30 Jan

Pepper Talk with Katie Long

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re getting cozy with Katie L. Just a little background before we get started: Katie L is fairly new to Eleven Peppers Studio. She mostly works on projects for the government sector but occasionally contributes content for 11P blogs and social media posts. Read her Q&A below!

1: Do you have any nicknames?
KT, KTor, Cyber Mama, Buckaroo, Auntie Shark


 2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Hit the snooze button! Then I lay there either dozing until it goes off again or sleepily telling my cat I’ll feed him in a minute. I’m definitely not a morning person so I’m slow to wake up. I like to enjoy my coffee at home before I hit the road. That’s really for the safety of everyone.


 3: How would you describe your writing style?
When it comes to what I contribute to the 11P blogs and social media posts, I like things that come from my own personal experience and/or my heart. If I’m writing a blog post, I’m going to pull from something I’ve seen or dealt with even if it’s not directly talked about in my writing. In the work I do for the government, I’m all about creating content that is clear and concise. I write documentation for software so I have to make sure that the customers that will be using it can use what I’ve written to navigate through the software when they’re learning to use it instead of needing to call for help. I end up doing a lot of translating from developer speak to English.


4: How did you get started?
Wow… that’s a long story. I went to Towson University for Mass Communication with a focus in Public Relations. I really wanted to work for the Washington Capitals (back before they were the STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS) in their youth hockey outreach program, but I ended up as a front desk receptionist for the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. I moved from that Commission to an administrative position with the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves and when that wrapped up I got an administrative job at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL). This is where I really gained the experience for what I’m doing now.


The group I was working with developed software that was being used at military cyber exercises – think war games or capture the flag, but in cyber space. I started traveling with a large group of people (25+) from APL to logistically support the team on site. I had to fill my time somehow so I started getting familiar with the software and then I was helping run between teams to get information on issues they were having and moved on to troubleshooting issues. By the time I moved on from APL (9 years after I started there), I was going to smaller scale exercises as the only person on site from APL to help install and run the software and I was running software training for everyone at the larger exercises.


5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Pen and paper. I take TONS of notes in meetings. Anything that I’ll share with my team is written on the lines, but the things I’m noting for myself (something I want to research more or something I need to do) goes in the margins.


The team I’m on now does agile software development so we use JIRA a lot. Before joining my current team I hated it, but I have to admit it’s growing on me.


6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
Devour as much background information as I can get my hands on and then hit the ground running.


7: What do you draw inspiration from?
Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest, news articles… as previously mentioned, I like to devour as much information as possible and that Google search bar is my bff.


 8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Coffee coffee buzz buzz buzz
Sweet or Savory: Sweet… I’ve never met a dessert I didn’t like
Favorite Movie: Fried Green Tomatoes
Guilty Pleasure: Snarky memes, Downton Abbey (obviously the Dowager is my favorite character), true crime shows/podcasts
Hobbies: Genealogy, obstacle course racing, working out, reading (although lately it’s mostly audio books for me)

Thanks for meeting Katie L. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!

21 May

Pepper Talk with Valencia Garden

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re doing a deep dive with Valencia Garden. Valencia has been with Eleven Peppers Studios for nearly two and a half years. She plays an integral role on an award-winning team by developing marketing content for innovative technology products.

1: Do you have any nicknames?
Not really—I kind of take pleasure in making people say my whole first name. Blame it on a childhood full of mispronunciation and laziness, lol.

2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

Look at the clock to see how late I am! Then I debate whether I’ll meditate or take the dogs out first; that usually depends on how well I slept.


3: How would you describe your design style?
I’m a writer, so…”honest”? lol My writing style is deeply conversational, if you couldn’t tell by now.

I do have a deep appreciation for design and art, in every form. My interests change often, so some days I’m feeling minimalist and neutral, and other days I want to be around the boldest and brightest things ever (coincidentally, that’s usually when my hair is the biggest). I love honesty in words and in art, so if I’m able to feel anything when I look at it, I’m all in.


4: How did you get started?
I’ve been writing my entire life—I recently found a few stories I wrote as a kid, along with some letters I wrote to my older self back when I was 8, 9, and 11 years old. I’m glad I kept them; I gave myself some pretty great advice!

I actually started out in college as a computer science major because that’s “where the money was.” That was a mistake. I hated it! (I should’ve found those letters a few years sooner…lol) I ended up in Virginia Tech’s English program because the journalism program was full. Being in the company of great expressionists like Nikki Giovanni made me realize how much I enjoyed the art of written communication.

The semi-perfectionist in me hates to see good things done terribly, which lends itself perfectly to helping other people express themselves more effectively!


5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Favorite? Google, even despite its faults and flaws. I can find anything on there (or anyone, *cue suspenseful music*), and that ends up helping me quite a bit when researching for a writing project. Wordpad and Grammarly.com also tie for a close second.

Worst is Microsoft Word, hands down. It should die and not come back as anything else or appear in any sequels, ever!


6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
I spend a good amount of time researching before I write anything. My initial process depends on what information I’m given, so if I don’t have much, I end up doing more legwork on the research side than the actual drafting side. If you give me “who” and “what,” I can usually find the “why” on my own. I know immediately how hard a story will be if it takes me forever to come up with a good introductory sentence. If I don’t know why this story is interesting, then obviously there’s a lot of work to be done! Once I get a good handle on it, I’ll outline how I think it should go and start filling in the blanks from there.

Also, post-it notes. Lots of post-it notes.


7: What do you draw inspiration from?
Life stories. Hearing about other people’s experiences, no matter how small it may be, usually makes me want to go do something of my own.


8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Heavens, no!
Sweet or Savory: Both (Lindor Sea Salt Milk Chocolate Truffles? OMG)
Favorite Movie: Coming to America
Guilty Pleasure: Cheese
Hobbies: Serving at my church, traveling, eating pizza, concert hopping, working on my townhouse, fake house shopping, real shoe shopping, dog mom-ing, and (thanks to the hubbs) aviation. *whew!*


9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
Instagram. Who knew a place to post lackluster food plates was going to take off as well as it did?!
















Thanks for meeting Valencia. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!

29 Sep

Pepper Talk with Kelsey Marotta

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we have Kelsey with us. Just a little background before we get started, Kelsey has been with Eleven Peppers Studios for a little over a year. She is a Senior Graphic Designer and works her magic with any request her customers make.

1: Do you have any nicknames?
Most people call me Kels. My brother, who is nine years older, nicknamed me Sally when I was little. He still calls me that. It’s also what I named my paddle board.


2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
I’m an early riser, meaning anywhere between 4–5. I tend to get up and walk straight to the kitchen. I must eat. A couple of mornings a week I’ll grab a quick snack before taking my bike out or going to spin class, I am not a fan of riding in the rain. Otherwise, you’ll find me enjoying a protein shake and watching 5 AM reruns of TLC’s “What Not to Wear.”


3: How would you describe your design style?
Eclectic. I love a little bit of everything, I think it’s ingrained in who I am. It follows me in all aspects of my life—sports, design, decorating the 700 sq. feet of space I call home. When I see a design that I like, I take it apart and think about what aspects I could incorporate into my own work. Color, texture, illustration style. I’m always willing to try something new.


4: How did you get started?
I was the Managing Editor of my high school newspaper. One of my responsibilities was to design the back-page. I loved layout but hated writing, so I came up with the idea that every month we would do a Q&A [laughs] with a teacher, staff member, etc. Funny enough, that became a standing section of the paper even after I graduated.


5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Coming from a print background, I love books and design annuals. I have a few favorites I keep on my shelves at home. I’ll flip through the pages when looking for inspiration. My Dad sells paper and my grandfather ran printing presses so I’m also a sucker for sample books and promotional materials. I could spend all day talking about foil stamping, finishes, coatings—if each individual piece costs $9 to print, I’m in.

In college I had to briefly use Quark. It was the absolute worst. It was a very happy day when InDesign arrived.


6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
Always research. Sketch. Gather as much inspiration as possible and paste it all on my artboard before beginning my design. When I hit a wall or feel like there’s a missing element, I keep researching. Attention to detail is so important and sometimes it’s one tiny element that makes the whole design click.


7: What do you draw inspiration from?
I’m an Instagram and Pinterest junkie. I look at typography and illustration daily. I like to think the hours spent scrolling through all of those images is somehow transferring to my design style through osmosis.


8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Black coffee.
Sweet or Savory: Sweet…no need to go on, everyone knows about my love of ice cream.
Favorite Movie: Elizabethtown
Guilty Pleasure: All things Tiny Home-related.
Hobbies: Running/Biking/Swimming, Paddle boarding, Road trips
Best vacation: “Vacation” is a loose term for me. Most of my vacations are tied to races and/or involve cramming as many activities as possible into a short time span. Not sure I can pick a favorite but a few highlights from the last couple of years; sweet potato pancakes at Pancake Pantry in Nashville, TN, staying in an Airstream trailer in Charleston, SC, Wormslow Plantation in Savannah, GA and a half marathon in Yosemite National Park.
One of your quirks: Other than naming inanimate objects (the aforementioned paddleboard), I am guilty of working into almost any conversation that I am a marathon runner. It’s a bit of an obsession, I know.


9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
Highway Gothic, the font developed specifically for road signage in the U.S. It represents exactly what design should be—something that is so well made and thought-out that it becomes a natural part of our everyday lives.














Thanks for meeting Kelsey. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!

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