Justin Kerr, Newfangled’s Creative Director, just celebrated his 10th anniversary with the us in August. Justin and I started around the same time, so I’ve always felt that we were in the same Newfangled “class,” so to speak.
Justin is one of Newfangled’s elders. By that, I don’t mean that he’s old (necessarily 🙂 ), but that he is a keeper of the Newfangled tradition that has been slowly but consistently developed over the past 15 years. He has as deep an understanding of who we are as a company, and of what our core values are, as anybody.
While Justin was never my direct boss, he has always been someone I have looked up to and sought advice from. Justin’s opinions on matters concerning life, family, faith, and Newfangled are always packed with the wisdom that only comes from experience and deep, reflective thought. I was fortunate enough to share an office with Justin for a year or so when I was still in Providence, and we really enjoyed each other’s company. I think he’d agree with that despite the fact that he and his equipment were occasionally caught in the cross-fire of Eric getting back at me for whatever gag I had just pulled. Unfortunately, Justin has terrible taste in football, but hey, no one’s perfect.
To commemorate Justin’s anniversary I thought I’d ask him a few questions about his time with us.
Justin at one of our annual fall mountain retreats, in 2006.
Justin, congrats on 10 years with Newfangled! Staying with a single company for so long is a pretty rare thing these days, especially considering that you’ve seen two recessions during your time here. What’s your secret to longevity?
I think there are many reasons why I’ve been with Newfangled for 10 years, but here are a few:
A Fun Place to Work
Eric always nurtured a culture of fun and camaraderie where people worked to live and not the other way around. You maintained that spirit when you became president. I believe a relaxed work atmosphere where people can be themselves and maintain a life outside of the office always produces a high level of productivity and creativity. Although the days of Nerf gun fights and Peeps in the microwave may be behind us, this company still feels more like a family than a business.
Willingness to Change
About five years ago my attitude and the quality of my work were below what they should have been. This may have been due to burnout or just complacency. Regardless, I was invited by the leadership to change or move on. I accepted responsibility for my lackluster performance, listened to sound counsel and rose to the challenge. It was a pivotal time for me.
Faith in God
Companies come and go. Economies soar and tank. I think the ability to believe in something (and someone) greater than yourself is what sustains you through bad times and keeps you humble during good times.
I agree, the tone Eric set from the start made this company feel like a place I could stay for a long time as well. There are things that have changed over the years, but I hope we never lose that mood. I’d add one thing to your list and that is your consistency as a person and a worker. You’ve kept the most consistent schedule of anyone I’ve ever known. Every day you chip away at the tasks at hand with incredible persistence and focus. It’s been great to watch over the years–particularly when we shared an office together.
What have been some of the more interesting changes (cultural, functional, or otherwise) you’ve seen in web design over your the past decade?
Technology has certainly changed over the past decade. Ten years ago there were no iPods, iPhones, or iPads. Newfangled optimized their sites for screen sizes of 640 x 480 pixels, a “web-safe” palette of 216 colors and 56K dial-up internet connections.
Good design is timeless — but there were some design fads that came and, thankfully, went. When I first started at Newfangled, animated GIFs were still popular. I remember including “dancing baloney” (as we knick-named it) on some of our sites. The most memorable was a Rube Goldberg-esque contraption we built in Flash for one of our own splash pages. It looked like the love child of the Industrial Revolution and a Monty Python cartoon — it even incorporated a chicken in a golden cage. The machine really didn’t serve much of a purpose, except as a roadblock to the home page.
I think those of us in web development realized after the dot.com bomb of 2001, that websites should really be about the content. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but most of us back then were either distracted by the ever-changing technology or trying to make the web simply an online version of the print world. With the rise of social media, it became clear that websites had the potential for connecting people with content in a way (and a speed) that we had never dreamed of.
It’s funny, we spend a lot of time telling our clients not to do all those flashy things on their home/splash page. I don’t often mention the fact that we used to have one too!
Well, Justin, thanks so much for everything over the years, Newfangled wouldn’t be anywhere close to the same without your influence.