Kinsta Kingpin: Interview With Travis Totz From Modern Tribe

Updated on June 05, 2017

Travis was formerly a partner at Westwerk and so he knows a lot about WordPress and the agency life. He’s also a really cool guy. Below is our recent Q&A interview with him as part of our new Kinsta Kingpin series.

Q1: What is your title and day to day role at Modern Tribe?

It’s an interesting question, and I’m sure if you asked the partners at Modern Tribe they would likely say something like, “we’re not big on titles.” Which is true. Of course everyone at Tribe has their specialities and focuses on specific day-to-day tasks, but there’s not like a crazy hierarchy of complex titles and VP’s of this-or-that. It is pretty flat from an organization standpoint. My officially unofficial title is “Senior Web Strategist” and my day is currently about 50% project strategy and design direction, and 50% working with new clients on new projects and the whole estimation process.

Q2: What’s it like working at Modern Tribe?

It’s like working with a bunch of really cool people (about 54 of them) all around the world; a group of really helpful guys and gals that have a happy, positive disposition that allows the entire team to create killer work. Tribe is definitely not your typical agency, where you interface with an account manager and get a project dropped on your lap.

Each project gets a dedicated team of designers, developers, and strategists — everyone works really hard to make their projects successful. This is across the board; products to services. And the dedication to what you’re working on, really shows through at Modern Tribe. There is a strong culture of accountability. Its nice working with grownups I can count on.

Modern Tribe believes in making quality products for other people and themselves, balanced by living quality lives. Which is really nice, because it’s all about maintaining a healthy life, inside and outside of work. People have lives, and Tribe understand that. Tribe lives that.

Q3: How does your agency differentiate itself from other WordPress agencies?

I think it’s easy for agencies of all types to say that they are “different”, but it wasn’t until I joined Modern Tribe that I really started to believe that they were a bit different. Tribe empowers people to be very intentional in what they do — this is the case for both clients and the team. Living and working intentional really helps differentiate us amongst the crowd. Design with intention, build with intention, and most all make our clients succeed. We make our clients look good, and that makes us happy.

There are a small handful of agencies who dominate our niche and each has found their own blend. Customers often come to Tribe to push the boundaries of WordPress, be it scale or complexity. And while The core of our project base is grounded in WordPress, we have a deep design bench and do a significant amount of pure design / ux project, from eBay’s motors & fashion mobile apps to Mozilla’s mobile operating system. For an number of years we have run R&D and solving business problems for companies such as SAP & Panasonic. Strategy if a big part of core offering and build upon partnerships. We often have heard ourselves referred to as enterprise boutique.

For those of your who know Modern Tribe for our calendar & events plugins, you can imagine we know a thing or two about the space. Our experience has led us to customers like Eventbrite, IEEE Conferences, Maker Faire, Harvard & Stanford and many others who are looking to push their event based offerings.

We believe life should be lived intentionally. We believe in a class of artisans and craftsman in control of their work, who solve people problems rather than just build more shit. We believe in a sustainable vision of open source, and contribute consistently into the WordPress ecosystem because of that. We specialize in pushing the boundaries of what WordPress can do.

Q4: What types of clients does your agency target?

We’ve built teams of highly skilled technicians to design and build software for Fortune 500 companies, higher ed & government institutions and well-funded start-ups. That’s our sweet spot, but we love to talk to all kinds of clients and help solve all kinds of complex problems. We’ve had the opportunity to work on some fantastic projects for clients like Harvard, Stanford, Steelcase, Bon Appétit, and eBay.

Q5: Is there any type of WordPress project that is a poor fit for your agency?

Mainly just the small stuff. Modern Tribe has done a fantastic job of putting systems and processes in place to handle enterprise-level WordPress projects.

Q6: What’s the WordPress community like in Minneapolis where you’re based?

Vibrant, engaging, and growing. The people in Minneapolis are awesome, the dev community is huge and continually growing because of the larger dev-focused agencies. It’s a neat time for WordPress and we’re definitely seeing and feeling it’s growth in our local community here.

Q7: A lot of Americans have never been up to Minnesota. What’s it like living there, and what about it would surprise most people?

This is true. Minnesota is a really neat state, and truly the land of 10,000 lakes — they are everywhere! Minneapolis and St. Paul are such cool little metro areas, that have some of the coolest parks and hiking trails around, as well as some pretty damn amazing food! I think people would be surprised to know that Minnesota isn’t always cold. It can get super hot in the summers here, and if you’re a Minnesotan, you do as much as possible during those summer months, because you know just around the corner is the cold and unforgiving freeze of winter.

Image source https://www.flickr.com/photos/kristin-and-adam/4470493236/

Q8: How long have you been designing with WordPress?

What feels like forever! But realistically it’s been about 10 years or so. My buddy Nick Pelton and I have been digging into WordPress since version 2.0 and it’s been really neat to continue to work on a platform that’s seen such a wonderful growth pattern and adoption over it’s history. You know you love WordPress if you’ve stuck with it as long as I have :)

Q9: With the release of Calypso and all the talk about JavaScript, how do you see designing around WordPress changing in the future?

I think it’s a huge evolution for the platform, and a super exciting one at-that. But I think that designing around WordPress in the future will be much more focused on designing different ‘views’ and ‘states’, rather than designing around static templates. Designers will have to really think about interactions more, and it will be a bit more like designing around an experience than a handful of pages.

Q10: What tips would you give a young graphic designer fresh out of college who wants to work with WordPress?

Get involved. The wonderful thing about WordPress is the community and the people, and I think that connections go a long way in our world. Start learning all you can about the platform and what it can do. Learn a bit of code, even if it’s just a basic understanding of the different languages surrounding WordPress — these things will help you design better experiences, and will help you integrate with a team much easier.

This article was written by Brian Jackson

Brian focuses on our inbound marketing efforts; everything from developing new online growth strategies, content creation, technical SEO, and outreach within the WordPress community. He has a huge passion for WordPress, has been using it for 8+ years, and even develops a couple premium plugins. Brian enjoys blogging, movies, bike rides, and flipping websites.

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