Andy: Let’s do the important intro first. What pet have you brought along with you today?
Joni: So this is Gunther/Ruff. He has two names because our son, Ben, was two when we got him and couldn’t say “Gunther” yet. He’s a mini Schnauzer. There’s lots of allergies in the family so we were looking for a breed that was as close to “hypoallergenic” as possible and drove several hours into Pennsylvania to pick him up.
His name was inspired by Gunter from Adventure Time, which was our favorite show. I consider him to be Ben’s dog and my roommate. We have a complicated relationship because I am a complete and utter clean freak and he is determined to be dirty at all times; the more mud he has access to the happier he is.
Andy: I’m with you there. I’m a huge clean freak. I can totally understand the rift that may have caused between yourself and Gunther.
Do you and Gunther leave each other passive aggressive notes in the kitchen like other roommates might?
Joni: Haha, I definitely do not miss those days, but nothing like that. I have had to work a lot of extra chores into my routine though, like frequent carpet shampooing and washing his beds. He also has to get professionally groomed regularly since he won’t let us brush him. Terriers are known for being very stubborn and he takes that label seriously.
Our relationship it more food-based than mud-based, which is how he spends his time with Ben. I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen and always give him pieces of whatever I am chopping up. As soon as he hears chopping he barrels into the room. He is obsessed with apples.
Andy: Gunther is clearly getting pampered by the groomers. He know’s what he’s doing and I respect that.
I’m glad you mentioned your cooking because you are making some rad looking stuff with quite an alternative collection of ingredients. I’d love to hear more about that.
Joni: Well thank you! I appreciate the kind words. When Ben was born I got very sick. On top of that we eventually learned that he has loads of food allergies. I was honestly completely ignorant in regards to all of this at first; I had been lucky enough so far to never have to think about the detailed ingredients of anything I ate. After the initial shock and dismay I got to work figuring out how to feed both of us safely and no longer go into a cold sweat over the idea of baking a gluten, nut, legume, seed, dairy, egg free version of anything.
It was a dramatic lifestyle shift and I have to work part-time as a result. Making everything from scratch is very time consuming but there is no other option and I enjoy doing it. Though our entire world turned upside down, it actually has had many positives since we are forced to eat much healthier and I have to really understand the ingredients I’m working with. This all impacts Gunther’s life as well, since his food and treats have to be gluten and allergen free so Ben can feed and touch him without getting exposed.
Andy: It’s so easy to underestimate the impact of a severe food allergy. I still get cold-sweats from my very short “chef ” career when we’d get a cover with severe gluten or nut allergies. You knew it was super serious when they’d phone ahead of service as it made for a very tense shift. It must be hard work dealing with that day-to-day.
I think Gunther might have the best diet for a dog, too. He’s clearly a well looked after pupper. Speaking of being well looked after—let’s talk about something else you look after…plants!
Joni: Oh, plants! Those actually seem to be more high maintenance than Gunther somehow. I always say that my favorite hobby is getting into hobbies but I recently went a little over the top with this one. I have become a bit of a collector and really enjoy the challenge associated with caring for so many different kinds of houseplants—they all have different needs and preferences. Some require daily attention and specific humidity levels while others prefer it if you nearly forget they exist. I also like to keep any water propagation projects I have on my desk and check out the root growth progress each day while I work.
My friend Shanise and I even started a little plant club this year called the Window Box Club. It has been a ton of fun and nearly therapeutic posting on Instagram and documenting weird experiments, successes, and failures.
Andy: It’s cool as heck and it’s making me want to up my houseplant game.
You briefly mentioned work there, so I’m going to give myself a segue opportunity. Do you want to tell us all what you do on the web and how you got into it?
Joni: Absolutely. I currently spend my days running a little company called YupGup. We specialize in marketing design and branding. Usually this translates to websites, swag design, signage, illustrations, style guides, and iconography. I’ve worn many different design-related hats over the years but this type of design specifically is always what I was drawn to the most. I find it to be great fun and it’s so satisfying to watch the way people respond to and embrace these things when they are put out into the world. Branding and visual design have such a profound impact on the experiences people have and getting to craft this each day is so cool.
Most of our clients are developers that need branding of their side projects and products, as well as tech-based conferences and communities. I find that developers make ideal clients. They are very trusting and are generally after the exact type of fun and friendly look and feel that we are all about.
I got into the design and front-end space about 6 years ago. I worked as a nonprofit program manager and grant writer previously, but needed more flexibility once I had Ben. I started to teach myself how to use Illustrator and eventually got very deep into the world of SVGs, writing a book about it as I learned called Pocket Guide to Writing SVG. SVGs served as the perfect gateway to working on the web in general and from there I moved into CSS animations, building sites, and designing products. I continue to write, speak, and teach when I can, with some of my favorite projects being geared towards kids, like Dot Doodl and a web design intro workshop.
Andy: I’m a big fan of your work, Joni and it’s great to see you doing what you really love doing. I’ve got to mention one piece of work that you did that was immensely useful for me: the Flexbox Cheatsheet Cheetsheet! I swore by that guide while I was learning flexbox and I’m glad to see that you extended it into a field guide.
What inspired you to create a guide like that?
Joni: Thanks so much for sharing and that’s great to hear that it proved handy for you. When I was getting started with Flexbox years ago I found it to be a bit tricky to wrap my head around. I honestly wasn’t too concerned with the why and how of it all at first, I just needed to see what was going on. At the time there were some articles but nothing especially visual-based. I put together an illustrated guide (with fruit!) based on the messy notes that I had put together for myself and it was the only high-level Flexbox summary that worked for me and I referenced it often.
After publishing it on my blog I frequently got requests for a printed version, and even pics of the full, mile-long original guide printed and taped to office walls, haha. I decided to revamp the illustrations and reorganize the content into a PDF and printed booklet form to make it easier for people to quickly refer to and take with them on the go.
Andy: Awesome. It’s such a handy resource for what is a tricky thing to get your head around. Any chance of a CSS Grid one too?
Last question, then: what can we look forward to with YupGup in the future?
Joni: Most of the time I have no idea what I will get into next, but no plans at the moment for anything CSS Grid related other than this little spring inspired blog post.
At YupGup we’re hoping to continue working with stellar clients, maintaining existing relationships and welcoming new ones. We’ve been focused a lot on documentation and process these days, aiming to make sure working with us is a breeze and that people feel they truly have gained a creative partner. We’ll also be putting attention and care into growing a local design community we started this year, Delaware Design Assembly, and speaking at more events about design and client management.
Andy: That article is really good, Joni. I love articles that give an overview of a concept in an inspiring way to break down the learning barrier.
I’ve definitely been a big fan of your work for a long time, so please keep doing what you do. What you’re doing with YupGup looks perfect for you to do that too.
Joni, let’s wrap this one up. How can people find you on the web and support what you do?
Joni: Thanks so much for having me, Andy! It has been a true delight. I spend a bit of time on Twitter as myself and YupGup is on Twitter and Instagram as @helloyupgup. We also have a monthly community management and leadership newsletter called Together Monthly and I’m always happy to chat about potential projects through email: email@example.com.