Joel Wilke
front-end web development
& user-centered design

Who is this Joel Wilke anyway?

A very good question indeed.

Those of you who have had the pleasure to meet me know that I am able to use five or six words when only one or two is needed, especially when approached with an open ended topic.

So, I’ve collected material here from a variety of sources to help answer the larger question as to who I am. Too much, too little? All of the above. Feel free to raise your hand to ask questions.

The Proust Questionnaire

"The has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature." Vanity Fair

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being content.
2. What is your greatest fear?
Not measuring up to my potential.
3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Shyness
4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Satisfied ignorance
5. Which living person do you most admire?
My father
6. What is your greatest extravagance?
My pottery collection.
7. What is your current state of mind?
Disconnected
8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Detachment
9. On what occasion do you lie?
When feelings are at stake.
12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
Integrity
13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Quiet confidence
17. Which talent would you most like to have?
Social butterfly
18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Self confidence
19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Loving another completely
21. Where would you most like to live?
Fort Collins, CO, Bozeman, MT, Burlington, VT
22. What is your most treasured possession?
Either a Warren MacKenzie or a Matsuzaki Ken pot.
23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Loneliness
24. What is your favorite occupation?
Artist
25. What is your most marked characteristic?
An appearance of aloofness
26. What do you most value in your friends?
Understanding
27. Who are your favorite writers?
T.R. Pearson, John Steinbeck
30. Who are your heroes in real life?
Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, JR, Lewis & Clark, Thomas Jefferson
31. What are your favorite names?
Dashiell, Lucy, Betty,
33. What is your greatest regret?
Asking for help sooner
34. How would you like to die?
Instantaneous with no prelude
35. What is your motto?
Don’t give them what they want, give them what they need.
Circa 2017

Lately I’ve been job hunting and interviews always start with me having to introduce myself. Since I am pursuing a development position, I usually start off by saying that I originally started college in engineering. I was thinking about how people interact with objects and experiences but I really didn’t have a clue what calculus was all about and I thought that not understanding what calculus was for might be a clue that engineering wasn’t for me.

I transferred into Industrial Design only to find that I found myself at home in the graphic design department. I loved how it was a balance of concept, hands on construction, and visual communication.

After a number of years specializing in marketing I found that I was growing bored with the scope of projects. When the Internet starting getting attention, and clients were interested in web sites, I found that it offered the opportunity to implement more of what I had learned, but also required more left-brain analytical thinking of user process.

I used to think of my various projects as “Okay, I’m standing in front of the dairy case, what packaging would get my attention.” Or, what does the feel of this paper connate for letterhead, or how can I expand a message to hold a viewer’s attention without being overt. And building a website was no different than plotting out a conversation on how to provide a solution to a user’s problem.

The Internet was that ‘Aha!’ moment that allowed me to use both sides of my brain to craft an experience for the end user or consumer. Unlike software programmers, the Internet, at the time, was about delivering content or messages quickly. The idea was that anyone could do it with a little time.

As I started doing more and more sites in Flash and Dreamweaver I was aware that to really get in the game I needed a technical foundation. And with that I went back to school for my Web Development degree.

What I think I bring to the table is the ability to work with clients to understand their needs, mediating with the development team to manage expectations and the requirement for a level of flexibility. And all with the end user a part of the conversation. Too often the end user becomes a mythical part of the conversation that is cursed for their human qualities and lack of conformation.

To me, a site’s development isn’t that fundamentally different from a print project, only that I am now the printer. I still have to set up the files for a particular output, collect fonts, manage color and make sure all the graphics are linked correctly. Still the meticulous communication, flexibility of discovery, tight deadlines, budgets, profits and the delivery method.

Circa 2012

After college I had intended on moving out West and found myself on the opposite side. I crisscrossed the country twice and after living in Vermont for 8 or so years I found that it changed my life and what I think of as community and a balanced life.

I'm good with my hands and take great pleasure in learning and mastering a new craft. I am a pretty darn good potter. I am also hoping to put a wood studio in a future house to make use of the lumber I have drying. I have a thing for Arts & Crafts style furniture. First up is a sideboard to match my Morris chair and book cabinet. Or the liquor cabinet by Stickley. And...life is just too damn short.

Music is my lifeblood. My recent playlist would include: Modest Mouse, Afghan Whigs, Alt-J, Miles Davis, Bill Frisell, Morphine, The Pogues, Interpol, recent Bob Dylan, Aaron Copland, The Church, and never ever forget Neko Case. And that is just from the last couple of days.

Lifelong favorites also include The Who, The BoDeans, The Clash, Bjork, Robbie Robertson and Matthew Ryan.

Plus; Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, YardBirds, 'Mats, Social Distortion, Patsy Cline, Hank, Duke, the Count, Rob Zombie, Muddy Waters and on and on.

My favorite author is T.R. Pearson. I love a good tangent. Also, John Steinbeck, for his thoughtful observation on people. Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita." Faulkner has his moments, Kerouac's "On the Road" even though it is very sad. Winnie the Pooh for its lyricism.

Lately, I've only been watching TCM. I love movies with snappy dialogue. Like Guy Ritchie, Coen brothers, The Thin Man movies, lot of noir stuff. I also tend to like stuff off the beaten trail, foreign, etc.

And as for food, if you've ever been to Penny Cluse and it changed your life then you will understand why I'm not easily impressed by other restaurants. Besides it is never just about food as much as love.

Circa 2010

A bit about li'l ol' me.

Who am I? I once thought I was normal but I have been set straight. I am a lot of things but not everything. Essentially, I am a creative professional with a high mechanical aptitude.

I am a lifelong learner and like to learn new things. I have two degrees, a BFA and a BS. I also have a the equivalent of a literature minor.

I can weld, sew, teach you to snowboard, design and build a house, throw pots, fix most things in my car, make daiquiris. stuff sausage, read a map, and other handy things. I like to learn new things and take pride in mastering them. I'm a huge fan of old movies, as well as independent, foreign and more obscure movies. Thank you TCM and Netflix.

In former lives I have lived in five states (Schenectady, NY anyone?) and been to 29 [now 33] others. I've run a marathon, played a trumpet, was shorter, cross-country skied, solved physics equations, and other stupid human tricks.

Things I have:
  1. Walking around money
  2. Thirst for learning new things
  3. Love of movies with smart dialogue, think Guy Ritchie, Coen brothers and the like.
  4. Small scar on my right knee
  5. Good craftsmanship
  6. A metric socket set
Things I need:
  1. More time off
  2. Eight hours of sleep
  3. More gumption
  4. Hiking shoes and a place to break them in
  5. To improve my eye contact
Things I could never do without
  1. Coca-Cola
  2. Good music
  3. Adequate sleep
  4. Quiet time
  5. The woods
  6. Laughter
Circa 2000

It all started a very long time ago when I was born in Minnesota. My father taught me early on about finesse and craft. I went into engineering with an idea of designing products but soon found myself in the library going through the then newly discovered Communication Arts magazines. I love physics, especially in how it relates to riding motorcycles and snowboards, but calculus?

So I left. I restarted in Industrial Design but I soon found my home in the Graphic Design department. And home it became for many long hours. I soon found a love for early Twentieth Century Russian design (which fits in well with my math and science background) and Japanese packaging with its innovative use of materials.

So...I've got enough credits for two degrees if they offered something that fit my eclectic mix. In that mix is the equivalent of a literature minor which I think can also be found influencing my work.

So who am I? I am someone who treasures learning, experiences, the journey, my surroundings, and what it is that makes me passionate, intrigued, happy, sad, perplexed-all emotions. Through all of these emotions is how we communicate the way we do and why we do it.

Design is about communication. Not just appearances but how things work or operate. It takes into account many peoples and their thought processes, perceptions and emotions.

Intelligent design adds value to an object or experience. And those values are what drives our decision making process. Do you shop at Wal-mart or Target? Coca-Cola or Pepsi? Ford or Chevrolet? All things being equal--design differentiates, for better or worse.

My approach to design is to give the client more than they expect and what they need, not neccesarily what they want-to create an experience that the user values.