Sep 09

Author Interview: Theme Team

Thu, 09/09/2010 - 07:15 — julie

Meet Theme Team from ThemeForest. And CodeCanyon. And GraphicRiver!

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what do you do for a living?

Theme Team is actually comprised of a few people, and each person has worked with me (Jason) and Kristy for 3-5 years. We’re based in Austin, TX, where Kristy, Drew, Jon and I live, but the rest of our motley crew is dispersed across the country and the world. Christopher on the east coast, Pu in China and Sasha and Victoria in the Ukraine.

Our day job is running a user interface design firm called Worry Free Labs. I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this, but we all much prefer the work we get to do as Theme Team for the Envato Marketplace!

Jason and Kristy

Which marketplaces do you belong to? What types of files do you sell?

We belong to ThemeForest, CodeCanyon and GraphicRiver. Our focus is on Magento and WordPress themes, but we also make HTML versions and provide PSD files on GraphicRiver.

Since our background is in web development for companies, we try to make themes based on clients’ requests from over the years. From those experiences, we also come up with features, such as a pricing grid, and Magento and WordPress plugins that would be useful to a broad spectrum of people. Overall, we try to make the most of anything we create.

How did you get started? Have you had any formal training?

Originally, I went to school for design, which led to an interest in web design. I wanted to know the back end stuff too, however, so I ended up transferring to engineering school and studied software engineering. My first job out of school was as a software engineer, which evolved into web development. I was involved in every aspect – from back end development all the way to user interface design. When I moved to Austin in 2005, I started freelancing. I loved doing it and it really took off.

Describe your home workspace.

For three years, we had a fancy pants office here in Austin in the same building as Intel and the company that created Metroid Prime for the Nintendo GameCube. Despite the cool factor, the office setting felt like a prison (even with a Wii and an XBOX 360). We decided not to renew our lease and for all of us to work from home instead. It was one of the best decisions we ever made!

At home, Kristy and I have a loft area for a workspace where we work at a big desk we share. We each have a Mac Mini and Samsung flat screens. It’s pretty cool because we’re in the hills with views of downtown Austin. We also travel a lot and take our Macbook Airs and iPads on the road with us. Although I’ve yet to find a way to do actual work on the iPad!

Home office
Where we live

Describe your creative process. What steps do you normally follow to create your files?

We always refer back to our past work with clients to get ideas, recalling what people looked for in design aesthetic and site functionality. Then we start the process with the end in mind: we picture the finished product and figure out how we can create it.

To create wireframes, we sometimes use gomockingbird.com, balsamiq.com or OmniGraffle, but lately, and what’s been working better than anything, is sketching our ideas with a Sharpie on heavy paper. I bought this really cool, portable scanner (Pentax DSMobile 600) to scan and upload our sketches to the team on Basecamp while we’re on the road.

Then we design the homepage to hash out the general look and feel. Once that’s done, we finish up the internal pages and move on to markup and integration. Finally, we test everything in litmusapp.com, make the documentation, package it up and submit it to the fine folks at ThemeForest.

What is your advice to other authors regarding how to create a successful portfolio?

One piece of advice that stood out to me when I was studying design was from one of my professors. He said, “Only ever show your best work, even if it’s only two things.”

Over the last five years, we’ve probably encountered at least 100 freelance designers who sent us 25 links to their work, but only two or three were good. What did we remember? All the crappy stuff they did.

So, always show your best stuff. The good thing about the Envato marketplace is that the community will let you know in an instant of your work’s shortcomings. At first, it’s easy to get defensive of the criticism, but in the end, it is for yours and the Envato community’s benefit, so it’s welcome.

What do you do to market your files?

Doh! We’re supposed to do something? I thought that’s what you guys do.

Just kidding. Well, we use Twitter at the moment, but we’re excited about trying some new ideas for promoting our themes. We’ve heard great things from other authors about writing blog content such as tutorials.

I think it’s important to be active in the Envato Marketplace community in things such as contests and promotions. That and simply making great work so other authors point you out and you increase your chances of being a featured author or having a featured item. The things above that we’ve done have sent a lot of traffic to our items resulting in sales.

What are your three favorite files, and why do you like them?

Awake

Crisp and Clean

Atlantica

Awake is kind of the Holy Grail of themes right now because it’s fully customized in every way. After doing so many Magento projects over the years, our theme, Crisp and Clean for Magento, epitomizes the qualities we have found to be most useful to anyone with an online store. I like Atlantica because it’s different from a lot of other themes you see. It’s almost like a print-style design.

Apart from yourself, who is your favorite marketplace author, and why do you like them?

Pixus Design. Everything he does is consistently excellent and he’s only 15 years old! Freshface and Webtreats are favorites as well.

What do you do in your spare time?

The greatest thing about being an author on the Envato Marketplace is that it allows us to work from anywhere. It gives us recurring income and the freedom to travel or do whatever we want regardless of physical location (no schlepping to an office each day).

Kristy and I travel about four months out of the year, which includes staying in New York City for six weeks, Wisconsin for four weeks and taking meandering pointless road trips to national parks, the ocean, and mountains—just to name some recent ones.

Aside from traveling, Kristy and I like doing anything fitness or outdoors related. Again, we wouldn’t be able to do many of these things as often as we do if we had regular jobs.

Besides us, everyone else in Theme Team work-travels quite a bit too. Drew’s worked from the desert in Morocco as well as from Argentina. Sasha visits us in NYC when we’re there. Jon was just camping (and yes, working) in the Grand Teton National Park. It’s a lifestyle that being an Envato Marketplace author can provide.

Jon and Kristy




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