Jason Pontius {font-weight:bold; color:#000033;} is the president and founder of White Whale.

Jesse von Doom {color:#006633; margin-left:25px;} is the lead designer of Duke.edu.

Hi, Jesse. How are things?

good. very good.

So let's discuss our working arrangement. Are you an employee of White Whale? How would you characterize our professional relationship?

i'm not an employee of white whale. i'd say that i'm more of a friend or well-wisher of white whale. maybe even a compatriot, though it's more of a business chum relationship. my studio, dutchmoney, and whitewhale are quite friendly and can even share the same kennel.

How about 25 words or less on Dutch Money?

dutchmoney is the creative studio i run with my partner jack mckenna. it's pretty much just the two of us. like the song. making castles in the sand. that's twenty eight words, but i had to add that last line. but i suppose they really weren't about dutchmoney, so can they please stay?

We started working on Duke.edu last July. Can you recollect your original thoughts about what might work for Duke design-wise? How did those change over the course of the project?

well at first i was focused on a very high-design approach. duke being the institution it is, i thought the final design would be refined almost to a level of conservatism. we ended up with something quite different from that. as we got to know the people at and around duke i realized that it's a much more playful environment, with a great deal of encouragement for new ways of thinking. i'd like to think that attitude is reflected in the final work.

In the first phase of this project, you produced visual branding standards. How did you approach that?

carefully. it was a very touchy subject, and we didn't want to put off anyone at duke by introducing anything too radical. we tried to reflect the intrinsic contrast that exists at duke between tradition and innovation. that was reflected in the colors we chose, the type treatments we introduced, and throughout the general design approach.

Do you think the final working product reflects those standards adequately?

as well as any project can. if i have one great failing (and i have several) it's an overzealous appreciation for details. i would have loved to keep a little more radical approach to color and type, but it wouldn't have been practical. so yes, i think the final output was as close as it could have possibly been to the standards we set.

In general, what do you think of the final product? This is for White Whale, not Duke, so you can say whatever you want.

i like it. honestly. i still wish we could have pushed them just a little further, but i'm amazed they were as open to our ideas as they were. the team at duke was really wonderful and quite helpful. the final outcome wouldn't have been possible without their preparation, and i think it's something they can be proud of.

If I can ask you to be a little pretentious (a tall order, I'm sure)— can you describe some of the high-design (print, conceptual, etc.) inspirations for the Duke.edu design?

honestly i work in sort of a vacuum. i was reading a great book about layout by a guy called alex white when we first flew down there, so i'm assuming that influenced me a lot. otherwise i'd have to say it was influenced more by fashion ads than anything. the core concept was to use expansive open areas, simple but striking text, and large full-screen photos.

How about the low end? What sort of other Web sites did you view as models or examples worth emulating?

well, not to be negative, but my only real thoughts were that university homepages were mostly bad and that we should not use them as a starting point. that's not to say that there's no good university work out there, it just seemed that most sites, even those of large universities, didn't really serve much purpose. so for our effort i thought we needed to start from square one.

Let's get dorky. Anything you'd like to say about the standards-based CSS design of this site?

we used a few tricks, but for the most part the site was fully standards-compliant, which i think will be good for duke in the future. i only wish we hadn't had to get tricky for stuff like layer and PNG transparency so it could be 100% compliant.

We'll see what the good people say about our website, but I'm guessing a lot of people will ask what's up with all the white space. What's up with all the white space?

i think there's something to be said about not being overwhelmed, and that was the goal here. duke made a conscious decision to move their news-heavy content to duke today, a site created for a more internal audience. the duke.edu homepage is supposed to serve the purpose of getting folks to the information they need and conveying the proper tone/feel. i think the whitespace helps do both; keeping the page simple and clean navigation is easy, and placing the logo dead center with a search box gives it a striking importance without making it garish or overly large.

Where does this site fit into your portfolio as a designer? Can you compare it to some Dutch Money projects?

duke was a very different project for us than we usually do, but also very similar. it's different in that its a major university and we generally work for smaller companies or artist types. at the same time it played well to our strengths, because it was essentially an intense branding process where we had to think about every last detail of what we were doing. that's the kind of work that i love, and it's the same for a university or a small rock PR outfit. the only real trick is knowing which questions to ask and how to translate the answers you get into a visual identity.

Our next university client (hello out there!) should know that you're likely to be on the White Whale team for future projects like this. That's true, right?


Some people reading this might be potential Dutch Money clients too. What sorts of clients do you think might want to talk to Dutch Money and not White Whale? (I mean, in addition to people who love the design and hate everything else...)

i dont know. i'll generally talk to anyone about anything. once they shift in that grey area from dutchmoney to white whale i tell them to talk to you. i think that the differences in our website and yours also reflect the differences in the people we're looking to work with.

Almost done. Any shout-outs?

a big little-compton shout to dr dre, snoop, and my mom.

Do you have any questions for me?

none that i want my mom reading.