Today we announce the latest addition to the 37signals team: Jason Zimdars (“JZ”). Jason is a designer who lives in Oklahoma. You can find out more about him on his site.

JZ is going to be working closely with Ryan and me on app UI design while Jamie continues to kick ass on the marketing/public side of things. Mysteriously, Jason is the 7th person at 37signals to have a name that starts with J.

We’ve been talking to JZ on and off for the past year (here’s his original pitch). We considered hiring him before, but the timing and fit just wasn’t right. Now it is.

Why do we need another designer?

Even though we’re a design driven company, designers at 37signals are outnumbered about 2 to 1. Since we design interface first, this presents a problem.

There are often changes and improvements we want to make, but we don’t have enough slack on the design side to jump in and design the UI. This slows us down and makes it harder for the programmers to implement the features.

Having JZ on board will allow us to focus on improving our UIs, adding new features, polishing up existing features, and exploring new product concepts.

Why did we hire JZ?

Whenever we announce we’re hiring for a designer position, we get hundreds of responses and resumes. After evaluating people’s basic taste and skill level, we turn to other things. How do they think? What do they think about? How do they approach problems? Can they write? Do they enjoy writing? Can they express themselves concisely? How do they work when they aren’t given direction? Stuff like that.

We liked what we saw, heard, and read from JZ so we asked him to do a few paid contract projects for us. One was a quick one week exploration of variations on the Highrise Contacts screen. We gave him a week, barely any direction, and let him run with it. Jason had a full time job, so he had to squeeze in time after work. Here’s what he came up with. All things considered, we were very happy with the explorations, how he explained himself (although he’s a bit verbose — something he’ll have to work on), and the decisions he made.

After that we flew him into Chicago to meet with us for a day. We described another product we were thinking of building and asked him to mock up the UI for it based on a series of very rough sketches. Over the past few weeks he’s been working on that — also in his spare time. It was a challenging project that required a lot of problem solving. We were thrilled with what we saw. And if we decide to do this product in the next few months, you’ll see his fingerprints all over it.

So the skills were there, the thinking was there, the writing was there, the self-driven motivation was there. And to top it off, he’s a fine person and all around good guy. Character means a lot to us and it certainly helped JZ get this job.

JZ is coming to a 37signals app near you

Jason is starting in a few weeks. We have a really cool first 8 weeks for him. He’ll be exploring a variety of interface elements and screens in our existing apps in the style of the old 37express projects. Redesign one screen in one week (much like he did with the Highrise exploration). We plan on sharing many of these explorations right here on Signal vs. Noise. And hopefully we’ll be working his work into our products soon after.

So please welcome Jason Zimdars to our team! We’re pumped to have him.