ABOUT TOM

I believe in simplicity. There are a million ways to deliver a message, but the clearest is generally the best. A website should convey the content elegantly—not attack the user with wiggly stuff and convoluted design riffs. Navigation aids (links to other pages, for example) should be easy to find and intuitively placed. In most cases, you should never have to dig through a website to find out what it’s about, what it offers, and what you can do in it. Bells and whistles can add to the experience, but they should never be the focus. In essence, a visitor to a site should never notice my coding (programming) skills.

skills

I produce websites in several different ways, depending on the requirements of the site. I typically use:

  • WordPress
  • custom-written HTML/DHTML/XHTML and CSS
  • PHP
  • MySQL
  • Javascript

I can produce sites with:

  • client-editable dynamic content (blogs, forums, and so on)
  • social networking integration (Facebook and Twitter, for example)
  • data collection
  • mobile (responsive) design

I produce print pieces and ebook (.epub, .mobi, .pdf, and iBooks) using:

  • Adobe InDesign CC
  • Adobe Photoshop CC
  • Adobe Illustrator CC
  • Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS)
  • Sigil
  • Calibre
  • iBooks Author

I am fully buzzword-compliant, and will do my best to simply explain as much or as little as you’d like to know. I am also very good with babies and dogs.

I am a member of AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) and CWIP (Chicago Women in Publishing).

 

my life story (pull up a chair)

I was raised by book editors, and got a good dose of print knowledge from them. When I was a kid I wanted to be an illustrator for children’s books, but left Columbia College early to take a job as an advertising artist.

I worked at the ad agency until I was 21, when I was offered a job at Second City Software. SCS was a custom software development company owned by a couple of great family friends, and I gladly went. I was, among other things, their Dogboy—we worked out of their house, and one of my duties was to take the dogs outside when the phone rang. For the majority of the time, though, I was learning the SCS way. I got my first taste of computer interface design, building screens in DOS-based DEMO for FoxPro applications. I got a good feel for data management (relational database theory), and got some down-and-dirty education in procedural programming. SCS is no more, but the principals (and the principles) remain among my closest friends.

After SCS, I again got the taste for ink and paper. I worked for a publishing company, first as a keyliner (in the last days of paste-up—I still have the X-acto scars to prove it, and I swear I still sweat adhesive wax on hot days). I then became an art director, working mostly on medical titles under some very talented people. After three years there, I struck out on my own.

In 1996, my buddy Doug (one of the SCS folks) told me about HTML and the World Wide Web. It was quite new then, and he suggested that it might be perfect for me. A bit of design, a bit of programming, and instant results (I do like instant results). I designed my first site for a client late that year, and was off and running.

I still couldn’t shake the ink and paper, though (those of you who know the joy of burying your nose in the gutter of a book and sniffing know what I’m talking about). In 1998 my parents and I bought a small company that helps authors self-publish books, so I still get my print design fix there now. We publish 25-30 books a year for authors, and I design and typeset about two-thirds of those. We also produce a quarterly magazine for a professional organization, and do other individual print projects as they come.

In the meantime, my web design business has evolved. Where I used to write simple HTML, I’m now building dynamic sites in WordPress and writing in scripting and programming languages like PHP and Javascript. I design mobile-responsive sites, analyze web traffic, and generally get my geek on. Luckily, I got married before this portion of my character came to full bloom.

Over time it seems inevitable that I would become more interested in usability—the science of user interaction. Users need relief from programmers’ myopic views of what they think the user wants. Good user interface design becomes priceless as functions become more complex and diverse. So lately, user interface design has become a very strong focus for me. It’s a discipline that is hard to sell, but is crucial to the future of the Web and computer science.