Lawyers, Awards, and Hot Dogs—An Interview With Matt Potter

An Event Apart strives to present ideas and information to help you be great at your work. From time to time, we try to find out how we're doing by interviewing folks who've attended the show. In that spirit, we spent some time chatting with award-winning designer/developer Matt Potter about his work and An Event Apart. Matt recently won awards for three websites he designed and coded after attending An Event Apart Austin in 2013..

Hey, Matt. Please give us a quick rundown of what you do and where you do it.

Technically, I'm the Senior Designer here at Postali, which makes me responsible for designing and coding all of our website projects. Coincidentally, I also happen to be the only designer here, so I also handle all of our print marketing, client branding, and so on. Kind of comes with the territory when you're working at a small office.

As for background, about 10 years ago I received my degree at Bowling Green State University, focusing on 3D animation, but soon realized there weren't really too many opportunities for animators in the Midwest. So I quickly jumped ship to the web and print, and haven't looked back. Since then, I've been the in-house designer at a few varied organizations over the years before I ended up at Postali.

What does Postali focus on?

Essentially, we are a one-stop shop for law firms who wish to increase their web presence with a newly designed website, SEO strategy, and more. This could involve everything from initial photo/video shoots to continuous content writing and media relations.

Lawyers have a reputation for being hardball negotiators and control freaks. How do you pitch your services to, and work with, such a demanding client base?

Much to my surprise, a lot of our clients have been very open to any ideas we may have for a project. At the end of the day it's really about the end product and what it can do for their business. So as long as we can prove we know what we're talking about, and show it's worth investing their time and money, they pretty much let us go for it. I also think many of our clients enjoy working with a smaller firm like Postali, because they know every person involved in the project, and can talk to us directly whenever they may have a question or idea of their own to contribute.

My biggest piece of advice would be to do your homework when approaching a client about any project, big or small. There is an abundance of companies out there offering an assembly-line style of design-marketing-SEO package to all types of businesses, ranging from attorneys to nonprofits. If you take the time to research the competition and actually show that you can provide a better product with a more personal experience, you'd be surprised how many people will listen. It really all comes down to proving why you're the best fit for the job.

You've recently won some awards for your design. Tell us all about it!

We won three awards in the Legal category from

  • Best Legal WebsiteStaver Law Group PC

    Our most ambitious project to date. I'm glad we were able to fit so many larger media elements into this project without taking away from the user experience. Whenever we add all types of custom plugins and photo/video panels to a site where the content is truly the most important part, there are always concerns with load times and user confusion. But I feel as though we were able to find a good balance that allows it all to happily coexist.

  • Outstanding WebsiteWorgul Law Firm LLC<br/> I like that we were able to take a somewhat more modern “flat” design approach with this one, even though this is an attorney's website. There's sort of an expectation that all law firm sites look the same, with big city skyline graphics and shiny gradients, so I'm glad that our client was willing to try something different, with a lot of white space and clean edges. We feel it really makes the information easy to navigate for those who need it most.

  • Outstanding WebsiteFienman Defense LLC<br/> This was our first “big” project to use custom photo and video content from our shoots, so I was just glad to see that we were able to make it all happen. At the time the site went live there weren't many legal websites that combined such a large amount of content with other media elements like parallax. As is the case with many of our websites, we really wanted to tell a story with our photos but not take away from the content.

Which do you find more challenging, web or print?

I would say that web definitely takes up more time than print due to the technical side of things. Once a print project goes to press, it's pretty safe to call it done, but I feel as though I'm never really done with a website—especially when you've got clients paying a monthly fee for said website. There will always be a load time that could be decreased, or a JS script that could be written just a little better. And as far as difficulty is concerned, again that award goes to building websites. Being the only in-house guy means that I'm the one who has to figure out how to code all of the different and random ideas that pop up for each new web project, which can sometimes be pretty time consuming.

It seems like lots of people assume web professionals live on the coasts. What kept you in the Midwest?

I chose to stay in the Midwest mainly because of family and friends. Also, I knew a few folks down in Columbus that I thought I could weasel some contract jobs out of. So I guess I made the jump to web-slash-print almost immediately out of college. I had already learned the basics of HTML at BGSU anyway, so it wasn't too tough to get that ball rolling. Fast forward ten years, and now I get to animate with CSS, so all of my vast animation knowledge is still somewhat applicable. Win-win, I suppose!

How was your AEA experience?

I was at the Austin 2013 show. It was my first one and I had a great time! I felt that it struck a good balance between the technical side, people like Chris Coyier or Val Head, and the more creative-and-inspirational side, such as Josh Davis or Mike Monteiro. Plus you can never go wrong with free post-event hot dogs, right? [Right! –Ed.]

Anyway, I know the event may have been focused primarily on the ever-changing mobile landscape, but I took a lot away in regards to new and different approaches for web projects as a whole. I also learned how important content still is to designers for any project, regardless of size. And as one would expect, this was all a huge help when starting to work on several of our current sites, including the award-winning ones.

Thanks, Matt! And best of luck to you!