Hi. I'm Jason Zimdars a web designer in Oklahoma City, OK and this is my website.

The making of a designer

May 20th, 2009

Reading John Siracusa’s Hypercritical on Ars Technica a couple of weeks ago really sent me back in time. This is the first time in my life where I’ve encountered an account of growing up that so closely matches my own. I was really stunned to read it.

I, too, grew up drawing and everyone always expected me to be an artist. I drew constantly as a kid, right up through high school where my ability was known enough that my teachers didn’t mind if I drew in class—I always managed to follow the lesson anyway. (I’ve always thought it was some kind of hyper creative state that allowed me to stay fully on-task in the class while drawing).

Drawing was my thing. It started with copying Garfield characters out of books (I still really admire the line work in Jon Davis’ comics). By middle school, I was drawing my own original comics for the school newspaper (typically written by my best friend, Josh Glider). Finally, in high school I took all the art electives they would let me and got a bit more commercial, drawing mascots for the school and some of the on-campus clubs. I still have some of the t-shirts.

Drawing was the way that an average athlete and above-average nerd gained a little corner of popularity both with kids and adults. It certainly was an easy way to make friends and impress people. But I was always annoyed by the people that insisted that they could not draw, dismissing what I could do as some naturally born talent. Did they not realize that I could draw because I worked my ass off at it? Did they not know I drew ALL THE TIME? Perhaps, not as elequently as Siracusa I realized that there was more to it. I wasn’t blessed with some kind of superhuman hand-eye coordination or the subtlety of gesture to shade carefully. No, what I was given was a very critical eye and a yearn for realism.

As John described, I, too, saw some of this manifest with my toys and interactions with adults. Toys were never realistic enough. I hated that my toy Millennium Falcon was so squat and dumpy compared to the lean and elegant model in the movies. Why did all of my action figures stand as if at attention instead of in an action pose? Why was the illustration of the Transformer on the package so dynamic and the toy so dull? Didn’t anyone else notice this stuff?

I had the same problem with adults growing up. They always seemed so imprecise and got things wrong that really mattered. Like mixing up Star Wars and Star Trek (or Star Track, ugh). They couldn’t remember what night the TV show was on, or what day the new movie came out, or that character’s name on that show. I since realize that adults probably had a lot more on their minds than I did as a child, but it still annoys me even when I slip up now.

No, Siracusa nailed it. The thing that I struggled with (continue to struggle with), the real ability I was blessed with, the thing that made me an artist (ok, designer) is a critical eye. Not that this doesn’t come without it’s drawbacks. I love this passage, in particular:

The drawbacks are obvious. Knowing what’s wrong with something (or thinking that you do, which, for the purposes of this discussion, should be considered the same thing) does a fat lot of good if you lack the skills to correct it. And thinking that you know what’s wrong with everything requires significant impulse control if you want to avoid pissing off everyone you meet.

But much worse than that, it means that everything you ever create appears to you as an accumulation of defeats. “Here’s where I gave up trying to get that part right and moved on to the next part.” Because at every turn, it’s apparent to you exactly how poorly executed your work-in-progress is, and how far short it will inevitably fall when completed. But surrender you must, at each step of the process, because the alternative is to never complete anything—or to never start at all.

This is why it is hard to be satisfied with my work—there is always a flaw. And knowing what is wrong with everything certainly has made personal and professional relationships challenging at times. But it has probably had an even greater effect on my work, so for that I am thankful.

So what’s the point of writing about this? I’m not sure. It might just be to give John Siracusa a high-five and a “right-on”. It is pretty rare and cool to read something that you can identify with so deeply. Oh, and it also appears that I share one more trait with John: verbosity.

News, I’ve got some.

May 13th, 2009

I am extremely excited to announce that I’m joining the amazing team at 37signals. They’ve been a source of inspiration for me for many years, so it’s an incredible feeling to be on the brink of working with them.

It’s been a long road to get here, and now the fun really begins. I really enjoyed the hiring process which, like most everything 37signals does, isn’t approached like any other company. You can read more about it in the official announcement and hopefully I’ll get the chance to talk more about it later. Exciting things ahead!

So good they interrupt my life

May 7th, 2009

“I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”

Actor, Michael Caine describing Jaws: The Revenge— a movie he’s supposed to be ashamed of.

I found that quote, and the entire CNN interview with Caine very charming. Great perspective from a guy who’s been doing what he loves for a very long time.

I think many of us—especially those with an artistic or creative bent— can appreciate his sentiments about taking jobs “because I thought no one was ever going to offer me another one”. We all face doubts in our work and may have to pay our dues, so it’s encouraging to see how he has reached a level where he takes jobs only when they interest him; when “they’re so good they interrupt my life”. When you find a project like that, work isn’t work anymore and that’s where the interesting things start to happen.

Refresh OKC March Meeting 2009

March 18th, 2009

Just wanted to say I had a great time joining Jeff Davis, Tommy Yi, and Craig Teel on the panel at Refresh OKC yesterday evening. Moderator Chad Henderson provided some great questions for us to discuss as a group. Some of the highlights were discussions about our “setups” (paralleling my recent blog post), the recent social media mash-up on, how we approach our design process, how to deal with clients, and of course “boxers or briefs?”.

If you are an internet person in the Oklahoma City area, Refresh is a great way to meet and get to know people that do what we do around here—and there are more of us than you might think!


For those of you interested, the audio podcast version of the evening has been posted at

What do you use?

March 8th, 2009

I recently discovered a great feature on Waferbaby called The Setup. In this series of short interviews, well-know tech people talk about the tools they use to do what they do. Now I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am fascinated by creativity — where it comes from, how we can encourage it, grow it, and share it. As such I’ve always been curious about the processes, tools and techniques that artists, musicians, and other creatives use to make things. In particular, I enjoyed reading about John Gruber’s setup and share more than a few items with him.

So, just for fun, I wanted to think about the things I use and share my setup. Here we go…

So, who are you, and what do you do?

I am Jason Zimdars. I am a web designer in Oklahoma City. You might have seen some of my work on various web design galleries; I did most of the marketing and UI design for LightCMS.

What hardware are you using to get the work done?

I’m currently using a 20″ intel iMac with 2GB RAM and a 250GB hard drive. I have an Apple Aluminum keyboard connected to it that I think is the finest keyboard I’ve ever used.

I haven’t used a mouse as my primary input device since 1995, instead opting for a pen and tablet interface. Right now that means a Wacom Intuos 2 with grip pen. The stylus is faster, more natural than a mouse, reduces strain on my hands, and lets me draw some deft shapes in Adobe Photoshop.

The only other things connected to this machine are an iPhone dock, and two Western digital USB hard drives; a 250GB for general backup, and a 500GB drive for Time Machine.

When I leave my desk I always have my 16GB 1st generation iPhone, a Moleskine large sketchbook, and a Pilot G2 .7mm gel pen. When I draw I like a wider tip pen and lots of ink that can keep up with me — the G2 is perfect for that.

And what software?

It all starts with Adobe Creative Suite 3, primarily Photoshop and Illustrator. I like Panic’s Transmit for FTP, which plays nicely with Textmate for editing HTML and CSS. I like xPad for jotting random notes, but I keep tasks on Ta-da list, and am in love with Dropbox for file sharing and backup. Many times I’ll work out of my Dropbox when I want to be especially secure since it saves versions automatically. I’m not sure I could use a mac without Quicksilver, and Adium handles my IM needs. Backups of my machine are performed by SuperDuper! in addition to Time Machine. I have too many email accounts and use both and Gmail’s web interface. I like Twitterific, but wish it had more features — still I can’t bring myself to use any of the Air-based Twitter clients because they look terrible. I love Skitch for quick image sharing but I use SnapZ Pro more often because it is so powerful and integrated. I prefer Safari as my primary web browser, even though Firefox, does a few things that I wish Safari did. And my blog runs on WordPress. Whew.

If you could have any hardware or software setup, your most ultimate setup in the world, what would it be?

During the day at work I’ve been using a MacBook Pro with external LCD for the past 2 years and I really prefer the mobile platform. I’m not sure I’ll ever buy another desktop computer so I’d like to move to this setup at home, too.

There are probably lots of little things I missed and I really didn’t want to get into what I use on my iPhone, but that was fun. So, what do you use?

What should I read next?

March 8th, 2009

I started using Bookins to get rid of old books in an effort to clear my bookshelf. Of course, Bookins is a swapping service so ended up with a ton of new books to read. I just finished one last night, so now I’m wondering: what should I read next? Check out my unread list on All Consuming and tell me what you think I should jump into.