27 Apr

Celebrating 5 Years: Kathryn Gruver

Help us congratulate Kathryn Gruver on a half decade spent as a pepper!

Over the past five years, Kathryn has displayed the ultimate level of dedication and design prowess as a leading contributor to a variety of UX and design projects.

When Kathryn is not working, you’ll probably find her outside enjoying time with her husband, sons and dog!

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

1. Best part of working at Eleven Peppers Studios?
So many things. Mainly it’s the family friendly culture; and fantastic, hard-working people. I also feel like the leadership is humble, honest, and appreciative.

2. If you were a pepper, what type would you be and why?
Black pepper, is that lame? It’s versatile and packs a nice, clean bite.

3. What is a favorite 11p event?
 I like our holiday parties. My husband and I get a nice evening away, and we get to see everyone.

4. What is your favorite Christmas present ever received from 11p?
We usually get a trip or gift certificate for one – as parents, they have been wonderful!

5. What is your favorite 11p memory?
Our trip to Disney of course!

6. Name a Pepper whose work or work ethic inspires you:
Customers that I encounter are always impressed by our company’s work ethic. It’s hard to pin point one person who works exceptionally hard, because I feel like that’s part of our “way.” I guess Kate Coates always goes above and beyond what is expected of her, and knocks it out of the park every time.

7. My spice meter :

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

Get to know Kathryn a little bit better…

1. What’s your favorite book of all time?
The Bible, other than that I don’t have one.

2. What’s your favorite activity to do with your sons?
Anything outdoors. Recently, we’ve been doing scavenger hunts on our walks around the neighborhood, and some pretty wild obstacle courses in the yard.

3. What do you love to draw most?
My dog; he won’t sit still while I draw, but he still makes a handsome picture.

4. What is your favorite thing to grow in your garden?
Any flower [that the deer won’t eat].

5. What is your favorite thing to cook using what you grew in your garden?
I can’t grow them well, but my mother grows amazing summer tomatoes.

6. If you could pick any weekend getaway, where would it be?
Anywhere with my husband, preferably around some body of water.

7. We hear your dog is pretty special, any special tricks or stories to share?
He isn’t obedient, but he is special. One time I planted some dill, and when I returned from putting my tools away, he unplanted it.

8. What’s your anthem – the song that you can always listen to pump you up?
I listen to old Pearl Jam when I need to get in gear.

9. If you won the lottery, what would you do first?
Pay off the mortgage.

10. What’s your favorite holiday?
Easter. It’s the reason Christmas is special; but I also love spring, and gathering with family.

23 Apr

Pepper Talk with Brittany Jones

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month it’s Brittany Jones’ turn to tell us more about who she is!

Just a little background before we get started, Brittany is a Senior Designer who has been with Eleven Peppers for about two and a half years!  She currently leads a team of multimedia designers and works on designing a wide range of government training material, providing deliverables for numerous agency organizations.

1. Do you have any nicknames?
Most call me Britt!

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Hit the snooze button to try and squeeze in a few extra minutes! (repeat x10)

3. How would you describe your design style?
Clean and minimal. I love simplicity and creating design that is easy for users to understand and engage with. The idea of creatively using white space and contrast to create eye-catching elements makes me super happy.

4. How did you get started in this industry?
At a young age I loved to draw (horses…lots and LOTS of horses) and in high school I took every art and photography class that was offered. I also had a passion for web design. I studied design at Stevenson University and worked at a stationery store designing wedding invitations. After graduating, I worked as an in-house designer at Johns Hopkins University. After almost four years of designing at Hopkins, I really wanted to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art for my MFA in graphic design. I always admired Ellen Lupton and the amazing designer, writer and professor that she is. About a year or so after grad school I joined the Peppers!

5. What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Of course the Adobe Creative Suite is my favorite! I really enjoy Illustrator, InDesign and After Effects.

Without a doubt the worst is PowerPoint. Bleh.

6. What is your favorite thing about being a designer?
My favorite part about being a designer is being a creative problem solver. I love figuring out the best way to communicate important messages in visual form and how each design brings a fresh challenge. Also, I love that as a designer you never stop learning. There are always new trends, new tools, new technologies, new sources of inspiration, etc.

7. What do you draw inspiration from?
I have to agree with many of my fellow Peppers that inspiration comes from a little bit of everything! Pinterest, Instagram, Behance, fine art, architecture, movies/television, music, travel, nature, magazines, funny memes…the list goes on! 

 8. Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no:

Yes pleaseeeee!

Sweet or Savory:

I feel like this is a trick question. Can I choose both?

Favorite Movie:

ALL of the Harry Potter movies (and books)!

Favorite place to travel:

It’s really hard for me to pick a favorite place! One of my most memorable trips was when I traveled with a group to six different countries including Germany, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Greece, and Czech Republic. Most recently, my husband and I traveled to Hawaii. That easily became a top favorite! I also always love traveling to California.


Photography and painting. I also love traveling, hiking, running races, reading, horseback riding and cuddle time with my dog Taytor.
read more

20 Apr

Celebrating 5 Years: Krista Cochran

We’re ready to celebrate, it’s Krista Cochran’s 5th Pepperversary!

Krista is an extremely talented Senior UX Designer. Since becoming a Pepper, she has been unrivaled in her ability to capture client’s requests and is committed to producing a superior product. She’s one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, and her positivity radiates in the office!

Krista is absolutely family first. Her two girls keep her and her husband extremely busy running around with lacrosse, soccer, dance etc.

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

1. Best part of working at Eleven Peppers Studios
The people!!! 11 Peppers is full of hardworking, inspiring and entertaining people.

2. If you were a pepper, what type would you be and why?
Orange bell pepper. I’m more of a sweet than spicy person AND orange is my favorite color.

3. What is a favorite 11p event?

4. What is your favorite Christmas present ever received from 11p?
A Louis Vuitton purse!

5. What is your favorite 11p memory?
Casino night. It was such a fun night full of great conversation and laughter

6. Name a Pepper you can always lean on for support or advice:
Ryan Kelly. He has always been there to listen and give honest advice.

7. Name a Pepper whose work or work ethic inspires you:
Our main boss lady Kristen Parks! Even though I admire her hard work and dedication to 11 Peppers at the heart of everything, I love that she is a true designer.

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 Krista a little bit better…

1. Where is the best place you have ever gone fishing? 
My Aunt Tooties pond.

2. What is the best thing about being a “dance mom”?
When my daughter and her team come off stage and know they pulled off a great performance. To see them so proud of themselves and of each other is a great thing to watch.

3. What is it like raising two teenagers?
It depends on the day, but most days, it’s busy and entertaining. It’s actually fun when your kids get older and catch on to your jokes.

4. What do you love about living in Southern MD?
The slower pace of life and beauty of the farms and the water.

5. Which Jurassic Park movie is your favorite?
The original. It’s how it all started!

6. What is your go-to when you are baking a dessert?

7. What’s the most exciting place you’ve traveled for the girl’s activities?
Loved seeing the west coach beaches and LA.

8. What custom project do you love the most in your new house?
Our deck. Ron and Eliza did most of the work but it is definitely rewarding to enjoy something that our family built together.

9. Name your ultimate margarita (flavor and tequila).
Anything with Patron or 1800 Silver.

10. What has being a breast cancer survivor taught you?
To be thankful, even for the small things.

15 Apr

“The Great Indoors” Coloring Book

EXPLORE “The Great Indoors” with your kiddos! Download our one-of-a-kind coloring book filled with fun ways to bring typical outdoor activities – INSIDE.

After clicking the download button, you can save the PDF to your device.

Coloring is a great stress reliever for both kids and adults! Check out more cool coloring options below:

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.
read more

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!

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