An interview with Ron Lewis

By Ed Vinicombe on Mar 23rd, 2014

Hi Ron, for those who are unaware would you care to introduce yourself?

Howdy everyone! I am currently the Creative Director of MailChimp.

How have the last three years been for you at Mailchimp? The product itself has grown incredibly, has this been an easy transition since you started?

Starting at MC was a learning curve for me. Here at MailChimp Ben Chestnut has allowed me to as creative as I want to be. There is no boundaries. That was a major change from my previous work experiences. It took about 6 months to really embrace this creative freedom to become a productive member at MailChimp. Being part of the product's growth has been incredibly rewarding and challenging.

Freddie von Chimpenheimer IV is an awesome mascot and brings a great playful touch to the site. How do you determine when it is and isn't appropriate to use the character across the site?

His roll in our company to inject our brand personally. So he'll hit you with funny YouTube links and say goofy stuff. He is just a chimp and chimp's do stupid cute things. Freddie gives no advice, instructional help or help you solve a problem. We here would think that would be very inappropriate. See Microsoft Clippy.

How much time and effort do you put into user testing? Is this a big part of the design process for you and your team?

Here at MailChimp one of our many roles is to be a scientist and use data to shape our design process. We have a group of people dictated to user testing and UX. Aarron Walter is a big part of helping translate all that user testing into our design process. Now is this is where I contradict myself…We have in the past launched things with NO user testing for the sake of time (aka site redesign in 2010). It is not common practice for us, but it is not beneath us to just go live and see what happens. Ideally we try to find a balance between testing and creative spontaneity.

Much time for freelance outside the day job? If so what has been your favourite project this year?

MailChimp is a full-time job, so don't have as much time for freelance projects these days. But every once in awhile I will find the time. This year I was asked to create the Atlanta shirt design for United Pixel Workers. It was a great honor and I love what those dudes are doing for our industry.

When starting a new project what is the first thing you do?

The very first thing is to put pencil to paper! Always! I don't care how fast you are in illie or Pshop it will never be faster than sketching out your idea. You can burn through some really bad ideas with just a single piece of paper.

Where do you go for inspiration when starting a new piece of work?

If I had the answer to this question I wouldn't tell you guys. Seriously, inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. The only way i have been able to control it to any degree is to be well versed in a number of different things. Everything from art history to bicycling. Inspiration never comes to someone just sitting around waiting for it to happen. You got to make it happen.

Designers you would recommend checking out?

Oh man there are so many that blow my mind. If I had to think of a couple I would go with Tom Dorresteijn of Studio Dumbar, Paula Scher and Michael Bierut of pentagram, Claudia Boggio and Alfredo Burga of INFINITO, Aarron James Draplin, Massimo Vignelli, Miles Newlyn, Walt Disney, Charles Eames, George Lois, Erik Spiekermann, David Carson, Dan Ciderholm of Dribbble and Ben Chestnut. The list can go on and on.

How is the design scene in Atlanta, Georgia? Are there many opportunities for aspiring designers over there?

Well Atlanta has a more intimate design scene with a board range of disciplines. It is not a massive scene like New York or San Francisco. Being smaller than these cities the design scene in Atlanta you can really get to know everyone, which is cool. As for opportunities, this is the digital age where a designer can work remote from anywhere. I don't think that a city can limit your opportunities in this day and age. That being said there are a number of great studios in town to really hone your design skills.

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