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We’re excited to announce that our next Design for Business Impact virtual speaker series will be a special brand edition. The Zendesk and Gusto brands are both known and loved globally; we’ll hear from their teams about the business impact of developing distinct visual identities, creating cohesive brand systems, and crafting powerful stories.

We hope you join us on Wednesday, November 11th at 12PM PST. We’ll be featuring three creative leaders who will present case studies followed by Q&A:

  • Micah Panama, Creative Director, Head of Brand at Gusto: How Gusto rebranded for the long-term
  • Anna Cirera, Manager, Brand Production & Raphael Gueller, Creative Director at Zendesk: How Zendesk scaled its brand globally

>> Register

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Learn more about this series at designerfund.com/business-impact.


After investing in multi-billion dollar companies across industries and advising hundreds of design leaders at Designer Fund, one of the biggest opportunities I’ve seen for designers to increase their influence is to demonstrate how their work aligns with the success of the business.

Often as designers, our natural tendency is to emphasize the importance of our craft, instead of focusing on the impact it has on the bottom line. For example, if you approach your manager and propose moving from a static style guide to a component based design system, that sounds expensive. …


As a founder, you need to hire the right people for the right roles to accomplish your business goals. Recruiting is expensive. It comes at the cost of your most valuable resource: time. And when it comes to hiring your first designer, the stakes can feel even higher. This person will give form to concepts that might exist only in your imagination or as a sketch on a whiteboard. Designers have the gift to bring your ideas to life.

The key to finding the right person for the job is to clarify your company’s needs. This guide will help you determine the kind of designer who will best fit your growing team — and it will help you understand the perspective of other first designers.


Nearly every startup needs creative help at some point in their lifecycle — often during key inflection points, such as raising funds, up-leveling into a new market, or communicating who they are to the world for the very first time. Freelancers, studios, and agencies can also be more than just an extra pair of hands; they can be strategic thought partners, helping you create work that is core to your business.

At Designer Fund, we have seen many productive, inspiring pairings between our portfolio companies and their external creative partners. …


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Design critiques are an essential part of the design process. If run effectively, critiques can elevate a team’s work and contribute to a team culture of trust and collaboration. Continuing to make effective use of this time can be challenging as organizations grow and responsibilities shift. We spoke with design leaders at Facebook, Asana, and Medium to learn how they’ve maintained a productive critique process over time. Although there is no one-size-fits-all model, their insights provide a great blueprint for any growing design team.

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Share work early and often

Blaise DiPersia, a product designer at Facebook, said a sign of a successful critique is when designers trust each other enough that they “share their work early and often.” Work in early stages retains a range of possibility, but as work is refined, it often limits the scope of the feedback teammates can offer. “It took us a few years, but now this practice is in our company and design team DNA. Raw, embarrassing, unstructured work needs to be accepted.” Amanda Buzard, a design manager at Asana, agrees: “When we see more projects come through design critique at early stages, we can tell that designers are finding the meetings valuable and are open to feedback.” …


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The impact of design is notoriously difficult to measure. We know intuitively that great design leads to great products, and understand that it can influence business success in a multitude of ways, from strategy to market expansion to brand expression. For many of us, this alone can be strong justification to invest in the discipline even in the absence of success metrics.

“Most of us as design leaders have come up practicing craft. We idolize well-designed products and form opinions about what makes a good experience,” said Brian Beaver, Eventbrite’s VP of Design. “If you think about the genesis of design, I’d be hard pressed to say that it was entirely about making an investment with the expectation of a return. Most products are born out of a passion for solving a problem. …


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There are countless books, seminars, conferences, and programs to teach you about business leadership, but design leadership requires an entirely different skill set and is not nearly as well documented. It can take years to master the management complexities at the intersection of business and creativity, but many design leaders are forced to learn on the job. To shorten the learning curve, we’ve gathered some unique insights from top managers and design leads to help you become a better design leader.

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Build A Culture Of Design Through Transparency & Advocacy

Design touches all aspects of a company — marketing, product, operations, even customer service — but because it’s harder to quantify success for a design team than, say, the sales department, demonstrating the value of design can often prove difficult. Woo Jin Park, Head of Design at Helix, says his team is all about informal transparency. “At Helix, the design team is trying to find simpler ways to champion design by building transparency around what we do. By doing little things like printing and displaying all of our prototypes in an open gallery, inviting others for design reviews outside of conference rooms and in the open, and pinning up a big calendar of what’s next for us, anyone from any team can walk by and see what we’re working on. That way, every time someone passes by, it’s an ongoing education, and people feel invited to engage with design. Transparency just makes communication easier, and showing what your team is doing to advance the company’s goals adds another layer to the value of design.” …


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A design team with an excellent job leveling system has an easier time retaining the designers they worked so hard to hire.

Practically speaking, leveling can be directly tied to career path, job titles, salary bands, and how valued an employee feels. And more broadly, it supports the everyday expression of company values, which provides the intrinsic motivation and purpose necessary for an individual to feel fulfilled by their work.

The main purposes of leveling are to:

  • Clarify roles and responsibilities for more efficient collaboration within the design team and among company departments.
  • Create an environment of growth where designers are rewarded with a sense of career progress. …


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When you’re at the theatre, you don’t often think about the backstage crew. Behind every actress on center stage are dozens of skilled supporters, running in dozens of directions, to bring every stage production to life. HR professionals are often the unsung heroes of organizations that keep teams operating on a daily basis. Gusto, an all-in-one provider of payroll, benefits, and HR solutions, makes these backstage players the stars of the show.

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Helping tell the story of their brand are Jenna Carando and Camellia Neri, two Bridge Alumni who are communication designers at Gusto. We sat down to discuss how the combination of illustration and lettering has brought Gusto’s brand to life and to learn what else happens behind the scenes at this company that makes “behind the scenes” their business. …


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Insights from 6 Top Women Leaders in Design & Tech

On April 19, 2016, Designer Fund hosted the fifth Women in Design event at Medium’s office in downtown San Francisco. Historic buildings painted a stunning background for the evening, during which top designers were treated to an intimate look at the inner worlds of six prominent female leaders in design and tech.

Maria Molfino, women’s leadership coach and host of the Heroine podcast, provided the wider context for the event’s theme on voice and risk. Female voices, she argued, are underrepresented in professional settings, from entry-level positions to the C-suite. …

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Designer Fund

We back exceptional founders and empower them with design to improve the world.

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