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Q&A with James A. Mathias

Artist, writer + outlaw

I'm James A. Mathias, and I see myself as a Father of three, husband of one. Internet improver, gamer, fitness amateur, artist, writer + outlaw.

The Internet improver component of that is working as the Chief Creative Officer for EllisLab, makers of ExpressionEngine an infinitely flexible CMS for web developers and designers. I'm in charge of the visual design, front end development and overall user experience of our customers and software.

How did you get started in design and development?

When I was in high school this career path didn't exist. The closest thing to it was illustration and print design. I started to dabble in that world, but found it increasingly difficult to break into. Back then it was a tight knit thing. Compounded by a lack of universal Internet access, it made the world and the industry a little smaller than they are today.

I worked a lot of jobs before I became a web designer. I sold bird seed, hauled lumber, apprenticed at a book bindery, changed oil, landed hot air balloons, sold vacuums door to door. You name it, I've done it for at least a day.

I discovered the Internet and it's construction in early 2000. I was hooked. Immediately. I'd found something that was infinitely interesting, a huge challenge, and possible. I spent day and night in the soft glow of my 14" CRT monitor. Hacking away, building a portfolio, and skill set.

By 2003 I was running my own successful (read: profitable) business out of our tiny apartment in Portland, Oregon. My wife and then two sons, made a lot of sacrifices for me and the business, without their love and support, I would not be in the position I am now, nor the man I am today. I owe them everything.

I spent the next five years running and loving that business. When it was time to move on, I took a job with Paramore Digital in Nashville, Tennessee, as an Art Director. Since, I've been a Creative Director for a handful of failed Start Ups; a Senior UX Designer for the Kindle Group at Amazon; and now, the CCO of a company I truly believe in and love.

What are you working on now?

Professionally? The next iteration of ExpressionEngine. I'm very excited about it, and I can't wait to use it. As a designer that's a very hard thing to accomplish, to continue to enjoy and like the things you've built.

Personally? I'm working on my website, and trying to flesh it out with richer, more substantial content. This is not as easy as it sounds.

What tools and software do you use for your work?

Well, ExpressionEngine for sure. I also use a full suite of Adobe products for visual design, Sublime Text for code, Grunt for compiling LESS and jQuery, and other repetitive tasks. HTML, CSS, you know all the things.

What is your ideal work environment?

Well my desk would say, "messy". But in reality I thrive in a almost sterile environment. As a working designer, this is an extremely hard thing to accomplish. Which reminds me, I should clean my desk.

Where are your favorite places for sharing experiences?

I assume this means social websites? I have a membership at just about all the sites. But I don't often share my work publicly until it's either done, or not going to launch. It's not that I don't find value in sharing, and discussing. It's that I'm either barred from showing off in progress work, or I just plain forget cause I'm trying to get stuff done.

Who are the creatives you admire most?

I'm going to cheat here and say that I admire any creative that stands their ground and creates what they know is the best solution for the idea, or problem they are trying to solve. Even if that solution isn't in line with what the client asked for. It takes a brave soul to say

I know you asked me for this, but in my discovery I found this, which works better, and here's why.