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.

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.


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’.

read more

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.

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