AT WORK IS A SERIES DOCUMENTING PITTSBURGH CREATIVES, MAKERS AND ENTREPRENEURS, THEIR WORK AND THEIR SPACES.
THIS WEEK WE'RE AT WORK WITH DIGITAL DESIGNER KEVIN RUPERT.
How do you describe what you do?
I design things that live on the internet. Usually they’re websites, but sometimes the work strays into more advanced web applications. Right now, I work on the team at Deeplocal. We create and build new ways for people to experience brands like Google, Nike, and Netflix.
What are you working on now?
At Deeplocal, we keep things pretty hush hush. I can say I’ve done and continue to do a lot of work with Netflix—notably a project called Make it—a series of DIY devices that let you hack your Netflix experience.
I’ll usually take on one or two projects on the side. Right now I’m working on a launch website for a friend’s nonprofit.
What's your process like?
Oof. Good question.
It varies. Most of the time my web projects start with structure and content. What’s the architecture of the site? What kind of content is someone going to experience? What is someone trying to accomplish or understand via the thing we’re making? Trying to answer questions like that.
In getting into more visual and interaction design, I tend to bounce around between different mediums to solve different parts of the problem:
“Static” is what I call hi-fidelity screen design. It’s not real or interactive—it’s just a polished picture of what the website or interface should look like.
I do a fair amount of exploration with 2D animation to think about how elements of the site should move or behave when someone is using it.
Most of the time I end up implementing all or part of my design in code. By code I mean the easy stuff—just markup (HTML) and styling (CSS). Seeing something in the browser is the best way to evaluate design decisions, especially when your design needs to scale and adapt across different screen sizes (i.e. mobile to desktop and beyond).
Once a design is settled (at least a little), I work closely with software engineers to make the site fully realized and ready for people to use.
"...THE CHALLENGE IS WHAT MAKES IT FUN. THE AMBIGUITY IS WHAT LEADS TO POSSIBILITY."
You're laser focused on digital work over more traditional graphic design. What draws you to the digital world?
Making physical things is hard. For the most part, when you make a physical thing, that’s it. It’s not going to change. Literally, it’s set in stone.
When you make something that lives on the web, you can change it in seconds. It’s dynamic. It’s fluid. It’s ephemeral.
The digital world changes every day—from devices, to platforms, to the way people just use the internet.
This can be frustrating, but the challenge is what makes it fun. The ambiguity is what leads to possibility.
Does living in Pittsburgh influence your work?
Pittsburgh is small, but it’s scrappy. My dad is a car mechanic, and he works his ass off. I think the blue collar thing comes through, not necessarily in the work I create, but in how I make it and the people I like to work with. I think you should move fast and work with what you have. I think you should not put up with bullshit, because there is no time or place for it here. And I think you should have a team that feels like family.
Name three things you can't live without.
Rye whiskey, the internet, and rap music. In that order.
Is there a quote that you live by?
One who makes no mistakes makes nothing at all.
"'DO NOT MAKE SOMETHING UNLESS IT IS BOTH NECESSARY AND USEFUL; BUT IF IT IS BOTH, DO NOT HESITATE TO MAKE IT BEAUTIFUL.' I THINK THAT'S ON POINT."
How do you describe your design philosophy?
In one of my favorite design books, Frank Chimero references a Shaker proverb: “Do not make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both, do not hesitate to make it beautiful.” I think that’s on point.
What are you listening to right now?
I was pretty obsessed with the new Weeknd and Bruno Mars albums—I like music you can shake it to. I always have Kanye and Drake in rotation. I’ve also been heavy on Spotify’s Mellow Bars playlist.
Check out more of Kevin's work here.