Happy Friday, all! It’s time for our weekly series, Inside Orbit. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Kurt Cruse, Lead Web Designer at Orbit.
I’ve known Kurt for a few years. 6 or so maybe? Can’t remember the exact moment when we first met. What I do remember is that he reminded me of Charlie from Always Sunny, his laugh is contagious, and he’s never not smiling.
Some of my favorite things about Kurt are that he’s super passionate about what he does and he loves our clients as much as they love him. He’s designed some of my favorite Orbit websites including Vienna Beef, Narrative Science, and Lou Malnati’s.
Without further ado…
Where are you from?
It was a really big railroad town back in the 1800’s. Inbound trains from Pittsburgh would split at the Bradford station to head towards Chicago or St. Louis. The great fire of 1920 changed the fate of the town though.
What made you decide to become a Designer?
I guess I’ve always been creative, but I would have never guessed this is where I’d end up. Growing up in a small town, no one I knew really worked in the creative industries and it took a few years of college for me to really latch on to that being a viable option.
I ended up taking a few graphic design classes and caught the bug. I loved working with the tools, communicating ideas, and coming up with solutions. I was very competitive in class and did really well, but the fine art side of design never really took hold of me like it did a lot of my classmates. I liked it, but something was missing.
After school I had a few odd design jobs here and there and did a lot of freelancing, but spent most of my time bartending downtown to pay the bills. Then I got lucky and landed a job that required me to work on both print and web. It wasn’t long before I knew the web was where I wanted to be; it had all the things I loved about graphic design, mixed in with all the technical aspects of the interwebz.
How’d you land at Orbit?
Through my best pal, and co-worker Shellie Argeanton; she was the first official designer to be hired on at Orbit. Through her, I met a lot of the great people who work here and I quickly figured out it’d be a great place to spend my days. I spent a few years living in Tampa, and shortly after moving back to Chicago the stars started to align.
Tell me about a favorite project you worked on and why?
The Vienna Beef redesign was a killer site for so many reasons. Besides being packed with features, it was Orbit’s first responsive ecommerce site. Plus the client was great! And, I mean, Vienna Beef. What a super rad brand and Chicago institution to work on. I doubt I ever design a site in bright yellow, red, and blue again. Primary colors with hot dog illustrations tiled in the background? C’mon.
Also, I’m 95% sure I found a time traveler in one of their old pictures. Check out the gentleman drinking from a straw in the 1957 photo in the history timeline.
What’s one tool or trick that makes your life easier as a Designer?
I’m a total nerd for Photoshop keyboard shortcuts.
What industry blogs or sites do you read religiously?
I used to have my 20+ go-to bookmarks I’d check on the regs, but we’re so busy here at OMS that I find a lot of the time I’m more so learning on the go than researching. If there’s something I should be aware of, it’ll start popping up on Twitter or at conferences regularly and I’ll look into it. I also subscribe to a handful of newsletters.
Who’s your hero? Why?
I hate to take the cliche route here, but I’m inspired by so many different people on a daily basis. I’ve never been one of those people who lock on to one person. There are so many people out there using their talents to do amazing things, it just blows me away.
What’s one tip that you can give a client about redesigning a website?
What motivates or inspires you?
Besides all the professional design and career stuff:
- Summer in Chicago, do it up while you can!
- Shenanigans with my friends.
- This amazing city.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
My middle name, Duane.
Which is funny, because so many people call me by my first and last name. I guess when your full name is an alliteration and only two syllables, it’s easy to go with Kurt Cruse over just Kurt. Chances are, only a few people reading this know Kurt Duane Cruse, though. Kurt Duane Cruse Jr., if you want to get real technical.
How many cups of coffee do you consume in a day?
We have a Julius Meinl downstairs and it’s both amazing and horrible at the same time. Depending on the day, I’ll have a few cups, or an iced Americano, or a mocha, or a red eye, I’m all over. I’m a big fan of the fresh pots, just like my man, Dave Grohl.
What’s your favorite nickname and how did you get it?
The aforementioned bartending stint was at a piano bar where they’d occasionally change the lyrics of Johnny Mellencamp’s “Hurt So Good” to “Kurt So Good.” I wasn’t sad about it.
If you could see any band (past or present) who would it be?
A few years ago, right after seeing My Morning Jacket closeout Lollapalooza, my buddy picked me up in a cab and we saw the Foo Fighters play at the Metro. Those two, back-to-back, and the Foo at the Metro no less? I checked this question off the list that night.
What beer do you currently have in your fridge at home?
It’s summer time, so there are a few Tecates in there for sure.
What do you like to geek out on?
I like to listen to an album on repeat for days on end; to the point where I think about turning my Spotify account to private so my friends don’t think something is wrong with me.
I’m also one of those people who perpetuate the stereotype of Instagrammers who takes pictures of their food. I can’t help it – it’s just so beautiful and delicious, I have to share it. You’ve probably already realized this by the number of ‘gram links in this post though. Geek on, friends! Geek on!
side note: for the record, I’ve heard Kurt laugh at least 4 times from across the office while I worked on this post.