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Q&A with Ryan Rushing

UX designer at Kalkomey, Dallas

I'm Ryan Rushing, and I live in Dallas, Texas. Salutations. By day I'm a UX designer at Kalkomey where I build the marketing pages and official courses with a team of super smart people.  By night, I'm a letterer, concrete-caster, and co-host of a podcast about art in Dallas. I try to have my hands in various media. Here's another link to make it a nice round 5.

How did you get started in UI/UX & front-end development, what is your background?

In the year two thousand I discovered how to view source on web pages, and I thought I was hacking the page. I felt like a super genius, and no one could tell me differently... I mean THEY didn't know how to view source. Everything in my life after that perpetuated the lie of my genius. Trophies for last place in little league? GENIUS. Use to find pictures of naked ladies on the Internet? GENIUS. Start a Xanga page and change the background?


Some folks had GeoCities as their launchpad into the self-expression of the Internet, but I had Xanga and MySpace. I would change the background for friends and they would lose their minds. They would literally throw thanks and praise to make backgrounds for their high-school bands. One time I changed the link color to green and it was all downhill from there. I have been trapped in the web ever since. Send help.

When I went to college to study engineering and failed horribly, I realized I wasn't the genius I thought everyone thought I was. So I changed my major to graphic design. Apparently after I changed my major, I didn't need any more math! I had a C in Math 101 and a D in Calculus. I was in! Genius restored. I took a couple web classes and figured out I liked it, so I kept doing it.

Where did you learn coding? Looking back, would you recommend your path to beginners?

First, I learned from YouTube and from friends who were smarter than me. Then I took the classes in college and got a little better at some stuff, like changing colors of links. Although it didn't help that we mostly just learned how to code with tables and it was 2006. So then I figured out the right way to build with web standards at my first job in 2008.

Somehow I managed to convince them to hire me with my terrible student projects: a bird illustration, badly designed album covers for rock bands that didn't exist, and a single Photoshop comp of a website. My title was "Web Developer" at this horribly managed startup, and I worked there for exactly two years, one part-time while in school and the other full-time after graduating. Thankfully my co-workers were all computer scientists who were way smarter than I was. They taught me how to work with PHP, MySQL, HTML, and I taught them how to talk to women. Now I feel bad about that joke. But not bad enough to edit it out. They could mostly talk to women ok.

Would I recommend my path to beginners? Sure, go to college. But only if you can afford it. Otherwise, just find someone who will hire you and teach you stuff and then you can get paid while you learn. You'll probably be terrible, but certainly no more terrible than anyone else is when they first start. College isn't a magic bullet for anyone, but it can open doors for you, as it did for me. Just do your best to learn and be fluid. You're not special, but that's okay cause if everyone was special, no one would be special. Life advice! *high-five jumps*

What are the books and weblogs helped you to improve your professional skills?

At that first job, I browsed NetTuts and Smashing Mag all the time. Later on, I graduated to CSS Tricks and Stack Overflow. With regard to books, I read Flash and Dreamweaver for Dummies (not even kidding about that). Most recently however The Manual and Frank Chimero's The Shape of Design have really influenced how I work. Not web related, but still heavily influential are Where Good Ideas Come From and The Molyneaux Problem.

Also Jurassic Park, the movie.

What web development technologies and tools do you use for your work?

Here comes a list cause I'm just not sure how else to do this.

  • H.T.M.L.
  • CSS (Usually Sass... or SASS if your Caps Lock is stuck)
  • jQuery (Still haven't fluently learned vanilla JavaScript... or "Java" for all you recruiters reading this)
  • Git
  • Jekyll and Middleman
  • SVG? (Learning this stuff. I use it when I can.)
  • Gridset (my not-so-secret weapon when battling responsive web design)
  • Twitter Bootstrap when I can't use Gridset. But let's be honest... that's like coasting in rollerblades when you can't get to your spaceship.
  • And seriously... lots of pens, pencils, markers, white-boards, and God forbid... productive team meetings *cue Psycho theme music*

Who are the developers, colleagues in your city/country or outside you admire most?

Mina Markham - Knows everything about Sass, and is currently a front-end developer for Hillary Clinton. She's a speaker, teacher, and conference organizer. Mina and I both have alliterated names, which I'm pretty sure puts us in some kind of club. I'm expecting a tasteful, sparkly pink jacket with a patch that reads ALLITERATORS. (AGLITTERATORS?)

Nathan Smith - Nathan is a smart JavaScript dude I met in 2010. I literally understand 5% of what he tweets, but I FEEL smarter through the process of osmosis.

Nathan Ford - No relation to Nathan Smith, he's maker of Gridset and also the Product Manager at Monotype. He writes a lot about how to expand the fundamental concepts of graphic design into the infinitude of the web. Real smart dude. But I'm pretty sure I've never heard him say "infinitude" so WHO'S THE SMART ONE NOW.