18 Nov

Pepper Talk with Brian Crane

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re learning more about Brian Crane! Just a little background before we get started, Brian currently works on designing government training resources and leading a creative team of multimedia designers. He’s been with Eleven Peppers for 5 months!

1. What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Cry. Just a nice, therapeutic, purge of metaphorical tears to get the blood flowing. Afterwards, I usually focus my energy on stubbing my toe, in the dark, while silently gallivanting to the shower, without waking up my wife…like some sort of sympathetic ninja.

2. If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Ireland, Germany and Italy are all on my wish list.

3. How would you describe your design style?
Adaptive. In our field, we deal with MANY different customers, all with THEIR own vision; therefore, one “design style” may work for a current task, but it more than likely won’t carry over to the next. So, while I certainly inject my own personality and flair into all my projects, I focus on adapting my skill set to fit the particular job at hand.

4. What do you draw inspiration from?
It’s probably cliché to say, but I draw inspiration from almost everything. Whether it be a transition in a movie, a billboard I see on my commute, a GIF on social media, a concert poster, a song someone is humming in the elevator, brainstorming with co-workers, an elaborate doily on Pinterest, a masterpiece my 8 year-old crafts in his art class, a screen print on a shirt that the guy in front of me at the Hollywood Video is wearing. You get the idea.

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Favorites? Post-It notes, Sharpies and working on a computer that doesn’t enter into a state of rigor mortis, from having more than one design program open at a time, are all intoxicating. I’m also a Wacom tablet mark.

Worst? PowerPoint…all of it. Also, the Papyrus typeface.

6. Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
1) Customer/Client Interrogation…with a smile.
2) Copious amounts of research.
3) Doodles, sketches and word play.
4) Swan dive into Adobe’s fluffy Creative Cloud for a little comp action.

7. What is your favorite holiday?
Christmas.  It’s not even close. The lights, smells, decorations, music, generosity… It’s all amazing. Plus, people are happier, the food is better and the beer is stronger.

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Is that a trick question? Wait…do people really answer “no” here? They clearly can’t be trusted, right?!
Sweet or Savory: Tacos
Favorite Movie: This is super tough; because there are so many I love. Push comes to shove though, I’d say my favorite movie of all time has to be A Christmas Story, with Beetlejuice nipping at its heels.
Favorite place to travel:

Local? A tie for both North and, South Carolina…but I guess that’s a vanilla answer.
My passport is fairly barren so I don’t have a ton of comparable experience. That being said, I’ve been to the Dominican Republic a handful of times and love it. Perfect place to unplug, stare at glowing cyan waters, sip a cold drink and let the day pass.


Campin’, brewery visitin’, movie viewin’, music jammin’, Xbox playin’, American-muscle car admirin’, Dorito eatin’, Baltimore Ravens game yellin’, Big O and Dukes listenin’ and family-time spendin’.

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12 Nov

Celebrating 5 Years: Rebecca Rice

And just like that, it’s been 5 wonderful years! We’re thrilled to celebrate Rebecca Rice’s 5th Pepperversary!

Rebecca Rice is a Senior Designer whose tackled both commercial and government clients while working at 11p. She is truly a queen of all trades! Her vast skill set (illustration, design, UX, web and video) makes her a huge asset to any team she’s on. She’s sort of like the Bo Jackson of the design world… Not much Rebecca doesn’t know.

Speaking of sports… She’s also a fierce competitor on the ice. In her spare time, she competes on multiple co-ed hockey teams and has been known to win a championship or two. Other (less intimidating) hobbies include: wedding videographer, fine art illustrator, house fixer upper and bunny Mom. We’re so grateful that Rebecca Rice chose Eleven Peppers to grow her design career!

To learn more about Rebecca, keep scrolling to read our special interview and infographic!

1. Best part of working at Eleven Peppers Studios?
Everyone is always there for one another, whether you’re close with certain individuals or not. I think the tight-knit culture is something that all small business strive to have, but I have yet to see a company that executes it as well as 11P.

2. If you were a pepper, what type would you be and why?
My hair is red, my truck is red, the best hockey teams are red, my favorite wine is red. I think I’d be a red pepper.

3. What is a favorite 11P event?
Going to Circles in Texas during my 30th birthday was off the chain.

4. What is your favorite Christmas present ever received from 11P?
The Disney trip was an amazing gift!

5. What is your favorite 11P memory?
All the Xmas parties are great memories. It’s the one time of year when everyone can get together and catch up on life.

6. Name a Pepper you can always lean on for support or advice:
Lauren Fulp. I sit on contract with her where she’s blowing design out of the water without much prior experience.

7. Name a Pepper whose work or work ethic inspires you:
Melissa London. Whether it’s about work, design, fashion choices, men, mixed drinks – girl knows her stuff.

8: My spice meter :

  • Complete wimp
  • Will proceed with caution
  • A subtle flame
  • A little sweat never hurt
  • The spicier, the better!

Get to know Rebecca a little bit better…

1. Who is your favorite hockey team?
The Jersey Devils!

2. If you could meet any hockey player, who would it be?
Taylor Hall – my current favorite player.

3. What is your favorite happy hour drink?
Moscow mule. Cosmopolitan. Lemon drop. Anything with Vodka.

4. Guaranteed song to get you movin’ and groovin’?
Get Low’ by Lil Jon.

5. Any pets? If so, do they do tricks?
I have two precious house-bunnies, Guinness and Stoli <3 <3 <3 <3 They come running when they’re called or when they hear a treat bag crinkle.

6. If you could put any painting in your house, what would it be?
I really like Monet paintings. His light studies of The Houses of Parliament are probably my favorites.

7. Proudest fixer upper or DIY project in your house?
I’m most proud of redoing my entire kitchen!

8. Any secret talents or hobbies? If so, what?
When it’s 1am and I get home from a late game of whooping-ass on a bunch of old men in the beer league, I lay on the floor with my bunnies and cuddle them as I whisper sweet-nothings into their ears.

16 Oct

Pepper Talk with Halie Wickiser

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re getting up-close and personal with Halie! Just a little background before we get started, Halie works on the Commercial Team tackling projects that need user experience solutions. She’s been with Eleven Peppers for almost one year!

1. If you could live anywhere, where would you live?
Any European countries, I love their cultural balance of work, family, and community. However, I don’t know if I could handle being so far from family for too long.

2. How did you get started in UX?
I originally planned on going to Savannah College of Art and Design to study 3D Animation, but as I researched their other programs, I found they had a Concentration in Interactive Design that really sparked my interest. It’s pretty much history from there, as I continued with my study, I became more and more interested in the UX process and how it impacted the design of all products and tools.

3. What is your favorite thing about your career?
UX allows me to branch out into countless industries and gain endless knowledge. Ideating, creating, and learning with experts of all types is personally very rewarding.

4. If money was no object, what would you do all day?
I’m always doing new things, so I don’t think there’s one thing I’d like to do every day, but I would probably travel to as many places as possible and learn as many languages as I could. I believe there is so much to gain from understanding and experiencing other cultures.

5. What’s your favorite holiday? Why?
I come from a family of 10, so any Holiday where we all get together is the best for me, typically that’s Christmas, but Thanksgiving is also great because it’s generally a lot less work than Christmas and we get more time to just enjoy each other’s company.

6. What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?
Julie Andrews hands down. She is one of the classiest women in Hollywood and has given us so many classics to appreciate.

 7. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: In tea? Yes, please. Coffee? I’ll take decaf.
Sweet or Savory: Sweet. I wouldn’t mind eating fruit salad for every meal.
Favorite Movie: Movies I can watch anytime on repeat is ‘The Titanic’ and ‘Avatar’ – I guess I am a James Cameron fan!
Favorite place to travel:

My favorite travel experiences have always been more about who I’m with than where I am. My most recent travel to the coast of Italy proved to be one of the best. I was with my best friends and got to meet and spend time with a hilarious and welcoming Italian family which made it even more spectacular than just the gorgeous views.


Anything that allows me to be crafty or solve a puzzle. You can typically find me with knitting needles or my book of crosswords. I also enjoy Music festivals, gameboard nights, yoga, dancing, and backyard volleyball.

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07 Oct

Celebrating 5 Years: Paul Denton

Time flies when you’re having fun! We’re excited to celebrate Paul Denton’s 5th Pepperversary!

Paul Denton is 11p’s humble master of code—the very first Software Engineer to join 11p–and he sure did set the bar. Several peppers had the pleasure of working with Paul at previous companies, and we were delighted to finally bring him aboard. In the last 5 years, Paul has earned the respect of his clients and peers, so much so that he has recently been promoted to a Principal Software Engineer. Paul has always had an appreciation of UX and design, making him a perfect addition to our creative team.

Fun fact: We have had the pleasure of witnessing Paul’s adorable family expand throughout his tenure at 11p, from his first little boy, to a second little boy, to his third baby coming soon (a little girl!).

To learn more about Paul, keep scrolling to read our special interview and infographic!


1. Best part of working at Eleven Peppers Studios?
Working with and for friends.

2. If you were a pepper, what type would you be and why?
Scotch Bonnet, because Scotch 🙂 

3. What is a favorite 11P event?
Anything at Dave and Theresa’s house is fun.

4. What is your favorite Christmas present ever received from 11P?
The strawberries left in our room for the 2018 Christmas party, simply because I’ll never forget my kid getting into them and leaving red and brown streaks all over the hotel’s white bed sheets. The cleaning crew had to love that.

5. What is your favorite 11P memory?
I tend to fondly remember the times I’ve done something super awkward, and being a nerd it seems to happen a lot. I’ll always remember the time my wife and I were leaving a company outing at an O’s game and instead of doing the handshake/ bro hug/ whatever, I went in for a regular hug with Bryan Parks. I still remember it in slow motion, thinking in my head, “Uh yea, am I really doing this?” Good times.

6. Name a Pepper you can always lean on for support or advice:
My best friend, Matt Castle.

7. Name a Pepper whose work or work ethic inspires you:
I know it takes a lot of time to run a company and not everyone can do it, so this HAS to be Kristen and Bryan. I’ve even had other business owners comment on how hard they’ve seen Kristen work.

8: My spice meter :

  • Complete wimp
  • Will proceed with caution
  • A subtle flame
  • A little sweat never hurt
  • The spicier, the better!

Get to know Paul a little bit better…

1. Favorite type of coffee to drink?
No clear favorites, but I always really enjoy the cheap coffee at diners.

2. Where is the best place you’ve ever traveled?
Arches National Park

3. What’s your favorite book of all time?
In answering this question I realize I need to find more time to read. The last thing I really enjoyed was Ender’s Game.

4. What hobby do you spend the most time doing?
Sadly, the same thing I do at work, coding!

30 Sep

Celebrating 5 Years: Jill Nemec

We’re thrilled to celebrate Jill Nemec’s Pepperversary!

It’s been 5 wonderful years since she took a leap of faith on us! Jill left the comfort of her home in Savannah, Georgia to move to Maryland and join 11p, in its infancy stages. Over the years, Jill has leveraged her awesome design and typography skills, and has now even broadened her skills into UX.

Jill loves traveling near and far to hike or ski. She’s also an avid coffee drinker and rock collector.

To learn more about Jill, check out this infographic and read our special interview!

1. Best part of working at Eleven Peppers Studios?
Great people, good leaders, and flexible hours.

2. If you were a pepper, what type would you be and why?

Mini bell pepper… minimal and sweet!

3. What is a favorite 11P event? Of course the holiday parties, but more recently I really enjoyed the Baltimore Coffee and Tea morning. Such a great way to start off a Friday with all those smiling faces!

4. What is your favorite Christmas present ever received from 11P?  The Duchess a.ka. The Roomba.

5. What is your favorite 11P memory? Any and all snow days!

6. Name a Pepper you can always lean on for support or advice: It’s hard to pick one… Kelsey has been a great desk mate for a “take a break” stroll and convo. And, Kathryn and Theresa are great listeners and advice givers!

7. Name a Pepper whose work or work ethic inspires you: Easy, it’s Kristen. She has inspired me since grad school when she decided one day she would start her own business. She didn’t know what it would be then, but she made it happen! You can always count on her to come through and show up. And, I don’t know how she does it with minimal hours of sleep and a smile on her face. She also exhausts me.

8: My spice meter :

  • Complete wimp
  • Will proceed with caution
  • A subtle flame!
  • A little sweat never hurt
  • The spicier, the better!

Get to know Jill a little bit better…

1. Any secrets talents or hobbies? Rock collecting. And, I can still do a back flip on a trampoline.

2. Favorite type of coffee to drink? First and foremost a Nespresso. Second, a fresh cup of coffee from Albert. But, mostly sneaking sips of Joey’s vanilla lattes because it’s more fun sharing!

3. Where is the best place you’ve ever gone skiing (snow or water)? I don’t know that there is a best… but when it comes to snow and some crazy slopes I’d have to say traversing the mountains of Alta (no snowboarders allowed!) and Snowbird (most expert skiers I’ve ever seen) in Utah with my nieces and brother.

For water it has to be where I learned to slalom… the bitterly cold water of the Columbia River in Washington. Of late it’s Norris Lake, Tennessee for my old bones. The water is amazing and the perfect temp!

4. What’s your favorite book of all time? If it’s favorite of all time then it’s “Green Eggs and Ham” hands down.

5. What is the furthest you’ve traveled from home? Dubrovnik, Croatia

6. How many trails have you hiked? Geeze, who counts! I’ve been hiking the Appalachians and Cascades since I was a kid plus all vacations include a hike… probably 50+!?!

24 Sep

Pepper Talk with Krista Cochran

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re getting up-close and personal with Krista! Just a little background before we get started, Krista works on a wide range of applications for the government in cyber knowledge. She’s been with Eleven Peppers for 4.5 years.

1. Tell us one thing that most people don’t know about you.
I love to fish. The calming sounds of the water mixed with the thrill of the catch create a very peaceful yet exciting experience. It brings me back fond memories of fishing at my aunt’s pond and local rivers.
2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Well for years, I slowly stumbled to the shower to wake up. Now that I have a new puppy, I always have to stop and give her lots of belly rubs and love.

3. How do you balance being a mom while working? I do my best to keep work and home life separate. I feel blessed to be a mom to two amazing girls and work. Having two teenage girls requires a lot of attention, listening and patience. So while I’m with my family, I try and give them my full attention, just like I do at work.

4. How did you get started in UX?
I was sort of forced into it. As most government contractors are aware of, contracts end and you must move to other jobs or opportunities. My company at the time lost the contract I was supporting so I found a position as a graphic designer on another contract to support Usability Engineers. I was NOT happy to take this position as I loved my old work and team. After a few weeks working with my new team, I came too really like working with users and truly understanding what they need. Over the next year, I became certified in Human Factors and my passion for UX kept growing and growing.

5. What does your day-to-day look like as a UX designer?
I currently spend the majority of my time understanding the pain points of various types of users across a multitude of applications while also understanding the complexities of the systems that support them. Once that is understood, then I work with everyone involved to come up with solutions that the user can understand and the applications can deliver.

6. Do you have a UX design philosophy or guidelines that you live by?
Truly listen to your users and work with your team. Sure, I have some core guidelines that are my foundation, but if I don’t understand the true needs of the users and technical restrictions from my team, then I can’t deliver work that is useful and useable.

7. Where do you find inspiration for your work in user experience design?
 I have a couple mentors that I follow that give great advice and inspiration. They have worked in this field for over 20 years. Not only do they stay on top of how UX and Human Factors is changing, but they also stay rooted in core values.

 7. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Yesssss….everyday
Sweet or Savory: Savory. I’ll take chips and dip over cake any day!
Favorite Movie: Any Jurassic Movies
Favorite place to travel: No favorites. I enjoy any adventure whether it’s cave tubing in Belize or chilling on a beach.
Hobbies: Baking, working out and spending time with family

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

28 Aug

Pepper Talk with Audra Harvey

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re getting up-close and personal with Audra! Just a little background before we get started, Audra works as a Senior Designer on our commercial team. She’s been with Eleven Peppers for 9 months.

1. What is your favorite part about being a designer?
I love problem solving, art, and psychology. I feel like as a designer, I can touch on all 3 of those areas. I’m also a “big picture” kind of person, and am happiest when I’m working on a project that is supporting a mission I believe in.

2. What resources are your favorite to stay up to date on the latest design trends?
Coolhunting.com is a great online publication for creative inspiration. It showcases innovative thinking in products, music, fashion, culinary arts, technology, public spaces, etc. I like seeing the intersection of form and function, and how design really does have an impact on pretty much everything.

3. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
I check Slack for any work messages, drink a glass of water, feed the cat, and decide if I want cold or hot coffee that morning.

4. Who is your favorite designer of all time?
Chip Kidd. In college, I wanted to be a publication/book designer. I saw Chip Kidd speak at a design event, and loved his light-hearted approach to coming up with great ideas but never getting too attached to them (since they would inevitably get picked apart by clients and publishers). His designs have so much wit and charm. Years later, I ended up being in the same elevator as him at a HOW conference. I managed to squeak “I love your work” and he graciously said “Thank you” while I tried not to melt into the floor.

5. How would you describe your design style?
Simple and organized with attention to detail. I’ve had to be reminded by colleagues throughout the years that it’s okay to break the rules sometimes, and when I allow myself to do that, it often leads to some of my favorite work.

6. Do you have a set design process when starting a new project?
Ask lots of questions! I always want to get as many details as possible so I can begin to wrap my head around the project. After that the process can very depending on what’s needed (sketching, doing research, etc.).

 7. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Caffeine
Sweet or Savory: I have a dangerous sweet tooth.
Favorite Movie: The Princess Bride
Favorite place to travel: Anywhere that’s new
Hobbies: Baking, Yoga, hiking, audio books, puzzles

8. Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
Any movie poster by Saul Bass.

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

15 Jul

Pepper Talk with Matthew Castle

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re getting up-close and personal with Matthew. Just a little background before we get started, Matt is one of our software engineers, and has been with 11P for a year and a half. He works on software development for our commercial projects. Read his Q&A below!

1: Do you have any nicknames?
Nothing exciting, just Matt!

2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?Say hi to my dogs, then check Slack and my e-mail. And get myself some mildly coffee-like drink.

3: How would you describe your design style?
I’m not a designer, but I try to keep my code style efficient but readable. I am drawn to simplicity and form that doesn’t impede function.

4: How did you get started?
Our fellow pepper Paul Denton was a huge factor in driving me to take on being a Software development. I enjoyed the problem solving aspect of it, and I guess I thrive on the constant micro-failures of developing so it seemed like a good fit!

5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Visual Studio Code has easily become my favorite code editor. Nothing comes to mind that has been the worst for me lately.

6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
I like to spend some time to get the general outline of how the code project structure will be, but for me it’s more important to get over the hurdle of actually starting to get some code written to get that momentum going. Getting started is the hardest part for me, so once I get moving, I feel better about things.

7: What do you draw inspiration from?
Developers smarter and more experienced than me. I’m always looking to improve and it’s always nice to have something to strive for.

 8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Caffeine
Sweet or Savory: Savory
Favorite Movie: The Empire Strikes Back
Guilty Pleasure: Video game collector’s editions
Hobbies: Gaming and gardening, mostly

9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
Not a design per se, but I think it would have been awesome to have written code for the Opportunity Mars rover. I love anything space exploration related, so it would be amazing to be involved in things like that.

Couple picturecat picture

snowy dog picture

indoor wedding picturedog profile

smiling couple

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

26 Jun

The User-Experience, Experience

I remember graduating from college in 2014 and while Graphic Design was a hot commodity at the time, there was another fad I remember starting to emerge in full force– User Experience Design. While I was aware that this was something that has always been around, there weren’t *many* positions open for it and the title itself, was still a little taboo. Now, thanks to major tech giants like Apple, Microsoft and Google, we have a mainstream idea of what UX is and the importance it brings to any company– big or small.

If you’re interested in breaking into this lucrative field, I’m here to give you some tips as to what that experience is like and what are some of the best practices to stay AHEAD of the game:

There is no “one way” process. Depending on the needs and goals of the project and your stakeholders, it’s important to know that there is no “one way” of starting a UX project. Sure, you’ll outline needs/goals and conduct User Research– but when it comes to thinking through user journeys, will it make sense to create a User Flow or a Task Flow for this project? What about both? and yes, there’s a difference. Point is, what I’ve come to learn is that there is no specific way, and this is OK. It all depends upon the stakeholder needs, budget, timeline and of course, the users needs.

It’s all about how you think. Do you know what is going to set you apart from those wireframes and mockups you spent all week churning out? Your design thinking behind them. If you’re able to identify a problem, come up with a solution and defend those solutions supported with evidence in a succinct way, you’re already more than half way there. In the beginning of a project, UX managers are actually not all that concerned with your solution just yet, but more so how you got there. If you’re able to explain your rationale and show how it falls along user goals and needs, you’re bound to be successful!

Storytelling is your secret weapon. It’s important to be able to frame a situation/task/problem to someone who isn’t as familiar with design thinking or terms– which may be 90% of your stakeholders. Putting a “human face” to the analytical data makes it easy enough for everyone to put complex design ideas and decisions into perspective. It’s also a great way to understand existing scenarios and test the potential of any others. You can even kick it up a notch and use rough sketches and illustration to Storyboard. This can give you and your colleagues a low-level visual of the idea of each frame of the customer’s journey, but supported with a high-level narrative. This is a great way to keep iterating until every task is accounted for!

User Needs vs. Stakeholder Needs. While the needs of both users and stakeholders are incredibly important, you’re eventually going to find those needs conflicting. A great way to prevent those needs from clashing in the first place is to always keep them in the loop. Stakeholder participation can help remove any obstacles early on while user research could assist stakeholders in putting the goals and needs of the product into priority/perspective. Aligning your user research with stakeholder goals is crucial in product success and overall effective communication. Happy stakeholder + Happy user = WIN/WIN!

Always be ready to learn. Now that the supply of UX design has reached the demand, there is no excuse for not keeping up with the latest news, resources, toolkits and programs relating to UX. A genuine interest in the topic, outside of work, is important to have. We now live in a time where free, downloadable UI toolkits and Podcasts with industry experts are within our fingertips. So, be ready to continuously learn! This field is always evolving and it’s really important to stay on top of it all– from design programs to emerging experts, I’ve learned that while I am able to understand a lot of what I do on the job, it’s also important to learn the theory behind it all. This is something that will always resonate no matter what stage you’re at in your career.

So… to help you get you started, here are a few of my personal favorites to get those wheels turning:

Recommended Programs / Plugins:

Sketch (Industry standard! You know Sketch, you know them all!)

InVision Studio

Adobe XD


Sketch Craft Plug-In (Easy to update designs for InVision prototypes in real time)

Recommended User Flow programs:


Miro (formally known as RealTimeBoard)

Recommended programs for Development collaboration:



InVision Inspect

Recommended YouTube channels:


Jesse Showalter

The Futur


Recommended Readings:

Nielsen Norman Group

Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

Literally anything on Medium, but I do love the articles Tiffany Eaton writes (Product Designer at Google)!

Recommended Podcasts:

99% Invisible

The Hacking UI Podcast

Product Breakfast Club


Ashley Philip

Ashley Philip has worked as a Commercial Designer at Eleven Peppers Studios for over three years. She has over six years of experience in graphic design and is currently pursuing a Master’s in User Experience Design at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Ashley has a profound interest in solving user problems with a focus on the development and design of products themselves. 

17 Jun

Pepper Talk with Kate Rodman

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re getting up-close and person with Kate. Just a little background before we get started, Kate is one of our Senior Designers, and has been with 11P for 4 years. She’s worked on a wide variety of print and digital projects and specializes in being an illustration chameleon and incorporating artwork into a lot of her design solutions. Read her Q&A below!

1: Do you have any nicknames?
One time, when we went out for Chinese food I accidentally pressed the gas when turning on my car (it was in park) and it revved really loudly, startling all the people passing by on the sidewalk. My friends absolutely lost it and came up with Kate “hotrod”man – my speedster, aggressive driver alter ego.

2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Usually, just check my phone. I don’t open any emails that will require too much thought at that point, but I’ll just get an idea of what my day is going to look like.

3: How would you describe your design style?
In my personal work, I love organic details. The more flourishes and leafy bits, the better. I love to blend illustration and typography together – to me, custom type is where illustration and graphic design overlap beautifully. For 11P work, it’s very nice to have a creative director there to rein me in. I tend to start “over the top” with adding extras and things that excite me. I’d like to think this makes their job easier (much simpler to remove/edit than come up with new ideas for things to add)… but maybe that’s just wishful thinking 😉

4: How did you get started?
I’ve always been an independent artist since I was little – if my parents couldn’t find me, I was probably drawing on a wall somewhere, or giving the dog a new haircut (sorry…). But the “fine artist” life was never for me. I am too comfortable with structure and rules – graphic design was a natural fit. When I went to Towson University for my BFA, one of their requirements for a class was to attend AIGA’s Ink & Pixels portfolio review. Luckily, I happened to sit down in front of Kristen that day, and the rest is history.

5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
For thinking & sketching, I use cheap mechanical pencils and copy paper. No fancy notebooks for me. I also adore my lightbox for tracing during sketching – don’t know what I ever did without it. On the computer, I spend most of my time in Illustrator but I also love InDesign. My least favorite are Office products… Microsoft & Apple don’t play nicely, and I have no patience for that wonkiness. Would much rather use Google products for those things.

6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
Generally, I start with information gathering. I start taking rough notes of important messages or goals, etc. Then I’ll probably start a private Pinterest board to just gather style inspiration. Once I have a handle on that, I roughly sketch (a LOT) until I have several options that feel right. After running that by the team, we usually pick 1-3 to refine. I’ll use my lightbox to re-draw the idea larger and in more detail – something that I can easily trace in Illustrator. Most of my thinking happens on paper. (If I find I’m struggling on the computer, it means I need to go back to the drawing board)

7: What do you draw inspiration from?
Like everyone else, Pinterest and Instagram… I love following illustrators/artists that use color in unexpected ways. My favorite pieces of art are the ones that look great at a glance but then you dive deeper and realize, oh wow, that tree is actually bright orange because of the light. Or the shading on that person’s face is actually green. The serious color mastery based on light just blows my mind.

 8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Never
Sweet or Savory: Savory – love salt too much!
Favorite Movie: All the Harry Potters
Guilty Pleasure: Watching Friends and The Office on repeat, almost constantly
Hobbies: Board games/puzzles, plant-based cooking, socializing with people’s dogs, thrift shopping (most of my furniture and clothes are secondhand), and crafts!

9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
Hard to choose, but this piece is the one I keep coming back to for inspiration. Love the message too – I am a chronic procrastiworker.

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