'Designers as cofounders': why startups shouldn't wait to hire designers - Technical.ly Philly


Apr. 11, 2014 8:30 am

‘Designers as cofounders’: why startups shouldn’t wait to hire designers

The right time to hire a designer was just one of the topics discussed at Tuesday's panel on designers in the startup world, hosted at Venturef0rth and moderated by the incubator's Jesse Kramer.

Left to right: Jake Wells of Empathy Lab, Kevin Jackson of Artisan Mobile, Melissa Morris Ivone of Curalate and Bob Moore of RJMetrics.

Full  Disclosure: This event was part of Philly Tech Week, which is organized by Technical.ly Philly.

By the time RJMetrics hired a designer, the ecommerce analytics startup had built up “design debt.” Founder Robert Moore said he wished he had hired a designer sooner.

“I wish our third or fourth hire was a creative one,” he said.

The team was overwhelmingly composed of developers, and it was only when RJMetrics brought a designer on board was the company able to answer big questions about the vision and image of the company. That, and make the product a little easier on the eyes.

“The product looked like enterprise software from 1992,” Moore said. “It was compromising our ability to be effective.”

The right time to hire a designer was just one of the topics discussed at Tuesday’s panel on designers in the startup world, hosted at Venturef0rth and moderated by the incubator’s Jesse Kramer.

So, when is the right time to hire a designer?

“The sooner, the better,” said Jake Wells, who works at Conshohocken digital agency Empathy Lab. “I push for designers as cofounders.” Wells was one himself: he cofounded politics startup ElectNext.

mike jackson designers ptw

An illustration of the panel by artist Mike Jackson.

See more of Mike Jackson‘s drawings of the event here (specifically herehere, here and here).


Here are some other highlights of the panel discussion:

  • What’s the key to a successful developer/designer relationship? Constant communication, the panelists said, and an understanding, on the designer’s part, of what’s possible and what will be very difficult to build.
  • Should designers know how to code? The panelists were split on this one, with Artisan Mobile‘s Kevin Jackson saying that sometimes he’ll work in Ruby on Rails, HTML and CSS, while others like Wells (“I never want to code anything ever.”) and Curalate‘s Melissa Morris Ivone (“I can do it if they make me but it’s not a good use of my time.”) prefer to work in Photoshop.
  • Tips on how to treat designers. Jackson: Don’t ask to see what I’m working on while I’m working on it; Ivone: Trust us as experts.
melissa morris ivone curalate mike jackson drawing illustration

An illustration of Curalate designer Melissa Morris Ivone by artist Mike Jackson

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