Note: This post hasn't been updated in over 2 years.
Cats laying on his keyboard, a coffee mug with his own logo, coding to metal, and playing more Xbox than an adult should. This week we meet Jake Caputo (designcrumbs) from ThemeForest.
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Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what do you do for a living?
My name is Jake Caputo. I’m from a rural town in the middle of Illinois but currently live in the Chicago suburbs with my wife and two cats.
I graduated from Columbia College in 2007 and have working full time as a web designer / developer ever since. I got started at a small design firm but left in late 2009 to freelance full time out of designcrumbs.com.
Which marketplaces do you belong to? What types of files do you sell?
I’m a member of ThemeForest. I primarily work with WordPress themes, although I have a few HTML templates for sale as well. I currently have a handful of items for sale, but I plan to make a push here in 2012.
How did you get started? Have you had any formal training?
All of my design and coding is self taught. I’ve been designing since high school. Nothing good though. In fact, it was all downright terrible.
I went to Columbia College Chicago and majored in Film, studying primary motion graphics and post-production. After graduation, I was hired to be the designer at a small web design firm and was immediately thrown into coding, which come to find out, I really enjoyed.
Describe your home workspace.
My workspace is a room at the very end of my townhouse (away from any distractions). I try to keep it neat and orderly although there is occasionally a cat laying on my keyboard.
I’m rocking a 20″ 2009 iMac along with a 23″ LG monitor which I do all of my coding on. I have some Logitech speakers that are constantly blasting a mix of metal, indie rock, and The Beach Boys. There is also always a cup of coffee on my desk.
Describe your creative process. What steps do you normally follow to create your files?
Typically I start in Photoshop and play around in there for a day or so. Then the next day I come into my office, look at what I’ve done, hate it, scrap it, and start over. I pull what works from the first one, tweak a few things, and then jump into coding it.
Once I have a good shell of a site done, I’ll bounce it off a few peers so get feedback and show it to my wife (a licensed professional counselor) who usually says something along the lines of, “I don’t know, every website looks the same to me.” After that, I nail everything down and submit to the client/ThemeForest.
What is your advice to other authors regarding how to create a successful portfolio?
Stop making things that look like everything else. You can make a theme or site that looks awesome but if it doesn’t stand out you’re just white noise.
Find a niche and build for it. There are plenty of categories here on ThemeForest with little in them, so why would you make a theme for a category that is filled to the brim?
What do you do to market your files?
Envato has an awesome community of authors and the web design community as a whole is pretty tight. I usually just send out a few tweets and everyone is kind enough to retweet them and they’ll just naturally bounce themselves around the web. I also have a dedicated page on my personal site that gets a fair amount of traffic.
What are your three favorite files, and why do you like them?
My favorite file is actually my first ThemeForest file to get accepted, The Reviewer WP Theme. It was based off a movie review website I built for myself and some of my friends. (I went to film school, remember?) I made a theme out of it and it’s done pretty well for me on ThemeForest. Reviewer has been received very well by the purchasers and I’m always receiving compliments on it. I think it sets itself apart from the rest of themes by not having the typical ‘huge slider and then three boxes’ layout that you see on blog themes.
Next is my latest theme, Stored. Stored is a WordPress theme built for use with the Cart66 plugin. This was my first venture into an e-commerce theme for the masses and so far it’s being received very well. It’s also one of the few themes available on ThemeForest built specifically for use with Cart66.
Last is a just a fun little HTML template I made, Daily Dose. It’s an extremely niche item, but I like it. The idea was to make a template that will automatically scroll through items (in the demo I’m using movies), displaying a new one each day. Everything is changeable via an XML file. And to top it off, it’s only $8.
Apart from yourself, who is your favorite marketplace author, and why do you like them?
I’m actually close friends with Mike McAlister (in real life, mind you). Mike’s always had wonderful work and we’re always bouncing ideas and, more often, coding problems off each other. We both have parts of our themes that were basically built, designed, or coded by the other.
The four of us met up at WordCamp San Francisco 2011 and hung out all weekend. It was a good time. We have some photos of the event posted over in the TF forums.
What do you do in your spare time?
Well, I’m a big movie buff (surprise surprise) so my wife and I go to the theater a lot. I also love to drum. I played in a touring metal band throughout college but now we’re all settled down and married so we really only get to talk about music with each other, not play it anymore.
In the summer I do a bit of biking but in the brutal Illinois winters that’s not really possible. Other than that, I play a lot of board games and more Xbox than I probably should for an adult.