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Miller takes on libraries’ web, print design

Portrait of Kris Miller

While Kris Miller has helped the University Libraries win awards for its print pieces, web design is his first love. Photo: NANCY J. PARISI

By LAUREN NEWKIRK MAYNARD

Published December 6, 2012

joyce catalog cover

Before he joined UB in 2008, Kris Miller worked at a variety of jobs, and he knows a good thing when he sees it.

“I feel really fortunate to be here; it’s a great environment,” he says of his position as a graphic designer for the University Libraries. “I work with great people on some interesting projects, and although there’s always a lot to do, UB has an easy-going feel and offers amazing benefits, too.”

Evidence of these projects is plastered around Miller’s Lockwood Library office: newsletters, brochures, catalogs and other print materials. It’s here where the Libraries’ web team, including Miller and his boss, Scott Hollander, and developer Don Gramlich, produce award-winning print and online marketing products for various library units.

Miller grew up in the Willow Ridge neighborhood near Sweet Home High School, where he took his first computer design class. He loved it, but still was unsure about what he would do with his new skills, so he enrolled at Buffalo State College, later transferring to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

“My sister went there, and FIT wasn’t as much about the fashion for me but the design,” he explains. He earned an associate’s degree in advertising design from FIT and then a BFA from Daemen College.

Before working at UB, Miller owned and operated a go-kart business, the former Fast Freddie’s Ultimate Fun Center in Depew, that he closed in 2007. In 2004, he worked as a web designer at Datatel, a software and professional services company, before moving on to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie County.

Miller’s work ethic and can-do attitude continue to open doors for him professionally. Lots of doors. “I tend to take on a lot—my wife would say too much,” he says with a rueful smile.

While he has helped the libraries win recognition from the American Library Association for poster design, a 112-page catalog of the Poetry Collection’s famous James Joyce archive and a refreshed “UB Libraries Today” newsletter, Miller’s first love is web design. He’s most excited about the opportunity to apply new technologies to the way UB works online. Working with partners across UB, he’s knee-deep in developing web and mobile strategies for the university and the libraries.

“We’re learning how to do ‘responsive design,’ which scales a website’s layout depending on the device used to view it, like a tablet or a mobile phone,” Miller explains.

He notes that that he has received a lot of support for his work from Hollander, Margaret Wells, director of public services and the arts and sciences libraries, and H. Austin Booth, the libraries’ vice provost.

Right now, Miller is busy helping the libraries’ staff make the most of its online resources, from establishing collection blogs to building his most recent obsession, the newly launched Library Store .

The online retail site, which went live in January, sells select prints and posters from University Libraries’ digital collections. It not only creates much-needed revenue for the libraries, Miller says, but it also highlights UB’s amazing archival material.

The project was a collaboration between his office and University Communications. “They showed us their photo database, which uses the SmugMug online photo-sharing platform,” he says. “I wish I had realized earlier on how easy it was to set up; it took me about 10 minutes.”

Miller describes his design style as “clean and simple,” which fits users’ needs for easy web navigation and a straightforward online interface. “I think it’s important to focus on content,” he says. While he always tries to brand the libraries’ products using standard UB design templates, “I’m also thinking about how to give them a unique feel, too,” he says.

At home, when Miller isn’t spending time with his wife, Bridget, and their 2½-year-old daughter, Abigal, he’s been prepping his Elmwood Village home to use as a rental property—they plan to move to Williamsville shortly.

“I went a little overboard with the home improvement projects,” he admits. He stripped all the painted woodwork and remodeled three bathrooms, two kitchens and the exterior siding.

Any remaining minutes of the day go into Miller’s freelance work, highlighted on his blog, Closeyetfar .

His latest project, “Against the Grain: The History of Buffalo’s First Ward ,” is a brand-new book and website by Buffalo author Tim Bohen. Miller got the gig from his work on a 150th anniversary catalog for St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in Buffalo, which came from connections he made designing the Joyce catalog.

Bohen will visit the UB Poetry Collection in Capen Hall at 6 p.m. Dec. 11 to give a public talk about the book. Miller is proud of the project, especially of working with Bohen and how local the project unconsciously became. “From the designer to the paper vendor, it all was done here in Buffalo,” he says.