Kyle Weems: CSS Squirrel and Front End Developer

kyleKyle Weems is the CSS Squirrel and a front End Developer & Humorist for Mindfly Web Design Studio. Also an opinionated cartoonist with a weekly webcomic about web standards.

How or where do you find inspiration?
Although someday I’m hoping to say “From sitting on the veranda of my multi-million dollar Hawaiian estate,” but for now it’s mostly cartoons, video games and the inanity of various web standards mailing lists. I find the struggle faced by the various inanimate objects of Kawaii Not to be a constant source of creativity.

Who is the biggest influence on your work right now?
At this very second it is Conan O’Brien; the Tonight Show debacle made me pause and take a look at late night television. I was surprised to find much of it was quite funny, making me rethink comedic timing (the corner piece of most of my work is comedy.)

Where are your “design roots”? Print or Web?
If you count high school, it’d be print. I started out as a cartoonist and layout editor for the Eagle Examiner, a now extinct high school newspaper. But after high school, almost all my “design” interest involved the web. Of course, as I graduated in the mid-nineties, it was a pretty rough web involving long download times and <marquee>.

How important is it to know the history of design?
As I don’t know the history of design, I couldn’t rightfully say. Serif fonts were invented in the 80’s… right? I do think knowing the roots of modern design is bound to help inform a person’s creativity, but I don’t think it’s actually relevant to whether you’re a good or bad designer.

Serif or Sans?
Right now I’m really drooling at Goudy Bookletter 1911, so I’m inclined to say Serif. But to be honest, I’m a real novice at typography, so I’d just be waving around an opinion in the middle of a war with no real clue what’s going on. Isn’t Sans what communists use? I don’t keep up with the typographical journals enough to know these things.

Do you code and design? Are you a “Hybrid”?
I’ve been coding since the seventh grade (on a “laptop” the size of a Great Dane), and started fiddling with design after it became apparent that neon colors weren’t in fashion anymore. I’m definitely a hybrid (a designeloper, if you will) but I’m more code-heavy in both my day-to-day work and skill-set.

What’s your favorite part of the creative process?
When I’ve been struck by a crazy idea, spend an hour or so styling and coding, and then when I test the page it actually worked. That’s always a great feeling.

What makes your creative process different from everybody else?
I haven’t had the chance to sit everybody else down yet to compare, but I suspect my obsession with squirrels and the color of avocados are probably factors that stand out.

What do you see as the single biggest shift in the evolution of design over the past 5 years?
We seem to be relying on plug-ins like Flash a lot less to do all the fancy interaction the modern web user craves. I’m personally really glad for that. I like Adobe’s products, but I prefer in-the-browser technologies over something external any day.

What’s the difference between User Experience and User Interface design?
I’m probably not the person to ask that. But I’m going to guess that User Experience is the whole kitten caboodle with how someone experiences your site/brand, from the first time they learn about you all the way through the print, online and other interactions they have with your product or brand.

User interface design focuses more exclusively on how they’re interacting with the specific site/software.

What makes one a web design professional?
“Making money doing web design” is probably the most accurate answer. I suppose another way to look at it is that a “pro” is someone who’s really good at it. They understand the process from beginning to end, know when to follow standards and when to break them, etc.

What are designers/developers doing right (or wrong) in the web 2.0 world?
Arguing too much (myself included) amongst ourselves. The amount of rancor that fills the web in every topic, from your choice of breakfast to your choice of website technology, is upgrading from “caustic” to “acidic”. Even polite discourse is usually just insults disguised in friendly words. There’s a big difference between constructive disagreements and attacking someone for having a different opinion. I think we’re losing sight of that difference.

What’s your favorite flavor of design or development programs/languages?
JavaScript is my favorite playground. I prefer using the jQuery library to make things easy. Front-end interaction is where most of my free time is at. When it comes to design, I do most of my work inside Photoshop. I’ve been getting into Illustrator lately, since most of my art is vector.

What is your favorite book?
The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien. That’s where the Lord of the Rings narrative really kicks off for me.

What is your favorite movie?
Big Trouble in Little China. It’s the action comedy movie of the 80’s with a little bit of everything: ninja, kung fu, Kurt Russell, and neon-outlined Buddha statues.

Who is your favorite musical artist (or What musical artist are you listening to the most right now?)
Well, I do own pretty much everything Enya has put out. I’m hoping we can all forget that I just admitted that. Right now I’m in a mix between modern artists like 30 Seconds to Mars and Linkin Park as well as 80’s rock like Bon Jovi and Survivor.

Kyle is the Squirrel, he keeps a blog from the perspective a little brown Squirrel (cssquirrel.com) and creates a weekly web comic about the goings on in the web design & development community. He’s also a designeloper or devsigner – I can’t remember which, but make sure and follow him on twitter: @cssquirrel.

Author

Gene Crawford

With over a decade of experience in the industry he has overseen the design and architecture of hundreds of web sites and applications. An active member in the design community, he's the editor & producer of unmatchedstyle.com, the ConvergeSE, ConvergeFL, ConvergeRVA and the Breaking Development conference series.