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Meet the PureButtons Staff, Jeff Nemecek-Owner

Jeff Nemecek

Jeff, how are you today?
I’m not bad.. could be better. It just got done raining here all morning.

Tell me about yourself.
I’m 5’11” average build, brown hair… Is that how you answer this question? (Great interview so far).

What is your typical day like?
It varies, but most of the time it is very hectic.  A lot of emails, phone calls, etc.  But, I try to be as personable with my employees as I can be.  I want this to be as fun and laid back of a company as possible.  Sometimes, we stop working a little early and play some Guitar Hero. (If we have time)

How did you start Pure Buttons?
By accident.  In all honesty, it was a “pure” coincidence and is a really long story. I will try to condense it as much as possible.  I had started a clothing line when I was in high school.  A client of mine purchased band t-shirts from me and asked me if I knew a place where they could get buttons cheap.  I decided to get a machine and make them myself, to make a few extra bucks.  I had been taking classes for web design and development, and figured I would put them to good use and make a website to sell custom buttons. Next thing you know, a few large clients ordered, and it just exploded from there.

Why buttons?
Everyone loves buttons, so why not.  It was a niche, cheap band buttons.  That was how we started.  We try to keep the same backbone that we started on, cheap, amazing buttons for everyone.  Everyone loves ‘em and we figure they will love them more once they get a PUREbutton, especially at our cheap rates.

Just a random question, dealing with buttons all day long, do you every dream or have nightmares about buttons?
No, not yet.  I hope I never do.

Well, you really seem to enjoy it, what do you love the most about it?
I love being able to provide a service people find useful and affordable. That in itself is rewarding.

What do you dislike about it?
Tough question, I’d have to say, the stress. Sometimes it just eats away at you after a while but, eventually you learn how to manage it. (So I hear).

In a few years, where do you see yourself and Pure Buttons?
Me Personally:
Working at my home office in the next year and coming into the office randomly throughout the week to check up on production. As for now, I’ll continue to pass out at my desk on extremely long days.

For the Company:
I see us as the top custom button provider. With only being in the business for 3 years we’ve slowly begun taking the top rank. It’s just a matter of time before it happens.

As the brains behind the company, why do you offer such an excellent product for so cheap? I mean, if you charged what your competition charged, you could probably make double.
This is a question I get asked all the time. I just put the customer in mind before we figure any pricing structure. Why pay more for something when you don’t have to? I say that to myself all the time. Money isn’t the answer to everything. With that in mind, having the cheapest prices and best quality is more rewarding then anything else. I know our customers feel the same way.

If you had to sum up Pure Buttons in a sentence or two, what would it be?
Custom Promotional Pinback Buttons (thanks google)

If there was one thing you could have done differently with your company, what would that be?
I wish we would have figured out our innovative ways of production 3 years ago. We finally have our new production facility tweaked and ready to handle anything anyone throws at us. With the least amount of staff. 

Do you have any words of advice for anyone interested in starting their own company?

The single most important advice I could say would be to start using QuickBooks immediately. Start your book keeping off on the right track. This way you’ll stay more organized with your finances and you’ll stay away from the financial surprises. (Or at least encounter them less). I can vouch for this personally as will most other small business owners out there.

I would also recommend setting up your business the legal way. Meaning, get a sole prop, an LLC or S-Corp. and pay taxes! I’ve heard horror stories of companies starting off on the wrong foot and it only bites them in the butt later on.

Last Modified: July 22nd, 2008

Interview with Aaron Sechrist (OkPants Design)

You have an interesting company name. How did you come up with it?
If by ‘interesting’, you mean ‘weird’, the short of it goes like this. I just wanted a simple, catchy URL people could easily remember, unfortunately ‘myspace’ and ‘google’ were already taken. was a little further down my list. Fortunately, it’s pretty short, it incorporated my nickname Pants, and I also happen to always feel ok; so it all works out in the end. I’m kind of amazed none of my clients get weirded out about it.
When did you start designing?
I have been about drawing since I was able to hold a crayon in my hand. Growing up, I wanted to work in comic books and animation. However when I got to art school (Cleveland Institute of Art) I started playing around with photoshop, illustrator and flash, and my focus shifted towards design. I’ve been doing design for print & web professionally/obsessively ever since, constantly trying to find places to fit those drawings in as well. Maybe one day I’ll get to do that X-Men cover.
What motivates you to come up with new exciting designs?
Old boring designs. Good ones too. Knowing there’s someone else out there that’s going to do it better if I don’t.

If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?
I would say flight definitely first, but what kid doesn’t want a nice shiny adamantium skeleton and claws with a heaping helping of mutant healing powers. Although every time I see a commercial for “The Incredible Hulk” I think to myself how much being able to tear a Hyundai in half would rule. I don’t know, this is like asking me my favorite kind of pizza. Let’s move on.
How would you describe yourself in 5 words?
(In no order) Wide. Happy. Jewish. Impatient. Grateful.
What would your thoughts be for designing buttons? Any tips?
I really have no profound slabs of wisdom on this one. Buttons are a great opportunity to get a potent nugget of great design across in a very small space. Don’t waste that opportunity. Get to the point and have fun with it.

What has been your favorite piece of artwork that you designed?
I don’t know if I have ONE favorite, but a concert poster for Gym Class Heroes I did a couple years ago sticks with me. That poster sums up my point of view pretty well, I think. Also a mixtape cover I did for J Dilla, Busta Rhymes and Mick Boogie I did not too long ago; maybe more so because of the talent involved and my admiration for J Dilla. There are a lot of projects I’ve been fortunate to do with people I really admire, but THAT was a labor of love.

Who are some of your favorite designers?
Whew…I’ll try to keep it down to a few: Andy Warhol, Shepard Fairey, Sam Keith and Chris Bachalo (amongst an obscenely long list of my favorite comic book artists). Frank Kozik and Derek Hess are giant influences on me, especially earlier on. Having gotten to work with Derek on some projects was a big thing for me…still is. I’d feel like a jerk to not namedrop the dudes at Go Media for educating young designers, doing solid work, and thriving in my home (Cleveland).

You’ve had experience designing button packs with us. Any tips on designing a unique button pack?

okpants custom button packs

It’s definitely important for designers to strive for something that’s their own, but I don’t know quite how to explain to someone else how to make something unique. For me, the setup of the packs reminded me of action figure packaging from when I was a kid, so I came at it from that angle, especially with my ‘Space Race’ pack. So I guess my advice would be to take a look at what’s out there, find what gets you going, and just make the thing RULE. (in other words, don’t make it suck.)

You’ve worked with some large clients. Who has been a client of yours that let you have complete control for a design project?
Mick Boogie & Terry Urban are favorites of mine for trusting me run wild with whatever I feel like. They both have a good eye for good design, but I believe the extent of their direction has been to “DO YOU”. Their world was pretty different to me when I started working on their mixtapes and marketing, but that’s what I love so much about the pieces I produce for them…it’s an opportunity to do something different.That, and they are cool dudes to the max.Sole Collector Magazine also gave me an amazing amount of latitude as well, especially considering the project was a 90-page special layout for smack dab in the middle of their magazine. I can’t stress enough that I’ve been very lucky to have a pretty diverse range of people that like what I do, that allow me to really let loose with my instincts and concepts with their brands and projects.Any words of encouragement for new and upcoming designers?
I feel like I’m a new designer and I know I still have a whole bunch to prove, so that’s a question I feel kinda ill-equipped to answer. I would say DO WORK. (Thanks Big.) There is TONS more to it than that, but like anything else to me, at some point you have to just jump in and do it. Doesn’t matter if it starts in a sketchbook, a napkin, or on a wacom tablet. Learn from the masters and learn from the losers. And don’t be a crybaby.
Thanks for taking the time to interview with us Aaron! Keep up the great work.
Please check Aaron’s web site out OkPants Design. 

Last Modified: July 4th, 2008

Interview with Aaron Belyea (Alphabet Arm Design)

Aaron Belyea – Owner / Senior Designer

What got you into designing?
By default, actually. I played in a number of bands and ended up doing logos, flyers, and merch for fun. Friends and other bands we played with started asking me to design for them. I hadn’t really even thought of design as a career up until that point. Ironically enough, I had been collecting old clip art books, archival catalogs, type specimens and shooting photographs for years. All which seemed to integrate effortlessly into my early work. 

What was your first photo editing program?
I believe it was Photoshop 2. 

Describe your style.
I would like to think it’s somewhat diverse. I certainly respond to simple and bold solutions that have an underlying hint of complexity. Our client base is incredibly varied. I really value that over the course of a day we’ll work on super clean, sophisticated marketing material,  then switch gears and hand render type or distress elements for a messy, tactile CD package. As designers, it really keeps us from getting complacent or bored.

How would you describe running a design firm?
Amazing, challenging, fun, frustrating, but extremely gratifying. I really enjoy overseeing + art directing a bunch of really talented cats.

What are some of your favorite bands?
Yikes, that’s a tough one…Elvis Costello, Pixies, The Shins, Lee Morgan, Mr. Lif, Doves, Bad Brains, The Zombies + French Kicks.

Any advice for an upcoming designers who are interested in running there own design firm?
Think very carefully before hand. Have a solid understanding of payroll taxes. Order coffee in bulk. Make sure that you have a loyal client base before you open the doors.

What has been your favorite piece of artwork that you designed?
Wow, that’s even harder than the favorite band question. I did this mixed media piece for a design installation that I do love dearly. Part rust, part vinyl, part tin, part spray paint, part sweat. 

How did you come up with the name ‘Alphabet Arm’?
Before I was a designer I had a love for type and had an alphabet tattooed around my arm. I quickly had the nickname “Alphabet Arm” which became my design moniker. 

How did you start up Alphabet Arm? Was it started by a group of friends?
I launched it as a solo designer in November of 2001. I ran the studio solo for a couple of years and got a handle on the business end, then slowly started adding designers. At the moment, we are a four designer studio with one bad ass intern.

What is your office like?
It is in a renovated brick and mortar warehouse with all the modern amenities of a new building. We have a lot of artwork on the walls. Two of my favorite installations are the noted “T-shirt Wall” (framed samples of shirts we have designed) and “The Logo  Wall” (12′ x 30′ wall with a sampling of logos applied as vinyl cuts). The vibe is very professional, but relaxed. It is a large open space and we spend a great deal of time telling jokes, screwing around, attempting to make each other laugh. If we weren’t such highly productive designers, I’m afraid not much would get done. Dress code: t-shirts and sneakers.

What helps you get inspiration for new designs/projects?
Everything? Pop culture, music, design heroes, poorly executed design examples, my designers themselves, and coffee.

What would your thoughts be for designing buttons? Any tips?
Try to come up with something that is not obvious or hasn’t been done a million times. Think about scale, think about the message, and think about it in terms of something you would want to wear yourself.

Any words of encouragement for new and upcoming designers?
Build a killer portfolio. Seriously, do as much work as you can even if you have to give it away until you have a respectable collection of work. Study the masters (Reid Miles, Art Chantry, Saul Bass), define your style, and practice, practice, practice.

Thanks for your time Aaron!
Be sure to check out his design firm Alphabet Arm Design

Last Modified: June 29th, 2008

Interview with Jeff Finley (GoMedia)

I’ve known Jeff for about 2 years now. I met Jeff through my friends over at Jakprints. GoMedia was currently designing some of Jakprints promotional material. After one glance I was hooked! I immediately started to ponder up promotional ideas for PureButtons. As my brain was racing with ideas I decided to contact GoMedia. Within a few hours I had a response from Jeff Finley. Since this point on I’ve sent Jeff numerous design projects.

You can check Jeff out here: / /

Here is my interview with Jeff Finley

How long have you been with GoMedia and is it true you are part owner?
I freelanced with Go Media in 2005 on a couple projects, but I didn’t start full time until January 2006.  And yes, I’m one of three owners.

How long have you been with GoMedia and is it true you are part owner?
I freelanced with Go Media in 2005 on a couple projects, but I didn’t start full time until January 2006. And yes, I’m one of three owners.

Where did you go to school?
I went to The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

How did the idea of the GoMedia Arsenal come about? I see it’s really taking off.
We had always tossed around the idea of selling stock artwork. One of our designers Dave decided to make it happen. He basically started the project officially and we all worked as a team to create it. We planned to release 1 set of 7 different themed packs and see what would happen. The first day we sold 10 packs! We saw that the market was there, so we just kept it up!

Have you encountered people “stealing” your work and passing it off as their own?
All the time. Especially with the Arsenal. Some people are even selling Arsenal stuff illegally on legitimate stock photo websites. We can’t believe what people will do sometimes. It’s a chore to keep up with it all. It’s not as common for someone to steal our actual commissioned artwork, but it does happen.

Do you find it flattering?
At first yeah, but after awhile it gets really irritating.

Who are some other artists you look up to?
When I first got started, I was inspired by Derek Hess, Rob Dobi, and Angryblue. Those three are still going strong today. My current inspirations are Horsebites, John Dyer Baizley, Dan Mumford, Florian Bertmer, and Aaron Horkey.

What would your thoughts be for designing buttons? Any tips?
Well, since they’re fairly small, they’ve gotta be readable from a distance. You can’t really get a whole lot of detail in there, so it’s important to keep that in mind. Make sure you always use the templates! That saves the manufacturer a lot of time!

What has been your favorite piece of artwork you’ve ever designed?
It changes all the time. I’m usually in love with my most recent piece. However, I’m still really fond of the shirt I did for Paint the Stars.

What motivates you to come up with new exciting designs?
A number of things. One is to continue to impress myself, my clients, and my fans. I put pressure on myself to get better all the time. Two, the idea that the work I do can potentially be seen by lots of people. And for three, the possibility of getting more work as a result. All of that keeps me inspired to create exciting work.

Any words of encouragement for new and upcoming designers?
Don’t get discouraged and keep practicing. It will take years to develop a style that you can call your own. Take it one client at a time and always try to do your best work. Continue to exapand your skillset and learn some web skills. In order to stand out, you have to either a) do one thing better than everyone else, or b) do something different than everyone else. And don’t undersell yourself. Don’t let clients take advantage of you. And Google is your friend, if you don’t know how to do something, just look it up. Be a self starter, don’t wait for people to hand you things. Go out and get it.Be sure to check out GoMedia

Thanks Jeff for your time!

Last Modified: April 19th, 2023

Interview With Evan Leake (PaleBird Design Studio)

How long have you been designing?
I started making art (if you can call it that) on the computer (MS Paint) in jr. high school. So I was around 11? 12? When high school started I discovered photoshop and started making really bad graphics while learning the program. I learned some techniques and got into web design soon after. I had my own website for about 3 years of high school and ever since. About 1 year after graduating high school, I developed PaleBird. I got my first PaleBird job in May 2003. I’ve been doing palebird full time for about 2 years now, ever since I graduated from college in december 2006.

You have an interesting company name. How did you come up with it?
You know, I came up with the name while sitting at mediatemple’s signup page. It came to me fairly quickly, I liked it and I still do. I don’t see myself getting tired of it or wanting to change it. Thats probably the only aspect of my company that will never change.

Where did you go to school?
I have a degree in graphic design (BFA) from Western Illinois University. It was pretty nice since they allowed me to turn in client work for grades. It allowed me to build my business while I was still in school. Toward the end of my college career it was hard for me not to just drop out and take palebird full time, but I was able to get enough grants to actually make going to school profitable so it didn’t make sense to quit.

What motivates you to come up with new exciting designs?
I usually get some sort of theme from the client. If the client doesn’t have a theme, I pitch them some concepts and they pick one. My ideas usually develop as I work on a project. I definitely don’t have everything written down before I dive in because you never know how things will start looking.

What do you enjoying designing more? For the web, print or logo design?
Print work is more rewarding, but it takes much longer than web work. I would love to do work for a movie, dvd/bluray cases, etc but the opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet.

What would your thoughts be for designing buttons? Any tips?
Try to keep your text big and your colors bright. Those suckers are small!

What has been your favorite piece of artwork that you designed?
I think my favorite piece I’ve done, to this day, is LoveHateHero – Just Breathe. The printing turned out great and the whole thing still feels good to me. That being said, I have something wrong with just about everything i’ve done up until now. I’m usually sick of a project pretty soon after I’ve completed it. Maybe because I stare at it for so long while working on it?

Who are some of your favorite designers?
Some of my biggest influences are the artists Shepard Fairey
Aaron Horkey
Another artist I really like is Dave Kinsey
Lately I have really been in awe of T. Hanuka

What are your favorite websites?

What music are you into these days?
NIN – The Slip / Year Zero, Saul Williams – Niggy Tardust, Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III, Misery Signals – Controller.

What have you been watching lately?
FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS (over and over), Rambo, Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job!
Looking forward to Wall-E, & Batman

Any words of encouragement for new and upcoming designers?
Do what makes you happy.

Be sure to take a look at PaleBird

Thanks Evan For your time!

Last Modified: June 16th, 2008

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