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What Inspires Me

The Thrill of an Empty Grid

This is an old postal sorting box of some kind, weighing approximately 780 lbs. It was enticingly empty when I encountered it in an antique shop: a blank canvas. This is the sort of object I go ape for; I love the challenge of mulling over it, then mulling some more, before having a eureka moment and seeing in your head how you could fill it up (and, in this case, without spending $500 on little collectible things). It's akin to the challenge of creating a new website design: beginning with the terrifying glowing white pixels of an empty grid in Photoshop, gradually figuring out how best to marry content and form. 

WEB DESIGN + DEVELOPMENT:

Done properly, it is

A Craft and an Art

Restless Bee has you covered from both <angles>.
(We’re quite nice as well.)

A Dab Hand at all manner of web + design projects; specializing in ExpressionEngine + Responsive Coding.

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Restless Bee is the independent web studio of Erik Kraft. I design websites, and I code websites, striving to do both equally well. These two skills—in one person—are hugely important for today's ever-more-mobile web; the visual stuff and the code stuff goes back & forth like never before on a responsive project.* I can build you a site, going from initial design to launch, often with the ExpressionEngine CMS.* And I bring 10 years of experience to bear, allowing me to do, or at least be aware of, most of the 38,000 bits & bobs required when building a site. No one can be the complete web-person package in 2014—things have gotten too complex—but I aim to be as close as possible.

ahoy! Dark magick tells me you're on a device that is smaller than a typical tablet. I had difficulty deciding what to do here—this area, at tablet or larger screens, is filled with very big images of my designs, and at 2.5" across, they would look like nothing. Also, if you're on a mobile network, I don't want to eat up your bandwidth by pushing giant images down the pipe (you know, the pipe? The one all the internets travel through?) at you.

So, first, I've set up a parallel portfolio over at a service called Dropmark. It lets you view thumbnails, and then pan around close-up views of the images.

Second, if you're really keen to hire me, I'm guessing you'll want to visit my site on your desktop. Please come back at your big-screened leisure! I've tried to make things quite lovely for you.

A final note: what I'm doing—serving different content to small screens and big screens—is considered a bit of a responsive design no-no. But portfolio sites are all about visuals, and I'm a strong believer in pragmatism, not dogma.

Here's that Dropmark portfolio again. I hope to see you back round these parts soon!

Next Project

dma (Development Management Associates)

Besides the existing logo, this was a soup-to-nuts overhaul for a Chicago-based property development company. The design process was one of the most collaborative I've engaged in: most of DMA's employees have architecture backgrounds, and therefore very keen visual taste. Once the design dust settled, I coded up a big suite of responsive templates, and then integrated them into the ExpressionEngine content management system. We're currently working on a Phase II for the site. Repeat customers always make me happy.

dma (Development Management Associates)
dma (Development Management Associates)
Next Project

Future is Now—Teacher Action Network

There's a kind gent I worked with extensively when he was with his former employer—I'll call him Gordon, because that's his name. He recently moved to this startup organization, and called one Thursday asking if I could whip together a quick one-pager over the weekend. Sure, no problem. Later on—maybe Friday morning, it's a blur—another call came: [name redacted—super bigshot who is richer than Croseus] was going to be meeting with the founder to discuss funding on Monday; would it be possible to have something more like a full site? And could it be responsive? Thus began 72 of the crazier work-hours of my life. And Gordon and I are still pals, a testament to what nice clients I have.

Future is Now—Teacher Action Network
Future is Now—Teacher Action Network
Next Project

Lawrence Wright

This is a small site and done under duress, but I include it here because, Lawrence Wright, you guys! He's won the Pulitzer, and also happens to be a writing hero of mine, and one of the most courageous journalists we have: deciding Al Qaeda weren't scary enough, he went and wrote a comprehensive history of Scientology—the promotion of which was this site's main raison d'être. You might be aware that Scientologists aren't crazy about publicity, so it was fun coming up with code names for each other, communicating in cypher, meeting in anonymous places at odd hours, and so on.*

* Lies! All lies! (Or are they?)

Lawrence Wright
Next Project

Des Plaines Public Library

A big ExpressionEngine project with a three-person team: PJ Macklin crafted the beautiful initial design, Sandor Weisz did a lot of back-end programming and CMS customization, and I was basically the guy in-between: I handled design revisions, designed additional pages as needs arose, coded responsive templates, and carried out the core ExpressionEngine CMS buildout.

Des Plaines Public Library
Des Plaines Public Library
Next Project

University of Chicago Homepage: Penultimate Iteration

This one's getting long in the tooth—I need to use both hands to count how many years ago I designed it—but I include it as my personal pre-Restless-Bee career highlight. During my time at uChicago, my department—the internal web shop—had the huge honor of carrying out the overhaul and redesign of the central site. (For big, elite universities, outside firms are almost always called in.) It was, of course, a giant team effort, but a design I came up with was used, pretty much unchanged, for about 5 years. I still remember feeling I was floating several feet above terra firma when I got the email that my work had been chosen.

University of Chicago Homepage: Penultimate Iteration
Next Project

LipmanHearne

This is a big marketing firm in Chicago, specializing in not-for-profits and educational institutions. Part of what they do is design websites, so it was an honor to be brought in to carry out this original design and a whole template suite. Sometimes even agencies that do excellent work need an outside perspective.

LipmanHearne
Next Project

FSH

This was a fun and rewarding one, which, as design projects sometimes do, quickly took a nosedive into the realm of the deeply unfun and sad. Ask me about it sometime in person if you're into watching grown men cry! But at any rate. For this startup in Chicago (basic idea: call up a doctor 24/7 if you have a health problem or question), we had a couple of quickie/false-start homepages to begin with, and then this was meant to be the One True Homepage. I came up with the tag line and the tin can concept, handled art direction for the photoshoot, and designed and coded everything else on the page. It now lives in the realm of "It could have been so beautiful, if not for the whims of a board member." Moment of silence.

FSH
Next Project

Ben Gurion University

When a client asks for a homepage that is "striking" or "cinematic," this usually strikes fear into my heart, because such a page lives or dies by the quality of photographs available for use. (Promotional side note! I can take striking and cinematic photos! See "Whatnot.") Thankfully, Ben Gurion, an Israeli university in a striking desert setting, had a treasure trove of awesome images to work with. This was a "use the amazing photo and get out the way"-type design.

Ben Gurion University
Next Project

[Undisclosed Name] Wedding Budget Project

Graphic design and interface design for a wedding-budgeting-plus-the-kitchen-sink application. (Note: Obviously you can figure out the name from the images; I just didn't want this googleable.)

[Undisclosed Name] Wedding Budget Project
[Undisclosed Name] Wedding Budget Project
[Undisclosed Name] Wedding Budget Project
Next Project

The University of Chicago: This-and-That

uChicago were my last full-time employers, and they sometimes need an outside designer to pitch in when they're busy. It's always an honor and a pleasure to be called in to work with them again. This is a sample of some of the designs I've done for them in the past couple years—including a new homepage concept that was—sniff—not used. Oh, it's OK, I'm fine; there was just a weird, really powerful onion that passed by for second there. The selected homepage design, which is superb, replaced the one I did shortly before leaving their employ—see above!

The University of Chicago: This-and-That

The Basic Shapes: Responsive Demo Site

I designed and coded this site as an educational tool—for clients, and for myself—when responsive design was a new thing, and I needed a simple way to demonstrate its tenets. There's not much to it, but I had fun designing it, and it represents the moment for me when all the responsive design stuff snapped into place in my mind. And, and colors. These are my favorite, all in one place!

The Basic Shapes: Responsive Demo Site