My name is John.

I'm a designer passionate about living a great story.

My Story

I was always bored in school. Since I was young I turned to life outside the classroom for my education. I built my first computer when I was 12, taught myself programming at 13, and started my first online business at 17 years old.

After my first semester in college, I decided to run my eCommerce business full-time and let the world be my classroom—life experience my education.

Everyone but my father told me what I was doing was wrong, that I should stay in school and get a degree, get a job and get a mortgage, drive a nice car and be happy…

But that just didn’t look like happiness to me.

My passions carried me to Israel to learn Hebrew, to Egypt to help start a movement, to London to raise money and to India to design and build classrooms for children with special needs.

Then my world stopped.

My passion crippled into survival. My desire—replaced by necessity.

I came back to the US humbled and confused—unsure of what to do with my life.

With a new pair of eyes I looked back at my story and tried to find meaning and purpose in all that I’d done.

I saw that the web enabled me to do what I believed in and to make the world a better place through what I loved.

I realized that with the tools of the web, I could help other people do the same…

I began teaming up with passionate people who wanted to make a difference in the world. I realized that my work is about so much more than making websites. It’s about understanding someone’s story and empowering them to be who they were born to be.

The Craft of Digital Design

During an incredible chapter atClearleft, a top digital design agency in the UK, I worked in a multi-disciplinary team to solve complex business problems using the tools of the web. I dove deeper into the craft of digital design and discovered the key elements of a successful project. I honed my tools as a designer and realized the potential to apply what I learned towards a pressing humanitarian crisis.

Helping Refugees Prosper

I worked nights and weekends to start an initiative calledProsper—a diverse community of digital professionals working together to help refugees prosper in Europe. With a distributed team of volunteers, we built a central database of refugee crisis initiatives and began moving towards a more sustainable long-term model.

My Next Chapter

Having immersed myself in the digital world, I realized I was neglecting many aspects of my physical life. Surrounded by natural beauty on all sides, I remembered my life-long dream to live a simpler life in harmony with nature. My wife and I are currently on an adventure to setup a smallholding that can act as a tranquil place for people outside the city.

I'll continue to work as a digital designer with the smallholding as fertile ground with many fruits in the years to come. You can check out our homesteading initiative on The Ellison Homestead Website.


Investing all that I am into all that I do

prosper portfolio image


Digital Product Design

As a response to the crisis in Europe, I founded a community of digital workers around the belief that"When refugees prosper, we all prosper". In four months the team grew from one person to ninety, and we successfuly launched an open source platform to help refugees, volunteers and donors find projects that meet their needs: Prosper App

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working with the team at Clearleft on a three-month workplacement


UX Research, Strategy & Design

I worked with a team of user experience designers atClearleft to research and define new business concepts within the landscape of design training. I designed and facilitated story-driven workshops to shape the narrative of our design process. I helped pitch the new business opportunities to Clearleft executives and celebreated as several of the concepts were taken on by the organization.

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screenshot of thengine's homepage on samsung galaxy


UX Research & Design

I led research and design for a startup out of the Founders Institute based in Denver, Colorado. From user interviews to prototyping and usability testing, I helped shape the vision and execution of a seed-funded startup that created tools for local musicians and their fans.

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screenshot of sprky chess app on an imac


Full-Stack, Ruby on Rails

For the capstone of The Firehose Project, we crafted an open source chess app using Ruby on Rails. With Test-Driven Development (TDD) as our guide, we built every element of the application—from the back-end Ruby to the front-end Javascript. The project was featured inan article on the Huffington Post.

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