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Q&A with Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain

Digital designer and founder of 31Three

I’m Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain, a digital designer and founder of 31Three. A design studio, based in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. Over the past 13 years I’ve worn many hats at 31Three; designer, project manager and company administrator. But I do my best to keep the business as simple as possible so that I’m spending the majority of my time doing actual design work.

Software / hardware

I’ve been a Mac user for nearly two decades. My first one was a PowerComputing clone that I bought off a friend of mine. Since then I've had a series of iMacs, an eMac and an Apple Cube, which I should never have sold.  My current set up is 27” Apple Thunderbolt Display and a MacBook Pro with an SSD hard drive I installed. It’s the first time that I have ever used a laptop as my main work computer, and I’m not sure I’d do it again. The late 2011 MacBook Pro has it’s pluses and minuses. It's plenty powerful for what I do, but it's also plenty loud and hot. When this one comes due for an upgrade I’ve been thinking about getting either an iMac or a Mac Pro as well as a MacBook Air for portability.

I use a Logitech M500 mouse and the small Apple keyboard. I’ve tried lots of different mice, just ask Dave Ruiz and keep coming back to the M500. The small Apple keyboard is great because it puts my right arm at a more ergonomic angle while I use the mouse. I’ve had some RSI issues in the past and this small adjustment was a big help.

Along those lines, one of the best investments I’ve made in my career has been my Teknion Contessa chair. I was starting to have back issues before prior to getting it six years ago, and I haven’t noticed them since.

For a mobile testing lab I’ve included my current iPhone 4s an older iPhone 3gs, an iPad 1 and 3 a newer Mini, a Nexus 5 and 7, an HTC Windows phone, a Blackberry Curve and a Galaxy Player. Doesn’t quite cover all the bases but it’s pretty close.

For software, like many designers I've been using Adobe's suite of apps since the beginning. And now with the introduction of Adobe's Creative Cloud and acquisition of Typekit, the applications have become even stronger tools for designers. Recently, I've been testing out Macaw and really like the direction those guys are heading as well.

Additionally, here are is a short list of applications I use on a daily bases:

  • Slicy - Creating slices from psd layers. LOVE it.
  • Espresso - I go through text-editors like I do mice, but keep coming back to Espresso.
  • Mamp Pro - Local server development stuff.
  • Gitbox - My prefered Github GUI.
  • Airmail - Replacement for the
  • Slack - Internal 31Three communication.
  • 1Password - Password management.
  • InVision - Great app for presenting comps and getting feedback.
  • Fantastical - Natural language calendar input.
  • LittleIpsum - Menubar item for placing filler text.
  • Arq - To daily backup my photo library and work. Monthly bill is under $2 for over 100GB of files!
  • GrandPerspective - Small app to check which files are hogging up my precious SSD space.
  • ReadKit & Feedly - For my RSS feeds.
  • Xero - Makes bookkeeping almost enjoyable.
  • - Powers my office phone

Ideal work environment

I’ve worked out of five different offices over the past seven years, so I’m starting to learn what works best for me. One of my previous offices didn’t have windows which at the time I figured would be great, no glare on my monitor… perfect right? However, after spending 2 years there I was itching to get out. My current office is a location I had my eye on for years in downtown Grimsby. It’s an amazing open space with a warm gas fireplace and tons of natural light. The space is also big enough to allow my wife Heather to use it for her quilting business. Having a central location in town has been awesome. Close to many restaurants and cafes. When the weather is warm I’ve been walking to and from work from our home in the Grimsby beaches, which has been great to prepare for work and clear my head at the end of the day.

© Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain

Work inspiration

I guess it depends on what I’m working on at the time. I get a lot of inspiration from poster and book cover designs. I like to look at designs from creative fields that don’t overlap with web design too much. Makes it easier to actually get inspired and not just copy stuff.

If I’m working through refining a design interaction and not just styling something, I’ll often check out websites like to spark ideas.

Designers you admire most

Fabien Barral - I wish I could create stuff half as beautiful as he can. I like to tell people that design is not art… but Fabien makes me question this. In a good way.

Edwin Tofslie - Every single project I’ve seen of his looks spot on for the brand he’s working with.

Cameron Moll - One of the hardest working, and friendliest guys I know. He’s always been a few steps ahead of me in his career so he’s been a constant inspiration over the years.