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Team Carbonmade

Say hello to our new Implementation Designer, Masha!

We're pretty excited to announce yet another awesome addition to Team Carbonmade. Masha Safina is not only a whiz at front end development but she is ridiculously good at math. She even has her Masters in it! (I assume that is very good. I don't math.)

When she's not helping us turn pixels and pretty designs into rad web things, we've learned that she was born in Surgut, Russia, likes to play Assassin's Creed and enjoys putting food in her face at Saturday brunch. Oh, and she's theoretically carnivorous which means that the vegheads are now thoroughly outnumbered on the team. Whoo!

Welcome to Carbonmade, Masha. We look forward to watching you do great things with code and implementation and design and stuff. Math yeah!!

Spotlight

Thumbs up: Simone Flash Benedetti's four letter words

There is a lot of rock and a whole lot of roll in Simone Flash Benedetti's photography portfolio. Super fast bikes, smokin' hot girls and a pretty Italian sunset or two. Oh, and some super creepy shots that look like they're pulled straight out of a zombie slasher horror flick. Whoo!

As far as first impressions go, Simone has done a bang up job putting his signature style on display. We love the four letter word overlays and how it segments out his areas of focus. Who wouldn't want to spend time browsing through shots of cafe racers, vintage pin-up girls and serious amounts of leather?

For his awesome custom thumbs and rockstar landing page, Simone earns a spot on the Carbonmade fridge this week. Vrooooom vroooooooom!

Team Carbonmade

Say howdy to our new doodlin' designer, James Barnes!

Exciting new things are afoot these days in the land of Carbonmade! For one, we pulled our lean, svelte, glistening hardbodies out of NYC and plopped them in the vast untamed wilderness of downtown Chicago. We'll share photos of our new digs shortly!

For two, we hired the dashing gentleman above to help us make doodles and designs that will knock all of your socks off. James is the former creative director at Grooveshark and joins us in Chicago by way of Gainesville. He is a chronic scribbler, a pun master and plans to school us all with his vast understanding of snakes, lizards and assorted creepy crawlies. His love of slitherin' critters is fine by us. And if that isn't enough, he is also rake thin and fast on his feet - which will probably come in handy when he "accidentally" unleashes a horde of bitey serpents into the office area.

So yeah, welcome to Carbonmade, young man! It sounds like you're going to fit in nicely. Hurrah!!

Spotlight

Zara Picken

is one of our very favorite doodlers. She lives in the North East of England, specializes in mid-century design and was kind enough to share her thoughts on everything from her work as an editorial illustrator to hovering cats.

Howdy, Zara! You’ve become quite well known for your distinct design style. What do you like about mid-century imagery and when did you first discover that this era speaks to you?

I think there’s a timeless, classic quality inherent in work produced during that era. The values of clear communication align with my own, using simple and eye-catching aesthetics to the maximum effect – to convey an idea effectively without taking the personality out of the image.

I’ve been collecting useless bits of paper (tickets, stamps etc.) for a few years now, especially ephemera from the 1950s and 1960s. I think I first established my hoard when I started university and got slightly carried away on eBay. I am attracted to the colour, graphic simplicity, pattern and tactile nature of old printed paper, which is probably reflected in my work.

How do you describe your style when you can’t just show your portfolio to folks?

I would describe my style as being quite graphic. I think there is a strong element of design in my images. I use texture, blocks of colours and the right amount of detail for what is required - often “less is more” but sometimes more is more, depending on the project.

I hope to create a tactile quality in my work, despite my illustrations being digital. I also aim to evoke a sense of warmth and optimism. I enjoy being able to start with a strong idea and see where the concept takes the visual.

As busy as you are professionally, you seem to tackle a lot of personal work. What percentage of your stuff is self-initiated and why do you like doing it?

Whenever I’m not working on commissions I tend to focus on self-initiated projects. I try to do as much of that work as I can, so I probably end up doing almost as much personal work as commissioned. I believe it’s important to draw the sort of images you enjoy and tackle subject matters you want to explore. I can’t imagine not creating personal work - it’s something that helps me to retain my own voice, not to mention my sanity.

Working on self-initiated projects enables me to try out different techniques, themes, colours, textures and compositional elements that might even inform future commissions. Clients will often cite self-initiated pieces for the direction of a job, so in many ways my personal work feeds into my commissioned work.

There is also a lot of literary, educational and charity publication work in your portfolio. Apart from being too busy, is there ever work you’ve said no to?

If I turn down work it is usually due to being too busy. However, I always turn down speculative (“spec”) work, whereby an artist or designer is expected to create work with no guarantee of payment at the end. It is not only rather insulting but also damaging to the industry as a whole.

You’ve created some really lovely book cover illustrations. If you could re-design the cover of a favorite novel, which would it be ?

I’m particularly keen on surreal, mysterious books – my favourite book is probably The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien. I tried re-designing the cover for it a while back as a self-initiated project. Of course, I’d happily create a new one if a publisher happened to be looking to commission it for publication!

Other than that, I am currently reading a lot of Haruki Murakami novels so I would certainly enjoy the opportunity to create illustrations based around his books. As well as contemporary literature, I’ve also been reading classic books a lot more recently, so would enjoy the challenge of interpreting something older.

How does it feel when you open The Guardian or pop into a Waitrose shop and see your work on display?

It’s always great to see my work in context. I find it exciting but also slightly bizarre as I’m more used to seeing it on a computer monitor. I once saw one of my illustrations on a bag that someone was carrying down the street – I just stopped and pointed at it!

I’m never able to separate the final artwork from the process, so seeing a finished product always brings back memories of working on the illustration.

Is there a dream illustration gig out there that you’d still love to land?

I try not to have anything too specific in mind - I enjoy not knowing what will come next. A big advertising or publishing commission would be wonderful, as would a challenging editorial job or something packaging or branding-related.

Having said that, I’ve always thought it would be fantastic to see my work on something like a stamp or a wine label - something small and everyday, that when designed well can stop you in your tracks. I’ve also always thought my work would lend itself well to being animated, so I would like to look more into this area in future.

Showing off your work is vital to landing new opportunities. You’ve being using Carbonmade for about 2 years now. How did you originally find out about us?

I was looking to set up a page on a portfolio site, in order for my work to reach a wider audience. However, my requirements were very specific – the site had to look professional and clean, as well as being straightforward to maintain.

I came across Carbonmade on my search, so I browsed through the example pages and found myself signing up rather quickly, following the instructions of the octopus on the homepage (there aren’t a lot of websites you can say that about.)

Are there other Carbonmade artists you admire that readers should check out?

There are so many great artists, it’s difficult to choose. Corinne Reid’s illustrations are particularly stunning. I’m also enjoying Dave Murray’s work, particularly his Beer series.

Before we go, you have a great inspiration blog called Hovering Cat. If said cat appeared in front of you right now, where would you hop on and go?

Probably wherever it wants to go – I can’t see a flying cat taking orders from me! If it can hover then who knows what else it’s capable of? I don’t want to mess with that cat.

If I was somehow able to reason with the cat and it would be willing to take me where I wanted to go, then I reckon space is probably an interesting place to explore. Failing that, I wouldn’t mind popping to Japan, Canada or New Zealand – I’ve wanted to visit those places for a while.

Of course, this is never going to happen. Cats only hover when nobody’s looking. It’s how they move around so quietly.

Team Carbonmade

Happy birthday to me, Angela Black!

Not to be outdone, Dave Gorum lovingly handcrafted a spot-on likeness of my freckled visage for my 40th birthday. I look perfectly crisp and delicious! Just look at the care and detail he put into my hair, beret and slug antennae?! It's amazing, really.

Anyway, it makes me very happy and I will treasure it forever. Or at least until it starts to wither and decay. Like me!

HURRAH!

Team Carbonmade

Happy birthday to our beloved grumpkin, Dave Gorum!

In celebration of our co-founder/creative director's birthday, we bring you DAVE GOURDUM!

Dave reigns over our pixelated pumpkin patch in his little cycling caps, tossing out terrible puns, witty quips and super fun design ideas. He may grumble and grump, but that's only because he secretly bears the burden of a kind and generous heart. If he just audibly groaned at that, then I have done my job. Well, not the one he hired me to do, but that is besides the point!

Anywhoosh, we wish Dave a very happy and hallo-weenie-birthday full of naps with the dogs, cake made out of leafy vegetables and, well, more naps. Catch some good zees and have a great day, dorkface!

The Buzz

Brooklyn Beta 2012

Our resident designer Timo shares his field notes from the small but mighty web conference that’s spreading the "make something you love" mantra through the design and tech community.

How do you sum up an event like Brooklyn Beta? And why should I do that in the first place? Do we really need more inside industry backrubs? Probably not, but I'm writing this down for me to remember. To make sure I don't forget how honest and genuine this conference felt. It was my second time attending and, once again, it was a blast but also a humbling, inspiring experience.

But was it Baratunde Thurston one-upping StudiomatesBeer Friday with Whiskey Friday? The dance class? Cory Booker? Maciej Ceglowski’s bedbugs? Or Aaron Draplin kicking off the fuckin’ show in big, bold Futura-style? Or maybe it was the homemade pop-tarts and cookies that got passed around in the afternoon? Or the fact that there’s purposely no wi-fi provided and no speaker list published, both of which lead to a more focused audience and better attendance? Sure. It is all of that. But at the most basic level, it’s just great to put real faces to avatars and chat with the people whose work I’ve read and admired.

There are probably a lot of other conferences where these same people gather but I think Chris and Cameron (and team!) have created something really special. It feels more like being at a friend’s loft party than at a web conference. The love and labor that goes into this event from the room decoration to the name badges, from the beer elevator to the sponsor flags - everything whispers “we made this just for you”. And it’s all housed in a former factory turned arts space that used to churn out novelty “invisible dog” leashes in the 70s. It’s perfect.

Anyway, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest CSS animation syntax or spending hours on a pesky viewport breakpoint but at the end of the day, we’re all building things. The folks behind Brooklyn Beta remind us to try and build stuff that matters, but to also have fun doing it. Make something you love? Sure. Sounds great! But it isn’t always as easy as it sounds. No inspirational one-liner ever is. But I, for one, am inspired to take a second, slow the fuck down and make sure I’m still fighting the good fight.

Sitting in a room with an insanely impressive list of designers, makers, thinkers and Cory Booker can make you feel like you’re trespassing in a place you don’t belong. But the magic of Chris and Cameron’s creation is that, more than anything else, I felt welcome right from the start.

Team Carbonmade

Happy birthday to Carbonmade's fireball, Arsie!

It is almost impossible to type Arsie without first typing Arise instead. And so, we have arisen from our beds on a crisp fall morning to wish our resident do-er of many awesome things a very happy birthday. Arsie is one of those people who knows just about everyone and is up for just about anything. She's a force for good times, connecting faces together and kicking the crap out of a dance floor.

Even though she's a transplant from San Francisco, it took her nanoseconds to make NYC her home. The photo above was taken in Brooklyn by the lovely and talented Aaron Durand, also known as @everydaydude. We give him one thousand thanks for sharing this beautiful photograph so we could celebrate "Arise" in a special way.

Happy birthday, lady! We have no doubt that you're busy making it a good one.

The Buzz

In the press: Offscreen magazine

We're hyped to not only have the Carbonmade workspace featured in Offscreen magazine but our designer Timo looking fly as heck on the cover. Arsie snapped this awesome pic of our beloved pixel pusher on the fire escape of our SOHO office space and we're thrilled that it got chosen for the front of their third issue. Inside you'll find a bunch more shots of our digs by Timo including a pretty heated ping pong rally in progress. Aww yiss!

If you haven't flipped through an issue as yet, we heartily recommend it as you'll learn amazing and inspiring things about the people behind your favorite sites. The content is engaging, the design is top notch and it's a pretty great way to unplug from your computer. Plus, Timo is totally on the cover. That's reason enough right there.

Team Carbonmade

Happy birthday to our pal Bee and her loaf Pony!

The birthday train at Carbonmade just keeps chugga chugga choo chooin' along! At this stop we're celebrating two very fine ladies who are near and dear to our hearts: the amazing Bee Chelse and her wonk-eyed pup named Pony. Two great gals with birthdays two days apart!

We wish them both a ton of dog snuggles, naps on the couch and very big pieces of cake! Also, a special nod goes out to Norman Morana for the awesome drawing above of Bee and her family of dorks. You can see the full doodle on his blog!

Spotlight

Thumbs up: Amy Mullen's super friendly landing page

The thing we love about Amy Mullen's presentation (beyond the adorable doodles, of course) is the thought behind the selection and arrangement of her images. One look and you understand that she specializes in cute children's illustrations full of family, friends and happy animals. The first impression is clean, her images are harmonious and the whole thing makes you want to click through for more. It's a darn fine example of letting your work speak for itself.

And so, for putting smiles on faces and cats and horsies in the right places, Amy earns a very special spot on the Carbonmade fridge this week. Well done, lady!

Team Carbonmade

Happy birthday to Carbonmade designer, Timo Kuhn!

We could just leave this picture of Timo and his lovely wife Aki here and it'd speak volumes about him being one of the raddest dudes on the planet. But it was his birthday on Sunday so we thought we'd come up with a bunch of reasons why we like having him around!

WE LIKE TIMO BECAUSE:

He's lefthanded but not arrogant about it.
He once ate an entire chocolate rabbit in one bite.
His ancestry is European but his demeanor is downright Eurasian.
He once saved a species of gnat from extinction.
Timo has a kind heart and a steely gaze made from 100% USDA pig iron.
His (ping pong) balls are white and smooth.
He is the greatest baby maker of all time. I want him to make mine for me.
Timo is Sweden's noblest feat. Another noble feat: Timo's feet!
He was some sort of Swiss-German Evel Knievel in a previous lifetime.
Timo has great hair and keeps his baggy pants up using science.
He has a genuine fondness for animated gifs of baby animals.
He hugs upon greetin' like a proper European. (Woo, that rhymes!)
Timo's got a black belt in either being or making fraternal twins!
He thinks I'm pretty good at ping pong (for a girl).
He rocks gold sneakers (that I'm jealous I don't own).
He's my office omnivore lunch buddy.
Timo makes me feel really tall.
Timo has two thumbs.
Timo timo timo!

The Buzz

In the press: Graphicdesign.com

Our creative director Dave Gorum recently picked up his electronic pencil for the folks at graphicdesign.com to outline his best practices for constructing a kickass portfolio. It's his gift after more than a decade spent flipping through them to create Carbonmade and to hire good people. We've pulled out a couple of his suggestions below, but be sure to mosey on over and read the full article for yourself. We hope it helps creative hirers and portfolio cobblers alike!

  • On showing it to a buddy

    You're probably going to want to push it
    out the door because the very sight of it sends you into cold sweats and a fetal ball. This is a perfect time to plop it in the hands of an objective friend or colleague.

  • On not making the hirer work for it

    Keep the presentation simple, the artwork big, and your contact information easy to find and you’ll be light decades ahead of your competition.

Team Carbonmade

Happy birthday to our support dork, Mike Minnick!

It's the birthday season here at Carbonmade headquarters. Today we raise our hands in the air for the one and only, Mike Minnick! This amazing tattooed doofus can answer emails with both hands tied behind his back (he doesn't have to but he does seem happier that way), leap small dogs in a single bound and scarf down 30 veggie nuggs in one sitting. He is a pretty rad individual.

We wish our dear pal and fearless morale booster all of the very best comic books, a nice long bath with his hounds and a big slice of birthday cake. Woo hoo!!

Team Carbonmade

Happy birthday to Carbonmade co-founder Jason Nelson!

On this joyous day a specific number of years ago, the world gave us a highly intelligent and smiley doofus named Jason Nelson. He is weird, frighteningly gifted with binary code and says so many oddly funny things that they are being collected in a book by his friends.

Jason has a deep and abiding love for alpacas, but also... bananas. (Hold on, I have to stop giggling for a second.) So we had Mike Minnick scribble up our CEO/code wizard professing his love to the world. We hope they will have a long and fruitful life together.

Enjoy your day, dorkpants!

Spotlight

Thumbs up: Asyera Guempel's stripey self portrait

Bzzz bzzz bzzz... big happy bumblebees come to mind when looking at Asyera's lovely striped landing page. Her custom sketched thumbs are definitely eye-catching and give you a great first impression of the detailed line work in her portfolio.

Not only does this talented gal from Indonesia (who now lives in Boston) doodle up a storm but she also paints murals, crafts with clay, designs print materials and is studying to be an interior designer.

For her busy bee-ness and nifty thumbnail work, Asyera earns a sweet ol' spot on the Carbonmade fridge this week. Way to go!!

Roundhouse

Michael Tseng

is an 8 bit pixel pusher and interaction designer in NYC who created a foursquare meets monopoly game called Turf Geography Club.

As someone who hires creative folks, what advice would you give to someone putting together their first portfolio?

Show less work as opposed to more. The quickest route to the "no"
pile is to show every single thing you've ever created. When I see a portfolio that has twenty mediocre pieces and five solid ones it reads as inconsistency as opposed to progression in ability. Your portfolio is a narrative. What does each additional piece add to that narrative? What's the fewest number of pieces you can show that describes your dream job?

How long do you typically spend looking at a potential candidate’s work?

Five minutes if the portfolio is blowing my mind or thirty seconds if the work is mediocre. I know fairly quickly if I want to send a follow up email.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you see over and over?

Getting a job is a long term campaign. Your portfolio isn't meant to get you hired, it's meant to get you a phone interview. The phone interview gets you an 'in person' which in turn gets you the job.

If you get to the in person interview, it's no longer about your skills. If you're sitting in a chair speaking to an employee then enough people have 'okayed' your work that it's not about whether you can handle the job. The question now is if I like you enough to be confined in a space with you for twelve hours a day. Plenty of qualified people have been passed over because they didn't have the right personality.

Be bold, not every company is the right fit for you. I'd rather have a fearless portfolio that disgusts the companies that I wouldn't work for anyway than to create something that caters to everyone.
Avoid making a flashy portfolio site unless you want to be hired to make flashy websites. You want to minimize the distractions an employer might encounter. Especially if the site is overly flashy in a tacky way it might read as a strike against your design sensibilities.

Ask for feedback. Most employers will tell you why they didn't offer you the job.

If your work is mind blowing just ignore everything I've said. I knew this guy whose sketches were so 'tear your eyes out' amazing that when he sat down for an interview, upon seeing the sketch on the cover, the employer said, "I hope you like California."

Do you read about pages and, if so, what do you want to know about someone outside of their work?

I'd like to get a glimpse at the fascinating things we'd chit chat about if we were to get a beer.

What do you think about an applicant creating a custom piece of work to get your attention?

It works if the custom piece is decent.

A couple months ago a designer sent a personalized 8 bit cartoon with their portfolio. The body of work itself was tight but completely not a good fit. On the other hand, this thing that probably took ten minutes to make told me that the designer was malleable to a degree, motivated, and had a genuine passion for our work. Why wouldn't I reply?

You are an 8 bit beluga. What are your favorite spots to check out in the city?

If I were an 8 bit beluga whale, I'd be classy as hell. So with a church warden pipe, diamond monocle, and top hat I'd sit contemplatively in the Museum of Natural History where all of my dead friends reside. Afterwards, I'd get tea in the West Village then I suppose I'd buy myself something rather nice at the MoMa store. To top the evening off, I'd tickle my funny bone (whales have bones) at UCB Theater then retreat to my 8 bit residence at Baby Castles for a nightcap. Just kidding, I'd probably just sit around wishing I had hands.

Spotlight

Thumbs up: Dimitri Simakis' two-tone landing page

We love the 3D-esque landing page of this amazing designer and illustrator because it immediately sets your expectations for the adventure you'll find within. Dimitri's portfolio is good top to bottom and features ghouls, squids and any number of multi-eyed critters.

His client roster includes Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network which suggests we're not alone in loving his work. For his nifty custom thumbs and A+ effort, Dimitri earns a choice spot on the Carbonmade fridge today. Hurrah!

Roundhouse

Charles Adler

is a designer and founding partner of Kickstarter.com. His adventures and constant nomadery include working as a programmer, designer, information architect, user experience strategist and creative director. If you can’t pick up some keen insights from this dude, pack up your pencils and call it a day.

Do you make a habit of seeking out new talent or is it completely
needs-based?

I’m constantly looking. Meeting designers (product, ui, graphic), reviewing portfolios and such.

What gets you excited about someone’s portfolio?

Solutions for personal problems. It’s impressive when anyone identifies a conflict in their community, company or personal life and takes initiative to design an alternative without being prompted.

What’s the first thing you want to see in a portfolio or you won’t
go any further?

Personal work, outside of work-work. An innate interest in delving beyond the projects handed to you. An entrepreneurial, creative, curious spirit.

Personal work, outside of work-work. An innate interest in delving beyond the projects handed to you. An entrepreneurial, creative, curious spirit.

Are you okay with sketches or are you only interested in fully comped ideas?

Both. They provide you two lenses/perspectives. Sketches tell me the process or evolution by which you think through a problem. It’s also a character reference in some cases. Someone sketches out their thinking and might be more open to share those early sketches and collaborate.

Final work or comps are nice as well. Presents the finished thought, but it’s typically a collaborative effort if it’s not a personal project, and thus understanding which pixel belongs to which team member is hard to discern (sometimes even for the candidates).

How important is it to let who you are as a person shine through your portfolio?

Incredibly important. I’m hiring people not machines. I want to understand the individual. It’s ultimately the individual I need to work with, not their designs. Their character influences their work.

In addition to the work itself, how should a prospective hire let you know they’re someone you want to work with?

Side projects. Also, twitter, tumblr, dribbble, github, etc. Show me that you’re interested in the space you’re working in. Show me your curiosity for your craft, be it design or development.

If you had to choose between a capybara and an aardvark to join the Kickstarter team, which would it be and why?

Huh. Ummm… the aardvark seems more nimble as a creator. I like nimble. But I like the grittiness of the capybara (can sleep in the water to avoid prey). But I pick aardvark. Don’t judge.

Tips & Tricks

Double check your work before sending it on its way!

Pulling your portfolio together for the first time can be a heady and triumphant experience. The need often pops up quickly and we love helping people show off their work in a pinch. While you might be tempted to send the link around and never look back, we have a few suggestions of things to give a second glance before pushing your portfolio out into the world.

Are you easy to reach?

It’s surprising how often folks forget to include their email address on their About page. If your contact info isn’t readily available, it could mean getting passed over for new work. No bueno.

Is your About page doing its job?

While it’s true that your work speaks for itself, it still amazes us how often folks leave their About page completely blank. Creative hirers like to have some sense of who you are as a person. Where are you located? What kind of kudos have you earned? What kind of work makes you happy to get up in the morning? Even the briefest bio info can go a long way towards making you a more appealing candidate.

Did you fill in your project details?

In the spirit of saving time, it can be tempting to skip this step. If you’re the sole creator, you’re simply missing an opportunity to share additional details or client info that builds a better picture. If the work was done with others, you need to be clear about the role you played in each piece. In the age of the interwebs, it’s pretty easy to get caught overstating your part in a collaborative effort whether you meant to or not. Take heed, my friends!

Has someone else looked it over?

Even the most hawk-eyed copy editors overlook mistakes in their own work. Our brains are tricky beasts so it pays to ask a friend to check your writing. Even if your work is jaw-droppingly good, typos make people think you’re sloppy. Avoid scorn and banishment by having a pal cross your eyes and dot your tees!

Are you sharing the right link?

There is a front end and a back end to your portfolio. One is for sharing with the public and one is where you tinker with and edit your work. Be sure that the link you’re sharing starts with your portfolio name (e.g. davegorum.carbonmade.com) or you’ll send folks to a dead end of sorts. We see backend links (e.g. my.carbonmade.com) shared with some frequency on the Twitters and such so we wanted to point it out.

There’s a lot to be said for taking a substantive look at your work as well (i.e. are you showing too much? are you showing too little? is it a fair representation of what you can do?) but we’ll pull that together for another post. In the meantime, take a moment to add that extra polish and then fire at will!!

The Buzz

Carbonmade officemate kicks off Plant-in City project

Jason and Arsie recently checked out the Plant-in City art initiative being Kickstartered by our officemate Carlos Gomez and his partners Huy Bui and Jon Schramm.

Photo by Arsie Jiwajinda

The ultimate goal of their installation is to create a "green city" in Manhattan out of stackable wood structures and plantlife that is cared for by interactive technology. Once funded, they're going to build a large-scale indoor greenspace for folks who love architecture, nature and technology. They believe that interacting with plants (in person and using their smartphones) helps improves the lives of city dwellers and they're determined to bring their big idea to life.

Carlos is a great guy and the spirit behind their project is inspiring so we just wanted to take a moment to give a nod to their good work. Two green thumbs way up!

Team Carbonmade

Meet Pony Charisma: support loaf extraordinaire

Hi, my name is Pony! Rather than do another boring interview (Frenchie Fanciers keeps barking at my door), I thought I’d do a little show and tell of my day handling emails here at Carbonmade... OK OK OK!

6:30 am: I wake up super early but it takes me a little while to get going. Once I have my breakfast and pee on some grass... I’m good to go!

7:30 am: I don’t bathe every day but I like cleaning my chompers any time I can get my paws on a spare toothbrush. (Unlike my boss man Mike, I hate baths and only take them when forced.)

9:00 am: Time to start the work day with a quick status meeting. I will admit that being a superstar support loaf has some drawbacks. My co-workers are always kissing up to me. It’s kinda embarrassing. Stop brown nosing! I’m just a normal gal like you.

12:00 pm: Lunch time already? Time to head out for some fresh air with my gal pals. We usually hang out in front of a Chipotle or wherever and beg for scraps. Having sad puppy eyes goes a long way but sometimes my friend Bella takes it a little too far. Stop hogging the loaf spotlight!!

1:00 pm: Well, I'm bushed. I know this isn’t popular in America, but I like to take at least one siesta per day (sometimes 2 or 3!) It helps reset my jets so I can answer more emails and keep company morale riding high!

2:00 pm: Here’s where the customer support magic happens. I won that dragon at the company cookout last year. I keep it at my desk to remind me of the great camaraderie we have here at Carbonmade (and how I’m way better at winning stuff at BBQs than my co-workers.) I should get back at it so I can cash in my hours for a tasty peanut butter treat. I’m nuts for the stuff.

6:00 pm: Hooray! That wraps up another great day helping the fine folks that use Carbonmade. I popped on my freshest hoodie and am ready to roll for some chow with my pals. Thanks for dropping by. Smell ya later!!

Announcements

500,000 portfolios created on Carbonmade!

We’re happier than clams to announce that we just passed half a million portfolios created on Carbonmade. In celebration of this milestone, Griffin doodled up this awesome infographic of neat factoids about the march to 500k. The past year has been a busy one! On the work side, we grew the team, put our creative powers behind a bunch of projects and launched a teaser site for Carbonmade Talent Pool. On the warm and fuzzy side, we watched our dear pal Bee (the inspiration for our uni logo) become a real life brain doctor and our designer Timo welcome his bundle of twins into the world. Mike also got a couple of bad haircuts. Hurrah!

We want to thank all of our customers who happily show off their work using Carbonmade. That old expression, “without you, we’re nothing” is as true as ever and we appreciate your support. To spread a little joy on this happy day, we're sending t-shirt gift packs to a few lucky ducks.

Marjorie Bruyère is getting bumped to VIP status and a gift pack for being our 500,000th customer. And these five lovely folks are getting gift packs for being with us the longest. You guys are rad. Thank you very much!

Thanks again to all friends of Carbonmade. Onwards and upwards!

Team Carbonmade

Happy birthday to Carbonmade developer Kyle Fox!

In the land of the noble beaver where the rivers run wild with maple syrup, there lives a fine young gentleman named Kyle Fox. He's been developing nifty things for us in the moose-plagued landscape of Edmonton, Alberta since the beginning of 2011. At present he is working his sweet magic on our iPad app while wrestling bears, sipping fine Canadian whiskeys and tapping every last maple tree. We raise our glasses in celebration of his big day and thank him for being such a funny and valued member of Team Carbonmade. Happy birthday, eh?

Roundhouse

Zach Klein

is the CEO of DIY, an online community for kids who make things, as well as co-founder and former designer of Vimeo. He splits his time between his work life in San Francisco and cutting cords of wood for his custom built cabin in upstate New York. When not wielding an axe, Zach puts his Eagle Scout sensibility into Founder Collective, Svpply and editing a popular blog called Cabin Porn.

What kinds of people do you like to work with?

No matter the occupation or level of their expertise, I prefer people who are self-aware, who have some idea of what their life’s work will be, achieve happiness through a variety of interests, and become deeply engrossed by challenges and can work singularly to solve them.

What gets you excited about someone’s portfolio?

Solutions for personal problems. It’s impressive when anyone identifies a conflict in their community, company or personal life and takes initiative to design an alternative without being prompted.

What are you looking for in how the work is presented?

I like when it’s understated and over-delivered, when the content is in focus and the presentation is intuitive but otherwise secondary.

Are there rookie mistakes that’ll make you close out of a portfolio immediately?

To be clear, I usually hire for product UI/UX positions. In this context, I’m most interested in portfolios that demonstrate problems solved through design. Too often, they only emphasize style.

Outside of the work itself, what needs to come across loud and clear?

That the designer is confident, but also graceful and willing to be challenged.

Do you believe yetis are real and, if so, what is their design aesthetic?

They love puffy fonts.

App Updates

Superfast in Sao Paulo, Tokyo and Paris

If you’re showing your work in one of these fine cities, your portfolios are now being served directly from a nearby datacenter. This speeds things up a bunch by shortcutting a several thousand mile journey across the oceans to just a few miles.

By the way, did you know that there are more people using Carbonmade in Sao Paulo than in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco combined? We're excited to be able to speed things up down there.

Olá a todos os nossos amigos no Brasil. Nós te amamos!

Spotlight

Thumbs up: Meghan Stratman's nifty papercuts page

Here’s another fantastic example of a Carbonmade user packing a creative punch into her landing page. Working under the name Bunny Pirates, Meghan Stratman makes a great first impression with her whimsical papercut thumbnails.

All of her work is divvied up by either the year it was completed or under a specific theme like Nerd Love. The latter is not to be missed if you’re a fan of rad things like Twin Peaks, Kermit the Frog or My Neighbor Totoro. We're particularly excited by the news that an Adventure Time version is currently under the knife. Math yeah!

Meghan's eye-pleasing color palette and layout earn her a spot on the Carbonmade fridge today. Congratulations on being a "cut" above the rest!

Team Carbonmade

Meet Arsie: Carbonmade's fireball from San Francisco

It's not uncommon for folks to have stars in their eyes and dreams of packing up their lives in Smalltown, USA to move to The Big Apple. But what if you're already living it up in a city you love when opportunity comes a-knockin'? Our newest team member, Arsie Jiwajinda, felt compelled enough to pack up her life in San Francisco to join our tech startup in NYC. Let's catch up with her now that she's got a few months under her belt!

Hello, Arsie. How long had you lived in San Francisco and where were you working before Carbonmade?

Ahoy! I grew up in the Bay Area, but I’ve lived in the city of San Francisco for the last 5 years. I was working at an international education non-profit organization that focused on literacy and gender equality in education in Africa and Asia. I worked in finance operations and development, which is a fancy word for fundraising.

How did you hear about the job and how would you describe what you do here?

I’ve known Dave for a number of years through a mutual friend. A while back he mentioned that they could use someone with my personality and skill set on the team in the future if I was interested. From that point on, I pursued the opportunity as aggressively as I could without being annoying because the more I learned about Carbonmade, the more I wanted to work here.

My official title is Manager of Outreach & Operations, but my nickname is “Fireball” because I basically do whatever needs to get done from the business side of things which includes office management, HR, project management and community outreach. As the company evolves, I imagine so will my role.

What about the job in particular made it appealing enough to pull up roots?

I see Carbonmade as a champion for the creative people of the world. We do everything we can to help people show off their work so they can focus on what they love to do. Also, I am drawn to smaller companies with an all-hands-on-deck mentality because it means everyone is here because they want to be, everyone’s contributions make an impact and are valued. How could you not want to be a part of that?

While she looks like a seasoned moving professional, Arsie admits she broke down in tears two seconds after taking this photo. Saying goodbye to her family was tough.

Seeing as moving house is pretty stressful, how did you approach the bi-coastal move? Did it go smoothly?

I probably did almost everything wrong. College aside, I’d never made any kind of big move before so I had no idea how much time everything would take to get done or how many people I wanted to spend time with before I left. I was fortunate enough to have a extra few weeks to go backpacking around southern Mexico right before moving. It’s something I just needed to do in order to reset and mentally prepare for the big leap but it didn’t make my time crunch any easier. My moving experience was a complete blur which I’m still recovering from.

Upon arriving in NYC, what were your first impressions of it as a city that you’d now call home?

Well it’s only been a couple months, so I wouldn’t call it “home” just yet! Honestly, I didn’t have time to think about anything except for a mile-long list of to-do's. I arrived two days before my first day of work and so my brain just went directly into “Moving Mode” and then “Work Mode.” It's only just starting to sink in. I will say that the sheer volume of people is immediately noticeable. Manhattan is slightly smaller than San Francisco, but has NINE TIMES the population. There are people everywhere at all hours.

How do your living arrangements compare to San Francisco? Are you all settled in?

I got lucky and found an apartment that isn’t a total shoebox. I had a lot more space before (backyard included! gasp!), but the downsize hasn’t been so significant that I had to get creative with my belongings. I have all the essentials in place, but my room currently looks like a low-security prison cell with its bare taupe walls and minimal furniture.

What are you most looking forward to in your role at Carbonmade?

I’m excited to help whip Carbonmade into shape! I see so much potential for the company and know that we can be 10000x even more awesome than we are now. Being the freshest set of eyes on staff, I feel like I am constantly seeing things we can do better and am thinking of new ways we can connect with our users.

Finally, what’s the funnest thing you’ve done that you couldn’t do back home?

I don’t know about funnest, but the little things that make a huge difference are the 24-hour subway system and that you can get almost anything delivered! Oh, and spotting Jude Law getting out of a cab probably wouldn’t happen in San Francisco. Mostly because cabs are harder to find than Sasquatch.

    Miss most about SF?

  • Burritos
  • Proximity to outdoor adventures
  • Freshest produce ever
  • The fog
  • Small town feel

    Like best about NYC?

  • Seasons (might regret this later)
  • 24-hour anything
  • Street fashion
  • 18,696 restaurants
  • Subway drag queen performances
Spotlight

Thumbs up: Kirsten Ulve’s clever landing page design

Remember when your mom would lick her hand, pat down your hair and say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression!” Then she'd kiss you on the forehead and send you out the door to your first big date or job interview? Well, your mom may be a bit of a weirdo (or possibly something remembered from old-timey TV) but her advice is still golden.

One swell example of a Carbonmade user making a great first impression is illustrator Kirsten Ulve. Her obvious layout and design experience shines through in her decision to chop up one of her illustrations into custom thumbnails. You get an instant sense of her signature style and, just as importantly, it's backed up by seriously impressive work.

Kirsten earns a spot on the Carbonmade fridge this week. Great job!

Roundhouse

Jack Cheng

is a writer and designer living in New York City. He co-founded Disrupto (an interactive design studio), launched Steepster (a social network for tea sippers) and writes thoughtful articles on everything from wishmaking at a shrine in Kyoto to making long-term memory work in your favor.

What are three things you're looking for right off the hop in a portfolio?

A point of view, solid fundamentals and initiative (pursuing personal projects).

How quickly should you be able to get a sense of the personality behind the work?

Pretty quickly. It’s like being at a party and seeing someone across the room: their body language, what they’re wearing, how much fun they appear to be having, all that is expressed without even talking to them. It’s clearly not all there is to that person, but it makes you think “hey, that’s someone I’d like to meet.” A solid portfolio conveys that same first impression.

Is that as or more important than the design/illustration chops for you?

That depends on what I’m looking for. If I’m looking to contract someone for a particular gig, design and illustration chops are just as necessary. If I’m hiring a junior designer to join our team—someone to mentor and cultivate—then the craftsmanship is less important. “Chops” can be learned. A point of view must be discovered.

Is it still important for a portfolio to tell a story or be put together thoughtfully?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a story, but the individual pieces should be congruent with the whole. And that requires thoughtfulness. It requires ruthless editing to eliminate the incongruence. If I come across a single piece in your portfolio because someone reblogged it on Tumblr, which is increasingly how I find out about designers and illustrators these days, it’s one thing for me to say “that’s an interesting design,” but an entirely different thing for me to say “that’s an interesting designer.”

Do you have any pet peeves that make you lose interest immediately?

Fads and cliches (a little more excusable for juniors). I don’t need to see another minimal movie poster. I don’t need to see another ad campaign exaggerating a simplistic product benefit (“this laptop is so thin that it cuts you like a knife!”).

As creator of Steepster, if you had to trade all of the tea in China for just one blend for the rest of your life… what would you choose and why?

I used to be a coffee drinker and I still have leftover cravings for malty, caramel-y beverages in the morning, so I’m going to go with a robust Yunnan black tea.

The Buzz

Quotable quotes: volume one

Carbonmade users are pretty darn rad and delightful people. Here are just a few examples of their cheeky goodness plucked from our Nice Things Folks Say About Us Pile.

You guys are the hardshell coating on my DQ swirl. Donna A. via
You are truly magicians of the dark arts of electrical impulses firing across the ether. Sara S. via
Who said super heroes don’t exist? That was jaw-droppingly quick of you guys. :) Thank you thank you thank you. :) If the Carbonmade team needs anything from India, do ask! Kunal C. via
Oh snap Carbonmade just made my day! Amy M. via Twitter
Resume/pro tip #4324: use Carbonmade, you dingus. Pasquale D. via Twitter
App Updates

Portfolio images look better and load faster

As browsers get better, Carbonmade gets better with them. We're constantly tinkering to make the images in your portfolios look their best.

Here are a few of our recent image improvements:

Color Profile Support

Color profiles have always been irksome on the web. We've been wrestling with this problem and have finally come up with a working solution. If you're using color profiles and a modern browser like Safari 5.1, Chrome or Firefox 5+, your color workflow will stay consistent all the way to the web. YEAH!

JPEG XRs

We now support JPEG XR image uploads. If you’re using IE9 or greater, we take advantage of this new format to serve your images up to 50% faster.

Faster Uploads

We’ve upgraded the servers that process uploads and optimize your images for the web. In some cases, we’re seeing images process twice as fast as before. Hurrah!

That’s the latest and greatest as far as images are concerned. If you haven’t upgraded your browser in a few years or are stuck on a cruddy work or school computer, rest assured we've still got you covered.

Team Carbonmade

Carbonmade designer Timo Kuhn is a proud papa

It's pretty neat watching someone's life change over night. Timo and his wife Aki recently welcomed bundles of joy Mila and Remi into their lives. It's been a real treat for everyone at Carbonmade to share in their happiness and ooh and awwww over his beautiful photos. Timo's already a natural at being a great pop and we're happy to be a part of their big baby-filled adventure.

He's documenting his journey into dadhood here: Dragontwins Tumblr

Tips & Tricks

Google basics: Moving your work up in the world

One of the most frequently asked questions we get at Carbonmade is: how come my portfolio isn’t ranked higher on Google? Beyond the tinkering we do on your behalf, here's our advice for using how the search behemoth works to better advantage.

Sharing is caring.

Do great work and share it on all of your online spaces. The more links Google finds for your portfolio, the more likely they'll bump you up a notch or two. It especially helps if the people sharing your work are somewhat influential online. So, a link to your portfolio shared by Al Gore has more pull than one from your Uncle Nemo. He’s a nice guy. Just sayin’.

A plus is not a minus.

If you don’t already have one, a Google+ Page helps get your work discovered by Google even quicker. When your friends and followers +1 your latest project, their endorsements get picked up by search results on Google.com. If it's instant gratification you seek, +1s are the fastest way at it.

Use your real name and location.

Filling in your about information and project details is important for a bunch of reasons. In this context, the more content Google can match to you, the more likely you are to be found. While you may not be the top search result for “John Doe,” the chances are pretty good for “John Doe in Arkansas” if you've filled out your location details.

Everything in moderation.

As much as we encourage sharing your creations fully and freely, it’s wiser still to keep an even keel. If you’re constantly spamming the dashes, feeds and streams of your friends and followers, the inclination for them to share your work may dry up.

Finally, don’t get bummed if you’re not number one. It takes time to get the Google love flowing. Keep making amazing things, putting them out there for the world to enjoy and you will eventually rise up to your rightful place online.

The Buzz

In the press: Advanced Photoshop

Carbonmade’s creative director Dave Gorum shares his thoughts for a nifty feature article in Advanced Photoshop magazine. The topic? How to keep your design skills fresh while building your career and keeping up with client work. We pulled a couple of our favorite Dave bites to share but encourage you to check out the full story in Issue 94.

  • On investing in your own growth

    If you were an apple farmer and your apple trees paid your bills, you wouldn’t stop watering your leafy money makers.

  • On keeping up with peers and trends

    You don’t have to drown yourself in the river of new design, but it’s good to watch it out of the corner of your eye.

Team Carbonmade

Meet Mike Minnick: Carbonmade's Morale Specialist

Spawned in Las Vegas to a one-armed bandit and a progressive slot machine, Mike Minnick was born to get people hyped and excited on life. When you send a support email to Carbonmade, he’s the delightful weirdo standing by to help get things back on track. He also keeps the team hyped with his homemade videos, snaps of his beloved pups and liberal use of the CAPSLOCK key. He’s pretty much everyone’s favorite person to be around and even though he’s a big goofball, he takes his role very seriously.

So, tell us a little bit about yourself. What's your favorite food?

Hello. I'm Mike and I like comics, baseball, dogs, fresh throwback Pepsi and taking baths! Japanese food is probably my favorite. Or pizza. It's hard to decide.

How did you come to work for Carbonmade?

Well, I’ve known Dave and Jason combined for about 20 years now. I basically consider them family. I got laid off at an old job and they helped me out by offering part-time support work. I suspect they eventually hired me full-time so they could increase the awesomeness at Carbonmade. I probably shouldn’t say this but even though I haven’t designed or coded a webpage in my life, I do all of their work.

Have no fear! Mike Minnick and Pony Charisma are here to save you from tyranny, oppression and customer support issues.

So, what is a morale specialist anyway? And what makes you good at being one?

A morale specialist is someone who boosts morale! So I try to do that for the company and within the office. Even though I work remote. Haha. Anyway, I mostly accomplish this by bringing positive silliness to the job and getting hyped. For example, I like to show up to our video conferences in a Captain America costume or invite my office hounds to participate in the fun. NO DOG LEFT BEHIND! But seriously, I focus on making myself hyped and enjoying work and then use that energy to share with my co-workers and the Carbonmade customers.

What is one of the radder moments you’ve had helping a customer out?

Well, one time I was helping a Spanish lady with her portfolio and she asked if our team member "Bat Ears" was a French bulldog. And, of course, she was referring to Pony. So I sent her a photo of Pony and she sent me a photo of her pup. His name is Wing-nut! (What a great loaf name, huh?) And now we are international French bulldog photo traders! Which is great. It just goes to show that you can have fun with your customers and share things other than support.

That is pretty great. Now, you mentioned that you like to take baths. Can you describe your ideal bath experience?

I love baths! I have a whole system for taking baths. I bring a stack of comics or books and read in the tub naked while I let the water fill up super slow. Once the water fills the tub about halfway, I empty it out and fill it up again. I will do a few cycles of this usually and can stay in the bath for up to 1-2 hours at a time! Sometimes I add bubbles or salts. I also have a pretty manly seashell-shaped bath pillow that is essential. Yay baths!

What do you do with your free time outside of taking baths?

I read tons of comics and watch a lot of baseball. I do a podcast with my pals Dave and Bee called Dinobrain. I also hang out with my dogs Pony and Finn and watch SVU with them. They hate sex crimes as much as Detective Stabler and are surprisingly good at guessing the perp.

As you know, I’m Canadian and we worship the noble beaver. Can you outbuild one?

Heck no. Say what you will about beavers but they are good at what they do. Beavers are probably the most ingenuitive [sic] beasts of all the planet's animals. I'm completely useless with tools or at building stuff.

Can you make a pun?

I hate puns. But if I had to make one I'd say: "The beaver lost his home. It's a dam shame." I just made that up. I’m not sure if that's a pun or not.

If you had to be any shape, why would you be a triangle?

Because I'm bottom heavy. And so are triangles.

How many marbles can you fit in your mouth?

Free hundwid an firty two!

App Updates

Carbonmade, now with better video!

We understand how critical it is for your portfolio to work picture perfect and perform seamlessly when shared. With that in mind, we're constantly tinkering with our video player to offer up the fastest, smoothest, easiest experience we can for you and anyone viewing your portfolio.

Bigger videos in more formats.

We used to only support video uploads up to 50MB in a few specific formats. Now, we support videos up to 300MB in almost every format. Start uploading and see!

Get videos online faster.

After you upload a video, we put it into a queue to encode versions for the iPhone, iPad, Firefox, Safari, IE and Chrome. It used to take up to a half hour to complete. Now, your videos usually start encoding within a minute or less and are available to view in as little as 5 minutes. That’s pretty zippy!

Announcements

There's more where this came from

Hello, my name is Angela. I write words and make freckled magic here at Carbonmade. We let this blog hibernate for a bit while we grew the team and tucked into a bunch of awesome projects. I'm taking up the reins, if you will, and look forward to sharing app updates, interviews, portfolio tips & tricks, announcements and more.

We’re excited about all of the rad stuff we've got in the works. Thanks a bunch for keeping us on your internet dial.

Tally-ho!