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Jana Kleitsch

When User Interface Designer Jana Kleitsch reports to work at Amazon.com she feels lucky to have landed there. Her story is about innovation, hard work and taking chances. It's a philosophy that has served her well in following a circuitous route through the worlds of technology and design.

A Walk Down the Aisle
Before most people had ever heard of the internet and before Internet Explorer and Netscape were a reality, Jana and her husband, Andy Kleitsch, co-founded Bridalnet, an online wedding planning resource. After the WeddingChannel acquired their award-winning site, the duo left Seattle for Idealab in California as part of the executive management team. Six months later, with the successful launch of the new site, the Northwest beckoned through the hazy smog of Los Angeles.

Returning to Seattle, Kleitsch freelanced for clients like Onvia.com, Fluent and PlayNetwork before accepting the job at Fortune 500 giant, Amazon.com. Now she works on high profile projects with a handpicked group, full of "smart people with good attitudes." Amazon's Your Store feature is one of the most widely recognized aspects of the company's site-and one of Kleitsch's first projects.

Use It or Lose It
In her work, Kleitsch focuses on usability, "The best thing is not necessarily the prettiest. At first, I had to adjust my thinking to making things clean." She also recognizes the power of numbers and testing to see if they go up or down. "Amazon has the data to do cool things," Kleitsch notes with a firm grasp of eCommerce in her tool box.

For Kleitsch, success comes when the site is seamless and the user doesn't know it's "designed." "Customers have to feel smart," she observes. "Part of the trick is in the complexity, getting users to make multiple steps and deciding how much they should see."

Says Kleitsch about the internet, "It's so much easier than print. Color is not such a big deal. The web is more flexible. And it's more forgiving-you can change mistakes for no money."

For the New Kids
Nothing like Amazon.com existed when she earned her Visual Communications degree at Western Washington University. Kleitsch's advice to newcomers is to take classes in experience design and explore the field of human interaction. For more information, she suggests www.w3schools.com. For design inspiration, she turns to www.k10k.net and the Site of the Week at www.commarts.com. Cautions Kleitsch, "Innovating is very important-more important than investigating other sites."

Kleitsch cites the advantages of industry involvement outside of school. As a former AIGA board member, Kleitsch knows first hand the benefits of networking in such a tight-knit industry. Participating in major events, like the National Board Retreat, provided her the opportunity to meet many of the best designers from around the country. Says Kleitsch, "The Seattle chapter does a fantastic job-there's something going on every month."

The Art of Time Management.
Besides her work with AIGA, Kleitsch also lends her talents to the community at large. Art With Heart and Soul Food are two volunteer organizations she makes a priority. To spend more time with her son, she now works three days a week. The first Amazon.com designer to go part-time, it's just another way she's breaking new ground. Despite her full schedule, Kleitsch finds time to read good books-Steinbeck's East of Eden is one of her favorites.

Jana Kleitsch is modest about her busy-yet-balanced life. "It's working out well," she says with a tiny smile and a twinkle in her eye.

Jana Kleitsch in a nutshell
Where are you currently working?

What degree do you have?
B.A. in Visual Communications

Where did you get your degree?
Western Washington University

Where are you originally from?

Where else have you worked?
Asymetrix, Creative Assets, WeddingChannel

What AIGA Seatttle Board positions
have you held?
2000-2001 Co-Vice President
1999-2000 Event Chair
1998-1999 Regular board member