I arrived at Creative Market at an unusual time. The company, originally a YCombinator startup, had seen a meteoric rise which to an acquisition by Autodesk, only to an eventual spin out. Then, as a re-startup the company was challenged to evolve into a new version of itself and saw some initial decline. The Design team was no exception. 

I joined Creative Market’s remote design team with one direct report, a talented Product Designer, and a monument to the previous team. They had done great work, but I could tell that the company had changed considerably. We to set a direction that aligned with the new version of the company, from both organizational and business standpoints

Building up

I come to the team with the perspective that a design leader’s role is made up of three jobs: craft, infrastructure, and personal development. After quickly bringing on a Senior Product Designer, we got to work, stabilizing and growing the practice. 

  • We established a cadence for critique, team workshops, and 1:1s with each member of the team. 
  • We aligned on the importance of objective-based critique, and instituted this practice in our feedback sessions. 
  • I evaluated our status with Sketch, ultimately moving the team to Figma, improving collaboration and saving on licensing fees 
  • We set a course for personal development, setting every team member up with long and short term development plans. 
  • We introduced workshops such as sketching sessions into the team’s design facilitation repertoire
  • We aligned on a process delivering mobile-first design
  • We started and grew a design system, despite scarce time and resources, that immediately improved our process and our work with engineering
  • I worked to assure the stability of the team by refining the hiring process, position leveling, and core operations

Building out

We also introduced guiding principles and values. We defined principles on our team as the qualities that make up good product design and values as the qualities that drive how we work. 

I facilitated a workshop with our team, which now included our Senior Design Researcher. As a team, we recognized our marketplace’s role as a facilitator within a community of designers, entrepreneurs, marketers, and so on. 

We aligned on a set of principles, the qualities that make up good product design

  • Service
  • Clarity
  • Respect
  • Inclusion

We support these principles with a set of values, the qualities that drive how we work

  • Act Intentionally
  • Serve users
  • Collaborate
  • Focus on problems
  • Communicate honestly

Alignment on these principles, values, and processes helped the team improve in performance and contribution to the product experience. The design team has had an outsized impact on the business forward through the tumultuous circumstances of 2020 and beyond.