Above: Javon Bell, Bellaire Studio; work samples, including a design pitch to Pixar Animation Studios
Written by William Bryant Rozier
It never fails. As soon the audio recorder gets turned off, an interviewee will proceed to give you gold, forcing the interviewer to pause the telling with a raised hand and some woahs; the hurried re-powering of the device follows. Javon (pronounced “Jay-von”) Bell, the 28-year-old owner of Bellaire Studio, an all-things website design and development company, listed more places where his work has been experienced after I hit stop.
Bell has six years of web design and development experience, having worked on over 50 websites over that span. If you’ve checked in and out of Parkview Hospital in the last five years, you’ve seen his work. Bell was the lead designer for a team, back when he worked for Reusser Design, that retooled Parkview’s user-friendly experiences for patients. Specifics of his lead-designing include programming a timer when you check in, so you’re not waiting in the lobby for too long. If your insurance company is PHP and you’ve surfed their website, you’ve experienced Bell’s craftsmanship.
Bellaire Studio specializes in the front-end development for web design, the stuff that’s seen on a website, but there are branches of expertise under that umbrella. Bell does motion graphics and animation, like when a name graphic slides in and out of frame on TV. He does e-commerce development (online stores); he does content strategy, online ads, and some web apps.
In a world where website companies like Squarespace dominate the market because of their pre-made templates -- ready-to-go just fill-in-the-blank webpages -- soft-spoken Bell is more than cool with banking on something that may one day become a lost consumption for the masses…tailored-made website development.
“Some people want to go Subway then there are those who want [high-end] Joseph Decuis [restaurant],” Bell said, who prioritizes individuality above all. “Those templates are what the masses need, not you.”
He graduated from IPFW in 2013 with a bachelor’s in graphic design, a field chosen because it was “one degree that wasn’t based on test scores, but on what you created and how well you talked about it,” Bell said. Graphic design is a field that rewards hustle and effort, like playing defense in basketball.
The “competitive hater” in him couldn’t see why his professors highlighted specific classmates; he hypothesized that the one thing that could separate him and them is web design. “They were afraid of it,” Bell said, who added that web design wasn’t taught much in design school outside of some intro classes. So when he wasn’t going to school 40+ hours a week, or when he wasn’t working at the 3-Rivers Natural Food Co-op on Sherman Blvd. 40+ hours a week, in a small window from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., he outside-learned, reading books on web design, soaking everything he could because he didn’t have time for the alternative: failure. “Every day, I was betting on myself to make this work because if this didn’t work, I’m broke, I’m homeless.”
That’s the way Bell saw it. He had family who lived here, sure, but the little cold he felt was enough for him to grab a whole bunch of covers and over learn. He moved here from home-city Bloomington, Indiana in 2008. “I felt like I became a man here,” Bell said, “but Bloomington really shaped me as a kid.”
College-town Bloomington doesn’t have a middle class, only a lower and an upper, according to Bell, but “it’s a place that I’ve seen it all. It’s a place where if you don’t have the direction you can get lost easily. If you don’t have any ambitions, you can be very complacent there.” His dot in the distance was basketball, but ballin’ in the hood meant he was going to get called out because his pants weren’t sagging. Coupled with his nerdy effect (without the glasses) and Bell was the oddball brother. It didn’t get any better when he crossed the tracks to routinely exist as the only black kid in a room full of white folks.
His upbringing was education first, at mom’s direction. She didn’t mind Bell playing video games all day but “you better learn how to make a career and money from that,” he recalled her saying, even if it means educating yourself if the schools didn’t. When the video games came in, it was a wrap for Bell. He liked thinking games, like Tetris, because they didn’t cultivate knowledge and waste his time.
Bell’s throwing all those lessons learned into his business plan. The phone calls are coming in quicker than they’ve ever have. He gets invited to talk design at elementary schools and his alma mater, now Purdue Fort Wayne. When he started Bellaire Studio, all of his people told him it was about time.
He said repeatedly how he wants to be that other viable option for African-American businesses, especially, and nonprofit…the small guy. Bell is a resource, a library.
Javon Bell | Bellaire Studio
Web design & development | animation & motion graphics | e-commerce development (online store) |
design & development consulting | content strategy | online ads | video development
Facebook & Instagram: Bellaire Studio