See what makes these 3 NYC tech design teams unique

by Liz Warren
February 20, 2019

The importance of a compelling website or product design goes far beyond pleasing aesthetics. Any designer for a startup will tell you that their creations also need to be user-friendly, cohesive and within brand requirements — and that can mean different things for different teams. We talked to three designers at local tech startups to see what challenges and requirements set them apart from other companies.

 

newsela
image via newsela

A big part of learning is visual, which makes designers especially valuable in the edtech space. Newsela’s designers are tasked with providing a cohesive experience for educators and students who use their service. Head of Design Polly Ng explained what else makes the team’s projects unique.

 

What are some of the practices, technologies or challenges that make your design team unique? 
We are using design to unite the different ways of thinking about the existing problems students, teachers and administrators face with learning in school. As the design team, our biggest challenge is considering all those layers in our work while making sure that the overall experience feels cohesive. To do this, we begin projects first with a deep understanding (and appreciation) of their needs and motivations — this informs design principles that act as our north star as we generate new concepts to test out. Luckily for us, much of our staff are former teachers who are involved from the start! 

 

What's one new practice or concept you've recently implemented or are looking to implement and why?
Every quarter, we take on internal design initiatives, which I lovingly call “second hats” since product work is the team’s primary responsibility. Each designer pairs with another designer on a project that they feel uniquely compelled to change or make better for the rest of the organization. We're committed to strengthening the design team, even if that means just by 1 percent every day. 

 

bcgdv
Image via bcgdv

As a corporate investment and incubation firm, BCG Digital Ventures partner with large organizations, all of which have their own needs. This means designers at BCGDV must be nimble and ready to bring a high volume of brands to life day in and day out. Experience Design Director Joe Daoud, who was one of the first employees at the company’s New York center, explained more.

 

What are some of the practices, technologies or challenges that make your design team unique?
At DV, we partner with corporations to build and invest in new businesses. This means that we often parallel-path several work streams through the design process in order to help successfully launch businesses. We develop thoughtful designs to do several things — to solve real human challenges, align and support viable business opportunities, and to help build the tech/development process.

 

What's one new practice or concept you've recently implemented or are looking to implement and why?
We don’t have the luxury of time when building lean startups. We work at a level of agility that is truly differentiated — our speed to market is unseen. Recently, I’ve been applying the “lean” approach to the design process: What does it mean to do “lean” UX or branding? These are both new areas for us as we try to code the next iteration of our design methodology. The design world is in flux right now and we have so many opportunities to contribute to that narrative.

 

 

perch
image via perch

Real estate tech company Perch is exceptionally customer-focused, and their design reflects that. The team conducts in-person research and interviews to make sure the user experience is optimized for their audience. Product Design Lead Alex Huang walked us through the team’s successes and challenges.

 

What are some of the practices, technologies or challenges that make your design team unique?    
The real estate industry hasn’t changed substantially over the years. We’ve seen iterative improvements, but no one has successfully restructured the process with a customer-centric focus. User research has been embedded in the DNA of Perch from Day 1, so we’re constantly asking ourselves how we can deliver a better experience for homebuyers and sellers. We conduct extensive in-person customer research, create prototypes of new products and fly to our markets to ask real potential customers what resonates. I’ve never worked somewhere as fast-paced and customer-centric as Perch.

 

What's one new practice or concept you've recently implemented or are looking to implement and why?
We recently launched a new service for customers who are both selling and buying a home at the same time. We launched the product in January after having prototyped several different ways to explain the service, in order to understand how to tell the story to customers in a way that was clear. From a design perspective, we interviewed customers, did rapid iterative prototyping to see how best to explain the service, then brought the design to high fidelity and launched to the public. We did this in a matter of weeks and have been thrilled to see the response it's had from customers!

 

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