The Chalkboard is a collection of Grain & Mortar news, events, latest work, and helpful advice.


July 22nd | News

We are excited to announce that Miranda Bouck has been promoted to Art Director.

It’s been a joy to watch Miranda grow professionally by refining her skills in design, illustration, and development. She is a huge asset to the G&M team, and we’re excited for the amazing things she’ll accomplish as Art Director!

-Eric, Mike, Kristin

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In the fall of 2011, I reached out to the newly established Grain & Mortar to see if I could do an afternoon job shadow. They had just set up shop and and were still kicking it at CAMP Coworking. I was ready and excited to learn, but wasn’t sure what to expect from this new design studio, just that they had an affinity for mustaches.

Like all big milestones in life, I had no idea that walking into CAMP that day would mark the beginning of my next big adventure.

It was clear from the beginning my style and G&M’s complimented each other. I was honored when Kristin asked me to be their intern a month later and I was eager to experience design life at a studio. It was a completely different world from my (then) full-time job as an in-house designer for a recreational vehicle aftermarket company.

Time progressed, and G&M hired me on as a part-time designer. I honed my design skills, and quickly realized I wanted to learn how to code. Learning HTML / CSS, and fully engrossing myself in responsive design was a welcome challenge. Mike and Eric were consistently passing on their expertise to me: working with Illustrator shortcuts, writing cleaner code, and how to design for web. At the same time, Kristin was showing me the ropes in client relations, the art of pushing back, and how to communicate clearly and effectively.

 

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I graduated, interned, drank Red Bull, began part-time, switched to coffee, learned to develop, began full time, drank more coffee, and became an Art Director!

 

In July of 2012, I accepted a full-time position as a designer and developer and I finally left my other in-house job of eight years. It was a risk, but the benefits outweighed the costs. As I transitioned into my new role, Eric, Mike, and Kristin sat down with me to outline expectations of my new responsibilities, define checkpoints, and guide me as I helped G&M continue to push out fantastic work. Collaboration is a huge part of our process, and I began to work with the team to bring our creative visions to life. For the first time, I had the freedom to express my creativity and just “go for it.” I got to try some crazy things: parallax scrolling, wicked color palettes, and they put me on my own first project, Maud Boutique.

Now, two years later, I move on to my next journey at G&M: Art Director. I would never have been ready for this position if I hadn’t relied so heavily on the advice and leadership from the Grain & Mortar team. The important skills I’ve learned over the last three years have built a solid foundation for me to grow from. I couldn’t be more excited or grateful for this opportunity. The trust and faith Eric, Mike, and Kristin have had in me as I have grown as a person and as a leader is so humbling. It’s that time again…to go for it!

- Miranda Bouck

 

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It’s official when you get a desk plate with your title on it…thanks MTRL Design!

| July 22nd | News

ooh... me Likey


June 18th | Work

We’re a diverse bunch here at Grain & Mortar. Snowboarding to body building, calligraphy to cooking, we all have our passions and hobbies.

After the launch of our new website, we decided that we wanted some way of showcasing what we all do outside the studio. After some discussion, we settled on creating a real-time feed of our posts from Instagram and Dribbble. I had the opportunity to bring it to life through code.

Dribbble and Instagram both have robust APIs that allow you to access a huge set of data around the content you post. My first job was to get the endpoints figured out, and set up API access. Dribbble has an open API, so getting data was as simple as a quick GET request. Instagram requires you to sign up for a developer account, which in turn gives you an authorized way of retrieving user data. Once I had gathered everyone’s usernames and IDs, I set to work building the page.

When you open the page, Javascript retrieves the last 100 posts from each person’s Instagram and Dribbble account. It then arranges them into a date-sorted list. The first version of the page loaded all the results at once, which bogged down mobile browsers. I ended up changing it so the pages displays only the first 24. As you scroll down the page and reach the bottom, it automatically loads the next 24 results. This allowed us to keep the page size small on first load, and it drastically cuts the up-front load time.

I did the initial design work, getting everything to fit in the responsive grid layout. Responsive web design can be a bear when you’re trying to make a page look good on every screen size from 320px up to 2400px. Thankfully, the images that Instagram and Dribbble give you to work with are over 600px wide, which allowed us to have large, crisp images at all screen sizes. After the grid was set, Jesse and Mike did a bit of tweaking to the design of the information overlay on each image, and within about 48 hours, the page was done.

All in all, it was a fun side project that gave me a chance to play around with two different kinds of APIs. Check it out here.

 

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| June 18th | Work

ooh... me Likey


June 6th | Work

As a Creative Director, I am learning more and more how to better our processes, communicate better, and utilize our team to bring a strategy to life.

It is a continuous process, and it’s not always easy. Early on, one of my biggest challenges was handing off ideas to another team member. For some reason I felt like I had to oversee every decision in a project. I’m slowly learning to let go, not stress, and trust in my team’s abilities.

For example, I wanted to create a handmade script for the latest version of the G&M website. I knew I wanted the words to be “Midwest Made,” but I also knew that I had too much on my plate to even start exploring options. So instead of stressing out, I decided to hand it off to Miranda. Before I could even finish explaining my thoughts to her, Miranda was sketching out the idea. I was blown away on how she knew what I wanted before I even finished speaking. I love my team! We collaborated back and forth, and finally arrived at the finished artwork. Because of this, we dramatically cut down the time it would have taken me to do it alone.

The concept behind Midwest Made is simple and close to our hearts. We’re proud to be from the Midwest – we all grew up here, and it’s way to show our “team colors.” When meeting and working with people on the coasts we always hear, “My mom is from Iowa,” or “As a kid, I spent summers in Nebraska on my grandpa’s farm,” and so on. Now, we’ve got a way to own it and show our Midwestern pride.

 

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The initial sketches Miranda and I created.

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The final version, I love my job!

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We decided to create some limited edition shirts.

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Oooohheeyyy, we made some lady shirts also!

| June 6th | Work

ooh... me Likey


April 15th | News

Matt is the newest addition to the G&M team, and brings a skill set that will complement our illustrative style.

We are excited for him to help us continue to push the envelope with his unique approach to design.

We were immediately attracted to Matt’s attention to detail and appreciation for hand-drawn design. We always say at the core of it we are artists and the basis for great design comes from strong artistic fundamentals, so we we’re overjoyed to find someone with such a passion for art.

With a mother who is a painter, sculptor / welder, and art teacher at Omaha Public Schools, Matt comes from a family that encouraged his creative growth from a young age. Matt has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from UNO with an emphasis in painting, and has curated and showed at various galleries in the Metro area.

Matt has spent the last year freelancing for Uphill Downhill (Target, Mnsure, Springboard for the Arts), Omahype, Duchesne, and Pink Gorilla Events.

In his spare time, Matt enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Kay, and his cat, Bonnie. He loves drawing, painting, experimenting with printing techniques, taking Skillshare classes, and enjoying the occasional IPA in Benson.

 

Matt Carlsonmatt4matt3

| April 15th | News

ooh... me Likey


April 7th | News

I’m excited to announce that starting in May I’ll be joining the creative team at Zendesk in San Francisco.

While I’m sad that I won’t be spending every day cracking jokes, getting into trouble, and working on incredible projects with the team, this won’t be the end of my relationship with Grain & Mortar. I will continue to help from a distance, working part time and continuing to grow relationships in San Francisco.

I am incredibly grateful to Eric, Mike, and Kristin for the opportunity they have given me at Grain & Mortar. I have grown and learned more than I ever imagined, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for their generosity and mentorship.

Anyone would be lucky to join this talented team.

 

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| April 7th | News

ooh... me Likey