Judging an international design competition is no easy task. It takes a special kind of person that is willing to give their time and experience for the betterment of the industry.

It's time to shine a spotlight on these special individuals and dig a little deeper to see what makes them tick. Therefore, on behalf of the CSSDA founders and crew, please enjoy the following interview with one of our esteemed judging panel members.

In A Nutshell:

Jared is a 32 year old designer and the co-founder of a web design agency called Coulee Creative. "I love to get outdoors and spend time on the water with friends. My beautiful wife, Melissa, is my partner in life and business. It's as awesome and scary as it sounds. I live in La Crosse, WI, a lovely little city nestled along the Mississippi River and famous for a historic and vibrant downtown scene (once known for having the most bars per capita in the U.S.). I'm a UW-STOUT graduate in Multimedia Design and currently balance being a designer, creative director, business owner and father."

Time Warp:

1. When and what was your first ever computer? Can you remember the spec?

The first computer I regularly used was my parents Gateway which was connected to dial up internet. I believe it had 2056Kb of ram, a 4gb hard drive, ran Windows 98 and cost nearly $3,500! The first computer I can call my own was made ordering parts from NewEgg. It was much faster than the Mac's at school and the reality was I couldn't afford anything yet with an Apple logo on it.

2. When and what was the first website you were involved in designing/developing? Which elements of the project did you do? Can you remember the 'cutting edge' tech used at the time? How did the site turn out and what did this experience teach you?

The first website I built was in 2008 for Northwoods Compass and it's in fact still living and breathing! I was the designer, creative director and project manager. The project was well received by the client but I massively underestimated the undertaking of my first project and would have made more money flipping burgers considering the time I invested.

3. Which project has been most rewarding for you over the course of your career and why?

That's a great question that is hard to answer. My favorite creative work isn't always the most rewarding project because the client is where most of the energy is invested and fun clients make for rewarding experiences. One example is Droid Life, an android tech blog I started following when I got my first smartphone. I approached the owner, Kellen, about a redesign when his site had roughly 200,000 visits a month about five years ago. His talent for writing made me think the site was only going to grow and I suggested a free redesign so long as I could prominently "tramp stamp" the footer of his site with a "Site by Coulee Creative" link. Since then we've stayed in touch and redesigned his site two more times, while it has grown to over 10 million pageviews a month. Having the opportunity to collaborate with great people and help their ideas grow really is the bee's knees.

4. What career advice would you give to yourself if you could send a 'temporal text' 5 - 10 years into the past?

Read more, work smarter. It's so easy to get caught up in the work in front of you and not continue to grow and learn. Whether it's coding, design, self improvement, for fun or business, find people that inspire you and take notes when read something meaningful.

5. Better still, if you had your own hot tub time machine, what time period would you travel to and why?

Damn, this is a great question. So many things to see but I think my curiosity would lead me to see what hasn't been written yet and I'd visit the future to see the evolution... or destruction (so dark, I know) we've managed. Here's to hoping for flying cars and greener pastures.

Favourite Things:

1. What are your favourite aspects about working in design?

I think as we become adults we sometimes forget we were once kids. To be playful, silly and creative. As a recent parent I'm constantly reminded of how much creativity and silliness we have in the early years of life. I love that as a designer creativity is a focus of design. To create great work as designers it helps to let loose physically and mentally where creativity is generated and that in turn lets us have more fun at work and at home.

2. What are your favourite design tools, sites, fonts and resources right now?

  • Breaktime - An app that is as annoying as it is great. It tells/forces you to take a break on your Mac so you don't burn your retinas out of your head.
  • Pocket - My way of bookmarking interesting content, articles and other content that I find inspiring or important but don't have time to read "now".
  • StayFocused - A great Chrome extension that limits how much time you spend on sites like Facebook during specified hours. If you get distracted easily this might just be your savior.
  • WhatFont - Another Chrome extension, this gem quickly tells you what font a site is using and saves you a bit of time vs using "inspect element".
  • Invision - Mockup review with clients... It just keeps getting better and better.
  • CSS Design Awards - Duh.
  • Vox - They explain the news, they’re awesome.
  • The Verge - They're owned by Vox, great writing and reviews about tech, gadgets.
  • Qeaql - Great set of design resources.
  • Lost Type Co - Awesome set of fonts that you don't see everywhere.

3. What are your favorite devices right now from mobile to desktop?

It's all Apple. I know there are other great products but they just work for me. iPhone 6, iPad Mini, 13" Macbook Air, 15" Macbook Retina, (x3) 21.5" iMac.

4. Which 3 cities would be your favorite to open an office in and why?

Knock it off with these awesome questions, I could spend a day thinking about this kind of stuff. Any more questions like this and I'll end up having a "For Sale" sign in my yard.

  • Chicago - The people are awesome and the city is flush with things to do. It's one of Anthony Bourdain's favorite cities and he's been everywhere, so how can you go wrong?
  • London - Again, lovely people who will share stories and beer with you at just about any pub in the city. It's huge, exciting and has a great appreciation for design. I think at one point nearly 40% of our site traffic came from their region, crazy.
  • Kona, Hawaii - I finished one website project while visiting Hawaii and working while listening to ocean waves crash into the shoreline is about as good as work gets.

5. What is your favorite activity outside of work?

I love getting on the water and boating with friends. Give me the weekend with good company, a full cooler and some watersports like tubing / skiing and I'm a happy camper.

Life Hacks:

1. How do you stay motivated?

Visiting sites like this, reading great stories and content from people smarter than myself and most importantly taking breaks from work help keep me motivated.

2. Do you have a good life/work balance? Could it be improved? If so how?

With the introduction of my daughter one year ago I was forced to work less and it's something I wish I would have chosen to do a few years earlier. I turn off all notifications on my computer and phone, only checking email 3-4 times per day so that I can get shit done in less time and enjoy life more.

3. Do you have any career advice for young designers and developers?

Don't spend all your time working and when you are working make sure it's your best work. If you're freelancing or own a business, find clients that aren't assholes. Don't be swayed by the allure of a big paycheck if everything else about the situation isn't as alluring.

4. How do you keep up with the latest trends & tech?

The internet is filled with great resources from talented people and thankfully for us designers and developers someone organized them into one website. Web Field Manual lists them all including sites like Codrops and A-List Apart.

5. If money was abolished and nobody needed to work anymore, what would you do with your life?

Travel, travel, rest. Travel, travel, rest. Travel, travel, rest.

Versus: In your opinion...

1. Are great designers born Vs. made by experience?

I was born to a family of mink ranchers in an unincorporated town and grew up without high speed internet. I think anyone with an interest in design can become a decent designer if they surround themselves with inspiring people. My friends and classmates from college helped shape me into a designer by experience. I'm talking to you Ferency Andahazy, Brady Voss and Carl Schultze.

2. Is the best long term goal to be a founder Vs. freelance Vs. full­time job?

It's whatever feels right for you. If you're new to the game then get a real job and gain some experience to start. You'll also probably develop a small network of people to work with during that time. If you appreciate consistency than full time is probably a better fit. For me I appreciate the freedom and flexibility of being a founder and not having set hours but it also comes with responsibility.

If you've been thinking about freelancing and you've been in the real world a bit then the leap probably isn't going to be as bad as you think. Excuse the excuses and do it! Yes in the U.S. you'll pay a bit more for healthcare, and yes you'll even have to exercise responsibility, but once you figure it out you'll have a freedom many don't experience until they're retired.

3. iPhone 6s vs Samsung S6 vs other?

iPhone all day. I actually love the Android platform but I'm not a fan of phones that are running a "skinned" version of Android like the Samsung phones. If it wasn't iPhone for me it would be a Nexus device.

4. Printed book vs eBook?

Printed. Books are beautiful, show them off!

5. Star Trek vs Star Wars?

May the Force be with you.

Thanks for your time. Any last words?

Surround yourself with people who don't suck. Choose friends, co-workers, clients and family that make you happy and you'll enjoy life more and your work will show the results. Oh yeah, and remember... beer before liquor has never been sicker!

Jared is co-founder of Coulee Creative (USA), a tight knit team of artists and strategic thinkers that specialize in innovative website design.