21 Feb

Pepper Talk with Chris Poe

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re learning more about Chris Poe! Just a little background before we get started, Chris works as a Software Engineer on our Commercial Team. He has been with Eleven Peppers for just over 5 months!


1. Do you have any nicknames?
I was once called “The Prodigy” as an inside skydiving joke.
2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Like most, I make my morning coffee. If I’m feeling up to it, I’ll make a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich. Then, I head down to my workstation in the basement where it’s nice and quiet.

3. How would you describe your coding style?
Meticulous

4. How did you get started in this industry?
Programming was a hobby before it was a profession. I taught myself the basics before moving onto school and then a junior developer position.

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
My text editor (Sublime Text); Internet Explorer

6. What is your favorite thing about being a software engineer?
I really enjoy puzzles and developing feels like one giant puzzle.

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
The community of open-source developers. I also enjoy reading Medium frequently to stay current on trends and software changes.

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Caffeine
Sweet or Savory: Sweet
Favorite Movie: Lucky Number Slevin
Favorite place to travel:

Lake Tahoe

Hobbies:

Skydiving, Coding
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13 Feb

Extra Spicy Valentine Cards

Really spice things up this Valentine’s Day with one of our printable cards! Whether you want to bring the heat or tell them that you’re meant to be, these messages will have your “special someone” feeling all the love. Enjoy!

We’re releasing one design today and releasing two others tomorrow morning. Check back at 7am on February 14th!


22 Jan

Pepper Talk with Paul Denton

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re learning more about Paul Denton! Just a little background before we get started, Paul works as a Principal Software Engineer. He’s a humble master of front-end development, but capable of picking up any language, tool or technology you throw at him. Paul has been with Eleven Peppers for 5 years!


1. Do you have any nicknames?
I haven’t had any nicknames since high school unless you count my kid calling me Doodie instead of Daddy.

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Waking up generally consists of getting the 2 year old out of his crib and bringing him back to our bed where our 4 year old has been since he snuck in at 1am. While all this happens my wife lays there wondering why the heck everyone else is up only 2 hours after she fed the 2-month-old.

3. How would you describe your design style?
As a developer my style is whatever I see on dribble that I like. Luckily, I’ve got an entire company of talented designers to lean on when It comes to design work.

4. How did you get started in this industry?
My Dad’s always been into computers and like many nerds I started messing with them myself at home. I taught myself to code and picked up a job in IT right out of high school. I got lucky one day and received an email from a team trying an experiment; they would take a group of IT technicians and turn them into developers. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance and never looked back.

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
It may not be the best tool for everything, but I can get just about any job done with Javascript.

6. What is your favorite thing about being a software engineer?
I’m spoiled by having the ability to hit save and then see output of what I’ve been working on almost instantly. Solving hard problems and writing tools that help people do their job is greatly satisfying as well.

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
Almost everything I do comes from a pain point that I or someone else is currently experiencing. The thought that I can automate something for myself or make someone else’s life easier really drives me.

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Yes, a lot.
Sweet or Savory: Savory.
Favorite Movie: The Fifth Element.
Favorite place to travel:

Anywhere I can see the stars.

Hobbies:

Spending my free time coding is turning into gaming with my 4-year-old, which I love. I haven’t been on my motorcycle much since we’ve had kids but I’m ready to start again.
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26 Dec

Pepper Talk with AC

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re learning more about AC! Just a little background before we get started, AC currently leads one of our UX teams. She’s been with Eleven Peppers for 2.5 years!


1. Do you have any nicknames?
I actually go by my nickname, AC! My full name is Anne Carlyle but people get tripped up on the double name, so shortening it to AC made sense.

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Coffee. Well, brush my teeth, drink a glass of water and then all the coffee. If I manage to get up before my kids it’s a nice moment to myself before the day starts, otherwise it’s just me drinking coffee amongst the chaos. Why do 3 year olds wake up with so much damn energy?

3. How would you describe your design style?
Simple, classic, and minimal. I don’t pay super close attention to design trends (I should really get better at that!), and have always been drawn to simple but impactful typography. I try and keep extraneous noise out of a design but you know clients always try and fill the page with content!

4. How did you get started in this industry?
Right out of college! My first job was in the Intelligence Community so I don’t really know the commercial world. I really love working for a meaningful mission and the people I have met are all so amazing.

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
InDesign will forever be my favorite, I miss using it every day. It is so intuitive to me for some reason! Photoshop terrifies me, I need to improve my skills.

6. What is your favorite thing about being an art director?
Definitely bossing people around! Kidding…I really like being able to have a vision and try and execute it within all the fun (and not so fun) constraints of our job. At the end of the day, I want users lives to be easier, so anything I can do to make that happen is my favorite!

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
Pinterest! What did we do before Pinterest? I’m also lucky to be surrounded by super talented designers, so it’s easy to be inspired by them and pick their brains for ideas.

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Caffeine
Sweet or Savory: Sweet. Ice cream is my weakness.
Favorite Movie: If we’re going by how frequently I have seen a movie then it’s going to have to be Frozen…
Favorite place to travel:

Everywhere!

Hobbies:

Daydreaming about when I had time for hobbies! read more

18 Dec

Giving Back to the United Way of Central Maryland

The holidays are a great time to reflect on how fortunate we are and to take time to help those that really need it. This year, we participated in the United Way’s Central MD Adopt A Family program.

Our team adopted four large families from the Ben Franklin Center in Brooklyn/Curtis Bay, a partner organization to the United Way. To make each of the 31 family members feel special and loved; we purchased, wrapped and delivered over 200 presents.

We wanted this to be a team-effort, so we split everyone into four teams to make sure everyone had someone to shop for and each item got checked off the list. Then, we all came together for a wrapping party, which consisted of eating Chick-fil-A nuggets, drinking adult beverages and perfecting the art of accessorizing with the perfect bows and ribbon.

Owner, Kristen Parks explained, “With a work culture already rooted around family, it was only natural for us to want to do something charitable, especially during the holidays. It allows us to not only spend quality time together outside of the office, but also to work together as a team to accomplish something bigger than ourselves. This year we decided to participate in United Way’s Adopt a Family program because we wanted to be able to give families in need one the many joys of Christmas, which is of course, opening presents!”

11 Dec

2019 Gift Guide for Creative Types

With two weeks left to get your holiday shopping done, we’ve put together some gift ideas that will be perfect for any type of creative person you have on your list! Happy shopping!


  1. Find Your Artistic Voice: This book is intended for every category of artist. Whether you are just starting your artistic journey, are right in the middle of it, or are rejoining after a hiatus, this book will provide encouragement and motivation.
  2. “You’ll Think of Something”: This decorative banner will serve as a reminder that when the creative juices stop flowing, or your back’s against the wall, don’t fret; You’ll think of something.
  3. Field Notes®: This latest innovation features tear-proof and waterproof paper so that you can take notes no matter where you are.
  4. Gig Posters: 18×24 limited edition posters from your favorite bands. Designed by DKNG, signed and numbered!
  5. Glass Ornaments: Take tree decorating to a whole new level with these Pantone collectible glass ornaments, available in a variety of colors.
  6. Wood Burning Kit: This collection of tools features a wood burning pen, 17 wood burning tips, a sharpener, a wood burning pen holder and 12 stencils to customize your DIY wood projects.
  7. Graphic Designer T-Shirt: A funny, cute t-shirt that will make any artist laugh. “I’m silently judging your font choice.”
  8. Custom Lettering of the 20’s: This unique publication collects over 4,500 examples of custom lettering from the heyday of Art Deco and the experimental modernity of the Futurists.
  9. 2020 Botanical Garden Calendar: A gorgeous yearly calendar featuring beautiful images of flowers that will brighten any workspace.
  10. Zodiac Bar Soap: Featuring luxe packaging designed by Danielle Kroll, these soaps features decadent scents of jasmine, rose, and sandalwood.
  11. Desktop Letter Board: Express yourself with this fun, functional, interchangeable letter board perfectly-sized for compact messages.
09 Dec

Celebrating 5 Years: Melissa London

It’s time to throw some confetti and pop champagne, it’s Melissa London’s 5th Pepperversary!

Melissa London was recently promoted to Creative Director of our Commercial Team. Her ability to provide strategic art direction, encourage team collaboration, and promote project growth has created a stronger presence for commercial design at Eleven Peppers.

When Melissa’s not working, she loves spending time with her family and friends. She is always ready for a good meal and a great glass of wine.

Our team would not be the same without Melissa. Her presence makes everyone feel excited about the work we are doing, and we’re honored to have her as an integral part of the Pepper family!

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



1. Best part of working at Eleven Peppers Studios?
The culture…it’s down-to-earth, family-friendly vibe.

2. If you were a pepper, what type would you be and why?
A Serrano Pepper. It offers a wide range of heat!

3. What is a favorite 11P event?
The 2019 Holiday party that just happened. EPS does it bigger and better every year!

4. What is your favorite Christmas present ever received from 11P?
A wad of cash!

5. What is your favorite 11P memory?
There are so many. The Disney Animal Kingdom Safari was pretty sweet!

6. Name a Pepper you can always lean on for support or advice:
I appreciate all the side hustle that goes on. Peppers who seek more challenges, more education and are always hungry to grow. I’m lucky to be around several of those individuals… Kate R., Ashley P., and R. Rice (to name a few).

7. Name a Pepper whose work or work ethic inspires you:
Kristen always has a very diplomatic and insightful view on how to respond to tough situations. She’s a great resource!

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 Melissa a little bit better…

1. What is your favorite part about being a mom?
Watching her little mind develop. Small things like remembering family vacations, memorizing animals and mimicking her parents behavior (that last part is kinda scary).

2. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A perfectly cooked poached egg with hollandaise on top of avocado toast with bottomless mimosas (hold the OJ).

3. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
I’ve never been there but I’m in a romantic relationship with Paris in my head and my heart. I think they call me a Francophile. OR an imaginary city that looks like the LA landscape but is populated with NYC people (2 cities I have lived in).

4. What makes you laugh the most?
My family is pretty entertaining. Also chic humor… Amy Schumer, Katherine Ryan, Ali Wong, etc.

5. What would you sing at karaoke night?
I typically leave the singing to my husband (who’s in a cover band) but if someone twists my arm… I think 80’s power ballads are fun to sing. The last 2 times I sang karaoke I bombed tho – Love is a Battlefield (Pat Benatar) and It’s Tricky Run DMC.

6. Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
My dog Stanley, he’s my security blanket and coffee. #basic

7. Is there anything you wished would come back into fashion?
Everything has because it goes in cycles but I’d love to see more 70’s styles with better fabrics (no polyester) and can we bring back disco music? Mind you, I am a kid of the 80’s.

8. Any designer pet peeves?
Icon inconsistency, unnecessarily force justifying, thin type on light backgrounds, too much leading, too little leading, not dragging backgrounds to the edge.

9. What’s your favorite family holiday tradition?
Christmas crafting and cookie baking/decorating with the kids.

10. Any secret hobbies or talents?
I can sew stuff…pillows, drapes, pumpkin costumes!

26 Nov

Designing With Accessibility in Mind

As part of our work with the Small Business Administration, Eleven Peppers Studios recently had a great opportunity to partner with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) to recruit non-sighted users for testing purposes– more specifically, their Blind Users Innovating and Leading Design (BUILD) program. Volunteer testers in the NFB BUILD program assess numerous websites, products and services for usability and accessibility.

Being able to test with non-sighted users gives us a first look as to how they might interact with the design compared to a sighted user. This opens the door for possible behavior patterns and practices that might affect their usability of the product we’re designing that may not have been obvious before testing with sighted users.

As we rely on our sight to design beautiful and complex interfaces, it is important for us to keep accessibility and inclusion in mind in order to maintain diverse perspectives. Wondering what exactly that consists of? Here are a few things we’ve been able to gather from our testing sessions:

1. Keyboard Accessibility

Non-sighted users utilize screen readers in order the assess a webpage. Incorporating keyboard accessibility is among the most important aspect of accessibility design. As non-users scan a webpage, they rely heavily on their keyboards to quickly navigate through each control sequence. This is why it’s very important to incorporate the ability for our users to “Tab” through content and implement “Skip to Content” links.

2. Descriptive Layouts / Structure

A structured layout on your website is primarily what screen readers will focus on as you tab through a layout using a keyboard. Understanding how screen readers interact with HTML elements on a website will assist greatly in creating layouts for easy navigation for non-sighted users. For example, Landmark Elements (like headers, main nav and footer) allows a screen reader to easily jump to important sections of the design.

3. Color Contrast

Deficient contrast between foreground and background colors make it hard to see for users with low vision. It is extremely pertinent for all text, icons and focus indicators to meet a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1. We were able to use this neat site to check contrast ratio.

4. Alt-Text Descriptions

One of the things we’ve noticed while testing with non-sighted users is the importance of Alt-Text descriptions for graphics! Not only does every graphic on the page need to be linked with descriptive Alt-Text, but they also need to be described in a certain way that speaks to the information behind the image and not the image itself.

“You almost never describe what the picture looks like, instead you explain the information the picture contains.”

Five Golden Rules for Compliant Alt Text (AbilityNet)

Overall, there are moments in which design and research disregards the experiences of people who require assistive technologies. If we involve users with varying disabilities into our process, we come closer to creating design that everyone can use.


WRITTEN BY
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. 

20 Nov

Celebrating 5 Years: Jeff Fisher

Help us celebrate Jeff Fisher on his 5th Pepperversary!

Jeff Fisher is a Senior UX Designer who spends his days applying his honed design skills tackling complex UI/UX problems and designing interfaces that are beautiful and intuitive. Needless to say, he’s a talented guy!

Despite being a self proclaimed “solitary animal”, Jeff loves being a part of the team, and considers himself lucky to work with such talented people.

When Jeff’s not working, he loves spending time with his wife and children. Whether they are playing board games, going for a hike, or watching a good movie, it’s always a good time!

We couldn’t imagine a team without Jeff on it, so we’re very grateful he’s a part of the Pepper family!

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


1. Best part of working at Eleven Peppers Studios?
I think the best part of working at EP is, hands-down, the people. Of course they are all very talented, but they truly are a great bunch. And I’ve appreciated that EP has always taken such care to hire quality people.

2. If you were a pepper, what type would you be and why?
Sadly, I am at a severe disadvantage in answering this question. My knowledge of peppers is pretty limited, but if I had to choose, I would say a banana pepper because they are such a welcomed addition to an otherwise bland sandwich.

3. What is a favorite 11P event?
The obvious choice is the trip to visit The Mouse, but from year to year I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas parties. They have been held at great venues and it’s always a good times catching up with folks. And it cannot be overlooked that I’ve come away with some fine whiskey.

4. What is your favorite Christmas present ever received from 11P?
The aforementioned whiskey – Irish whiskey – is always considered a win.

5. What is your favorite 11P memory?
As inconvenient as it was at the time, the flight delay at BWI was a good time just hanging out with everyone.

6. Name a Pepper you can always lean on for support or advice:
Oh…hmmm…being somewhat of a solitary animal and a homebody, I truthfully look to my wife, Jenn, who is a Pepper by extension, I think.

7. Name a Pepper whose work or work ethic inspires you:
Being that I went to school for illustration, I’ve always been thoroughly impressed with Kate Rodman’s 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 Jeff a little bit better…

1. What is the one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Yikes. I never know how to answer these kinds of questions. Where do I start? Ya know, when I was in Ireland back in 2002 I met this girl who asked me a similar question. As I attempted to answer she soon pointed out how I had told her all about my home and my friends, but nothing about myself. And here I’ve done it again.

2. What hobby do you spend the most time doing?
These days I have been attempting to juggle a few hobbies if not simply to stir my kids’ creativity. Last year we started playing Dungeons & Dragons and I’m the dungeons master. And more recently we bought EVA foam to craft cosplay costumes.

3. If you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
My wife’s Toscana Soup never gets old.

4. If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?
I wish I had the power of Restoration — anything I touch would be restored to its original condition. And then I would open an antique store, not because I love or know anything about antiques, but because it would just seem right.

5. What’s your favorite children’s book to read to your little ones?
If only I had been asked this question a few years ago, I’m sure I could’ve named a few books. They are all reading on their own now and I’ve long forgotten what I used to read to them.

6. If you could illustrate and reimagine any classic book or comic, what would it be?
Well, with as many illustrators who have taken on The Lord of the Rings, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt if I threw my hat in the ring.

7. Any favorite artists whose work you admire?
Justin Gerard jumps to mind. Of course there have been a lot more artists I’ve admired who are lost to the murky depths of my memory, but Justin Gerard is an amazing fantasy illustrator.

8. What’s your favorite art tool?
The humble pencil.

9. What’s your favorite way to spend the weekend with your family?
Playing board games, going for a hike, and watching a good movie, all in the same day.

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.

Hobbies:

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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