25 Aug

Pepper Talk with Kathryn Gruver

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we have Kathryn with us…yep, another Kathryn! Just a little background before we get started, Kathryn has been with Eleven Peppers Studios for a little over two years. She is an Art Director and works with customers to improve their user experience.


1: Do you have any nicknames?
I’ve had a lot of nicknames. The most recent is mamamamamama.

 

2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Kick the dog off the bed [pauses and laughs], again! Make sure no one else is awake, and read a devotional. Got to start the day off right!

 

3: How would you describe your design style?
I try to make the style of my work more reflective of my customer’s identity rather than my own. Other than that, I like to make beautiful, smart, and meaningful projects.

 

4: How did you get started?
In college I was a studio art major and did a lot of drawing and building. Once I graduated, I realized that I wanted to do graphic and web design, that’s what they called it “back in the day”. So, I went to night school to learn the tools of the trade, and behind me sat two designers that were taking the class for career development. Unbeknownst to me, they watched me work in class every night; and they eventually introduced themselves and offered me a job as a designer!

 

5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Hands-down, my favorite tool is Illustrator; I think it’s because of my intense love of drawing. While I always like learning new tools and tricks, I feel most at home working in Illustrator. I know it inside-out and even have dreams about it. I also get a buzz from working in InDesign and PhotoShop. The worst tool – any printer; why don’t they just work?! Do your job, expensive machine!

 

6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
I usually get a little over-excited when I start a new project. After I calm myself down, I try to find out as much as I can about the project or problem-set, customer, stakeholder and users; and then start the brainstorming process.

 

7: What do you draw inspiration from?
Dribbble, abduzeedo and sometimes Pinterest.

 

8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Half-caff.
Sweet or Savory: SWEET!
Favorite Movie: Troy; you have love stories, there’s drama, you have war and strategy – what more could you want?!
Guilty Pleasure: Ironing [pauses and grins] okay, I can’t think of a good one. And I don’t iron.
Hobbies: Reading, baking, drawing, chasing and being tackled by small children, and Bible study.
Skill you’d like to master: In my dreams I would like to build furniture; in reality, I’d like to get my kids to eat vegetables.
Best vacation: Before we had children, my husband and I drove up the West coast from San Francisco to Seattle with no plans. It was beautiful and we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted.
One of your quirks: There are so many… I guess the most prevalent is that I hate wearing shoes, I would rather go barefoot.

 

9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
The Google machine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for meeting Kathryn. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!

28 Jul

Pepper Talk with Rich Guy

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we have Rich with us. Rich is a Senior Designer at Eleven Peppers Studios who works mainly on in-house projects but is frequently called upon to work his magic with requests from the studio’s commercial clients.


1: Do you have any nicknames?
I usually just go by Rich but within the dance community, people know me as “Blu”.

 

2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Check the time to see if I still have 10 more minutes before I have to get up. If not, I make some coffee.

 

3: How would you describe your design style?
Depends on the project, but most of the time I’d say I’m very simple but clever. I like to focus on ensuring that the content is conveyed as quick and provokingly as possible.

 

4: How did you get started?
Art and Design has always been my focus since I was a child. Throughout grade school, I’ve always taken at least one Art class to further refine my creative skills. I graduated from Towson University with a Bachelor’s in Design and started my career as an in-house designer at a non-profit business in DC. I then found interest within the realm of User Experience because of the challenge of applying creativity, psychology, and engineering to create something that integrates into people’s lives. I’m continuing to find new ways to utilize my creativity and grow in the field.

 

5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
I love Sketch. It’s such an easy tool to mock-up lo-fi and hi-fi wireframes. Very lightweight and easy to pick up if you have an extensive background with Adobe products. There’s also a plug-in called “Craft” that you can download for free that helps you create mockups faster and also instantly create a brand guideline from your work space.

 

6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
Sort of [pauses], it really depends on the scope of the project. A larger project with a longer deadline gives me time to really think thoroughly about the best direction and gives me more time to communicate with clients/stakeholders to ensure everything is going as planned. I like to create lo-fi mockups as much as I can before I move onto layering more details. When it comes to projects with shorter deadlines, however, I just let my intuition take over.

 

7: What do you draw inspiration from?
My plethora of bookmarked links. If nothing else, Dribbble, awwwards.com, and Behance are my go-tos.

 

8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Caffeine!
Sweet or Savory: Sweet
Favorite Movie: Book of Life
Guilty Pleasure: Checking my phone every minute to see if I’m getting any new likes on my social media posts [laughs]
Hobbies:: Dance, Painting, Hanging out, Movies

 

9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
Fidget spinners [grins].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for meeting Rich. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!

30 Jun

Pepper Talk with Kate Coates

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we have Kate with us… nope, you’re not seeing double, we just have a lot of repeated names. Just a little background before we get started, Kate just celebrated her 2 year work-aversary with Eleven Peppers Studios. She is one of our esteemed Art Directors and spends a lot of her time working with customers to improve their user experience designs.


1: Do you have any nicknames?
My parent’s original intention was for me to go by Katie but I rebelled in 3rd grade and decided from thence forth I was going to be Katherine. That was a bit short lived though. It was the year of learning cursive… and so I ended the year as Kate. It’s kind-of funny that I started my journey as Kate out of pure 3rd grade laziness but it stuck. Really it worked out perfectly because I ended up with a sister-in-law that goes by Katherine.

 

2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Hit snooze! It’s a terrible habit that I developed during my marriage. I used to be able to get up and out the door in ten minutes flat, nutrigrain bar in hand, but once you discover that button, there’s no going back.

 

3: How would you describe your design style?
I tend to lean towards a more flat, Bauhaus style. Just the Bauhaus’ notion of placing profound focus on the purpose or function of the design is something I relate to very strongly, especially within UX design. Really that is what UX is all about, not just making things pretty but making sure the site or tool is usable and efficient…not saying it shouldn’t look good too.

 

4: How did you get started?
My first official foray into design was in 12th grade when half of my school day was an internship in the design department of a company called United Communications Group (UCG). It’s there that I officially found that graphic design was the place for me and launched into my undergraduate design career. But really growing up in the house of an architect father and a crafty mother, it came as no surprise to friends and family that I ventured off in the arts direction…

 

5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Hmm, I’m not sure I can think of a worst off the top of my head but favorite is pretty easy. A few years ago I would have said Photoshop hands-down but in the recent years Illustrator has become my best friend. It’s great for everything that I currently focus on at work, from wireframes and mockups to logos and branding. I live in a digital world. Vector all day, every day.

 

6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
I tend to start with the question: “Who are the users and what are their goals?” It’s only through answering that question that I can make sure that the design that’s going to follow makes sense for the end user. If I miss answering that question, the design will just be a lofty guess that is half-baked at best. I’ve found desk-side interviews and lots of research is key for kicking off a successful, user-experience focused tool.

 

7: What do you draw inspiration from?
From my peers. It’s great to be surrounded with other UX people to bounce ideas off of and sketch out new possibilities. On top of that using websites and mobile tools daily to see what other people are doing is a huge source of inspiration too.

 

8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Caffeine. No coffee, no tea, just the occasional Dr.Pepper [grins]
Sweet or Savory: Sweet (Really gotta kick my new brownie obsession…)
Favorite Movie: Honestly, I’ve become more of a T.V. person then a movie person…so I’m not really sure.
Guilty Pleasure: Did I mention brownies? [laughs]
Hobbies:: Refurbing my 1908 home (two rooms away from being done!!) and spending time with family.

 

9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
Hands down, the Design Army’s campaign for the Washington Ballet’s show, Alice in Wonderland. The combination of photography and typography is absolutely breathtaking. I actually have several of the images at my desk for inspiration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for meeting Kate. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!

16 Jun

Printable Father’s Day Cards

It’s that time again… Father’s Day is right around the corner (Sunday, June 18th… make sure your calendar is marked), and you know that we’ve got you covered with three super-manly cards to choose from. Happy Father’s Day to all!

Click here to download Click here to download Click here to download

 

What You’ll Need
8.5 x 11 white card stock paper or printer paper
Printer
Pen
Scissors
Father’s Day card download (pick one or all of them!)

Instructions
Step 1: Print onto the card stock or printer paper
Step 2: Cut out the card along the grey edge
Step 3: Write the most knee-slappingest joke you can think of… or, you know, something sweet
Step 4: Fold in half, seal and deliver

Optional
Snap a pic and tag us on social media @elevenpeppers, seeing you spread the love would make our day!!!

02 Jun

Mastering the Art of Logos: NBC Universo

Okay, can we just say up front that we LOVE this redesign? We’re not even going to make you wait for it, it’s just that good. We have to give a huge shout out to the very talented group behind this redesign, Trollbäck+Company a New York, NY-based branding and design studio.

First, so happy they got rid of calling out NBC in the wordmark… the NBC logo itself is pretty universal and by removing it Universo can now stand on its own; create its own unique voice that better personifies its audience.

Source: NBC Universo

Next, we love the bold color choices… on top of that; the singular use of those colors against the grey-tone backgrounds and vice/versa makes everything pop that much more. The new look-and-feel comes across as very vibrant, playful, and yes… loud, and we’re all about it.

Source: NBC Universo (right: old branding, left: new branding)

We also noticed that while the type itself hasn’t changed much, the new branding incorporates increased kerning and leading which results in negative space. This negative space really allows everything else to jump off of the page/screen/billboard/etc. The pristine hierarchy throughout makes the design exceptionally clean and precise.

Source: Trollbäck+Company

Finally, there is also this “jolt” effect that takes over in between letters and is carried all throughout their branding and programs. While the hierarchy is very strict, it’s interesting to see how this effect “breaks” it. This now becomes the obvious theme for the brand and all the accompanying typography.

So, yeah. We’re sold!

To check out Trollbäck+Company’s full redesign package head over to their Universo project page.

19 May

Pepper Talk with Katie Burns

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we have Katie with us. Just a little background before we get started, Katie is relatively new to Eleven Peppers Studio. She mostly works on projects for the private sector but writes content for 11P blogs and social media posts.


1: Do you have any nicknames?
Kate, KitKat… my favorite is earth-to-Katie, typically used when I drift into “Katie-Space”.

 

2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Kiss my husband, cuddle our two dogs, drink hot lemon water and then workout. The workout ensures that I don’t feel too guilty with the next thing that happens… typically a not-so-healthy sausage, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel [grins] mama gets hungry!

 

3: How would you describe your design style?
I don’t have any [laughs], just joking. Since I’m not a designer by trade, I’ll relate this question back to content creation. My style is conversational, witty, a bit sarcastic… which doesn’t always translate well. Oh and self-deprecating.

 

4: How did you get started?
After college, I started working as a program manager on a small web-development team… really I translated all that software-dev “speak” to customers and vice-versa. This ensured that everyone was happy with the final product. I’ve always been drawn towards people’s stories/ideas/needs and I love capturing their unique voice. It seemed like a natural fit to take over creating content for the company’s social media presence.

 

5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
For social media I love Buffer to schedule our posts. Planoly is another great app to make sure your feed flows and is well curated. Huge fan of auto-correct and spell-check [smiles], my mother taught high school English back in the day and always corrects me, so these tools give me a leg up.

 

6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
I’m a start now and think later kind of gal. I rarely brainstorm on a project for too long before jumping in. My motto: go with your gut and then revise the heck out of it… and spellcheck!

 

7: What do you draw inspiration from?
Everything… I’m constantly scrolling through Instagram. As a creative company we follow a broad range of companies, all with different styles and voices. It’s the perfect storm of inspiration.

 

8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Caffeine… tea, not coffee.
Sweet or Savory: Savory, give me a loaf of bread any day!
Favorite Movie: Return to Me, classic.
Guilty Pleasure: Oh, any of those ridiculous Valentine’s Day, New Years Eve, has-everyone-and-their-mother’s-mother-casted movies.
Hobbies:: Beach volleyball, cooking/baking, shopping at Home Goods.

 

9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
Again, going to go with content and I’d have to say pretty much any quote about “Mondays” ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for meeting Katie. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!

12 May

Printable Mother’s Day Cards

With Mother’s Day approaching (Sunday, May 14th… make sure your calendar is marked), we wanted to make sure you were covered in the thoughtfulness department. We have three beautiful options to choose from or maybe one for each of the mothers in your life. Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Click here to download Click here to download Click here to download

 

What You’ll Need
8.5 x 11 white card stock paper or printer paper
Printer
Pen
Scissors
Mother’s Day card download (pick one or all of them!)

Instructions
Step 1: Print onto the card stock or printer paper
Step 2: Cut out the card along the grey edge
Step 3: Write the most endearing words for the hard working momma(s) in your life
Step 4: Fold in half, seal and deliver
Step 5: Watch out for the waterworks

Optional
Snap a pic and tag us on social media @elevenpeppers, seeing you spread the love would make our day!!!

05 May

Star Wars Takeover: And the Winner Is…

And we’ve got a winner!!!

But first, just in case you missed the STAR WARS TAKEOVER on our social feeds, head on over to our Instagram or Facebook account. It’s okay, we’ll wait…

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Did you hear the one about the Star Wars text crawl walking into a bar?

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The bartender yells, “Get outta my pub! We don’t serve your type here.” (Reader’s Digest)

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Just a little designer humor for you…

Okay, so today, we’re announcing the most popular Star Wars character illustration. There were six total and it was a close battle…

So, are you ready?

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The winner is… BB8!!!!

 

Now let’s see how that magic happened…

 

We also wanted to share a little behind the scenes footage of our talented designers work.

Music: Williams, J. (1999). Dual of the Fates [Recorded by Abbey Road Studio]. On Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace Soundtrack [CD].

 

Another year, another Star Wars Day gone. We hoped you enjoyed the takeover!!!

May The Fourth Be With You.

 

21 Apr

Pepper Talk with Brian Lynch

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we have Brian with us. Just a little background before we get started, Brian is one of Eleven Peppers Studios more recent hires. He is one of our Principal Software Engineers and works directly with our federal clients to build websites and web apps to help make their jobs easier.


1: Do you have any nicknames?
“Brian” doesn’t lend itself to many nicknames. Bri is about the best I’ll get and will occasionally just sign an email that way, if not just B. Or I guess there are other names that just aren’t appropriate to be repeated [grins].

 

2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
After my alarm goes off – only on a work day – and my wife jumps in the shower, I usually just lay in bed with my eyes closed not wanting to open them. Not too long ago I set up some home automation stuff in my house and I can now tell my Echo “Alexa, turn on bedroom lights” and they come on at about 30% brightness. I’m still not happy about the light being on, but at least it’s not a complete shock. Otherwise, some phone surfing before crawling out of bed and getting dressed.

 

3: How would you describe your design style?
Since I’m not a designer, I do better when trying to mimic or improve rather than create new. The best perk-up to my career was meeting the Peppers. I worked with several before becoming one myself, so having my now, coworkers put together designs for the websites I build, or at least having them to bounce ideas off, has become my design style.

 

4: How did you get started?
This could get really long if I let it… but, my dad was in the computer field my entire life and that let me get into the weeds of them very early on. I took a lot of electronic and programming classes throughout school, and graduated from UMBC with a Computer Engineering degree. It then took me another five or so years to realize that front end development – mobile, web, etc – was what I liked the most.

 

5: What are you favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
If I say MS Paint, I’ll have to duck from the things getting thrown at my head, but I’m not a designer so I mostly use software development tools. Any uncomplicated IDE is generally all I need. Eclipse is far too bulky, but I’ve figured out enough of its shortcuts to make it useful. Apple’s Xcode for mobile development has a nice look and feel to it, but also has somewhat of a learning curve. Atom on Linux isn’t too bad. Notepad++ is always a great go-to. It’s hard to say I have a favorite. Give me jQuery and something to type some code in and I’ll spit out a website in a week. However, development platforms that need a month to configure with several dozen files cluttering up space and style platforms that try to put a one-size-fits-all approach to displays are the worst in my opinion.

 

6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
I might run through a few looks at the data I’ll be using and if I’m lucky enough to have a few designs to build from I’ll start creating some skeleton files for my site. If I have access to some of my past work that could be used in the new project, all the better. Otherwise, I just start knocking out some code just to get a display up on the screen. I tidy it up later once most of the functionality is in place. [Thinking out loud] Maybe I do have a favorite tool of the trade… in-browser dev tools. They let me do some on-demand styling to see what I might need to plan for later.

 

7: What do you draw inspiration from?
Definitely my fellow Peppers when I have access to them. Otherwise, if I need to style a button or table, I’ll usually poke around google images or some CSS sites to see if a style pops out to me.

 

8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Yes, Caffeine. All the coffee.
Sweet or Savory: Usually Savory.
Favorite Movie: Fight Club and Deadpool are my go-tos.
Guilty Pleasure: Hmm… Bourbon Barrel Aged beers?
Hobbies:: Playing guitar, brewing beer, making things look good, pretending to be athletic.

 

9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
I think I have more of a problem with not following through with my ideas and seeing someone else do the same later on. I wish I could say that hasn’t happened more than once.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for meeting Brian. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!