The author of Type and Grid talks theme development

1) If you don’t mind sharing, what is your real name as many people only know your screen name, and where do you live?

My name is Jeremiah Shoaf and I just recently moved to Colorado after living in the DC area for 10 years. Originally I am from Oregon.

2) How did you get started in developing themes?

I actually got started with FlashDen (now called ActiveDen) back in 2008. I created a few Flash components and put them up for sale on the site. I made a few bucks and thought “hey this is pretty cool”, so after redesigning my new portfolio site I decided to make it into a Flash template.

Eventually I moved on from FlashDen and launched my own site called Warm Forest (http://www.warmforestflash.com) which sold Flash templates. My latest project is called Type & Grids (http://www.typeandgrids.com) and is built with HTML5 rather than Flash.

3) Do you have any artistic training?

None whatsoever. Other than a couple basic Photoshop courses I took at a community college, I am completely self taught in design.

4) How did you get starting with programming in general?

I originally studied Computer Science in college but after doing a web design project in a different class I realized I was much more interested in the visual side of things. So I ended up switching to studying Multimedia. In my early career I did a lot of Flash work which led me into ActionScript programming and eventually into objected-oriented AS3. So I kind of came full circle back into Computer Science territory but I enjoyed it a lot more this time around because Flash was so visual and interactive.

I’ve always enjoyed coding but I just view it as a tool to help me create cool things. If I’m programming something and it’s just something abstract without any kind of visuals or interaction involved it just doesn’t interest me as much.

5) What was your first theme and when did you develop it?

I guess the first real “theme” I created was a Flash template I sold on FlashDen in 2008. I actually didn’t create it with the purpose of selling it. I made it for my own personal portfolio site and decided later to offer it up for sale. I figured if it was useful to me it would be useful to others as well.

Type-and-Grid-HTML5-Reponsive-WordPress-Theme

6) What is the favorite theme you have developed and why?

Type & Grids is my new project and it’s definitely my favorite. It’s not really a theme – it’s more of a flexible site framework that has built-in themes. It comes with 20 type themes and 28 color themes (http://www.typeandgrids.com/themes/) which can be mixed and matched so it’s super easy to make the site look customized and unique. I’ve always thought having tons of customization options is really important because no one wants their site to look like everyone else’s.

7) Do you focus mostly on theme sales or do you have other business interests you would like to mention? (Give a chance to plug your own website, etc)

My “real job” is a freelance designer. I’ve been freelancing for 6 years and I mostly work with other design agencies. Selling themes is more of a side project for me.

8) What sort of challenges have you faced when designing themes “for anyone” versus a specific client?

I always consider myself my own client. I like to build things for myself that I would like to use. I’ve always used the sites that I sell for my own sites and I think that really shows that I stand behind my work. My first Flash template on FlashDen was my actual portfolio site. When I redesigned my site that became the Cedar template on Warm Forest (http://www.warmforestflash.com/products/cedar/). The latest version of my portfolio (http://www.jeremiahshoaf.com) is using Type & Grids. Luckily, other people end up having the same needs as me and share a similar taste in aesthetics so this strategy has worked out well.

12) What is your normal process for creating a theme? Do you start with a pencil, PhotoShop, or dive right into coding?

I always start everything with Photoshop. I’ve been using Photoshop for something like 13 years now and I just feel very comfortable working in it. I love working with code but I feel if I start a project that way it really limits my thinking. Photoshop allows me to just design without having to worry about how I’ll have to code things.

13) What are some of your favorite new technologies that you use or are experimenting?

I think static file CMS’s like Kirby and Statamic are awesome. The simplicity and freedom of not having a database is really appealing to me.

15) Where do you seek inspiration for your work? Any particular designers, artists, or sites that you use?

My favorite designer is Arnaud Mercier. I’ve been following his work since around 2002. Sadly he passed away recently but his work is still a big influence on me. You can see a permanent online collection of all his work here.

arnaud mercier flat ware