I have no idea how, but it's been a whole month since I joined Northstar as their Head of Design and I wanted to share some behind the scenes with you on how it's going!
To be honest, it's been quite a whirlwind. As of right now, I'm technically the only designer on staff and am doing all of the design work, handling design approvals, presenting to companies, and even working on all our marketing design work.
Before me, Northstar only had a design agency on staff as contractors doing basic design work (which I am grateful for, a lot was already made when I got here). The first week I was here was the only overlap I had with the design agency, and have since had to get up to speed on my own and start pushing design work.
I've been helping out with presentations/demos to some big employers we are pitching to, and have been working with current employers like Zoom. We've been working on 2 main new tools that are exciting, and I'm not sure how they haven't existed yet (more on that once they ship). I've been helping with some smaller product updates and assisting with handoff to Engineering along the way. Like I said earlier, I've even been able to work on some Marketing projects too such as our new business cards (above, the pattern will be glossy ?) and booth materials for an in-person event Northstar will be attending next month. I've even been helping with the PM hiring process, leading interviews, and defining the role of a PM at Northstar.
On the design system front, I think this is where I have the majority of work to do. The person that originally created the design system didn't use much Auto Layout or Variants in their work, leading to a lot of discrepancies and difficult-to-use components. Slowly but surely I've been making updates as I have the time or as it's relevant to the current project, but it still feels like I have a ton of work to do. Specifically around color and text styles for example, where there are 30+ text styles with different versions between app and website. Here's to hoping I can make a lot of headway on it without wrecking our existing Figma files!
Another huge part of what I do here is on the leadership side of things. As Head of Design, I literally have a "seat at the table", working with the other directors on high-level initiatives and process creation. I get to suggest process improvements (both company-wide and product-specific), be involved in leadership discussions, and even write All Hands updates each week for transparency within the company.
While I've been the busiest I've been in quite some time I have to say though, the people here are on another level of amazing. I've never worked with such kind, caring, and smart people that know how to get their stuff done. I report directly to our CEO and couldn't have asked for a more empathetic and understanding boss. It's been refreshing having someone of this caliber leading the whole company, it really shows throughout the rest of the company as a result.
Also, I'll be able to start hiring designers next month if all goes accordingly!
Have any questions about my role so far? Happy to answer in the comments below!
How did you make the decision to join a startup as the first designer? What about Northstar back in July measured up to what you wanted?