Jonathan Atkinson Interview on Success,Material Design and new WP theme “Rare”

Envato Elite author Jonathan Atkinson of, has a new Material Design WordPress theme out – “Rare“. Jonathan has been an active member of the commercial WordPress theme market since 2008. In 2013, he became Elite author on Envato and passed $500,000 in total sales. A few days ago we had the pleasure of interviewing this great developer. In our interview Jonathan tells us about his inspiration, success and why he decided to use Material Design for his new theme “Rare”.


What do you think it takes to be successful in web design & development industry?

– Ultimately your designs should fulfill a purpose and do it well. The most successful designers are those that understand the purpose and the market that they are designing for.
Designers are tempted to follow trends, it’s a natural thing, however the really successful ones are those that create the trends or take a style and adapt them further, enhancing them.
We tend to only look forwards with many things, but with design we have a rich history using various media that are invaluable for designers. The fundamentals of great design were created decades ago and it’s equally important for designers to learn from the past while keeping up-to-date with modern practices and always pushing to be unique.

How long have you been involved in web design and what got you started?

– I attended design college in 1988 and gained a degree in graphic design and print. This was before the adoption of computers in the design world and so I learnt the traditional methods, creating layouts by hand and using pencil/paper.
I didn’t pursue a career in design after leaving college but in 2000 I moved from the UK to the USA and was looking to do something new. It seemed natural for me to pick up design again and see where it took me.
I started by learning Photoshop using online tutorials, I offered my services on places such as Elance and from there in to web development. Initially I created logos and soon moved on to developing flash animations and websites. As flash started to decline I moved in to HTML and CSS and eventually WordPress development.

When and how did you get interested in creating WordPress themes?

– About 5 years ago Flash was in decline and it was obvious that people were moving towards CMS systems for their website solution, allowing them to easily update their content and expand their site.
WordPress was becoming more popular and so I decided that it was a good market to get in to. I was already selling HTML and Email templates through Envato’s ThemeForest marketplace and the WordPress section was beginning to gain a lot of traction.
Back then WordPress themes were far more simpler in design and functionality, focusing heavily on blogging rather than the unique solutions that are created today. The opportunities back then and now with WordPress are amazing and it’s only getting better.

What are the key elements WordPress bloggers should consider, when looking for a premium theme?

– I think it depends on what functionalities you will need and the type of blog you have. There’s a solution for almost everyone in the WordPress eco system.
If you are running a written content heavy site then typography should be your main concern. An elegant, well structured, clean design, with great typography, will help visitors concentrate on your content and that’s your primary goal.
If however your blog is image based, possibly a travel blog, then seeking out a design that can showcase your images is paramount.
All blogs are a way of sharing content and therefore the design should never over-power the content itself, it should allow the eye to flow through each page and allow the content to be the focus.
As for choosing a premium theme, I think it’s important to make sure you get what you need and not too much. Over-complicated themes that try and do everything will simply result in frustration and that will result in you posting less as it’s hard and takes too long. You should be able to simply create a new post, write your content, upload your images and click publish.
Ensure that your theme, if it has extra capabilities outside that of standard WordPress, runs those functions via plugins. This way you can always change themes and keep your content and run the same plugin. Those that bake-in the functionality will hurt you in the long run as your content may be compromised when swapping themes.
A developer with good feedback, high rated items and generally quick responses to questions and support is what you should be looking for if you are not a seasoned developer yourself.

Congratulations! Your new Material Design WordPress theme “Rare” is out! What is the inspiration behind it? What makes it unique? And why did you choose Material Design aesthetic?

– Thank you! I was interested in Material Design when Google initially announced it and started to read through their extension documentation on the official website. A lot of what Google have introduced as a guideline feels correct for mobile apps, although a lot doesn’t necessarily work well for websites.
I spent several weeks studying the official website and seeking out what others were doing, hoping to find a lightweight CSS foundation / framework to use, however I wasn’t overly impressed with what was out there.
Generally they either didn’t seem to follow the guidelines very well, or were over complicated and a little bloated. I started to experiment in HTML with various elements such as buttons, more accordions, cards etc. creating my own CSS framework of sorts to use in a final product.


I wanted to create a mobile first theme that utilized various elements from Material Design that I felt worked well for the web, and yet didn’t take on the full appearance of Material Design which some find a little bold and simple. This resulted in an image based blogging solution with Material Design aspects sprinkled throughout.


Overall I’m excited for people to use the product and help showcase their work, travel blog or written content. I spent a long time perfecting a lot of details on all platforms to ensure it’s a cohesive experience whether you view on a desktop, tablet or smartphone and hopefully I’ve achieved that.

How do you go about implementing Google’s Material Design? What do you like most and least about it?

– I think it’s a matter of working out what aspects work well for your project. Not everything is going to work well on the web when it’s supposed to be viewed on all platforms rather than a dedicated app.
Material Design, as a guide for apps, is great and works very well but imagine a circular transition full screen on a desktop from one page to another. Not the best experience and doesn’t really improve the usability either.
However, things like a visual feedback on buttons works very well and lends itself to all device sizes.
Cards are not a new design treatment for displaying information on the web so they are more than acceptable. Using little details here and there from Material Design can help elevate design and functionality when done correctly and balanced out well.
I enjoy the simplicity that Material Design offers, and to some degree the flexibility. I see inspiration taken from flat design, Swiss Design and Apple iOS mixed together, all of which are favorites of mine, and then Google added the 3 dimensional aspect to enhance it.
In principle it’s a style guide, a flexible one, with many elements, and that doesn’t mean you have to use everything all at once. Pick what works and enhances the design and functionality rather than throwing everything together.

Where do you think web design is heading?

– I’m not sure anyone really knows the future of web design really as it’s generally pushed forward by only a few things. Devices such as smartphones, tablets and now wearable devices have changed how we look and develop websites and I don’t think this will change. HTML5 and CSS3 have been fully adopted now and looking forward we will have to see what the next versions will allow us to do.
I see many reports stating that apps are what will be the future, but I don’t necessarily agree. I just don’t see many people downloading thousands of individual apps rather than simply browsing websites, certainly not for many cases anyway.
We seem to forget that we are still a young industry, still learning, and still experimenting with what works best and how to accomplish that. This will continue and will probably never end as it’s a medium that is viewed on so many different devices that not one solution will ever be perfect.
The number of ways we now connect to websites is astonishing, many other forms of media don’t have the same issues, such as television looks the same when we view on a tv, smartphone, browser on the desktop, it’s just a different size of screen, but with content on a website it’s consumed in so many different ways that it needs to be presented in different ways. It’s a tough challenge.

What do you like to do when you’re not developing? What has been a recent source of inspiration?

– I never stop thinking about design, I doubt many designers do. It is very hard to not critique everything you see, or gain inspiration from it. Whether that’s watching a movie, reading a book / magazine or even from nature. It’s a hard thing to ‘turn-off’.
When I do eventually manage to remove myself from inspiration I enjoy my family time, watching movies, spending time outside and relaxing.

Thank you for your answers!

Material Design WordPress theme “Rare”


Rare is an exceptionally clean, flexible and fully responsive Material Design WordPress theme created specifically as a blog or portfolio website solution. Coded by hand using only WordPress standards it’s lightweight, fast loading and beautiful to browse. Rare is a wonderful solution for travel or lifestyle bloggers, but can be used by bloggers of all types.

Preview & Purchase

#Wordpress #themes #templates #inspiration #websites #Design #webdesign

2 responses on “Jonathan Atkinson Interview on Success,Material Design and new WP theme “Rare”

  1. Nice write up guys. The man knows his stuff! I’ve been following Jonathan for a few years now and his themes are always awesome!

    Well done mate, best of luck with your sales on TF!


  2. Hey Leo,

    thanks so much for the wonderful comment and your support mate, it’s really appreciated!


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