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Meet the Expert: GreenRope Creative Director, Jason Kessel

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We have a pretty talented team here at GreenRope, and we want you to get to know us all. Jason Kessel is GreenRope’s Creative Director and responsible for the GreenRope website, as well as many new graphical elements in the new user interface (UI). Jason has been at it for years, and in this interview, he shares with us some insider information on developing and creating stand out websites and graphics.

AC: How long have you been doing web and graphic design? How did you get into it?

JK: I’ve been an artist ever since I could hold a pencil. I’ve been a professional graphic designer since 1993 and have been designing websites since 1997. I remember building my first website using a program called Adobe PageMill without typing a single line of code. I remember adding in an animated GIF of a 3D spinning logo. That was cutting-edge back then! In 1999, I took on a job as Senior Graphic Designer for a design firm. It was then, that I started getting more into coding sites by hand as well as using interactivity such as Adobe Flash to make websites more engaging. I helped work on websites for feature films as well as interactive CD-ROM’s. Lately, I have been honing in my skills with Javascript and HTML5.

AC: What inspires you? Where do you look for inspiration?

JK: I’m inspired by nature. I love the outdoors and all of its creatures. There are colors, shapes and patterns that are always inspiring. I’m also inspired by stories, whether it’s a real story about people or fictional movies. My mind is like a sponge, so I’m always looking for inspiration around me. I am also constantly looking at current trends in design, marketing and anything visual. Needless to say, I have a pretty big list of “inspiration” bookmarks in my browser.

I’m also inspired by other artists. For example, I’m a huge fan of Salvador Dali. I wrote a paper on him in college and I have several books about him and his artwork. A more current artist that I like is Alex Grey. His use of organic patterns and colors is stunning and thought provoking. Another artist that I’m a huge fan of, is Nikko Hurtado. He’s a famous tattoo artist and his skills are nothing short of amazing. His portraits are so realistic, it’s hard to believe they are tattoos. Someday, I want to get some ink from him.

AC:  What are the 5 key components that make up a great website?

JK:

  1. I can’t stress this enough… KISS! Keep it simple stupid. Too many elements confuse the viewer.
  2. Tell a story. Whether it’s a product, a brand or a service, try to tell the story. It will usually be more engaging to the viewer.
  3. Do not ignore your mobile audience. Either use a responsive design, or use a mobile template.
  4. Use some animation and/or video elements. A little goes a long way though, so don’t forget the KISS theory.
  5. White space. Today we use such large screens, so there is no reason to cram everything together. White space gives a website a more open feel and less confined. It’s easier to read and call-to-action buttons are easier to distinguish.
  6. Can I add a sixth one? SEO! The old saying of “once you build it, they will come” really doesn’t apply to a website. Search engine spiders need to find your website. Using relevant keywords in your pages helps people find your website using a search engine.

AC: What are the top design elements people should incorporate into their graphics and websites?

JK: Lately, I’ve been quite the advocate for using web fonts such as Google fonts in websites. Doing so, allows you the flexibility that designers have had in the print industry for decades. The world was not meant to be confined to a dozen typefaces. Color palette is also important. You want it to appeal to as many people as possible. Not everyone likes tooty fruity or rainbows, so find a color palette that compliments your story.

AC:  What are the top mistakes you see people making when designing their own websites and graphics?

JK: If you’re not an artist or have no sense of design, step away from the computer. So often, I see so many people who think since they can use a computer and Adobe Photoshop, that they can design a web page. Hire a designer! They went to school and/or have a ton of experience.

AC: What are the current trends in website and graphic design?

JK: Currently, the trend is more flat design. It started when Apple introduced iOS 7 last year. While some critics and consumers hated it, the design industry obviously took notice. I see a lot of websites adopting a more flat design. I even used a slightly more flat design when I recently redesigned our GreenRope.com website. To be clear, flat doesn’t mean there is no depth. Only certain interface elements are flat, but there is still a sense of depth through layering. This flat design also applies to print and other media. The problem is, if you aren’t careful, your design doesn’t stand out. We recently witnessed this at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. So many of the vendor booths looked the same. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This applies to another trend I’m seeing a lot—Parallax. I am seeing more and more websites using Parallax. Essentially, Parallax design, when used on websites is like one long page. As you scroll down, layers and other page elements move in or out of view. I have seen this done well. However, I think it is being over used.

AC: Where do you see the industry going?

JK: Mobile. Websites are going to need to use responsive designs. If you look at recent data, websites are being viewed on mobile devices more each year for browsing and to make online purchases. Plus, with all the different screen sizes being used to view your website, a responsive design assures your site will look good no matter which devise it’s being viewed on.

AC: What are some of your favorite websites you have designed?

JK: Easy. The new GreenRope.com website is one of my favorites. I pulled all the stops and went for some HTML5 animation to tell the story. People seem to really like that design and I’m quite proud of it. Another favorite is www.patriottattoo.com. A friend of mine, Rob Sampson, works there. He’s very talented. He did all of my tattoos. I designed and built their website for them a couple years ago.

AC: What other advice can you give to people when designing their websites and graphics?

JK: Not to sound like a broken record, but… keep it simple. More often than not, I see people adding too many elements to their website. Your message and your calls to action need to be clear and concise. If possible, use video and/or animation. It makes it a little more interactive and engaging. Use plenty of white space. It’s easier for the eyes to focus. Also, pay attention to current color palette trends. When in doubt, hire a web designer (GreenRope offers creative services now). If you aren’t creative, you probably shouldn’t attempt to design a website. Remember, the computer is just a tool. Just because you know how to boot up a computer and dabble in Photoshop, it doesn’t make you a web designer.

AC: What are some of your favorite designs from other people?

JK: Two recent designs from my assistant, Ryan Bahl, come to mind immediately. www.nolimitsbaja.com (note: I created the background image for him) is a cool, in-your-face design, which fits its intended audience perfectly: off road junkies! The other one is Ryan’s side project www.hockey4all.com. It’s a great, modern, and responsive design. Another site I really like is from a friend of mine who is also a graphic designer. http://warrenz.com. He recently went live with this new design. I really like his use of CSS3 animations. It looks professional and playful at the same time.

To find out more about Jason, check out his bio on our team page

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