Chris will be presenting during the Design for Developers session, which you can watch LIVE on September 20. During her presentation, Chris will teach us how to build products that people love to use, and that other designers and developers will love to work with and recommend. Are you building products in any capacity (websites, plugins, themes, even services)? Chris’s talk is for you.
Check out her interview answers below.
Where can we find you on the internet?
When and how did you get started with WordPress?
I’d been a web designer since 1996, but for three years I took this weird side road into being a professional scrapbooker (yes, that’s a real job). I designed a series of idea books for a major manufacturer and created the brand and publication design of a scrapbooking magazine. I also art directed several issues. During that time I met a lot of really cool women who owned their own photography studios, kit clubs and manufacturing companies. One of them, Pink Paislee, wanted me to build a website using WordPress and a Revolution theme. The rest is history!
What resources do you turn to when you want to learn something new?
I read like, constantly. Blogs, Twitter, Medium, books–pretty much anything and everything I can get my hands on. If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve been interested in lately, here’s a recent reading list:
Design is a Job by Mike Montiero
The Art of the Pitch by Peter Coughter
The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun
Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
I also like to talk with people who are smarter than I am, so I go to local Meetups and WordCamps to have actual face-to-face discussions. I love being in the same room with people like Chris Lema, Wes Chyrchel, Jessica Barnard, James Archer, Taylor Aldridge, Bryan Monzon and Thom Meredith and getting to talk about everything from Minecraft to horror story authors to teaching techniques.
I think constantly learning is the best part of my job. Everyone you meet has something to teach you if you listen and are open to it.
What is your favorite WordPress feature/aspect?
My favorite feature of WordPress is modularity. I’m a designer. I can write code, and I have written code, but it’s not what I love to do, and it’s not what I’m best at. It’s a necessary evil, at best–so being able to install Gravity Forms and use conditional logic to build a form that solves a design problem without having to write a Perl script makes me happy 😀 (Yeah, I’m old enough that I had to do that on a lot of projects. It sucked.)
What attracted you to design?
I was always a storyteller. In the 7th grade I was co-editor of the yearbook and was introduced to proportion wheels and proper croppers. In high school I was on the newspaper staff and was introduced to a Macintosh and Aldus Pagemaker. I took drawing and painting classes my first go-round in community college. But it wasn’t until I went back to school in my mid-20’s that I knew I was going to be a designer. I was taking a bunch of general ed classes so I could transfer to a four year university, and added a graphic design class because it sounded like a fun break from everything. I went in to a class taught by Candice Lopez and knew I’d discivered what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I promptly dropped all of the other classes and took a full load of design courses.
What is your favorite aspect of design?
Telling a story. I use the words “visual language” a lot, because to me, that’s what design is–telling a story with color and rhythm and contrast and type. When I was younger, I wanted to be an author or a journalist. I still write a lot of my own copy and enjoy the challenge of writing a really good headline, but my best stories are told visually.
What advice do you have for others looking to become WordPress experts?
Practice. I see so many people who want to become an expert in a year. When I was scrapbooking, people would come up when I had a computer at an event and ask me how I got so good at Photoshop. They’d always looks so disappointed when I’d tell them “Well, I’ve practiced eight hours a day for the last 15 years.” Even when you have a natural talent, the more time you spend practicing it, the better you’re going to be. Another bit of advice is to be a sponge. Hang out with people smarter than you. Ask questions. Observe. And finally, once you know something fairly well, teach other people. Nothing has made me think about how and why I do things quite like sharing it with other people in a class or presentation.
What is one interesting non-WordPress-related fact about yourself?
I took Roller Derby classes a couple of years ago. I learned how to do a 180 degree knee spin, baseball slide and whip. There is nothing that feels as awesome as skating so fast you’re just on the verge of losing control 😀 I loved it because it taught me I was capable of doing so much more than I ever thought I could.
Make sure to get your ticket for “Design for Developers” so that you have an opportunity to ask Chris questions of your own during the live event.