself, the breakout moment was actually when we went live with the store. We had sort of thought that Super Team would be a really unique outlet to experiment with physical goods, but didn’t really put much weight in its success. We sort of thought that it rightly might land with some sort of whimper, we’d sell a few pins, but ultimately end up with a large collection of these things in my attic. After all, the motivation was, win or lose, to finally launch a project together; even if it was just to prove that we could. That we could hold true to our words and finally rally our resources to prioritize a joint project.

When we finally did push it live, the response was incredibly strong, particularly within this community that we love so much. It was pretty much the next day that we both realized that this was something we couldn’t ignore—something we had to ride out and experience just how far it could go.

How did you and Rogie King split up the roles in making this product, who does what? At Super Team Deluxe, it’s just Rogie King and myself as co-founders. Currently, we split up roles by whatever seems like it fits best for the project. We’re both illustrators, and it’s a playground we both feel incredibly comfortable in. Oftentimes, we’re giving each other waves of creative feedback, punching holes in some concepts, or holding each other accountable for pushing ourselves creatively. Occasionally, I’ll start on a piece or a concept and Rogie may pick it up halfway through, make an edit or two here or there, and he may even finish it out. We’ve gotten pretty used to opening each other’s files and making edits. There’s a lot of trust there.

Aside from illustration, Rogie and I both come from the world of the web. We both do the web design for the shop as well as craft any other digital experiences that we think are fun. Rogie has a strong web development background, whereas I’m pretty fledgling, so he handles that front and I tinker about haphazardly.

What is your revision process like? Rogie and I are both pretty on-the-fly with edits. Typically, things stay open as long as we want them to and we’re both going in and out of files making edits here and there. At some point, you do have to make the call to pronounce something “done”, or you’ll spend the next ten years making minuscule edits that no one will notice, all while paralyzed to ship. I tend to think

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about edits as sessions, since the time differences are pretty vast depending on the piece. Super Team Deluxe pins typically take around 3 sessions just to ensure that we’re pressure testing the concept and the render.

How do you define the Creative Director role? I believe Creative Directors are an easy role for people to fumble on, because most people think it’s just the next step in someone’s career. I don’t believe that that’s true. I think being a Creative Director might be the right next step for someone’s career, but the job title isn’t just about a bigger salary, it’s about moving from a craft-driven position to more managerial one. As a Creative Director, you’re expecting to not only critique, but to teach and to support those that work with you. It’s not enough to say “I don’t like this”, you’ve got to be able to be in it with those you work with and balance allowing room for them to come up with their own solutions with you supporting them on that journey. I think that there are a lot of bad, or perhaps uneducated Creative Directors out there. I know that because at times I’m one of them.

With the advent of publishing platforms and social media, what is your go to for sharing new pins from Super Team Deluxe? I think it depends on the medium. We’ve seen a lot of success in talking to other designers by using those networks we use on a regular basis, like Dribbble. We do, however, seem to reach further audiences on more purely social platforms like Twitter. For more in-depth posts on process and/or product thinking, Medium has become a go-to resource for me.

Also, have you found with the increase in creative exposer and

portfolio’s it has been difficult in getting your work out there? I personally don’t think so. I think it’s a great time to work in design. The community is incredibly strong and very social. Those are some fantastic ingredients for getting your work out and distributed. It might feel a little difficult to get noticed amongst the noise at times, but I think the benefits far outweigh the perceived drawbacks.

Did you struggle with freelancing or getting a part time gig at an agency? What is you take for young creatives that want to jump into freelancing right way? Personally, I know I’ve alluded to this, but I believe that working within the context of a team is an undeniably valuable skill that everyone should experience. Going in to freelancing and working for yourself sounds really nice on paper, but I do think that if you jump straight to it, you could possibly miss out on some opportunities afforded to you in working as part of a larger whole.

Also, freelancing isn’t always as sexy as it’s made out to be. You’ve got finances to work through, taxes that need to find their rightful home, and a whole lot of operational planning. These shouldn’t sway you from ever ultimately freelancing, but they’re certainly part of the job description that are oft overlooked. There’s something really nice about being able to fuel a passion project while also working fulltime elsewhere. There’s certainly not as much immediate pressure to mature that project into profitability.

Any recommendations for those who choose the agency scene and eventually look to break out? I think learning how to work in a number of work situations is incredibly helpful. The few times that I have had to work

in-house at an agency, it’s been pretty hectic. It actually reminds me of the time I spent working at a magazine. We had plenty pf late nights and print week was a anything but a walk in the park, but I don’t regret the work ethic I learned in working with tight deadlines and having to hulk our way through creative sessions, even when it felt like the creativity wasn’t immediately flowing. There was a great sense of camaraderie on that team.

From my own experience, I’d say take that time to really understand and feel the tension in working with a team on a common vision. Soak up that time to hone in on efficient workflows and processes that work best for you. Find your goal for what you want to do someday, and don’t feel like you have to make that jump today. I think we have a tendency, as an industry, to be a bit too prescriptive when it comes to telling people when they need to make the leap at their start idea of their own personal freelance career. There’s a lot to be gained in working for other people, especially in working as a team.

What is that piece of inspiration that was important in your beginnings that you want to share to other upcoming creatives? Don’t be afraid to jump into this industry with both feet. I know it can seem like the design conversation is one that’s been going on for a long time and you’re just stepping in when you’re new. I know that it can be daunting—terrifying, even—to figure out where you fit in in this big community. But you can. You do. All you have to do is be willing to be a part. Take

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some time to pour into the kind of work you love. You don’t have to be better than everyone else, you just have to be willing to find what it is that bring you joy. Figure out what excites you about being a part of this conversation.

And never neglect the community aspect. We’re not meant to do all of this alone. Get involved in community and pour into each other’s lives. Give feedback, engage in honest bi-directional critique. If you don’t know anyone in the community, reach out! Send someone you admire an email—it’s how Rogie and I met! I just sent him an email one day and told him that I’d love to learn from him, if he’d let me, and here we are now! Be bold and cannonball into community. You’ll be grateful you did.

Finally, what is next for you?

About the only thing that I know for certain is that I’m honored to be able to work with my friend on a project that’s really become something bigger than we could have imagined. Not only is it flexing us on illustration, but’s also affecting our project management, development, as well as copywriting skills. To be able to run (and occasionally fumble) with these disciplines and to do it with those you care about is a gift I already feel so lucky to be able to experience. We’re going to keep pushing Super Team Deluxe as we try to figure out just what it is and what it can be. We’re already pushing into new products and we’re so incredibly stoked on the potential of what we’re building that it keeps us up into the night planning and dreaming. We’re not done yet—not even close.

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“The kinds of creatives that I would consider leaders are those that give of themselves within the community. That take the time to teach, when possible, and offer insights into their process. ”

Kevin Yang

Brand Designer at Digital Ocean

Kevin Yang built Brewskies and DACA Learns this Project was about much more than Drinking


Breakout moments happen in all different sizes and shapes. They happen in the midst of your day, when you may think of that one way of doing something different and decide to pursue it. For Kevin Yang, his breakout moment, like many designers, started in a scale that was personal to him. From there he grew his career to focus on other personal things that matter to others; the everyday sort of things.

“Remember when forums were a thing? Back then folks had rectangular graphics underneath their posts commonly referred to as “signatures”. Well I made hundreds of them during middle school. Way back before I had any formal design training. I was just a kid who was messing around in Photoshop and Illustrator. I guess not much has changed since then.” – Kevin.

Working as a Brand Designer at Digital Ocean during the day he collaborates with the team on identity and direction. Refocusing the users eyes on particular moments is something he is shines at. That’s why his project Brewski. es is another personal identifier for many people, and what he spends his time on after work. “The Beer Project started with a six pack of Dos Equis and some time to spare. Shortly after, a few of my friends pushed me to turn this into a series. Since then, I’ve tried to knock out one of these illustrations — along with its respective six pack each week. This series originally lived on Dribbble but I’ve decided that it might be time for this project to live on its own on its domain”. And it has ever since, become a sensation that seems to put smiles on users eyes.

Through the project’s simplicity, it has a more definitive approach to critical humor. The series offers a gallant way to showcase the term “flat” design while offering subjective knowledge to that depict’s the brew brand. It is cleaver, creative and users will be surprised how many icon’s they can correctly match to the brew brand. Starting with Corona, Yang uses color, transparency and and block representation of the the brew’s graphics so that one can accurately relate the icon with the company it portrays.

Learning about Yang instills a sense of humbleness, and his story still seems to be a mystery though ever growing. We sit down with Kevin and he takes us through his design process and the edginess he is developing:

What was your big break? I remember how excited I was to have finally gotten on Dribbble. I’d say after a year on Dribbble I was beginning to really connect with the community on there and as a result started to get traction.

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“I was just a kid who was messing around in Photoshop and Illustrator. I guess not much has changed since then.”

Describe a busy day for Kevin: I spend most of the day just trying not to set things on fire. When I’m not doing that I typically do a mix of illustration and web design. When I get home I usually focus on my personal projects or freelance depending on how badly I’ve managed my time haha.

You focus on small successes? What other successes have you have found in the industry that have helped you grow? I take inspiration from so many people in our industry. It’s crazy. As a result, I really enjoy seeing other people take inspiration from me. I think inspiring someone else to create something is one of the most rewarding things that I can do in this industry. To me, that’s how our craft advances and grows.

Describe today’s creative leader: The creative leaders I respect the most are the ones who give back to the design community. I think it’s very easy to develop an ego once you become a leader. The best creative leaders stay grounded and build other creatives up as opposed to tearing them down.

What is your greatest argument over in terms of a project or design? My girlfriend and I have different views on design thinking and design process. I come from a very analytical background whereas she comes from a fine art background. If I was to boil it all down, I would say that I typically try to be as creative as possible within the constraints whereas she questions the constraints a bit more and often tries to redefine them. (How did you solve it?) I’ll let you know when I do :D.

With the advent of publishing platforms and social media, what is your go to for sharing? I typically use Dribbble, Behance, and Instagram for sharing work.

What other creatives do you look up too, who is your motivational creative influence? Ahh so many. I’m really inspired by the work of Nick Slater, Shawna X, Ryan Putnam and Steve Wolf.

Younger creatives struggle with choosing freelancing and or getting a part time gig at an agency? What is your take? Chase the work that you want to do. For some that means freelancing, for others that means going the agency route. Don’t worry about the gig, focus on the work that you will ultimately be doing at the gig.

What particular world issue if you could, with all the

money in the world want to try to solve? And How? This is a tough question because many of the problems that I feel like need to be solved cannot be solved with all the money in the world, most of them start with people finding the will to change. A problem that definitely can be solved with all the money in the world is education. I’ve been very fortunate to have very good teachers, and I think it’s totally possible for everyone to have an education that will help them achieve their dreams in life. All we have to do is properly incentive teachers. I think education is an unbelievably hard design problem, and our best and brightest designers typically focus their attention elsewhere simply because the incentive isn’t always there — and that’s a shame.

As an upcoming creative, what is your advice to other upcoming creatives? Someone a while ago told me that anyone can learn from someone who is better than them. What’s much more rare is a person who is able to learn from those who aren’t as good as they are. I think that comes from just staying humble, hungry, and curious.

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Photo below and to the right top: Icons for Digital Ocean Branding. Right bottom: Landing Page for
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"I’ve been very fortunate to have very good teachers, and I think it’s totally possible for everyone to have an education that will help them achieve their dreams in life."

Co-Founders and Designers at Balkan Bro-

Matej and Filip Justić

Matej and Filip Justić Take DACA Inside Balkan Brothers’

In the diverse field of graphic, 3D and web design, the amount of work that goes into deliverables is daunting. Having a partner in this industry has been said to be “a must”. Having your brother at your side makes it seems like there are two of you. However the challenge to agree on colors, clients and layout seems like it takes the studio life to a whole new level.

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Starting the Balkan Brothers in 2011, like most startups, it had its ups and downs. Today, it’s hard to see any difficulties for this agency. The two brothers with a competitive edge dove right in and today boast clients like Progressive Insurance, Zora, Shiply, InvoiceSherpa, and Zapper. But the story doesn’t begin there. The story begins in the city of Croatia, with the love of digital design, apprehending adulthood while working together to build their business.

With their father on board, the brothers started an online travel agency called “BookinginCroatia” and “BookinginCard”. With no prior experience regarding design, development or website functionality they built a landing page and expanded the idea of discount cards for flights. Being self taught allowed them to become versatile in particular individual crafts, breaking down design to-do lists and learning the ins and outs of user experience. All of the marketing materials, website design, stationery, branding was performed in-house, and in doing so they searched for a process that worked.

BookinginCroatia didn’t go as well as planned and the two were left with $30 dollars to their name and 2 computers. In that moment Matej proposed to try out 99designs, crafting logos. “If that doesn’t work out, we each go our separate way, getting 9-5 jobs. A blue pill, red pill moment if you watched Matrix. Together, we decided to jump into the rabbit hole”, said Matej.

Determined and hardworking they applied for 99Designs projects while teaching each other design tricks, Photoshop and WordPress. “We were working full time,

"We never approached this as a hobby, this was our job, livelihood, food on the table moment from the get-go” – Filip.
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12+ hours per day, 7 days a week. Studying and designing from our small in-house “office”. We never approached this as a hobby, this was our job, livelihood, food on the table moment from the get-go” – Filip. He continued with, “I remember that in November of 2012 we entered our first 99Designs contest, and actually reached the finals. We obviously lost to a much more experienced designer. The winner got $2,300 which was beyond our dreams at that time. I mean we were so heavily outmatched it is funny looking back now. We designed a website without grids, used a 12pt font size for the main paragraphs and designed everything in illustrator… Only 2 weeks passed and we won our first contest for $940 which is an equivalent of a monthly salary in Croatia (at the time). We were stoked and proud, as this was the sign we were waiting for, a confirmation that we can actually make this work. From that moment forward we just went full throttle and started designing like madmen”.

That December they won their fourth contest which was for Shiply from UK. The contest included a a complete landing page with the cash prize being over $1400. In addition the winner also got to redesign Shiply’s dashboard. In weeks of waiting, Matej and Filip scored and were awarded both. At the same time they also won a contest for Zapper. It became obvious that they knew they had style that people wanted.

The following year they continued winning contests and mostly working with all the clients they met on 99designs. “Almost everyone had more work for us. At that time we started chatting with Marino, a programmer that ran a computer-shop in Krk. Why

not offer our clients the possibility to code up our designs for them?”, Matej. So they did and they did with vengeance and no holding back. “In design, you need to leave your ego out of it, because clients will always try to add their final touch. Don’t let that influence you, that is normal. Don’t be afraid of what others will say about your work, since design is very subjective and everyone sees it differently. Express yourself and just let it be.” – Filip.

DACA looks around the small studio as the two Brother’s discuss their creative journey in detail, their influences and what advice they can give to the next lone coder overseas.

“What i would attest to our rise from nothing is that you need to really love what you do, sometimes a hard situation in life can push you further than you expect. If you don’t have a cushion to fall on to, you bite harder. Truth be told, we had to fight for each step of the way, there were no shortcuts and no guidelines, everything we did was new to us and from each mistake we had to squeeze out everything we could. And i feel that gives us an edge. We had to learn fast and work really hard. There is no magic formula. You need to go through all the steps yourself”.

So when you were entering that first contest, who was your influence? Matej: Hmm, not sure. Can’t remember. Well, we always approached each project or contest at time the same. We like to find out which industry the product or client belongs to. We check industry leaders and see what they do well. We also look on dribbble to find similar designs you can copy. There is a process to our understanding for each

new project we take on – we usually investigate quite a bit on number of visitors, competition, client background and previous company CEOs or founders they worked with. We are usually quite informed before we even make our first call with the client.

Did you work for anyone prior starting your venture? Filip: Not in the IT industry. We had family businesses: restaurant, Night Clubs and construction. Matej worked with his father and later alone with partner helping running business on all levels. Even prior that family had printing company – mainly T-Shirt design – we might have our touch for design from that time.

Did you have co-founders and were these guys or girls other designers? Filip: It started with just us as 2 designers. Within a year we added Marino as well. That are the 3 “co-founders” if you want to call them that. Currently we work with around 10+ people in the team (mostly remotely). Matej is client relation, finances, business analytics and logistics. I (Filip) is the lead designer so most of the projects are his wrongdoing. Marino is lead developer so he codes up anything we need coded.

Walk me through a busy day, what tasks are you completing? What roles are you filling? Matej: My day starts at 11am – first thing in the office i check all emails – usually a lot of new inquiries, client talk, designers talk, developers talk so first thing i try is to get up to speed with daily tasks and how’s everyone standing. Main focus is to have all emails and tasks sorted and that everyone has something to work on.

After that I usually get into propos-

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als, we get couple of new work inquiries a day so that needs to be sorted. We try to do an inspection on every potential client so we know a lot about them even prior our first call.Midday is all about current tasks, usually going over all designers to check what they are working on and how are they progressing. Then, I end my day with scheduled meetings with our big clients and at the end of day play with couple of ideas on how to properly expand and grow.

Let’s get personal now. How do you measure your success, what is the criterion you measure? Filip: I think that the size and outreach of our client is the criteria by which we measure our success. With time we are starting to work with bigger and more influential clients. Kinda find pleasure in being able to say in a day to day conversation with someone “hey, you know so and so? Well we worked with them!” Also money. Money is important, but don’t make it be your only motivation in this business.

What does it mean to be a creative leader? Both: We don’t really see us as creative leaders on grand scale. We just love design and are focused on improving it and making it better with each new project we take on. If you are asking how does it feel to be Creative leader in our company: have to say it is not easy as we assign only the best designers out there so usually you have to explain yourself quite a bit – but if you want to do best you have to be able to work with the best!

At first there was just two of you. What is your design process like and how has it grown? Matej: Not sure if this is true, but as far as I know, we have a pretty unique way of handling this first phase as we delve right into the design process and actually start the design (in PSD) with high fidelity designs. I think that the wireframing process is not necessary unless you have a 50+ page dashboard, but even then I’m not sure you need it.

Filip: Well considering that most of our clients don’t have wireframes, sitemaps and come to us with a rough idea of what they need. We ask them for a list of websites they personally like, we research their competition, we try to figure out their user base and from there we start designing.

Matej: There is something more that can be said on this subject. If we agree that UI/UX design is a process

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1-2) Balkan Brothers website redesign images, 3) InvoiceReady iOS in collaboration with Charlie Isslander, 4) Takumi - Inner Pages, 5) Sendemo UI Project 6) Agile CRM - Deals, 7) Clearmove Dashboard.

where we try to improve all things, make flows faster and easier, interface more intelligent, pages nicer and aesthetics lighter than you can ask yourself one question. How you are able to do all these through wireframing stage without being able to use all styles? So we see wireframing stage as something that is usable on some projects but mostly just a repetitive behavior inherited from others. For me it is process good for evaluating projects and getting the big picture and not so good for hard-core UI/UX design processes.

Filip: I start right away with designs. If it’s a dashboard I start with the home screen for the dashboard, include colors and design elements I think fit their product and user base. If it’s a website, I start from the homepage and try to think about other pages during that process as well. Find it easier and faster to work that way. No wireframes, just design. Obviously if the client already has wireframes we are very thankful for that, as we can base our design on something and can minimize the research and brainstorming process.

What is your revision process like? How fast can you ship a design out? Filip: We have been known of designing several websites within a week. We did some websites within a day. In the past there were days where we pushed more than 20 pages, but this is crazy we don’t do that anymore, I promise.

What is the work your most proud of? Filip: Hmmm I’m very proud of my work on Zora and new designs for InvoiceSherpa (coming early 2017). Both of those I had more time to design, and on both of those I was free to introduce my own design style. Kinda feel they are the best looking of all my work so far.

Matej: Of course mostly proud of work we did for our biggest clients like Progressive Insurance. These projects test you the most.

How do you define the creative director or CEO role today? One has to work closely together with the other. The company will grow the right way with the focus on quality rather than just the numbers game. A creative director has to be on top of everything design related one who knows all new gadgets and all new styles and tricks. Most important thing is that he has a good eye for design and no designego. Same goes for the CEO – Both have to be aligned to the same goal, quality first.

How did you start to get your name out there and portfolio seen? Dribbble is currently our strongest social profile. But we just started publishing on Behance, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as well. We also are looking to explore Awwwards and just opened a profile on Clutch. Last two should be beneficial additions as we are already receiving new inquiries from there.

Have you experienced any challenges with landing clients? Yes and no. We have more clients than we can serve. But it’s not only roses in Balkan Brothers world – one has to evaluate who is good client and who is not and all that has to be done before we are assigned. We are still learning this making mistakes along the way.

What other creatives do you look up too, who is your motivational creative influence? Mostly dribbble users such as: Haraldur from Ueno, FocusLab, Creativedash, Barthelemy from (they are also brothers), Charlie Isslander (works with us), Victor Erixon, Jakub and Frantisek currently in Intercom. There are a lot others actually, but these are that come to mind first.

Younger creatives struggle with choosing the freelancing route or getting a part time gig at an agency? What is you take? Filip: Hmmm, not sure. If i had to choose, i would definitely try working in an agency with a design lead that has more experience and versatility. I myself feel like i don’t have that much of theoretical knowledge about design since i didn’t go to any design schools or had any prior experience working in an agency. So if you have a possibility to work with someone who has a lot of knowledge and experience in that business, give it your best shot.

If you go freelance, then know that you need to work really hard to make it. Be consistent, work 40+ hours a week. Showcase your work on social networks all the time, dribbble and behance are a must. If you don’t have a live project to work on, than do a concept for something or someone. The main thing is to work and be socially active.

Any recommendations for those who choose the agency scene and eventually look to break out? Just do it! In our experience there is more work than designers out there.

What particular world issue if you could, with all the

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money in the world want to try to solve? And How? Filip: There is no saving us. Dreaming about utopian worlds, but i think we are not that loving and peaceful of a race. So i’m thinking of just spending it all on cars, food and drinks. I just watched Suicide Squad the other day and that movie was awful, i mean holy shit how do you go from Dark Knight to Suicide Squad in 10 years… awful. So i’m thinking ,since i have all the money in the world, why wouldn’t i save the people on this earth from watching these kind of movies with a Movie Pre Launch Company which would watch a movie before it goes public, and if it was pure crap (SSquad), buyout the rights and delete it.

Matej: Humanity will find a way… it will not be a way out but rather a way in. Once all thoughts stop clarity will be allowed. Just be!

Finally, what is next for you? Filip: Not sure. Multiple offices with high quality design & dev teams. Matej: Yes, we are looking to open Zagreb office later this year it will be development and design focused. Than Prague is next – nice design focused office. After that – we are coming to the States.

Advice from the Brothers:

Filip: Research, copy and design. Research top designs on the net, check a lot of dribbble, behance for inspiration, it will help a lot. By copy i mean exactly that. Drag and drop someone’s work to your canvas and work on it as you please, but with time you will understand the concept of correct spacing, balancing and coloring. It speeds up your growth as a designer. Design? Think about what you are building, think how to make it better than what is already on the web and keep designing and polishing. Sometimes i make 20,30,40 different versions for a single web page. Polishing and playing with how some ideas work with other. Keep designing and trying to make your latest design even better.

Matej: Don’t get emotionally attached to your design. Feedback and revision are part of the job, so you need to be stable enough to understand that sometimes clients actually have a point. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice a good looking design for greater user experience and overall better user retention. Don’t overthink your design and i’m hopeful that with time you will understand that less is actually more. I’m still battling with that concept, but i’m finding it to be true. Keep your design clean, it will last longer. Still have a memorable element somewhere, but try and keep it slim and clean.

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Steve Wolf

If you’re a design student there are usually classes that are mandatory to take before graduation. Studying the Bauhaus movement and the Mid Century design era in art history class was something that many designers can relate to passing (or failing in many cases). The Bauhaus movement included distinction between fine and applied arts in efforts to reunite creativity and manufacturing. It was founded on the idea of all arts, including architecture, would eventually be brought together giving an holistic approach to design and shedding light on why one begins to create. Steve Wolf, studying Industrial Design in College also studied this movement and he seems to lead by it.

By the time he fully made the transition into obtaining his degree in Graphic Design, there was elements from his Indstrial Design background that converted with him. In his work you can see the emphasis in his line weights, simplicity in his pieces, clean and uncluttered shapes and emphasis in geometric patterns and textures. "Like an architect", many of his clients say.

Wolf, born and raised in Central Nebraska continues to practice graphic arts professionally, winning awards such as Austin ADDY and ADDY Silver. Steve Wolf Designs, now his agency of 3 moved to the big city in Austin, where he continues his practice as a senior designer, business developer, accountant and all in one design man as his agency takes off. We sit down with Steve and his portfolio and discuss the next generation of talent, how he began his creative journey and what advice he can give to the next graphic prodigy.

Let’s start with your story, How did you begin your creative journey? I actually wanted to be an Industrial Designer during

His path was "suppose" to be in Industrial Design, but in college the pivot was the best thing Steve Wolf did for himself. Now, with a prestigious design firm under his belt, Wolf tells DACA what keeps him up at night.
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high school and when I went off to college in Nebraska. In college, I took a lot of fine art classes such as drawing and painting because I have always loved making art my whole life and wanted to continue practicing this craft. One day, my college professor stopped me in the hall and invited me to a graphic design meeting. I went with no expectations or any knowledge of graphic design. After hearing all of the possibilities graphic design had to offer, I instantly fell in love and knew this was actually the path I was looking for all along! I graduated with a degree in graphic design and have been in this field for roughly 8 years now.

Who or what influenced your beginning designs? Our design program in college focused on the classic heavyweight designers during the Bauhaus movement and up to the mid century design era. Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Ikko Tanaka, Lance Wyman and Alvin Lustig where some of the designers we studied that really inspired me to do the design work I do today. I wanted to be just like them so I would stay up late every other night reading and researching about these guys until I started to develop my own style based off of these legends.

Where did you work prior to starting your venture? I

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“During your transition, it gets tough to balance both. After your job at the agency, you come straight home to work even more! The trick is to treat the freelance work as a passion project instead of work.”

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Steve Wolf
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worked at a sports trading card company in Dallas called Panini America, a marketing agency in Nebraska called SCORR marketing, and an advertising company in Austin called GSD&M.

Did you have co-founders, where they other designers, and how did you split up the roles? My wife Danielle helped me from the very beginning with contracts, client communication and emails. She helped me on the business side of things while I focused on design. Within the past year, we have added another member to the team who helps with business management.

Lets talk about success and the criterion that you have personally measured it: I measure my success based on how I feel about my work. If I can see that I am improving my ideas and execution, I see that as growth. I am always trying out new ideas and processes so when I am able to implement these into my work and see them live in the world, I see that as success.

Okay, walk me through a design process. Where do you start? I first start off by getting as much information about the project I am working on from the client and I also learn about the client and get to know them on a personal level. Understanding the clients is just as important as understanding the project. Each person is different and has their own vision and needs. After discussing the project, I spend long periods of time researching. This includes reading books, getting on Pinterest and other design boards, learning about the genre I am working in, seeing what has been done before, scouting out competitors and seeing their executions, and getting inspiration from everyday things such as nature and architecture.

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After the research phase, I start sketching or in some cases go directly onto the computer depending on the project. I start to bring the ideas to life on the computer and go through many options before narrowing it down to two or three. Once the final directions are established, I present them to the client. I will make changes to the design if needed and once approved, I send over the final files. Throughout all of this, I am constantly talking to my clients and I keep researching even when I am designing.

With the advent of publishing platforms and social media, what is your go to for sharing? I always post my work to Instagram and have found the most success through this platform. I also use Pinterest, Dribbble, and Behance to share my work.

On that topic, have you found with the increase of creatives out there and the diversity of other's portfolios, has it been difficult in getting your work out there? I don’t think so. As long as you stay true to what you make and keep improving, your work will get noticed and stand out from the rest even though there are many sites out there. Coming up with original ideas for a unique style can really help you stand out from the crowd.

Have you experienced any challenges with landing clients? When I first started out, I would go through long periods without any clients. When this happened, I used this time to develop my style and work on personal proj1 2 3 106

ects. The more I designed and shared my work, I slowly got a steady stream of clients to work with. After I landed a few clients, I was able to build off of that for the next opportunity.

What other creatives do you look up to, who is your motivational creative influence? Like I said earlier, the great designers such as Paul Rand and Saul Bass are still influencing me still to this day! It amazes me that their work is still relevant and ground breaking even in today’s world.

Any recommendations for those who choose the agency scene and eventually look to break out? Grind, Grind, Grind. I did this for many years and learned that patience and hard work is key. It will be the hardest thing you have ever done but it can definitely be worth it in the long run. During

your transition, it gets tough to balance both. After your job at the agency, you come straight home to work even more! The trick is to treat the freelance work as a passion project instead of work. You will enjoy working on the outside work so much that you want to do more and more. Another recommendation is to try to find a balance between agency work, freelance work, and relaxation. Without taking a break here and there, you will get burned out really fast and end up going one way or the other.

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Full Image: Party Poster (unused), 1) Cover for an Anniversary Card, 2) Wells Coffee Packaging, 3) Poster for Wild Belle (Austin Texas), 4) Bloody Mary Morning Poster for SXSW 2016, 5) Fairisle Coffee Poster Series

“We believe it's important to streamline experiences by doing what we know is best rather than making people think about mundane choices. Providing fewer options requires less brain power and gives people back their time”

- Morgan Knutson (Options are Choices in Disguise - Dribbble Post, for Dropbox)

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Morgan Knutson

Morgan Knutson

Working for Google, Dropbox, Shift, UENO and co-founding Vela, makes Morgan a hulk in representing stories through graphical interface and brand. His own particular story takes on a vibrant start of hackivisism and outreach for public platform and transparency, markings for a king of change, disruption and all for unconventional. All things Knutson has made a gallant reputation on. Oh, and he designs too.

Co-Founder and Lead Creative for Vela
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Pioneering a new design strategy for either a new company or new product is a skill set that is learn through experience. The experts that do this best have a subtle way of balancing the needs for users through interface utility combined with a presentation that influences viewers to sustain their presence. Morgan Allen Knutson not only embodies this belief but he is one of our first practitioners during a time when digital companies started to reflect the need for design, brand and the how-does-this-better-my-company mentality. With a portfolio that reflects proficiency in user experience, brand, and software architecture, Knutson's prior employers, Google, Dropbox and Shift carved out a path for Knutson to solve real issues for his target user groups.

During his beginnings, Morgan Knutson sought refuge in a second generation PC given to him by his grandfather where he experimented with Paint and other 2D graphic tools. "I was always an artistic kid, and experimented with all sorts of mediums growing up from pastels to still life". When he was entering his teens he pushed towards working with flash and animation.

Entering the web seemed empowering, something that he respected as a potent tool for harnessing communication and opinion. He was drawn to hackivist groups, particularly, "Downhill Battle" and other campaigns for participatory culture in the music industry. was a natural

product for him to help create as a way to allow the public to view congress representatives, lobbied topics and vanguard for comprehensive, nonpartisan sources for legislation. It was another chance for public opinion to be platformed. It was later purchased by the Sunlight Foundation.

In the months following, Knutson's recruitment to Google was influenced by his network that he created. "I was hired on to work on Google+, a new social network at the time, assisting in redesigning the platform back in 2012". In efforts to continue his path, he moved quickly to Dropbox where he pioneered much of the design strategy that you see today. "Dropbox was exciting and a new promising technology. I was energized by the ownership I had in their design agenda, creating much of what you see today". Knutson lead the team to

redesign the brand, front face of the website and mobile, hiring on much of the 8 -10 illustrators that came to bring the company to its fruition. "The one thing I was most proud of was supporting and sustaining the Dropbox culture during internal hackathons and events. Making friends; that comradery and network is important in anything you do".

Cultivating a network is exactly what he did at Shift, a company Knutson co-founded as their fifth co-founder. "I wanted the grit and hustle of making something out of nothing. I get that from my Grandfather. I realized that joining a company as the fifth cofounder was of unconventional, but it was a rocket-ship of an idea". Shift made it easy to test drive a car for 7 days and then buy it, if it’s the right fit. Creating a brand that integrated with the web and mobile presence

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Below: Dropbox icons and Branding. Right: Vela landing Page
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“Design products that actually work for people.”

from start to finish was something the team harnessed and is seen in the details. Understanding the users from beginning to end has been evident in everything that Knutson involves himself with. As a design advisor to Shift today, Knutson relays back the message to always put yourself in the shoes of the people your selling too.

Details are something Knutson has always delivered on time, in a particular fashion, focusing on the things that users will see and touch the most. Vela, Knutson's current endeavor, is connecting merchants with their products through integration, automation, and design. "Vela enables merchants to drive growth while reducing the time and effort involved in managing an online business and its really simple to use." Like his previous work, Knutson creates a simplified way to harness organization design techniques into a simplified dashboard that makes it much easier to sell products on Etsy (more platform integrations coming soon).

Embellishing on the techniques that Knutson learned at the beginning, it is obvious that his creativity will continue to encompass the inner story for every company. And he does this not just through the illustrations or code. It is much more than the colors, fonts and graphics to him. It is about purpose and the reasoning behind the products. When looking at his portfolio, he seems to master how the application speaks to the end users and combines the product's branded message into the core inner workings of the product itself. Knutson doesn't have one style. That's his charm. The choreographed teams that he directed to produce the design vision for Dropbox, Shift and Vela are all different and have a very distinct personality. With Dropbox there is a clear drafted look that is integrated within the branding and this carries through to the dashboard. From the onboarding experience the design intent seems to be portraying "workings" and "draft" through the end user from the first file transfer. Morgan's audience will notice a similar

outcome from all of his work, creating scenarios for each company manifesting their story through their brand and dripping into every element of the application. This, then can best uplift the company's movement and roll with a strategy that people recognize. A true graphical process that Morgan Knutson embodies. Below: Shift Landing Page, Vela Logo. To the Left: Vela Dashboard.

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Dave DeSandro

Man Behind Masonry and the Web as we know it, but most of all the Founder of Metafizzy

Grids are seen to be one of the backbones of the web. It is a particular formula that is central around organization and easy on the brain to scan information quickly. Dave DeSandro, isn't just a frontend designer. Dave has designed a new standard and a grid the has taken over most of the web.

Dave DeSandro is the maker of Masonry, a grid that many use today, basing many designs on. As the founder of Metafizzy, DeSandro creates Java Script libraries that assist in web design and development making it easy to use a framework and build upon it. Between carousels and dragable layouts, the work at Metafizzy sets the tone for new frontiers in design. But the Java Script king story was not an easy one and his humble beginnings are an inspiration to many young creatives trying to break out.

"After graduating college, I landed a nondescript office job, trapping myself in a cubicle. I worked on web design as a hobby, but didn’t think of it as a career. During one particular low point, I missed a job opportunity and my car

died in the same week. Barring a breakdown, I resolved to change careers and become a designer. With that focus in purpose, things starting falling into place. I went to night school, built up my portfolio, and created interesting projects. I got an internship at a big agency and then finally secured a full-time job at a smaller web design agency."

DeSandro continues by explaining his first "real web design job" was with a small agency in Washington DC called Nclud. Ran by young Martin Ringlein and Alex Girón the three of them were on the forefront of agency entrepreneurship. They valued community engagement and employees’ individual development. They were

"Even with all the carousels out there, I knew I could create something better. I used a physics-based animation so the drag interactions feel intuitive.
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also a huge inspiration for DeSandro, "They helped foster me as a designer, because they knew it would lead back to the company. They gave me their blessing to start my own little business, Metafizzy. I’m still thankful for their inspiration and career nurturing".

The big agency (not named) was scored soon after but the stars continued to dis-align. "I worked at a big tech company. It had everything: great pay, great benefits, smart people, free lunch, comfy lifestyle. But I had zero agency. All the work I’d perform would never see the light of day. It made me miserable to the point where I said goodbye to all the comforts and started working on Metafizzy fulltime."

DeSandro focused on the utility within design creating small moments that others could build with. Many caught onto that. When he created a JavaScript layout library called Masonry he had planned it would be another small part of his portfolio. "But around 2011, curated image galleries like Pinterest took off. Masonry became the look for these sites. To this day, I’m still the guy who made Masonry". But the criterion to quit his day job was based on income, "I need to be able to support my family", and he didn’t start working on Metafizzy full-time until he felt comfortable that the business was bringing in enough revenue.

The popularity of this script was long lived and he had regular downloads daily. He created commercial licensing for the script and fostered a network of Q and A for those developers that were interested in expanding it. He also marketed on Forums and social networks taking a surprise interest in building his network with Instagram. "After being a die-hard Twitter believ-

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50 Logos for Sale at Logo Pizza

er, I recently started posting to Instagram. I’ve been impressed with the positive response so far. But I’m not cut out for Snap Chat because I was born during the Reagan administration", said DeSandro.

Isotope, Flickity and Packery scripts were next offering designers ways to install and grow a human approach to "flicking" through carousels and dragging layouts within containers. As one of his most passionate projects, Flickity is one of his favorites, "Even with all the carousels out there, I knew I could create something better. It uses physics-based animation so the drag interactions feel intuitive. Recently, I saw a designer tweet out “What carousel should I use?” People overwhelmingly responded with Flickity. That was a proud moment" - DeSandro.

Today, Dave DeSandro is focusing much of his attention to Logo Pizza, a project that focuses on single and short use logo designs. Once one person purchases the logo, they get the vector image, license and the price goes up. "Man, I love logos. A little piece of imagery that represents the ideal you want your project to be". DeSandro continued by saying that rather than waiting for projects to come his way, he put myself to work and designed 50 and users from all over the world can purchase. Taking to the mass market and being open to the idea that logos can represent multiple stories and can be tailored to fit your projects needs is something this is new. It’s a new found solution for crafting

The creation of independent tools that others can model. When we asked how he made the daring break from his comfortable career path, he smiled, "Just try it out first. Take on a side job and see how it feels. I started Metafizzy in a similar light, just as a side-project. I kept it going as a side-project for four years before finally taking the plunge and making it my main gig."

The Different Hats Dave Wears at Metafizzy!

Wearing my coder hat: making demos, fixing bugs, responding to GitHub issues, writing documentation, developing new features.

Wearing my marketer hat: writing blog posts, capturing video for Tweets and posts, sending stickers.

Wearing my designer hat: sketching concepts, shaping vectors, preparing asset files.

Wearing my biz-dev hat: corresponding with clients, drafting contracts, politely requesting payment.

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Dave DeSandro's advice for keeping up with the trends: Keep doing what you’re doing, especially if what you’re doing is not popular. When I was starting out, there was no distinct audience for the stuff I was interested in (artsy web demos and UI tools). I should have been a curating a web design gallery or crafting bespoke blog posts piqued with DSLR-shot photos. But the galleries are all gone, the blog scene faded out, and now artsy web demos are coming to pass. Following my interests has enabled me to ride out on top of these waves, rather than trying to swim hard to catch them.

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Co-FounderandLeadDesignat CodePen

Chris Coyier, 36, embodies strategy and connectivity in his products. For him, with a soft smile and large boots fosters a sense of mystery and cleverness when you meet him. Since he started on the web, he has always represented "finished work" as "teachable work", or products that were beautiful and contained lessons within them. He wasn’t afraid to keep growing this strategy when co-founding CodePen, with deep interest in seeing others teach others.

DACA Publications Digital and Computer Arts Publication No. 1 Jan - Mar 2017 Chris Coyier
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Coyier grew up in Verona, a middle class suburb of Madison, Wisconsin. With nice schools and every opportunity there, Chris from the beginning was interested in arts. "I remember our ceramics department in high school was nicer than most colleges had. We had a natatorium, a fancy new theater, an excellent gym, and certainly influential to me: multiple computer labs. We had computer courses to go with them, including multiple computer programming electives". He took advantage of the circumstances and introduced himself to both fine arts and the computer early on. "I took and enjoyed ceramics very much, but nearly equally as much the computer programming stuff. Mr. Scott was our teacher and I took to his teaching style very well. I remember being very excited about building a Game of Life simulation in Turbo Pascal, and a networked Battleship game after that".

"My parents were also very supportive. I always had a nice computer and all of the online time I wanted back then. This is a pretty clear picture of what privilege looks like. We weren't rich. We had rough patches. Things weren't exactly handed to me. I worked hard. But nobody doubted me. Nobody talked down to me. Everyone supported my ideas and encouraged me. I had plenty of opportunity."

Coyier started at Chatman Design as a web designer in 2007 and during this time started CSS-Tricks, a portal, blog like, with a brown and orange professional presentation with loads of web design tips and tricks such as "CSS Icons", "SVG and Media Queries" and more. Perfect for the intermediate designer, one can travel back in time as they go to the earliest

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post. Today, it boasts a large following and defines many interviews and messages that can leave you inspired. Soon after, Coyier ran "Digging into WordPress" and created "Are My Sites Up" in three months, then also publishing the book version "Digging into WordPress", which is a precedent study for many inspiring WordPress enthusiasts creating story specific scenarios for how to advance techniques. Starting full time at Wufoo as one of the lead designers allowed Coyier to expand on his personal brand and products. Soon afterwards, Wufoo was acquired by Survey Monkey and the merger morphed Coyier into deeper technical work.

During the "ShopTalk Show" days where he interviewed hundreds of designers and product makers there was inspiration to start a product of his own. Particularly encouraged by continued inner teachings of web design, css techniques and frontend masteries Coyier connected with his friends Alex Vazquez and Tim Sabat both full stack developers. The three of them, knowing that they wanted to create a product together before, insisted in 2012 to start. The first rendition of CodePen defined an early under-groundish community where frontend code including HTML, JS, and CSS code and a design preview could be shared amongst one another. Today, it boast over 783K users and 9.3 Million Pens (shared designs). "The concept just came out and we thought it was good for everyone". Coyier placed himself as lead designer full time and together the three of them have grown the team to eight. Sitting down with Chris Coyier one can see his humbleness as he runs three products while still playing the banjo and guitar on the side.

Do you remember a particular time when you knew that design and contributing to the web was something you wanted to enter or pursue?

I do remember early days of poking around learning web design by installing WordPress sites and poking around at their design and how they work. That kind of thing was really invigorating. I enjoyed playing with websites more than playing video games. That's still true. I like playing video games, but they aren't nearly as fun as the incredible logic puzzle that is design, programming, and business.

As soon as I started playing with websites, I remem-

ber having a feeling that this is the perfect path forward for me. It's creativity, art, and design. It's the nerdy satisfaction of programming. It's business. It's helping people. It's a real career.

You worked at Wufoo which was acquired by Survey Monkey. Were you there during the transition? How did the design teams merge? It was a pretty clean transition. Everybody at Wufoo was in Tampa, Florida, and we all had to move out to the Bay Area, California. That was pretty fun.  I wasn't at Wufoo for even a full year before this acquisition happened, so I was still kinda glowing from even having that job and super fired up to keep working on Wufoo with the existing Wufoo team. We got the "we want to learn from you on how to work" pitch. I naively thought we'd all just get a corner all to ourselves where we'd just keep on keeping on. That didn't really happen, but not so much because we were now working for a bigger company, but that the Wufoo team itself was interested in branching out and doing different things. It ended up being pretty good for everyone I think. The fact that Wufoo is still going strong today is pretty awesome.

You have started a diversity of different projects such as “Are My Sites Up”, “CSS-Tricks”, publishing “Digging into WordPress” and “ShopTalk Show” in addition to CodePen. First, what was your favorite? Then, were you able to work full time while pursuing these endeavors? There have been moments where I've been way over my head with commitments. I'm always teetering on that point. It happened even more often when I was also working full time. Things got better when I was able to stop working full time for companies and work full time for myself. I decided I'm keeping my main project load to just CodePen, CSS-Tricks, and ShopTalk, and that's what I'm most proud of because of the long term persistence and dedication to them.

When starting CodePen, how did this early project come to be and why? CodePen was a little tiny side project I wanted to build, in large part for a way to show off demos on CSS-Tricks. There were pre-existing apps that did this kind of thing, like JS Bin, but I wanted to take a crack at building one myself that I could control.

You mentioned that Alex and Tim came on board and the three of you decided to pursue CodePen full time. How was this decision made and what were the first couple steps? Was it already launched and active be-

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forehand? Alex and Tim were involved from day one. In fact, we were actively looking for ideas for things to work on with each other, as we knew like liked working with each other and all have some entrepreneurial spirit. I proposed the idea of CodePen, kinda selfishly, as it would be useful to me for CSSTricks. They were on board with the idea, not because they didn't have any ideas themselves, but just because it seemed like a small focused idea we could knock out pretty quickly. As we worked on it, it was pretty clear it was an idea worth making into it's own fullfledged independent project.

I left Survey Monkey shortly after we first started working on CodePen. Alex and Tim continued work there for about another year and worked on CodePen in the evenings and weekends before finally jumping off and coming full time on CodePen.

How did you acquire your first users? What was your marketing approach or what social networking sites did you use, if any? We were very fortunate in that we didn't have to look very hard to find people that were interested in trying it. That's the benefit of having built an audience over many years and then building a product that is right up their alley. A quick tweet at the beginning got us all the beta testers we needed.

These days, it's still a fortunate situation, because in a sense the people who build things on CodePen market it for us. People are proud of the cool things they build and share them, and that reaches their audience as well. Did you craft much of the design and brand for CodePen? I can take credit for some of it, but like I suspect most big apps, it's quite a mishmash. Sparkbox did a good amount of the

current design. We've had contractors like David Desandro do some of the interactions. Our current employees all have design talent. I tend to art direct and keep things cohesive.

How did you work with your other co-founders and other new-hires as CodePen evolved? One big consideration is that we're all remote. No two of us live in the same state. It's a pretty typical setup in which we communicate heavily through Slack. We only have one formal meeting per week, but otherwise keep to short little informal meetings as needed.  We're still figuring things out. Our goal is to make sure everybody is happy, healthy, and productive. Different people need different things to feel that way. We try to be as helpful as we can that way, while being full time developers ourselves on the project.

We're so small and everyone is so crossdisciplinary, fortunately everyone can be little one-person-armies of getting stuff done.

Finally, what is next for Chris Coyier? What's next for CodePen, are there any new surprises launching? Definitely keep your eye on CodePen. We have, conservatively, years and years of ideas of things we want to build into CodePen. It's a mix of huge things and little things. We aim for a pretty steady release of new features and improvements. We have things we've been developing for the better part of a year that I hope will be out soon.

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“Be persistent. Most projects I've been involved in didn't have a whiff of success for the first few years of work. I (we) kept at it because that's the only way things do succeed.”

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Goutham Raj

Lead Designer and Founder of Coco Labs builds for America from afar.

Breaking out in a country with an immense selection of talent seems impossible. In India, there are tens of thousands of developers and tech firms. Goutham Raj, specializing in design focused on how he is different and then he capitalized on it by spreading his brand in the Americas.

"I started learning things on my own from the very beginning". Goutham Raj, an upcoming pioneer in the design and digital entrepreneurship category holds on tight as his two new digital web companies accelerate in countries 4000 miles from his home. Taking focus on both client relations and networking Raj has focused his efforts on designing needs from the ground up. To him, starting a digital career meant working all night and growing a strong following in design networks such as Dribbble.

In India, there are thousands of developer and technology firms resting on the banks of Bengaluru. As a growing mini Silicon Valley there collides an era much of the early 2000's, with development presented in a functional manner and stylized text and color entering only the premium of spaces. "It's changing", Raj speaks with urgency as he describes the upcoming wave of digital and graphic design in India's deep space. "Being in India and trying to make a name for yourself is challenging. Skills aren't appreciated enough out here ( at least not for everyone )". Raj describes the nature of technological

advancements in India as something exciting, and from the looks of his company portfolio he should be. He has started something different from the usual block of designers and developers that India shelters. Its 100% design and talent focused.

Crafting an agency called, Cocolabs, Raj and his team operate solely on referrals. But they also have some tricks up their sleeves. "We are harboring a network of freelance talent that anyone can access". This new network, CuratedFolks resembles a gallery of designers, featuring their best work and matching freelancers with real clients. "Our clients are entrepreneurs, startups and people with ideas, who are in need of some great talents, but none of them has the idea of where to find the perfect talent. Yes, there are the bunch of freelance marketplaces with all those bidding war, spec work and millions of freelance designers. But guess what? They got worse with age. Harder to find people. Too much noise. More barriers. Too many fees and lack of real talent and unique design." -Raj. CuratedFolks comes in

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between the clients and the designers, assisting many freelancers in getting their lasting clients. "We wanted to build a place where our personal clients & other entrepreneurs around the world can safely browse through the real talents without any barriers or fees. That's why we built CuratedFolks.

The story surrounding both the agency Cocolabs and CuratedFolks resembles David and Goliath, where Raj out of the focus he had for design sparked interest in design forward thinking countries, the US and UK. "I tried to work in the agency market and sell to clients in Indian, but the Income was too low, I even remember designing a whole website for less than $50 dollars for a whole week. I realized that I had to step up and do something different with my talent that I was still building. I tried to build an audience through Dribbble. And that worked out well. I started working for clients from aboard & started to land on better clients and projects. Working for US based clients posed its challenges, but I was able to gain the following I needed to successfully launch my businesses and from there they grew slowly". Crossing borders is something in 2017 freelancers, designers and entrepreneurs have consistently used to their advantage, learning from other cultures and building a specialized reputation that sparks the needs and interests of other nations. "Then I applied for Stripe's Atlas program. From there I got my firm registered in the State of Delaware", said Raj.

Stripe has been scrutinized in the past for their transparency in boarder control and the debate enters a delicate balance between the pro's and con's for globalization. However, in looking at Cocolabs and the CuratedFolks network there is an obvious need. In first

days of launch 50 freelancers posted their portfolio with many talented designers seeking to get their big break in the US and UK markets. "I think it's amazing what the internet is doing for crossing talent between boarders, there has never been a greater time to become a designer or entrepreneur, and for companies its never been a greater time to make your brand look spectacular". - Goutham Raj.

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“I love learning things on my own. I wanted most to be able to explore how the internet works and help people through it, and I ended up doing that today.”
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Goutham Raj

The New Donkey

Behind The Clinton Brand

In a dance through the red, white and blue, Hillary Clinton and her network of creative talent have risen to a new graphical consciousness and into the hearts of millions.

Investigative Reporting and and authorship to Syed Anas Ali and Tayler O'Dea Investigate
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Clinton has spent the most on her branding campaign than any other candidate before her. Upwards of 2.4 Million dollars on identity and web presence she has underscored the nominal approach to persuasion focusing on results while turning the screws on her various online platforms. She has many. In addition to her multifaceted website equipped with every donation tactic HTML and JS has to offer, her campaign also powers “Literally Trump” and “The Briefing” both web applications that power user engagement.

Hillary has undoubtedly devoured her competition by encompassing all forms of technology into a fastidiously arranged campaign lead by Robby Mook, Joel Benenson, Amanda Renteria and John Podesta all whom have diligently hired out some of America’s finest graphic design masters and creative development teams. In the hearth of her marketing material, the Clinton typeface is called Unity for the main body and Mercury for everything else. It’s a customization of Sharp Sans by Lucas Sharp and transcends the Barack Obama look debuted in 2008 that focused

Left: Background photo by Reuters, Foreground Logo Designed by Jesse Reed, Michael Bierut.
Beyond the campaign, the Clinton brand strikes people to continue to move forward. Between the Pantsuit CSS Library, her logo and that slightly fattened san serif body font, Jesse Reed, Michael Bierut, Mina
Markham and others have embodied what it means to design for America’s future.
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on Gotham and other bold san serifs rather than the old book faces that many other candidate’s used to flaunt. “With Sharp Sans, the Clinton campaign chose a design in a very similar vein: an unadorned Geometric sans with a large x-height and regularized letter widths. One difference is this site’s more frequent use of lowercase, striking a friendlier tone than the commanding, authoritative all-caps of Obama 2008 and its followers”, said Stephen Coles, Font in Use.

A Symbol for America’s Many Faces

Hillary Clinton debuted a fresh logo in her 2nd bid for the White house earlier in 2015. The new logo launch received a blended mix response from the people. Few happy while others not so amazed.

The new logo sparked a Twitter buzz when it was launched as it reminded some of a plane flying through the twin towers. In addition the design—a loyal, patriotic combination of blue, red and white colors, an arrow aiming in the center of the letter “H” were thought to be “boring”, “confusing” with many saying, “Why an arrow in red pointing toward the right?” Were voters going to take it as a forthcoming shift towards more conventional position?

Despite the naysayers, when one looks under the covers, Clinton’s logo is flawless and well-designed, speaking from America’s graphical standard best. It’s distinctive and unique in its texture, with an utility that embraces design, broadcast, and digital platforms. In efforts to portray “Pushing America Forward”, the symbolic arrow striking through the “H” manifests itself through its color scheme into the a historical symbol much like what Hillary stands for. As the first woman to run for president she had to have a symbol that could devour the negativity and also be flexible to the different audiences that she represented. The logo had to embody the statement “______ for Hillary”; it had to adapt to America’s many faces.

Jesse Reed under Michael Bierut, partner at Pentagram Design, were presented with the task. Focusing most of their attention to iconography, type and color the duo started with a grid system and inspiration from “basic graphic principals and typography, much like what you see the subway system lined with”, Jesse Reed spoke with Adam Baker from SocialBrary in a Q&A session. Jesse, inspired by the project, spoke with humbleness that it “felt incredible to be apart of the project”. He continued by saying, “The second principle evolved out of the core mark, and was the idea

of an inclusive and constantly evolving system. As many people have now seen, the logo isn’t static, it can become an image of a state, a menorah, a local business, among many other possibilities. People often criticized that her logo was so simple their “two-year old could do it.” That was the point — creating a visual vocabulary that anyone in this country could participate in, regardless of talent or graphic skill level. Naturally, this led to a very simple color palette and typographic decision — three (core) colors + one typeface + a dynamic symbol — this was the foundation of our work for the campaign.”

The right-facing red arrow, which was much-criticized earlier, now looks as if it was likely meant to be; aiming towards a perfect way forward. The diverse backgrounds aren’t just pioneered graphic solutions—but they are the visual example of the values Clinton structured her campaign around. Pentagram’s design style seems to mimic this past project. Looking into history to find a sort of simplistic approach to consolidating emotion, it seems that Reed has taken to Bierut’s as an understudy. “Once you’ve done your homework, its simply all about practice,” Reed says.

The Pantsuit

Style guides in 2016 have evolved over the years. Today, they have manifested themselves from being a static document to a living, breathing, animated digital interface. You can say that the entire Hillary Clinton dot com site is one big style sheet created by Mina Markham, a frontend architect living in Brooklyn, New York whom teaches for Black Girls Code, and co-organizes Front Porch and other frontend design Conferences. “The core CSS architecture of Pantsuit is based around a combination of SMACSS and Harry Roberts’ ITCSS, along with his brilliant name-spacing patterns. Each class name is prefixed with an indicator of that class’ purpose and scope, based on the ITCSS inverted triangle,” Mina said. So lets decode this:

The bilingual form of the Pantsuit consists of organizing content in grid patterns contained in a CSS library; or organized scripts that are called from the HTML. In nontechnical terms, the Pantsuit is a collection of CSS code files that developers use when building new products, like a file cabinet.

The text styling was unique and constructed in a similar fashion. In Mina’s Medium post she describes the text organization as, “One easy step towards achieving compliance was to ensure that the content of each page was

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Produced byPentagram, Designed by Jesse Reed, Michael Bierut.

in logical order. With that in mind, I made the decision to decouple the sizing of headings from the elements. This means that h1, h2, etc, have no sizing associated with them. Instead, the typographic scale is scoped to classes such as .c-headline-alpha. This ensures that headings are used for semantic, hierarchical purposes and not to achieve a specific font size. Using the correct HTML elements alone addressed a large portion of our accessibility needs.”

The styling is embodied in every piece of software that the Campaign publishes. From her homepage and subpages, to the Literally Trump App and the Briefing, the Campaign has the same, structured look, text size and color. Its hard to see something on-line with blue, red and white along with the fattened san serif and not have it bleed to the users that this is ‘Hillary’s space’.

Focusing on representing the ‘Hillary-Look’ for the long hall, Markham and her team built a style guide and open documentation. It seems practical that the “presidential” style can live on for the next four years. Maybe.

H is for Hillary

To many graphic design professionals (irrespective of support to any political party), Hillary Clinton’s launched logo and brand has been heavily critiqued. The likely Democratic presidential candidate since unveiling the new campaign logo is blanketed all over her supporting site and stands right at the topmost of her Facebook page. On her refurbished Twitter account, the ‘H’ has also taken over the place of the iconic image of Clinton with dark classic shades and holding her Blackberry.

The response from the campaign team however, is to take the mockery and run with it. Going for an symbolic design has also unlocked the door to all modes of Internet fun: a new imitator font named “Hillary Bold”, “Pantsuit CSS Library” and a self-made widget that lets everyone make

their own logo similar to Clinton, and plenty of unusual interpretations, containing an air-plane striking New York’s Twin Towers and ripping the WikiLeaks and Federal Express logos.

The New Donkey

Of course, the campaign results will transcend way past the candidate’s logo or web presence, but, political experts say this remains an imminent and a critical branding event much like the buzz around Obama’s ‘O’ or even during the 19th century, how elephants and donkeys came to be linked with Republicans and Democrats. A decent logo or electoral campaigns can go everlasting in the modern-day era of digitalization where campaigns are in great need of trying to spread attention-hungered possible voters, donors and volunteers via their mobile phones, tweet and Facebook feeds. Time will tell.

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