Hello, my name is Jessica Miller, founder and lead designer at our little studio. As lead designer, I handle most of our design and development requirements, from concept art, to hand-coding our custom websites.
I've put together a brief history of my road into the web design industry that I hope gives a bit of insight as to what makes our services stand out in a sea of designers.
I was born and raised on the Central Coast of California, in a small beach town area in San Luis Obispo County. In the mid-90's, a couple years before graduating high school, I relocated to the Bay Area with the intent to pursue a higher education in the area of biology. I went from a small tourist destination beach town, to the heart of Silicon Valley, and it was quite the culture shock - computer stores with coffee shops in them; 50,000 student high schools; 24 hour Barnes & Nobles; 6-lane freeways; carpool lanes and insane rushhour traffic; the City; pulsing nightlife; wonderful cultural diversity... and I loved every second of it.
The thing that really sets the Bay Area apart from other metropolitan areas is the omnipresence of all things technology. By just living in the Bay, computers and technology naturally encompass some part of your life, whether you actively invite them to or not. And for me, I just really soaked it all up; I had always had an interest in computers that was never fully satisfied in my laid back hometown, and moving to the Bay was like moving into a giant, silicon toy store.
During that time, the world wide web was brand new - Google didn't even exist, and Yahoo! was the king of the internet. Broadband was something that only big corporations had, in the form of ISDN, and even then it wasn't even as fast as our slowest household high-speed service today. For the msot part, everyone had dial-up, and the luckier had a 56kbps modem, instead of the more common 28.8kbps connection.
I had arrived at the start of the dotcom boom - which quickly changed everything. Suddenly dotcom's were everywhere. Ebay, Amazon, Napster, GeoCities, PayPal, E-Trade, Lycos, Google... Everyone had some get-rich-quick scheme to cash in on the new digital platform, and instant millionaire's were a shockingly common thing. People snatched up every imaginable domain name in the hopes of selling them for big bucks, opening up a whole new type of lawsuit. Colleges started offering comprehensive courses in web development, and ground-breaking web development tools were created by Microsoft and Macromedia (later bought by Adobe). Web development companies popped up everywhere, and the big tech companies added in-house web development departments. DSL lines were rapidly installed in residential areas, and the first unlimited internet data plans appeared (that's right, kids, home internet services used to be moderated). The internet became an integral part of business and daily life, seemingly overnight. And because there were virtually zero regulations for conducting business online, it was an absolute madhouse - a free-for-all that took years to tame.
Being only 16 at the time, the internet was just a toy for me; an entertaining hobby. The idea of becoming a professional web designer never even crossed my mind. I was actually pursuing a career in the natural sciences, and debating whether to major in Bio-Chemistry, Physics, or Astro-Physics at college, or to accept a scholarship to Davis in English Literature.
I graduated high school that year at 16 (I started kindergarten at age 4) and entered San Jose State University, majoring in Bio-Chemistry and minoring in Computer Science. It wasn't until my fourth year that I officially changed my major to Computer Science. Sounds like a pretty sharp 180, right? Well, as sometimes happens in life, fate intervened and drastically changed the course of my career path.
During my first summer vacation, I befriended an engineer who introduced me to computer programming. He taught me about Assembly Language, C, and the basics of programming in general. It was fun and interesting, but it was TCP/IP Protocol that really piqued my interest. And that's where it all began...
Because I had such an interest in the mechanics of the internet, my friend asked if I would be interested in creating a website for a friend, of a friend, of a friend, who was selling a condo. I knew nothing about web development, but welcomed the opportunity to try my hand at it. So, I picked up a book on HTML 4.0 at Digital Guru and spent the next two days reading through and hand-coding the examples at the end of the chapters.
My friend showed it to his manager at Philips Electronics, and shortly thereafter I was asked to interview for one of four internships as a computer engineer. I still wasn't planning to pursue a career in the computer industry, but I was struggling to afford college and the pay was irresistible. So I jumped on the opportunity and, to my surprise, actually got the job, beating out 3rd and 4th year Computer Science majors from some noteworthy universities.
As time went by, I found the job exciting and challenging. I worked at Philips for a good year before permanently switching my major to Computer Science, and completing my education in this field. As a result, my love of the natural sciences took a backseat to my new career path, becoming the hobby that computers once were.
My internship evolved into a contract job that lasted several years. I started off in the R&D lab programming robotic chip testers, creating virtual software interfaces, and developing browser-based frameworks for remote-controlled home servers. Our group was one of the first in the industry to utilize XML schemas for designing and developing browser-based interfaces, a concept made mainstream by Apple's revolutionary OSX. I had also experimented with SVG (scalable vector graphics) for creating non-flash, animated effects for one of our browser-based home server UI's; a technology which never took off in standard web design. Ironically, some 10 years later, SVG's are making a comeback and are increasingly used in modern web design.
When my contract at Philips was up for renewal, I decided instead to explore new opportunities at other companies, which included Sony, HP and Sun Micro. I very much enjoyed being a web designer, but found the corporate environment restricting, and perpetually riddled with red tape. I always expected each new project would be different, but they were always "design by committee" in nature, and allowed very little creative freedom. I was itching to design in a more autonomous, artistic environment; a need that was never satisfied in the corporate world. In time, that itch escalated into a fever, and I knew I had to make a change.
During this time, the dotcom bubble had just burst. Startups were going bankrupt left and right, and big name companies were downsizing at alarming rates. Contractors were the first heads on the chopping blocks, and it became painfully clear that maintaining a steady flow of contract work was going to be very difficult in the following years. The timing lined up for me to make a major change. So, rather than face the ensuing contractor graveyard that became Silicon Valley, I preemptively moved back to my hometown of San Luis Obispo with a plan to start my own design studio.
I chose San Luis Obispo to start this new endeavor for a combination of reasons, 1) it's simply a gorgeous area, 2) reasonable cost of living, 3) location relative to LA and the Bay, and 4) the dotcom burst hadn't affected the landscape as drastically in SLO, and as such, I anticipated there wouldn't be an over-saturation of unemployed web developers, fighting tooth and nail for any scrap of a job that became available. Thankfully, the latter turned out to be true, and the atmosphere was just right for a fledgling design studio.
So, in 2004, just three months after relocating to San Luis Obispo, Corvus Design Studio was born. Nearly a decade later we're still having fun, growing and expanding our company, and reveling in the ever-evolving world of design. I've been a professional designer for nearly 14 years now, and enjoy every aspect of it, from concept development, to print design, to hand-coding HTML and CSS. I take my work very seriously, and the kind words and appreciation and recognition we continually receive lets me know that we are right on track with our methodology.
In retrospect, I realize it was inevitable that I would do something in the field of design. Even as a kid, I was always designing things, always wanting to improve aesthetics. When I was around 7, I designed my own fashion line, complete with model sketches and lengthy material descriptions. At around 9, I developed an interest in interior design and subsequently redesigned my room with the help of my Mom, who brought my designs to life by tailoring the curtains, bedspread, and pillowcases from the fabrics I coordinated. In Junior High, I took a hands-on industrial sciences class, where we experimented in several different areas, including drafting and rocket design. I was really into the drafting project; we were only required to draft a single story dwelling, but I took it a step further and designed a detailed three-story mansion, complete with an English garden, photography studio, indoor pool, and arboretum. We also designed and built functional rockets, one of the highlights of my entire adolescent education. We not only built the rockets and launched them on the track field, but we were free to design anything we wanted on the exterior rocket shell. Mine was quite the spectacle as it blasted into the sky, painted in a super-glossy black and red gradient, with a burst of red and gold stars fading into the black paint, and the words "TO THE MOON" stenciled in metallic gold, lightning-bolt lettering. After looking around at the boring cardboard and plain white rockets from my classmates, I realized that form was just as important to me as function, and always made a point of cultivating that idea through life.
That about sums up my path into the world of design and development. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or comments about Corvus Design Studio.