082: With Jason Santa Maria

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This week we were joined by Jason Santa Maria, a designer currently in Brooklyn, New York. You might know Jason from his work on Typekit or more recently the writing collaboration tool Editorially. Or perhaps from past work like the WordPress logo and from working at renowned web studio Happy Cog. We talked about (roughly in order):


  • 14:31 WebKit now supports the srcset attribute on image (img) elements – Webkit.org

Q & A

  • 20:53 Jason, you were one of the more prominent art-direction bloggers with your v4 redesign. Did you find it hampered your writing since you had the extra burden of laying out the article in addition to crafting the words?
  • 26:21 What’s your favorite upcoming part of the CSS Fonts Module Level 3 and can you explain what attracts you to those parts and give a little info/background about that portion of the spec?
  • 30:15 Should I chase money, or chase opportunity? I recently could have taken a high-paying corporate job, but chose instead to stay with my creative agency job. What would you do?
  • 35:37 I’ve recently applied for a few jobs where mobile web development or responsive design was a requirement. I started using Twitter Bootstrap about a year ago and use it for every project that I work on now. The feedback that I’ve received from employers is that their IT team feels that I’m just using simple templates and that I don’t have the coding skills or chops required for the position. Does the IT team know what they are talking about?
  • 41:05 If I post code on Github and someone makes my code better or fix any bugs, is it legal to make a profit on their own code if I post it on an app store?
  • 47:44 How do I become a designer?


  • 24:00 Ghostlab Cross-device testing app! Use SHOPTALK code for a 30% discount on the Ghostlab app over at the online store.
  • 45:49 Environments for Humans: Digital Biz Summit – We’re gathering freelance, agency leads, and project managers to discuss how they handle projects, cultivate positive culture, and maintain effective communication from clients to employees. And also make money without losing their shirt. Discount code SHOPTALK still good for 20% off.


  • Andrew Lampert

    Right on about the bootstrap comment. It seems to me that an IT team that reacted that way either doesn’t understand the full capabilities of bootstrap or the interviewee didn’t expand enough on all the things they have done with it.

  • Chris

    If you are using the default style and design of bootstap than I would agree with the IT team but if bootstap is the core than they are in the wrong. I would compare bootstrap to CakePHP, CodeIgniter or Laravel but for CSS.

  • thebigkick

    If you are going to call yourself a front-end dev you should be able to build each component of Twitter’s Bootstrap from scratch. Else you are just a professional plugin installer.

    I had a similar experience, professionally, and I got to a point where I figured I should know, not only jQuery, but JavaScript/AJAX to be more marketable and have a solid understanding of how these work and are able to build things similar to TB. Being able to troubleshoot and build custom plugins/functionality is a huge part of the job.

    Furthermore, I feel there are three levels of front-end dev. Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3.

    Level 1: Knows Adobe CS tools, has superficial knowledge of how the dynamic web works, can spot JS/PHP code and edit literals, expert CSS; beginner CSS3, RWD principles, very basic jQuery and loose understanding of AJAX, can install and troubleshoot plugins. Understand theoretical UI/UX principles and applies them practically.

    Level 2: Adobe CS tools, very good jQuery, pretty good vanilla JS, can build AJAX functionality, build out jQuery UI elements from scratch and on the fly, has written PHP and can manage an MVC framework, knows enough dev-ops to get by. Expert UI/UX principles. RWD is efficient and responsible.

    Level 3: Adobe CS tools, excellent JS, can build plugins from scratch, excellent and efficient AJAX, experienced logic level PHP; excellent view level PHP, can manipulate the db using JS/PHP, can build frameworks, HTML5/JS canvas/games. RWD is efficient and responsible. Develops a mature dev process.

    Having a solid knowledge base and flexible personality is required to be able to communicate with the rest of your team. And I’ll bet this is something that IT team talked about.

    • roblevintennis

      I think this is sort of pigeon holing what a front-end dev’s skill set is; especially with the Adobe CS tools req. What about a front-end dev who comes from a full stack developer position, can also program in Java, iPhone/Obj-C, sql/nosql, etc. and happens to have some decent CS knowledge. If he can also do CSS, JS, HTML5 + some Ruby/Python etc., but doesn’t quite have the design specific (e.g. Adobe) chops; where does he fall? I guess this isn’t so much a criticism of your post, all of those aren’t super useful skills for sure, I just think front-end dev means a lot of things these days and there are many ways to be super valuable.

  • Kris Van Houten

    When I first interviewed for my current job, which is by far the smartest group of guys I have ever worked with, one of their first questions for me was if I knew Bootstrap.

    To me saying that you shouldn’t use it or any other starting framework is (Somewhat) like saying you shouldn’t use jQuery or Normalize. From someone who has been doing web design for about twelve years I think it is a great toolbox to start with. But I will wrap that statement with condition by highly encouraging you customize it so that it doesn’t look like ever other website that uses it; which is likely what the questioner did.

    Some tips for Bootstrap, go in the LESS and JS and disable all the junk you don’t use to reduce file size. If you change nothing else, change the navbar! That is always the dead giveaway. Finally, change the color scheme and add some of your own features.

    Use it for what it is, a tool or starting point, not a template or theme.