Interview of UI designer – Darren Hoyt

If you are active in wordpress community, Darren Hoyt is not an unknown name. His free Mimbo theme and TimThumb image auto resize script for wordpress is widely popular. His free Aggregado theme is one of the best theme I have seen so far. Especially, his attention to detail, space, typography and colors is excellent.

I wanted to know more about this awesome designer and thought others might want to know more as well. So I requested an interview and he generously agreed. Here’s some of the questions that I asked him.

Homepage of shows his UI design talent. I love colors, typography and layout balance.

Homepage of shows his UI design talent. I love colors, typography and layout balance.

Personal & Design Related

Q. Introduce yourself just in 2 sentences.

A: I’m Darren Hoyt, a freelancer who designs interfaces for Expression Engine- and WordPress-driven sites. I’ve recently expanded into designing iPhone apps.

Q. How long have you been working with WP? Are you working with WP for fun (is it your hobby?) or has it become your lifestyle and way of doing business?

A: I’ve built most sites on WP since 2005. I also make money on the side by selling premium themes like Mimbo Pro.

Q. Your designs and typography skills are marvelous. Who inspires you?

A: Thanks! Because I don’t have a background in print, I learn a lot from multi-disciplinary designers and their portfolios. Some of my favorites: Todd Miller, Vitor Lourenco, Nick Jones, James Lai, Marian Brchan, Andrew Wilkinson, Miguel Ripoll, Dustin Curtis, Matthew Smith….. lots of favorites.

Q. What is the best piece of design advice you have ever heard and how has it helped you?

A: When I started out, my brother-in-law took me under his wing and taught me to be patient with design, to start simply and to get the fundamental problems solved first, rather than starting with too much polish and not enough substance.

I also respect that he’d spend however much time was necessary to make sure a design was successful, even if it meant doing it off-budget in his free time. This is not always possible or practical, but I admired it.

Q. What is your favorite theme and/or plugin and why? (Could you give a link? Let others see it)

A: I honestly don’t use other people’s themes much. I build all websites on my own framework, codenamed Gravy. As for plugins, my recent favorite is Justin Tadlock’s Query Post Widget.

Dispatch theme for wordpress shows clean, crisp typography and layout balance

Dispatch theme for wordpress shows clean, crisp typography and layout balance

Upcoming Framework

Recently you mentioned at twitter about designing a wordpress framework in collaboration with @binarimoon. From design and typography perspective, it looks amazing. Here’s some question on that one.

Q. What got you interested in the WordPress themes framework?

A: First, I should point out, it’s my collaborator Ben Gillbanks who is actually coding the new framework.

Our interest was piqued after seeing what Justin Tadlock and Ian Stewart have done with their frameworks, Hybrid and Thematic, which have inspired a lot of ideas and discussion within the WP dev community. The learning curve is a bit higher for users who want to explore the frameworks and make use of stuff like action hooks, but the level of documentation, especially on Ian’s site, has been tremendous. If enough people read the docs and grasp the concepts, I think the community’s cumulative understanding of WordPress as a whole will go way up. But, that still doesn’t mean everyone will want to, or need to, use frameworks of that magnitude for all their projects.

Q. Are frameworks the future for WordPress themes?

A: Probably not – only amongst hardcore developers. Separate from that, I do think parent/child theme relationships is a concept that’s becoming more mainstream, though.

Q. There are few frameworks already available. Why create a new one? How is this different? Could you share more details on the Elemental framework?

A: It’s like anything else – once you’ve studied the best of breed (Thematic, Hybrid), you begin thinking of how you’d do things differently. Elemental is being created to work specifically in conjunction with a new set of themes we’ll be releasing through Pro Theme Design, so the philosophy will be a little different. Outside of Pro Theme products, I don’t know yet if Elemental will be something the general public will find use for.

Q. Any ETA on its release? Will that be paid or open source?

A: We’re hoping to release it in conjunction with a new child theme next month. We’re releasing them together to underscore how parent/child theme relationships work. The tutorials and other documentation we’ll release at that time should make the concepts less intimidating to novice users who might ask questions like, “Why do I have to purchase 2 themes?”


Q. What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the WordPress industry?

A: Read everything in the Codex, and keep up with all the sources listed at (plug) ;)

Q. Thanks a lot for your time Darren.

A: My pleasure.

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