Have you ever looked at one of our websites and asked yourself what kind of design firm RRCHNM uses? For a large number of our projects, that design firm has been Kim Nguyen, our long-time in house web designer. Since 2011, Kim has been the person we all turn to for questions about everything from color compatibility, to making our work accessible to all, to how to insure that our sites look good across multiple platforms. Along the way, Kim has helped professionalize our design efforts, especially through the application of best practices in all aspects of design.
Unlike some of our other departing colleagues, who found their way to us through their experiences as students at Mason or through personal contacts with RRCHNM staffers, Kim found us the old fashioned way — through a job ad. She had just graduated from Virginia Tech with a BFA in Visual Communications Design and had been working as an independent design professional for several years. Then she saw our ad. “I found the center’s mission and project descriptions appealing. Based off the websites and digital tools I used in my own undergraduate experience, educators in the humanities felt like an underserved audience when it came to good design and modern web practices,” she said recently.
Her initial assignment was to build themes for Omeka and since then she has been responsible for almost every design innovation for that project, as well as many others at the Center. While she hopes no one looks at the very first Omeka theme she built, Kim is justifiably proud of the clean lines and dynamic look and feel of her work.
In addition to teaching us all how to be better at thinking about design and usability, over her 10 years at RRCHNM Kim has also acquired many new and valuable skills, often because knowing a thing made it possible for her to solve one or several problems. “I’ve come to use static site generators like Hugo and Jekyll, accrue a lot more experience with scripting and PHP, improve my understanding of best practices for web accessibility, all while continuing to perform in my primary role as a front-end designer. RRCHNM has been a great environment for learning outside of my comfort zone.”
If you’ve ever sat next to Kim at our large co-working table, you likely have noticed that her keyboard looks just a little non-standard. That’s because Kim is also a hacker (in the best sense) of physical devices, including 3-D printing herself a keyboard that works better than the original and is much, much more colorful than those black keys you’ve been tapping away on all day. When she leaves us at the end of this week, we will of course miss her professionalism and her innovative work most of all, but we’ll also miss her playful thinking and the ways that her creativity manifests itself not only on a website, but on everyday objects as well. We wish Kim well in her new role at the Corporation for Digital Scholarship and can’t wait to see how being able to devote herself 100% to one project will lead to new and exciting results.