Inside Orbit with Mary Fran Wiley
It’s that time of the week…. #InsideOrbit with Mary Fran, one of our Web Design geniuses. During the day, Miss Meefs (as we like to call her) designs websites. At night and on the weekends she transforms into a baking beauty (also known as Franny Cakes), a blogger, and speaker in the gluten-free community.
Where are you from?
I grew up in LaGrange, IL, and graduated from the same high school as David Hasselhof. It makes me this close to being famous. Right?
What made you decide to become a Designer?
I have always been creative – I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing, painting, knitting or sewing. I even took web design classes at the local community college while I was still in high school.
But it was in my last semester at U of I when I had a TA who worked as a graphic designer and was pursuing an MBA tell me that I needed to re-evaluate my career plans and consider going into design after I turned in a semester-long marketing project. It took a miserable first job and a major car accident to force me to re-evaluate my career plans and make the decision to go back to school for design.
How’d you land at Orbit?
I came across the job posted on LinkedIn and when I came in to interview I promised the web team baked goods on the regular. (They even wrote about it in the Sun-Times).
Tell me about a favorite project you worked on and why?
It is a close tie between a project still in development and Media Radar, so Media Radar will have to win. It started with a great, WordPress loving project team of Andi and Jill. Pair that with a great client who paid attention to detail and the chance to try out Bootstrap as a responsive framework, what’s not to love?
Besides, how often do you get to make orange and brown not look like a website for the Cleveland Browns?
What’s one tool or trick that makes your life easier as a Designer?
I use a Wacom tablet when I am designing rather than a mouse. It might seem a little silly because I am not drawing or painting in Photoshop, but I like that it feels more like drawing than using a mouse.
What industry blogs or sites do you read religiously?
I’ve been reading Smashing Magazine for years, and it is still my favorite web design and development blog. I love the typography and design showcases on Abduzeedo (maybe because they have published my design work a few times) and Onextrapixel is a good design read when I have time.
Who’s your hero? Why?
I regularly tell Andi that she’s my hero for making my designs come to life, loving cheesy pop music and salt and vinegar chips, does that count?
If not, I would have to say that my friend Erica is pretty stand-out. She turned a lost job and free time during unemployment into a successful blog that advocates for Celiac disease awareness. That blog turned into a book and a legion of followers whose lives she has changed by giving them a voice and telling a few fart jokes.
What’s one tip that you can give a client about redesigning a website?
Remember that no matter what people still use your website. It doesn’t matter if you sell to businesses or that doctors care about different things than regular consumers – they are all still people interacting with the web. And people behave in predictable ways, so trust your designer when they talk to you about usability.
Can I add a second one? Ask questions. Your designer wants your input and they want you to be involved in the process rather than them taking a stab in the dark. And you should understand why that button is there or why your links can’t be canary yellow on white.
What motivates or inspires you?
I was diagnosed with a progressive, incurable nerve condition when I was 25 (talk about having the rug pulled out from under you), and it is my biggest motivator. Every day I feel like I start off about 5 steps behind everyone else, and it is my goal to never let anyone see that I am any different. So I am always challenging myself to be a better designer, coworker, and friend despite any setbacks in my life.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I write 2 blogs, so my life is pretty much an open book. I mean the whole internet knows about my distaste for beets and that time I got dumped for buying a pair of designer shoes.
What most people don’t know is that in an act of rebellion I decided to study fashion design at an all girls college
How many cups of coffee do you consume in a day?
I drink a cup of coffee a couple times a week, but you will likely find me drinking black tea at work. Mostly because I am convinced my coworkers have no idea how to make a good cuppa.
What’s your favorite nickname and how did you get it?
I’ve had a lot of nicknames over the years – for some reason people have a hard time when you have a combined first name. The longest running (and one with the most variants) is Mifa (and its current incarnation of Meefs). In high school French, my name was incredibly hard to pronounce while speaking and Marie-France sounded a wee bit pretentious, so my teacher dubbed me Mifa and it stuck. I have college friends who didn’t know my actual name until the invention of Facebook.
If you could see any band (past or present) who would it be?
You’re all going to judge me for this, but I would have loved to see the Spice Girls at the height of their popularity (Girl Power!) and I have been wanting to see Robyn in concert for ages…and I might finally get my chance this summer.
What beer do you currently have in your fridge at home?
I have one bottle of gluten-free beer that Jason brewed. I tend to be more of a wine person…or bourbon person…
What do you like to geek out on?
Gluten-free cupcakes and food allergy advocacy. Typography and awesome graphic design. WordPress, knitting, and Doctor Who. Oh, and I have had the Tolkein translation of Beowulf on pre-order since it was announced. I guess this just means I am a super nerd who bakes cupcakes.