03 Apr

Moving Away From the Screen : Can It Improve Our Designs?

With the age of technology, we are able to do so much more and reach so many more people in literally seconds. But does all of that time in front of a screen start to have a negative impact on our creativity and thoughtfulness? Can moving away from our screens change and improve our designs?

Can adapting to a screen-less approach have a positive impact on:  
  • Our Time
  • Collaboration
  • How We Listen
  • Perspectives
  • Creative Solutions
  • Engagement
People computers = the key to designing interfaces

Yes, most of us are designing for screens, but our users are not spending most of their day interacting with screens. They are interacting with real world objects and people, so shouldn’t we be doing the same while designing those interfaces?

Challenge your design process or your team to try new ways to problem solve and discover. We don’t need our fancy programs to design, we just need brain power and a problem. So let’s stop clicking and start thinking!

Getting away from the screen – what to do instead:

Research and Discovery 

Product AuditTake the time to discover everything about the current tool/new project from speaking with the stakeholders.

Kick-off MeetingsGet everyone in a room for a whole day – or more! This is a useful strategy for business, development, content, and design.

Competitive AnalysisGo to real locations of similar and non-related businesses and ask all the questions you would normally discover from website competitive analysis.

User Interviews/ResearchUse IDEO Methods (IDEO Method Cards are tools that we can use as designers to research our users, products, and potential projects). Talk to real people.

PersonasTeam scrapbooking for real people you’ve met in your research. Pull faces from magazines or other papers.


Determining Scope and Priority

Include all team members in the planning effort (yes Devs, you too)!

User Journeys/ScenariosGet everyone’s perspective to create User Journey Stories on a white board. Make it a team discussion!

Requirements DocumentMake more than a designer’s checklist…. Get everyone’s perspective on what will happen and when. Your requirements start to form your product’s culture. Who/What > Action > When.

Prioritization and TimelineDon’t start by using a fancy online system like Monday or Jira. Ask everyone for input on prioritizing tasks from the Requirement Documentation.

Structuring Your Project

Conceptual Models – Go to the same places your users go when interacting with like-products or in similar environments like the one you’re creating. Are there any common concepts the users may be used to, like a shopping cart? Can and should these be relayed to the screen?

Information Architecture – Get out the cards! Time for some classic IDEO card-sorting. There are so many amazing hands-on ways to discover a hierarchy that makes sense for your content.

Error Handling – Pick up the phone OR go offsite to better understand how businesses and people handle errors in the real world.

Structuring and Language – Time to make another stop! Head out to where your users would interact with the content of your product. Finding any familiar/unfamiliar language? What kind of process do user’s go through when coming to these locations?

User Flows – Break out the sticky notes! Create a tangible, yet visual way to organize all of your content, pages, and features. Get the team in on this one!

Drafts, Sketches, and Wireframes

Navigation Design/Wayfinding – Go to locations that typically have strong direction-based environments. Think of places like IKEA, a popular trail, malls, etc. Note the way yourself and users navigate through and around the location.

Brainstorming Session – The more brains, the merrier! Don’t slump back into your cubicle quite yet. Share all your findings and hear what your team has to say! You might be surprised by what you’ve missed along the way.

Thumbnail Sketches – Sharpen those pencils and get to drawing. Don’t be precise! You should spend 30 seconds to a minute on each sketch. Include the whole team on this one! You’re not the only one who can make boxes and arrows.

Wireframes – Sketch, Illustrator, and XD, OH NO! Grab your graph paper and pencil to cleaner lines and more accurate positioning. This is a time for some epic iteration. Share with your team, try and grab some real users. Just keep drawing!

Creating the Final Look

Use All 5 Senses – Use all of your senses! Everyone knows what Christmas smells like and everyone can picture the feeling of crunching down on a leaf in the fall. How can you take advantage of all of your user’s senses to create a well-rounded brand?

Mood Board – Go hunting for inspiration, no not on the internet. Find actual objects to represent your brand’s look and feel. Go into it with some key words and ask your team if you hit the mark.

Typography – Don’t just pair fonts… Take images of existing fonts from real life. Compare them to our mood board of senses! Do they fit in? What type of fonts match the best?

Style Guide and Mockups – Bring in the Developers and determine all of the elements you need based on your wireframes. Bring print outs of your wireframes and have coloring sessions with your brand colors to determine final look.

Halie Wickiser

Halie Wickiser has worked as a Senior UX Designer at Eleven Peppers Studios for over a year. She has over five years of UX and UI design experience creating intuitive and user-centered applications.

30 Mar

Pepper Talk with Sacha Elliott

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month it’s Sacha Elliott’s turn to tell us more about what makes her tick! Just a little background before we get started, Sacha currently provides UX, branding, and marketing solutions for one of our government clients. She’s been with Eleven Peppers for 1 year and 4 months.

1. Do you have any nicknames?
I have collected several nicknames over the years, spanning from Soosh (my dad calls me that still because I love sushi) to Sacha Fierce (long, but hilarious story I can share with you one night over a glass of wine). Today, my friends and colleagues mainly refer to me as plain ol “Sacha”.

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
I make a cup of coffee before I begin getting ready for the day, then make a to-go mug for the long drive into work. Honestly, by the time it hits 8 a.m. I’ve probably gone through 3-4 cups of joe. No matter what historians claimed, BC really stood for “before coffee”.

3. How would you describe your design style?
Minimal, modern, and polished. I love to create visual experiences for people and brands. Lately, I’ve been exploring design as a transformative tool that can help change companies and services, offering a more human approach through fresh digital solutions and impactful brand experiences.

4. How did you get started in this industry?
Being a fifth generation artist, I fell in love with design at a very young age. Marrying design and story telling (another passion of mine), I graduated James Madison University with a dual degree in Graphic Design and Marketing. Since then, I’ve worked with a variety of customers in the commercial and federal sectors to build a multidisciplinary career, something settled within the expansive crossroads of user experience, brand development, service and business innovation, technology and design.

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Well, a classic favorite is the Adobe Creative Suite: InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and XD. Another favorite is honestly Sketch and InVision: DSM, Craft, and Studio. I love how flexible and interactive each tool is within its own suite. The worst would easily have to be Microsoft Office. Enough said.

6. What is your favorite thing about being an interactive art director?
My favorite part is creating a fresh and unique solution to the customer’s visual problem that not only improves their human experience but also adds value to their bottom line.

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
First and foremost, Pinterest. Behance, Dribble, and Awwwards are close seconds. I love being inspired by such a talented community of designers around the world.

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no:

Is this even a question? If I could make caffeine a part of my body, I would in a heartbeat and my heartbeats pretty fast these days… so.

Sweet or Savory:

Oooo. Savory. But Dark Chocolate can come hang with us too.

Favorite Movie:

Uggg. This is so hard! I am quite the movie buff, but I’d have to say my go to movie these days has to be, Last Samurai. You know minus Tom Cruise’s ego.

Favorite place to travel:

Hawaii. I lived there for years growing up. Nothing beats the sun on your back, feet under the sand on the beach, staring at the Pacific Ocean… ooo unless you had a fruity cocktail to accompany you.


Honestly, a bit of a medley. I love fashion, cooking, traveling/exploring new places, learning a new trade, and working/ being in the motorsports industry.
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28 Feb

Celebrating 5 Years: Albert Nguyen

Time really flies when you’re having fun! Just ask Albert Nguyen, who recently celebrated his 5th Pepperversary!

Albert is one of our Senior Software Engineer’s. He has worked on many different projects during his time as a Pepper, but no matter what he is working on, his commitment to continuing to hone his craft is inspiring to others.

To keep his mind sharp, Albert loves a good cup of coffee. And we’re not talking about any ole regular cup of joe. He brews the gourmet stuff, and is the most popular destination for his coworkers looking for a caffeine jolt.

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

1. Best part of working at Eleven Peppers Studios?
The great people, friendly culture and flexibility.

2. If you were a pepper, what type would you be and why?
I’d be a Dragon’s Breath Pepper. It’s got a little bit of kick at 2.48 million Scoville units.

3. What is a favorite 11P event?
Free Food Fundays! Though the trips, holiday parties, brown bags, happy hours, game days, picnics, and other events are pretty fun too!

4. What is your favorite Christmas present ever received from 11P?
The De’Longhi super automatic espresso machine! Between me and Kathy, it gets used every day.

5. What is your favorite 11P memory?
There’s so many of them! Disney is probably my favorite though. It was so fun hanging out with everyone. The time a bunch of Peppers went skiing at Big Sky was pretty memorable too!

6. Name a Pepper you can always lean on for support or advice:
There are so many Peppers I’ve leaned on in the past including Theresa, Jesse, Jill, and Paul. Now it tends to be Gary for all the UX stuff we’re working on. I also lean on all the Peppers in PepperChat on Slack, for all sorts of things.

7. Name a Pepper whose work or work ethic inspires you:
Pretty much every Pepper has a great work ethic. Besides Kristen and Bryan, I’d say Paul. After a day of work, he would go home and code even more just for fun.

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 Albert a little bit better…

1. What is your favorite thing to do with your wife Kathy?
Doing anything with Kathy is fun, but my favorite is probably just going to a café like Peet’s and drinking a good latte while munching on pastries while chatting and people watching.

2. What’s your signature dish to cook?
I don’t really have a single signature dish. I pretty much just make a ton of chicken dishes in different sorts of ways. I’d marinate or season the chicken overnight and toss it into an Instant Pot, sous vide, grill, pan, or oven to cook it. It comes out juicy and delicious while still being healthy. I seem to have tricked Kathy into thinking I’m a master griller, so we’d grill a lot when the weather is nice.

3. How many different coffee makers do you have and which one is your favorite?
I have an AeroPress, pour over coffee maker, Vietnamese coffee filter, Takeya cold brew coffee maker, Keurig, Tassimo, Nespresso, regular coffee maker, regular espresso machine, and De’Longhi super automatic espresso machine. So I guess that makes 10. My favorite is probably the super automatic because it can make a mean latte. My daily choice though is the AeroPress since it’s easier to have at work. I would grind beans and make a fresh cup to start my day.

4. Do you prefer board games or video games?
I like both, but prefer video games. I’ve been on a Tetris kick recently and trying to practice the DT Cannon. Who would have known that Tetris could get so complicated. My favorites are couch co-ops like Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart. I used to play a lot more games back in the day like Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy, and Starcraft.

5. Any secret hobbies or talents?
Well, they wouldn’t be secret anymore if I revealed them. =P
I guess I can reveal a few like me being a second degree black belt, eagle scout, snowboarder. I also used to ride a motorcycle back in the day.

6. What’s the latest fitness craze you have tried?
I haven’t tried any of the latest ones, but I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for a few years now.

7. If you could be a sci-fi or fantasy character, who would you be?
This is a hard question since there’s so many to choose from! Knowing me, I’ll randomly think about this question a few days later and think of another character. Off the top of my head, I’ll say Hawkeye from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s a regular guy that can hold his own among others with superpowers or advanced technology. He also seems like a cool dad.

8. How fast can you run a mile?
I haven’t been training since my wife dragged me into doing the 2017 Baltimore Marathon. My mile time now is probably around 7 minutes because I still keep up with HIIT workouts.

9. As a Tesla car owner, what feature do you get a kick out of?
I pretty much experimented with all of the features. I even use third party apps to track my efficiency because that feature wasn’t included with the official app. I was also playing with the idea of making a web application that would use the unofficial Tesla API to get the stats that aren’t normally visible. The fast acceleration, autopilot, and gas savings are my favorite features. The games are pretty fun to play when waiting around. The built in dash cam and sentry mode are also great features.

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?

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


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.


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:



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.
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!