What Inspires Me

The Humble Beauty of Everyday Objects

Hand over heart: this old ruler is one of my favorite things. Its colors, its typography, the way it feels in the hand—perfect. It always puts a small smile on my face when I use it—something all design should aspire to. Although I love this plumb bob almost as much, I, alas, can't say I use it every day. I mostly rely on Photoshop guides for my straight lines. The shame!


A Library & Information Science Master's Degree Holder, a Former “IT Guy,” and an English/Psychology Double-Major Walk Into a Bar

here, dear reader, I must let you down: I have the start of a joke, but the punchline has eluded me for years. One of these days. But, as you might guess, all those bar-walker-inners are yours truly. It's rare to find a web designer whose path to the profession wasn't wending and serendipitous—especially since no official certifications exist* for us. I'm no exception. Hoo boy did I wend.

Erik Kraft, your friendly web guy, & Gemma Kraft, his friendly Rottie-halfling. (I might be shameless enough to include my pooch here—plus she's much more photogenic than me, I'm sure you'll agree—but I have more more dignity than to give her a cute title like "office manager." Plus which, she's more like life coach/guru.)

It's probably clear I'm a word person. Which always makes writing for my own sites torture. The most basic principle of web content writing: cut the words in half. Then cut them in half again. Make it scannable. Bullet points. Short sentences. My feeling is that sites like this are slightly different—my goal is to make you feel like you know me after you've read through it—but trust that I halved, and—OK--maybe ¾'d that half.

I'll skip the fake surfboard design company my middle school friend and I founded in landlocked Wisconsin, and just say that I've always been crazy about visual design, and that I caught the web design bug, the typography bug, the CSS bug—all manner of bugs-—in grad school in a major, life-changing way. 10 years later, I've worked for the University of Illinois (hybrid librarian/web designer); DePaul (full-on web designer), and the University of Chicago, where I had the huge luck and privilege to redesign both the main central site/homepage and the Admissions site.

With those crazily fortunate experiences under my belt, I decided to alight for the territories, late summer of 2008. My timing could have been better—you may recall a little economic blip around then. I was very lucky to have an early, steady client in the University of Minnesota. And other, smaller clients to whom I'll always be grateful. The thing is: if the economy is in the shitcan, you maybe need a nice website more than ever. In any event, since those scary early days, I've worked with clients big and small; initially specializing in higher education, now all over the map. I'm proud to have redesigned, or created new, websites for Lipman Hearne, a big marketing firm here in Chicago; Lawrence Wright, a Pulitzer-prize winning author, and too many others to list if I'm to follow my rule (cut half; cut ¾).

Today? I'm still doing my thing, even if it bears little resemblance to my thing in 2008. The mobile web, AKA responsive design, has wrought huge changes in what I do, changes good and bad. And that's the thing about my line of work. You need curiosity and drive to keep up; you need to be the proverbial shark, always on the move. That's where the Restless comes in. Good times, bad times: I'm rarely bored.

I have clients who don't actively hurl abuse at me!

I've had the good fortune to work for some very kind people, who were nice enough to say things that make me blush like a coquette.

Web design is tricky — you need just the right blend of artistic sensibility and technical know-how. Of course, you also need to be a good communicator and easy to work with. Somehow Erik has the whole package. Working with him is a joy, and the results speak for themselves. Gordon Wright Communications Director, Future is Now
We selected Erik for his unique design aesthetic and stated ability to think in a hybrid way about the design and function of modern websites. He not only upheld the design acumen side of the project but he was able to creatively provide direction where we had only concepts. Our new site is vibrant, communicative and highly clickable. We get compliments and we now look as competent and agile as we are in front of our marketplace. Jason Westrope Principal, Development Management Associates
With the Des Plaines Public Library project, Erik put considerable thought into how every element on the page worked at every possible screen size. Putting that kind of design into code can be a hugely complex job, but Erik’s code was smart and, more importantly, flexible. The result is a site that’s simply a pleasure to use. Sandor Weisz Lead Design Instructor, Starter League
Erik combined an unusual—unmatched in my experience—capacity to understand the needs of our office, to work hard and fast and cheerfully, and to gently guide us to a stylish place we surely wouldn’t have discovered without him. He is the dream web designer for anyone who wants smart and adventurous work. Ted O'Neill Former Dean of Admissions, now Professor, University of Chicago