Jess Boonstra

Jess Boonstra is a designer with an adventurous side.

She has done outstanding work for Rhinegeist Brewery, The Writer’s Market, Miami University in Ohio, and The People’s Improv Theater in New York City, just to name a fun few. She has a wild range of experience in editorial publishing, responsive web design and motion graphics. She balances big challenges with the small, down-to-the-pixel details.

Her main focus at the moment has been with a tech startup that she co-founded, called Garageio, an Internet of Things product that essentially makes your garage door smart, and integrates with other technologies like Amazon Echo.

When not working, she reads a ton of books, travels, and loves spending time outdoors. Recently, (right after this interview) she climbed Mount freaking Kilimanjaro.

Q. Are you crazy?

I am, yes. I think I am certifiable crazy. I already have this crazy cat lady status, and I figured I’m not going to alter it. So I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro, seemed like a good idea at the time. We’ll see.

I’m not hesitant, but it’s the first time I haven’t travelled with my laptop in about 10 years, to which I’m sure you can probably relate. I do a bunch of freelance obviously and I think I’m going to have separation anxiety, but it will probably be healthy to have a little alone time.

Rhinegeist Beer Jess Boonstra


Q. What’s the last bad book you read?

I think someone recommended Fifty Shades of Grey, saying it was great, and I didn’t even make it all the way through, it was so terrible. I’m not sure why I took her up on that advice. It’s just trash and not even like the good trash; it’s just so poorly written trash. I always finish books and that was one that I couldn’t even get all the way through.

Q. Harry Potter or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or The Da Vinci Code?

Harry Potter for sure would be my top choice. Harry Potter over Tom Hanks’ movie adaptation any day. The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo is pretty bad ass but I’m sure you can’t beat Harry Potter.

Q. Have you ever had a pen pal?

No, but I feel like that should be a bucket list item. Nowadays when I think of pen pals, I think it’s like writing someone in prison, and I know that’s probably not accurate. But I actually feel like that would be a pretty fantastic pen pal situation. I just don’t know how you track down the prisoner pen pals situation. I feel like there should be an app for that, like Tinder.

Q. Favorite place in Cincinnati to be at 2am?

Garageio Jess BoonstraNormally it would be bed, but at 2am in Cincinnati it would probably be eating some sort of street food downtown. There’s this place, Gilpin’s, that’s open till 4 am and they make steamed Bagels.

So I would be outside, on the street, eating Gilpin’s. They have a Doritos bagels, that is the quintessential perfect junk food and I am never happier than when I am shoving that in my face. It has turkey and you get to pick whatever you want, cool ranch or nachos cheese Doritos on it, and then this fantastic honey mustard sauce and it is to die for. And I have never had a hangover after eating it.

Q. How are you going to wear your hair when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

I have thought about this because I don’t think we’re going to be able to shower when we’re on this journey, because it’s 5 days up and 2 days down. So my goal is to have as little of my hair visible as possible, so I’m going the beanie route and just always have it covered. It’s going to be probably disgusting underneath there, but no one will know.

Q. Couches or chairs?

This is easy. Couches always.

Q. What is the most unnecessary item you are bringing when climbing the mountain?

I actually have to be really mindful of what I’m packing because I have to walk it up the mountain with me, but I am going to pack Nutella because I feel like Nutella is going to carry me through the dark times, when I’m tired and hungry. Nutella will just make everything doable and better. And we’re not cooking our food, so I also think just in case the food is terrible, I could pop Nutella on it and pretty much anything will be delicious.

Q. What did your mom say when you told her you are climbing a mountain in Africa?

My Mom was actually pretty supportive. It was my grandmother who, number one didn’t know where Kilimanjaro was, and when I told her it was in Africa, she went straight to the bar and had vodka.

Q. What band or musician on your Spotify are you most embarrassed by?

I have so many embarrassing artists on my Spotify. I’m ashamed to say that my Spice Girls addiction has never been cured. Wilson Phillips is also on there, oh gosh who else? I also love really filthy hip-hop and R&B. R. Kelly is also one of my go-to’s, so R. Kelly ‘Bump and Grind’ is one of my faves. ‘Ignition’ is another good (bad) one.

Q. Design tool of choice?

I’m going to go old school here and say pen and paper. I am a big fan of not jumping into digital too quickly, like keeping your ideas really rough. I have a sketchbook that comes with me everywhere, every meeting, on every phone call. I’ll be taking it to Kilimanjaro actually, and I feel like it’s the best medium to get out rough ideas. That’s really important early on.

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The Complete Series of Interviews