AMA: Ben Moore and Luke Seeley of Pixel Union

4 years ago from , CEO at Pixel Union

Hey all!

This is Ben Moore (CEO) and Luke Seeley (Creative Director) from Pixel Union.

We’re part of a team of 40 designers, developers, support staff, and creatives based in Canada, the US, Europe, and Australia. We make awesome themes for platforms like Shopify, WordPress and Tumblr, as well as build apps and custom products for a bunch of great clients under our consulting division. Today we’re coming at you LIVE from our HQ in beautiful Victoria, BC.

A little primer: Pixel Union was founded by the fine folks at Metalab (fun fact: Ben and Luke are both ex-Metalab…ers? ites?) We released our first Tumblr theme, Fluid, in 2009, and from that point on Pixel Union played a big role in Tumblr’s growth. Millions of people and organizations have used our Tumblr themes, including The White House, MoMA, McDonald’s, the LA Lakers, Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman, and Snoop Dogg.

Over the years, we moved into WordPress and then Ghost, but our main focus these days is ecommerce. When we’re not launching our our own themes for Shopify or elsewhere, we do a ton of consulting work—usually custom ecommerce solutions for enterprise clients or bigger, long-term projects with some of our partners. We’re no longer a part of Metalab these days, but we still think of them as part of the family :-)

You can get more of a sense for who we are and what we’re about on our website. Happy to discuss anything you like, so don't be shy!

Ben + Luke


  • Nathan NNathan N, 4 years ago

    I always admired your guys' design; keep being awesome!

    1 point
  • Max LindMax Lind, 4 years ago

    Hey guys, thanks for joining us!

    • How does your workflow / design thought process change when you build original themes versus consulting? (Do you prefer one over the other?)

    • How do you decide what approach to take when designing new themes for Shopify vs Tumblr vs Wordpress?

    ps, really digging the redesigned website!

    1 point
    • Luke SeeleyLuke Seeley, 4 years ago

      How does your workflow / design thought process change when you build original themes versus consulting? (Do you prefer one over the other?)

      I can’t say we prefer either; each is a nice break from the other.

      With our consulting themes, we already have a really clear sense of what needs to be done on day one–we’re building a specific theme for a specific merchant with specific needs. It’s less flexible aesthetically, but we also don’t have to restrict our theme as much by platform limitations or attempt to broaden its appeal to a larger demographic of merchants. We get to focus on creating more unique experiences that can inspire new ideas for our original themes.

      How do you decide what approach to take when designing new themes for Shopify vs Tumblr vs Wordpress?

      The approach is very similar across any platform we design themes for. Shopify is slightly different in that it’s more driven by conversions; our customers don’t just need their themes to look good, they need them to help make sales too. This allows our tumblr and wordpress themes to be a little more nuts, more experimental. That said, we are working on some more experimental ecommerce themes at the moment that we can’t wait to show off.

      0 points
  • Will ThomasWill Thomas, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    I find having constraints from a brief and working within boundaries such an integral aspect design. I was wondering — making templates and themes — how do you define the objectives and boundaries for your work?

    1 point
    • , 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

      Hey Will -

      We’re 100% with you on the importance of working from briefs. In fact, we find it’s even more important when the product you’re working on is for yourself rather than a client. With a client, there’s always someone there reminding you of who you’re designing for and bumping you back in line when you go astray. When you’re the client, it can be too easy to get lost in the pixels and lose track of the real purpose for the work.

      Before we kick off design on a theme, we always start with some research to help us narrow the focus and put some boundaries around the work. We talk to clients, we loop in our support and art teams to hear what people are asking for, and we reach out to our platform partners to see if they have any insight to offer.

      Once we have that input, we do up a design brief that lays out which industry vertical / customer segment we’re focusing on, what the persona is of both them and their customer (so: who they are and what’s most important to them), what features and functionality they need to succeed at their business, and any style or interaction considerations we think should be taken into account.

      That brief then lives with the theme through every phase of production so that everyone who touches it has something to refer to that we all agree on. And during reviews, we reference the brief as a kind of checklist to make sure we’re always moving in the right direction.


      4 points
      • Will ThomasWill Thomas, 4 years ago

        Hey Ben, thanks for doing the AMA and for such a comprehensive answer. Sounds interesting. Also I just wanted to agree with Maxwell, the new site looks rad

        0 points
  • Ricardo AliagaRicardo Aliaga, 4 years ago

    Now that Shopify and Wordpress seems to be your top priority, I wonder how you see the market situation on Tumblr themes. Have you changed your focus due to a decline on this market? Or is it for any other reasons?

    Thank you guys for take time for this AMA! I really dig your work

    0 points