An Interview with Joseph Bergdoll

by Jason R. July 4, 2016

Joseph Bergdoll is a designer and developer who runs Extended Play, a design and technology studio. After he collaborated with MFA Interaction Design on our new website and identity, we sat down with him to learn a bit more about his practice. 

Tell us a little about yourself. I’m a graphic designer who codes. Born in Dallas, Texas, I was raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and have been in New York City for the better part of the past four years. I run a small design and technology practice called Extended Play, or EP for short.

How you did you come to designing websites? Basic web development skills came before I ever dabbled in design. I started playing with Yahoo’s GeoCities when I was about 11 years old, making pages for all sorts of things — videos of my friends skateboarding, pictures of my cat, typical 11 year old interests — then sending them to family. I somehow managed to Google search my way to basic HTML tutorials, back when sites were built with tables, image maps, and other crude stuff. The concept of typing this goofy language into Notepad and then publishing it to the web, where I could then interact with it was thrilling, but I recognized that there was more to a website than the code.

As I got into my teenage years, I saved up and purchased Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I designed all kinds of things – logos and flyers for bands I was playing in, vinyl decals for me and my friends’ dirt bikes, skateboard graphics... I had no idea what I was doing, but design was always this creative complement to whatever my main passions were.

After high school, I went to Arizona State University. Their Visual Communication Design program is very process-driven, with a major emphasis placed on working by hand with extreme precision and consideration. My 40 classmates and I didn’t touch the computer for our first two years — all of our time was spent exploring principles of form, space, color, and composition with black and white paint, pencil, scalpel, tape, colored paper, etc.

When we finally moved to applying our learned skills to design projects on the computer, I naturally picked web design back up again, alongside assigned projects like books, posters, identities, and such. The sensitivities developed in those early years of school have continuously proven to be so valuable with every new challenge, giving an enormous amount of love and consideration to every single facet of my work.

Credit: Joseph Bergdoll

What are a few that you have worked on in the past? I’ve been really, really fortunate to have worked on some tremendous projects with some really spectacular people. One of my first freelance projects was a complete site redesign for AIGA/NY. Brought on by Charles Adler, I worked closely with him and the rest of the AIGA/NY board to concept, design, and develop the site that’s still in use today. On one hand, the visibility that came with the project was exciting, but simultaneously terrifying. Turns out, fear is a tremendous motivator.

After that, I spent two years at a couple of agencies. That last year was spent, moonlighting on a few freelance projects, which allowed me to line up enough jobs to yield a somewhat stable income for 6 months. So, I quit my job and EP was born. Since then, I’ve been lucky to work with a slew of wonderful clients: an independent denim brand, a record label, a couple design firms, and a forward-thinking salad restaurant, just to name a few.

Credit: Joseph Bergdoll

Tell us a bit about the design of our new site, your inspiration, and process. Recognizing that this would be the third visual direction in seven years for MFA IxD, it was important to consider the two past conclusions as steps to our next destination. The first identity, with the modular type, was interesting and expressive but difficult to reproduce at small sizes and on the web. The second identity brought forth a new color palette and a couple interesting logo treatments. Colors were refined, graphic elements were finessed, a uniform logo treatment was created, and a new typeface (NB International by Neubau) was chosen to complement all of the above. These conclusions were then translated into page designs and voila! New website.

But the front-end wasn’t the only piece of the project that received a massive overhaul. The MFA IxD site has a ton of information on it, divided into numerous different types and categories. It was important that the site be built in such a way that each piece of information can communicate with and relate to one another, regardless of the order of discovery. The back-end (built on Craft CMS) was structured in such a way that encourages relating new data to existing data in relevant areas – making it easier to administrate and providing more value for users. It was also important to make the site “smart,” and automate some tasks to ensure uniformity of presentation and reduce the amount of time required of MFA IxD staff. For example: events automatically pull all the relevant data from Eventbrite with the input of a single URL, images have numerous transforms and crops generated for it upon upload (every image on the site is responsive), and site performance was considered with every feature.

Put the two together, and you end up with the site you’re on now – hopefully it will serve MFA IxD for years to come.

Thanks, Joseph! It's been such fun to collaborate.

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