Meet UX/UI Designer Ben Tremper
Ben Tremper (@bentremper) is a seriously talented UI/UX designer. And photographer. And avid fly fisherman. And creative community leader. You want to meet this guy.
Interviewer Alexi Ueltzen (@alexi) is Ello’s Community Evangelist. If she’s not at the office, she’s probably swimming, getting muddy with her dogs or baking cookies. Seriously. The best cookies.
Tell us a little about your background. How did you get interested in UI/UX design?
I grew up in Santa Fe New Mexico, which for a small town is deeply influenced by art, design, architecture and history. My mom was a graphic designer and printmaker, so really throughout my life, visual culture has been deeply important. As a result, I went on to pursue a degree in photography and art history from the University of New Mexico. After a stint as a digital post production artist and photographic assistant, I began and operated my own commercial photography business for about five years – doing mostly architectural photography. Intrigued by the possibilities of combining my love of photography with emerging technologies, I decided to return to school to pursue a master's degree in interactive design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
Living in SF was fantastic and I was lucky enough to land an introductory design job with a mid sized ad agency called Swirl (where I got my ass handed to me, and learned and grew at an incredibly fast pace). I eventually worked my way up to an art director, but never truly fell in love with advertising. UX was a term that was really just starting to become more mainstream several years ago and I was eager to start designing digital tools and experiences, rather than just helping sell crap that people didn't need. I decided to leave the ad world, and took a job at a small UX focused agency in SF called Design Map. They’re a team of incredibly smart and seasoned designers, and I learned a tremendous amount over the course of several years. I’ve been doing user centered design ever since, and I love thinking through complex problems and finding elegant solutions that reduce friction for users and hopefully make people’s everyday lives a bit simpler.
How do you balance your love of the outdoors with a job that requires a computer and an internet connection?
Wow, I wish I could do a better job of it. The reality of every designer’s life is that you spend a massive amount of time in front of a computer. I’m lucky enough to live in Boulder, and I can crank hard in front of the box, but finish the day biking, running or walking the dog on our local trails. The quality of life in C.O. is amazing and without that balance I’d be a wreck. Vacations are also vitally important to compensate for too much digital time. Our vacations usually involve getting off grid.
What inspires you, or where do you go for inspiration?
Ello for sure. I read a lot of Medium articles. I cruise sites like UX Pin, Design Inspiration, Dribble, Pinterest and I’m loving a Chrome browser extension called Panda that serves up daily design inspiration when you load a new tab. Besides that I generally try to attend at least one conference a year. Design conferences are the best and they help me get reinvigorated about what I do.
What’s the craziest project you’ve ever worked on (or would like to someday)?
Hmmm, I can’t say UX is crazy, it’s often fairly tedious work that hopefully disappears, with the expectation that users don’t even realize they've encountered something “designed.” Working in the ad industry however, I had some pretty crazy experiences. I worked on a series of spots around media literacy for parents and children that we shot in the Redwood forests of the Oakland hills. We were shooting these vampire scenes in the middle of the night with giant Arri set lighting running on generators. This big, complicated shoot just so happened to coincide with one of the most intense rain storms I witnessed while living in the Bay. At one point, the storm got so bad, that the massive Redwoods towering above our heads started shedding branches. You’d hear a loud crack and we’d all rush out of the way as branches with 1-2 foot circumferences came crashing down to the ground, narrowly missing crew and lighting gear. It finally got so dangerous that the producers had to call the shoot.
What advice would you give beginning designers or makers?
Learn as much as you can from smart people that are good at what they do. I was lucky enough to land jobs in agencies where I was surrounded by well educated, experienced and motivated senior people. I was a shitty designer when I was first getting started, but I was focused and ready to do what was asked of me. I had several coworkers take me under their arms and teach me an amazing amount, far more than I ever learned in school. Learning from people that have been at this game longer than you is invaluable and the more you can absorb design workflow, presentation and communication skills from great senior people, the better you’ll be in your craft and your career.
What’s next for you? Are there any new mediums or areas of business you want to explore?
My wife @amy and I are always working on personal projects. They keep us motivated to push the boundaries more than our day jobs often do. Right now we’re hacking away at an online presentation tool for designers. We’ve partnered with an amazing local developer and are hoping to release a beta version in the next couple months. That’s by far the most exciting thing we’ve got cooking.
What camera gear do you use, if you don’t mind us asking? When you travel, what do you take with you?
We bought a Fuji X100T last year to use as a travel camera. I love how lightweight it is – we take it backpacking and on long hikes / rides and it’s never annoying or cumbersome hanging around your neck. It makes me more interested in taking photos than hauling a clunky digital SLR into the backcountry. I also love Adobe Lightroom and encourage anyone still processing raw images in Photoshop to give it a try. The image organization and processing abilities are endless, it’s one of the few Adobe products I truly love.
What are your thoughts on social media, and how it helps or hurts artists today? Specifically, can you share some thoughts on Ello?
I’m not a massive social media fan, I’ve never loved Facebook or Twitter and have accounts on both either for family or business. Ello and Instagram are the platforms I enjoy however, since Facebook acquired Insta, it definitely lacks the authenticity of the early days and I can’t say that I know anyone who digs the introduction of Insta ads. That’s probably what I find most inspiring about Ello. I love that there is a little corner of the web for designers, photographers, videographers, and artists, whose existence is not solely driven by the pursuit of advertising dollars.
Who are some of your favorite artists on Ello?
I like keeping up with the local Boulder / Denver design community on Ello. For such a small place, there are some wildly talented people and Ello is a great way to follow what they’re all up to. Folks like: @gb, @goodapples, @jjjjustin, @castirondesign, @mattercycles, @legwork, and of course @todd, @lucian keep me inspired. For outdoorsy stuff I love: @benjaminlim, @julesville, @thefieldmag, @topodesigns, @rollit, @chrisburkard, @ridegradient, @wolfpack, @alisonvagnini, @nomadslife and @iamstephensmith.
Is there anything special that helps you stay focused?
Music mostly and this thing @amy and I came up with called “Power Hour” where we turn off all notifications, phones, distractions and just go into full concentration mode. It’s amazing how distracting things like email notifications and Slack notifications can be. Turning it all off for one or multiple Power Hours helps you get a lot done.
What’s something about you that would surprise our readers?
I mentioned my mom early in this interview, my dad was a full on cowboy and I shared my time between the city with mom and the country with dad. I’ve got some hilarious photos of baby Ben showing horses and doing ranchy stuff.
Want to see emails like this in your inbox each week? Update your newsletter settings.