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.

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