Industry Profile: Web Designer Brian Gonzales

16 Jul, 2009

Shay: So tell us about yourself?
Brian: My name is Brian Gonzales, friends call “da Gonz.” I am a professional web designer, web developer and Internet marketing specialist. I live, work and play in Gresham Oregon – ½ hour from Portland – ½ hour from Mt. Hood. I am a uberHyper hobby guy. I love everything from cooking to IT consulting. Sometimes I snowboard, sometimes I skate, sometimes I Twitter. I love business and I come from a family line of entrepreneurs so I make excuses to run my own gig instead of working for another company. Did I mention I like art? Well I do.

Shay: What is your job title?
Brian: I should have read through these questions first huh? I am a web designer, web developer and Internet marketing specialist. I run a company – which is just me, my lady, my brother and my buddy Jesse – so I can choose any job title I want. Sometimes I change it for the client. One time I was the “Internet Operations Manager” and another time I was the “Art Director,” on my biz card it reads “design.developer”

Shay: Who are some of your snowboard specific clients?
Brian: (The late) GMC Gloves, Defcon Gloves, CAPiTA Snowboards, Union Bindings. I also did work for Armada skis and Poor Boyz Productions in the ski industry. Trust me this is too many winter sports for one kat – thank god for Jesse’s help.

Shay: Did your parents question your job choice?
Brian: Question? Never – I think they push me more and more everyday to become a better business savvy individual. My Mom and Dad were both public school teachers so they taught me the fundamentals of education and always made sacrifices to get me the tools I needed to become more skilled, be it cooking, computer skills or bow hunting skills. My Mom and I also run a veterinary supply business that my grandfather started back in the day for racehorses.

It was never question why – it was a question of when.

Shay: What was your first set up?
Brian: Snowboarding? I rocked an M3 155 with K2 bindings – slightly duck. I used to manufacture for M3 Snowboards back in the late 90’s. It was fun – but not so fun at 5 a.m. when you have a hang over – not that tight.

Computer? I rock a G5 dual 1.8 Powermac with 3.5GB RAM and 2 monitors: 23” and 17” LCD. I use Adobe CS3 – mainly Illustrator, Photoshop and Dreamweaver. I also use a wide gamut of software for different reasons. I also rock a G4 Powerbook – damn I wish it was G5 Intel, but its not – I love the 17” display on it though.

Shay: What is your current set up?
Brian: Snowboard: CAPiTA MHT Board and Union Force Bindings – I hate knowing I need a new setup this season – cuz I love this one so much. I really want to try the new Flat Kick Tech on the CAPiTA Horrorscope board – come on Blue – lets hook it up this year!

Shay: What was your first job?
Brian: Like I mentioned before – I used to work with my Grandfather’s business when I was in high school, but my first real employment was for the Taco Bell stand at my University. Yeah – I said it – I never had a real job until I was a freshman in college. My parents stressed education first – so they never really let me have a commercial job. I think I thank them for that now. Is this therapy?

Shay: What’s a great day of snowboarding to you?
Brian: I love discovering new things with friends. I love hidden tree spots. I love a dope line I never felt before. I love being safe and knowing I can drop in without feeling like I might die from this one. I love good visibility and little wind. Oh – yeah – that made me stoked.

Shay: Who are your influences?
Brian: Peter Line, Basquiat, Isamu Noguchi, Bryan Ohno, my family, my homies, I am influenced by those who are real and cut the fake shit – sometimes I get deep and personal, but I think it makes for breakthroughs in self empowerment.

Shay: How long have you been snowboarding?
Brian: I started in my last year of college – 2000, but I never really took it to the next level until 2003 when I got a free pass for working at U.S. Outdoor Store.  Robby gave us a community gold pass – we went up whenever we could. I now can’t live without a season pass. The price is pretty decent here – Meadows is $444/yr.

Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?
Brian: I try go up once a week – but that can change on a whim cuz I am my own boss – I like to go when the conditions are calling. I also sometimes get busy on tough projects and don’t go riding for a few weeks at a time. It no big deal to me – its all a bonus.

Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, what opened up more opportunities for you?
Brian: I came down from Seattle back in 2001, where I was living during my college years. My buddy Jonas introduced me to his buddy Tim Gahr. Tim’s a stud – after I moved back home to Oregon he got me a job at U.S.Outdoor – I told them I wanted to join the Internet department which at the time was only 3 people. They required that I work retail first – great choice really – I learned a shit load from retail experience. I understood the product from a new level and even went to my first SIA in Vegas. Get this – I was not really supposed to be there, but I just really wanted in so I can get my foot in the door. My co-workers were cool with it except for Arse, but he later chilled out about it and I consider him a good friend.

After that things started happening. I self-proclaimed that I could shoot all the photos for the sunglasses department which was the area of retail I worked in at the time. They gave me an old Sony Mavica 1.0 megapixle camera with a floppy drive memory device. Thing was a beast. I did some decent work mainly cuz I was good at photoshop.

Not long after that I joined the Internet department full time. I started the product photography studio by bringing in my own desk, monitor, laptop and new digital camera. My boss is kinda tight with money – so I felt if I wanted to see change I had to do it myself. Later my buddy Greg and I made a proposal for a new photo studio light kit, camera, assistants and shit lets rework the Internet.

Funny enough I had replaced myself with other people and focused on Affiliate Marketing and databases. Super Nerdy but well worth it. I also redesigned the website to go along with our new infrastructure.

After the was working pretty smoothly I knew it was my time to bail. I had already been doing freelance for Defcon Gloves (thanks to a hookup from Greg) and was starting to work with CAPiTA. The transition was scary, but I made it work – no problem.

I never looked back.

Shay: What is your role at
Brian: Developer.designer is the title, which means nothing. I basically am the “jack of all trades” but I think it is best to focus on what the others do best – they are the ones who make this operation work smoothly. My brother Miguel is the business developer, Alyssa is the pro blogger and social media expert, Jesse is the web Jedi in training – otherwise known as the Padiwan.

Shay: What services do you offer clients?
Brian: Design, development, marketing, photography, illustration, logo design, css+HTML theming, Drupal development, e-commerce development, retail integration, love, support hug time and friendship. I’m not a super hard-core business guy – I leave that to Miguel. I am super real and intentionally kind. I like to work with good people with cool business ideas – that makes a dope team!

Shay: How much work goes into updating their website each year?
Brian: Each site can take about a month worth of work each – some are more complicated than others. Many of them overlap each other in a month so my summer’s are kinda hectic to say the least. Last year my appendix burst just before we launched CAPiTA. It was a super burly time in my life. Plus Flash replacement technique was messing up in IE6!!!

Shay: Is working on a website a collaborative or individual effort?
Brian: Always collaborative – we all work on different aspects of a project. I love working with Ephka and Aaron Draplin – they are both amazing designers and their sense of youth culture is par none. Every year we take the new seasonal assets and go to town. Some of it is designed for me some of it is not. Depending on the client I might have interns to work with also. I have many of my clients on Instant Messenger as well. Communication is key my friends!

Shay: What programs do you use for your job?
Brian: Adobe: Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Falsh, Acrobat. Transmit FTP, Entourage, all the damn web browsers (lame).

Shay: How much time and effort goes into a single website?
Brian: I am pretty good at them now, but the effort is still pretty extensive if you want to do them right. I specialize in Search Engine friendly websites so sometimes I over complicate things. Flash can be super extensive too. Good clean code takes a while to develop, but if done properly, updates on the website are cake!

Shay: What is necessary for a website to be a success?
Brian: Websites need to look good, be accessible and have traffic. Simple as that. As an Internet Marketer I like to see traffic coming in from all our different marketing channels such as industry blogs like this one and even MySpace pages. More and more our efforts are branching out to adapt to new media channels. I love when a client is willing to go the extra mile with his marketing budget. It’s not as simple as “hey cool – our site looks great” – we now need to focus on client acquisition via newsletters, RSS, etc. We need to reach out to blogs and forums, we need to convert traffic into positive online experience. Hopefully in the end we are successful. Sometimes this is through the sales of product online, sometimes it is the addition of new members to our mailing list. Its really up to the client to define and for us to help them refine.

Shay: Do you see social media as an important future in marketing?
Brian: Social Media is awesome because we now have more channels to interact and communicate with our client base. There is a time and place for everything. I sometimes have to tell clients that Twitter is not a good fit for their business model. They ask me why. I give them an explanation. I think Social Media is perfect for Action Sports in general.

Remember how it felt when you first signed up to receive FREE Stickers from your favorite snowboard brand? I do. When the package came – it had a grip of stickers and personal note of what’s coming up for the brand. Now take that feeling and give us immediate satisfaction. With blogs and personal MySpace communication its like we got a direct line to our heroes.

Shay: Are your clients expanding social media to their websites more than in the past?
Brian: Absolutely – here is the problem though – if you can’t maintain the social media channel – try not to do it. It actually is counterproductive. Focus and what you can do well. This might be Facebook and MySpace – for others this might just be Twitter. We also work with Definitive Jux Records and we use so many different channels because we have many people working on it. It becomes a community effort.

Shay: What other jobs/companies have you worked at?
Brian: I really have a short resume: Café at college, Kink County Public Health, Bryan Ohno Gallery, (I tried my own business called Pairodime Productions, but failed), U.S. Outdoor Store, Freelance as Pairodime, Pairodime Productions, Inc. (finally worked).

I also started a new business called Sole Position Internet Marketing We specialize in:
search engines
online strategy
pay per click ads
email campaigns
social media

There it is – that’s my plug.

Shay: What’s your average day like at work?
Brian: Well – its about 10:00am and I have been doing email for a solid hour and a half. I need to focus on client communication during the day, but I try to limit how many times I check email. I usually only check it 4 times throughout a day. This allows me to focus on other cool things like design and development, which get me paid.

Jesse just got here so we are going over IE6 problems on the Cage microsite for Definitive Jux Records. We are having computer problems on his laptop – lame. Soon I will finish up this interview and help Alyssa with some on-page SEO updates for another client.

Michael called earlier, he is not coming in this week so we need to communicate over phone and email a lot.

Around noon or 1:00 we eat lunch. We have a home studio so we just do what we want for lunch. I highly recommend Wall Street pizza – bomb garlic rolls!

I have a meeting on Wednesday that I need to prep for. It’s an e-commerce/retail integration for a huge sports apparel company. Pretty stoked – plus we are going over my design revisions so I am excited to see what they think.

I do a lot of phone communication too – so I might be jumping a round a bit today – especially because its Monday.

(back to the Interview – real time is now 4:20 pm)

Day is almost done. Jesse did great on the IE6 problems. Alyssa added on-Page SEO to a clients site and did her usual blogging. No major problems. I am working out a deal for a Flash script. Jay from Def Jux is blowing me up about the new product on the microsite. Thank God its almost 5… quittin’ time – gunna get some fish tacos!

Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Brian: I love the Burton fashion shows at SIA, I also love the bro brahin’ – I know that’s cliché – but fuck it – I love it. One time the Burton rep put together a Boat cruise party and there was a shortage of tickets because it over sold – he was cool enough to feel bad for the people last in line – he took us all out for drinks and we had a blast with the Exit Real World Crew. Good Times. The Video Premiers are always fun too. I actually like how it can be such a small world. I know kats from all over the industry in some way or another. I am super family oriented so this is a perfect fit for me. I just don’t like drama… that can be the only downer. Lame-O

Shay: How is working for (any cool work events, work environment, job perks)?
Brian: I would not have it any other way. People want to work with us. That’s a good feeling. When I was young I worked for dirt cheap on various projects just like almost every other Action Sports head. Now I don’t have to do that. I like charging money for my expertise. It took me years of experience to build and it’s worth the money.

Work environment is super casual. You can wear what you want as long as its decent – we breed style so we encourage it. We also work remotely when we want. We all have laptops so we can work from Seattle or the beach or from a trade show. We live in a digital era in a digital medium – I love it.

Shay: Do you have a college degree? If so, what is your degree in?
Brian: BA in Visual Arts from Seattle University. 2000.

Shay: What’s the best perk you’ve gotten from your job?
Brian: Self-indulgence is always fun. Working with friends is always fun. Knowing that we helped a globally recognized brand is amazing. Even now – we are about to launch some stuff that supports Def Jux with an MTV lauch. I love this shit – how can you not?

Shay: Any disadvantages of your job?
Brian: Our work is laborious and we are on the net all the time. I love the net, but it can be a physical burden. We are thankfully are active people. Get a good chair too – we use mostly Herman Miller Aeron chairs.

Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
Brian: June-October is deadly… ‘nough said.

Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Brian: Both. I come from a line of Entrepreneurs and teachers. Walk the line.

Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in designing websites?
Brian: Copy the shit out of those you love. I know this sounds like terrible advice, but I won’t lie. I think every young designer should follow the rules before you break them. I also think it will help them learn discipline. Just copy stuff and change it slightly to give yourself an original take. Keep doing it. Pretty soon – you won’t need to copy anymore. Others will copy you and the cycle continues. Also – try and develop a framework that works best for you and your clients. Make it easy on yourself to show them progress and make changes. Be flexible, don’t take things personal and don’t be afraid of doing pro bono work. If you want to be top dog – you should scrub the floor.


Shay: Final Thoughts?
Brian: I dig your site. Thanks for being real.

You can always find me at:

*Pictures courtesy of Brian Gonzales

About the author


From the beginning of time, I was Shannon. From the beginning of snowboarding, I was Shay. From the beginning of online communities, I was Shayboarder. In the end, I’m the writer, photographer, editor, publisher, guru of sorts, product tester, curvy girl, and most importantly the snowboarder behind it all. Follow me on this journey through snowboarding, mountain biking, traveling and fun experiences!

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  1. Eph
    July 16, 2009

    Magician of the internets!

  2. July 16, 2009

    Hmm….contact on Sole Position isn’t working.

    Another great article Shay

  3. July 17, 2009

    Hi Justin – Thanks for visiting the site – I appreciate you letting me know about the contact page. I got that fixed now – try again:

  4. July 17, 2009

    Nice interview!

  5. July 19, 2009

    Brian I like the modeling shots,,, very nice. I actually remember when you took that series of photos.

  6. Your Uncle Bob
    July 20, 2009

    Your definitely gifted, besides being from a family of entrepreneurs. This was a excellent interview and a great response on your part.