An Interview with Reagan Ray of Paravel

I have a confession to make: I’m in love. Not with a person, not with a place, but with a company. That company is Paravel. Not only do these guys make awesome designs, but they’re just great guys too. You probably know them from their brilliant plugins, such as FitText, FitVids and Lettering.js, or perhaps from their hilarious side-projects like The Many Faces Of.

CJ recently Reagan Ray Interview

Hey Reagan, thanks so much for joining us on The Industry. Tell us a bit about yourself and the work you’re doing.

Thanks for having me! I’m the lead designer and 1/3 of Paravel, but I also dabble in illustration and lettering. You guys might have heard of my two partners in crime – Trent Walton and Dave Rupert. Right now we seem to be in redesign mode at Paravel. I just finished up a new version of We’re knee-deep in a new version of the Paravel homepage, and I’m about to start helping Dave with his site. And that doesn’t even include the client work :). Needless to say, we like to stay pretty busy.

How did you get into the design industry?

Like most designers, it all goes back to drawing as a kid. Growing up I pretty much just constantly drew Garfield and Mack Trucks (random combination, I know). I was an art nerd in school and graduated from the Reagan Ray Interview

If you hadn’t become a designer, what do you think you’d be doing now?

I love building things, so I’d have to be making something with my hands. Maybe a home builder… I’ve always loved architecture. A friend of mine started his own general contracting business here in Austin, and I admire the work he does. That’s my real world answer. My make-believe answer? A cowboy in the late 1800s.

What does a typical day in the life of Reagan Ray look like?

I usually wake up around 8 to spend a little time with my wife before she heads to work. I work from home, so I’ll catch up with Trent and Dave over Campfire and we’ll go over our to-do lists for the day. The rest of the day can vary, but it usually includes some time outside with my dog Waylon. Some days I’ll work on a lettering project and others I’ll work on a site mockup. It’s never the same, which is great. We leave Campfire open all day, so we’re constantly collaborating.

SXSW Garage Party - Reagan Ray Interview

How do you approach a new project? What’s your creative process like?

We’re big on the planning process at Paravel. I like to learn as much as I can about a project in order to formulate a clear strategy. After that, I do a lot of sketching. I had a course in college that required us to submit 100 thumbnail sketches before we were even allowed to touch a computer. So that’s always stuck with me. It allows you to focus much more on concept and worry less about things like font selections, color, etc. We go through a lot of graph paper.

Paravel have a habit of consistently bringing out awesome side projects that help the community, notably FitText, FitVids and Lettering.js. Do you think it’s important to contribute back to the community that fostered you?

Absolutely. What we do changes almost daily, and all of the side projects you mentioned are direct results of us solving problems that needed solutions. In order to push things forward and solve more of those problems, I think it’s paramount to share your solutions with others.

The Many Faces of Leonardo DiCaprio - Reagan Ray Interview

This summer, you’re launching your Heroes of Texas project, featuring a whole host of incredible Texan designers. Tell us a little bit about it, and why you decided to start this project.

Heroes of Texas is a poster collaboration I started that celebrates the Texas Revolution. I feel like people outside of Texas don’t always appreciate that there’s so much more to Texas than Austin. We’re all proud to be a part of this great big state that is chock-full of history and pride.

I was originally going to make it my own project, but I couldn’t keep myself from thinking what other talented Texans would come up with. So I asked some friends to join me and their enthusiasm to be a part of the project has been nothing short of overwhelming. We all have a lot of state pride, and I can’t wait to share it with the world. Right now we only have 9 artists participating in the project, but I hope to expand the roster this fall.

Method & Craft - Reagan Ray Interview

What is your workspace like? Are there any design tools that you simply couldn’t live without?

So as I said earlier, I work from home. My wife and I live in a mid-century house in the hills of central Austin, and my office is full of original built-in cabinets and bookshelves. I like to imagine how it would have looked 50 years ago. As far as supplies, I don’t get too fancy. I buy a bunch cheap pencils, paper and erasers from the CVS around the corner. I like to use Micron pens. Digitally, I spend a lot of time in Photoshop and Illustrator and am trying to hone my skills in Reagan's Workspace - Reagan Ray Interview

And finally, for those looking to get started in the big bad world of design, what tips or advice would you give?

Be yourself!

It’s funny, when we started Paravel, we tried to give the impression that we were this big bad agency with a staff full of account managers and interns. And because of that, I felt like most of our work reflected that corporate mindset. But then we started being ourselves more. We started a side project called The Many Faces. Trent started a blog and Dave a podcast. I started illustrating more. Now we’ve completely embraced the fact that we’re just 3 dudes having fun, and it’s totally paid off. We love what we do and where we are as a company. Trent summed it up nicely in a recent blog post: “If I want to get hired to do something, I should already be doing it.”

Jumpstarting a Design Community

Understand Your Compensation

Designer Monoculture

The State of Design Leadership

The Science of Product Design

Interview with Michael Flarup: Co-Founder and Lead Designer at Robocat

The Importance of Design Conventions