Wearing multiple hats as the only designer at a startup

I worked as the sole and lead Product Designer at KnowMe and collaborated closely with my team to iterate through many different brand designs and features for our MVP app for funding.

Sadly, I can’t share any specific designs, but I want to share what I was able to do and learn!

My Role:
Product Designer (full-time)
Timeline: March to June 2021
Responsibilities: 
User Experience Design, User Research, Prototyping, Animations, Responsive Web Design, Product Strategy, Implementing Responsive Web Designs, Branding, Logos
Tools: Figma, Principle, Protopie, Webflow, Adobe After Effects, Notion, ClickUp, Trello
Type: Mobile, Responsive Web Design, Full-time role

Staying flexible and open to ideas at a startup is key

Each time we pivoted to a different product vision, I continued to deliver development-ready designs. Most of what I’ve designed will stay in Figma forever but I learned so much about what it means to collaborate with others, stay flexible to changing goals, and remain open to working with tight deadlines. It was great to work at a startup where I was truly able to wear multiple hats in product, research, and design. 

Key deliverables + learnings that go with it!

Working at a start up as the only designer means I owned all the design and the processes that came with it!

Created processes for: designing in Figma, collaborating easily and organizing feedback loops with the PM, handing off design and specifications to developers, conducting user research through focus groups and surveys. I read Medium articles and watched Youtube videos on how some of these processes were done! Otherwise, I put my love for organization + productivity to use and created a system that I thought worked best for the PM, engineers, and I. Since I was the more detail-oriented one of the team, I was able to define these processes, but I still made sure to ask the rest of the team for their feedback on collaboration style.

Collaborated closely with the PM and engineers to define feature goals and share designs for feedback. I learned to keep an open mind to different perspectives and ask lots of questions. 

Iterated through so many designs for different features. I can’t share the features here, but trust me, there were a lot. I did research on leading apps that had relevant features and brainstormed user flows that would make sense and fit the constraints that the PM and engineers had. 

Prototyped using Principle and Protopie. Animated with After Effects. This really helped the handoff with engineers smooth since they had a better idea of the interactions. This was also my first time using After Effects!

Implemented responsive web designs on Webflow. My prior knowledge in HTML and CSS really helped with the learning curve of Webflow. At the beginning, there were tight deadlines that made me implement my designs in Webflow in a non-responsive way. Web accessibility is important to me so afterwards, I had to go back in and completely re-work how it was all implemented. This taught me that doing things fast is not always going to be efficient. I’ll meet the deadline fast, but it won’t be quality work. I learned that deadlines still need to be reasonable.

Interviewed potential users to learn more about how they currently recruit for jobs and shared our ideas with them to get feedback. 

Utilized Figma, FigJam, Trello, Notion, and ClickUp to collaborate with the team.

Presented designs several times a week to get feedback. 

Set up a design system on Figma! I learned how to use components, variants, auto-layout and all of those advanced Figma features. Taking the time to learn this really streamlined my work and made it easy every single time we changed colors, fonts, and design style! There's still a lot more about Figma that I need to learn, but prioritizing learning these tools helped me work smarter, not harder. 

There’s still so much for me to learn

Design is an endless loop of iterations.
After completing many one-off design projects, it’s easy for me to think that design is finished after you hand it off to engineers. I learned that it’s quite the opposite. There’s always something to improve and fix. Getting more eyes on it, especially from stakeholders and potential users, will help point out various aspects that can be improved. 

Ask clarifying questions.
After collaborating closely with the team, I’ve learned the importance of asking questions, especially clarifying questions. I’ve been the type of person to quickly defend my design, but I’ve learned that I’m able to learn so much when I pause, listen, and ask more questions to learn about their opinions and thought processes. 

Believe in myself
Imposter syndrome is real but thanks to my team for believing in me to lead design. This was my first time leading such a large and important project and I can’t wait to see all of the latest designs built out! Thanks for reading about my time at KnowMe! Please reach out to me if you'd like to chat more about it.

Thanks for reading about my time at KnowMe! Please reach out to me if you'd like to chat more about it.