Web designInterview

Jared Erondu on crafting pixels and shaping words

The San Francisco-based designer talks about his career so far, confronting ageism and being a voice for the community.

One of the 10 nominees for Young Designer of the Year in the 2014 net Awards, Jared Erondu is design lead at Lift. Based in San Francisco, he's worked with brands like Google, Treehouse, TED, and Omada. Jared is also a co-founder, and editor of The Industry. We chatted to him to find out more.

Give us a summary of your career so far.

It’s an odd one. I started off as a tech writer. My first two sites probably received less than 100 views per month (mostly my mother), but I stuck with it. I eventually made my way up to Mashable before deciding that the design industry deserved a news outlet too. This led to The Industry (which I started with Drew Wilson).

As for pushing pixels professionally, that began when a friend of mine Randy Hunt (Etsy) tweeted something at midnight-ish about making the world a better place through design. I responded in some fashion that led to an email from him.

This led to a semi-interview which, in turn, led to me redesigning Etsy’s homepage (mockup). After explaining my design ideas, Randy suggested that I was a “designer who writes." Up until that point, I called myself a writer who sorta knew his way around Photoshop. His encouraging words led me to consider a career of crafting pixels and shaping words. So I did.

Jared Erondu started off as a tech writer. Since then he's worked for some of the world's biggest brands

This started at Treehouse where I served as editor of their design blog (formally Think Vitamin). Then I co-founded and designed v1 of Evomail, an email app for iOS. One day, I stumbled upon an article on The Industry (yeah, how meta) about Designer Fund’s Bridge program.

I made the plunge, applied, and moved out to San Francisco to partake in the program as DIR at Omada Health. I finally ended up at Obvious Corp, specially Lift. Along the way, I’ve had the honor of working with brands like Google, YC, Nest, TED, and Square. The journey has been fun and I’m pumped for what lays ahead.

What have you been working on over the last year?

Outside of contract and full-time work, The Industry has been my primary focus. We’ve only scratched the surface of its potential to be a voice for the creative community, so keep an eye on us over the next few months.

Outside of that, spotting creatives who, for a variety of reasons, see themselves and their talent as insignificant, then helping them change to a more positive mindset. There’s a lot of talent out there that’s under wraps for this reason and I want to help because I once felt the same way. I’m also involved in a number of my friends' side-projects. That’s always fun.

What have been the particular high points of your career?

The positive feedback I received when I “came out” about my youth a couple years ago. I was blown away at how many other young designers were out there who feared ageism and society’s outlook on shorter resumes and smaller portfolios.

Erondu is the co-founder and editor of The Industry

It touched me to hear that I had been of some positive influence to them. Aside from that, I’d say meeting some of my role models IRL has been pretty awesome.

Who and what influences and inspires your work?

Who? Jony Ive, Dieter Rams, and Ev Williams. Potential beneficiaries of the work I produce with others. What? The chance to create, shape, and mold the world around me. To fill it meaningful things that will benefit us now and in the future.

Oh, and I have a “Get Shit Done” poster hanging right across from my bed. When sleep attempts to dictate my day, that poster gets me out of bed. If it doesn’t do the job that particular morning, I have a matching mug. Coffee isn’t really my thing.

What are you excited about at the moment?

Where the design community is heading. Design was once seen as a thing only done by the misfits. And misfits weren’t exactly cool back then. Then, with the help of Apple and other pioneers, the world began to see design as a necessity. As something essential to the expression and progression of ideas.

Now? Designers aren’t just seen as small pieces to the puzzle, we help in making the puzzles. We’re making business decisions, and in some cases, founding companies. Exciting times.

Tell us about an important lesson you've learned in your career.

After humility, knowing when and how to say “no.” So valuable. Still mastering.

Name an 'unsung hero', someone you admire who deserves more recognition for their work.

My parents. You always hear about the successes of people, but rarely do you hear about who supported them along the way. I come from a family where my career choice (and my bypassing of college) is unconventional and quite frankly, odd. My parents, in spite of being under perpetual pressure to “put sense in their son,” stuck with me.

Now, I won’t lie, they’re still a little confused as to what it is I do exactly, but they’re right there with me. As for other pixel-pushers, I’m nervous to mention any particular name out of fear of remembering another moments later.

Vote in the net Awards!

Celebrating the best in web design and development, the 15th net Awards is open for public voting until 24 March. With a record breaking number of nominations this year, it's set to be the biggest and best yet. Have your say by casting your votes here.

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