Passion and craft

Company size

  • 4,900


  • Northbrook, IL


  • Retail

After returning home from their honeymoon, Crate and Barrel founders Gordon and Carole Segal had an idea. They were taken by how simple, beautiful, and practical household goods were in Europe, and the couple wanted to bring this aesthetic and pricepoint to the Midwest.

From the moment they opened their first store in an old elevator factory to today, a strong connection to customers has shaped their product line—and brand.

Director of Site Design and UX Jason Harvey helped us sequence even more of the traits enabling Crate and Barrel to make great design happen, on shelves and on screens.

Crate and Barrel+

Crate and Barrel isn’t Wayfair or Amazon...we aren't an online marketplace. We have a point of view on the design of our products and compete by being a brand customers are passionate about.

Jason Harvey

Director of Site Design and UX, Crate and Barrel

Crate and Barrel has a rich heritage built on a shared passion for the customer experience. Customer engagement and feedback shape the selection of curated products from artisans around the world. Time spent talking to customers about a product’s story or design has helped keep quality craftsmanship at the heart of their offerings. Today, this carries into Crate and Barrel’s digital offerings too.

Customer advocacy changes everything for the team, especially how digital products are designed.

We're responsible for experiences outside the website. We have a native shopping and gift registry app, and we also do all of the in-store digital.

Jason Harvey

Director of Site Design and UX, Crate and Barrel

It's the entire team’s job to make sure we’re meeting customer needs.

Jason Harvey

Director of Site Design and UX, Crate and Barrel

Numbers and information current as of publish date in June 2018.

When it comes to bringing new things to life at Crate and Barrel, the responsibility is split. One team, underneath the Creative umbrella, introduces projects according to retail trends, promotions, and seasons.

In this case, kickoff starts much like it would at an agency—with creative briefs and more marketing muscle. This team shapes how the desktop site looks and feels at a given time to help maintain the curated, custom aesthetic of the brand.

Once it’s time to translate interactions into shopping experiences, Jason’s team spearheads creation. Business needs often drive new features, like selling custom furniture online, for example. The custom furniture experience was a multi-year project that had to meet existing standards—while also introducing a functionality that didn’t exist when the company’s founders established the brand’s shopping philosophy.

The Site Design and UX team started as closely to Gordon and Carole’s process as possible: by talking to retail buyers to understand how a digital, custom furniture experience could be as effective as the traditional in-store concept.

For smaller, more typical projects, product managers create annual roadmaps that dictate feature development. Either way, the first step in the actual creation process is the same:


1. Information gathering - Talking to buyers, understanding the technical constraints, and hearing from customers

2. User experience strategy - The team puts together a UX strategy for five entities. They must consider two brands, the app, and an associate-facing in-store app called “Crate Browser”

3. First round - They work on initial solutions with the product management and IT teams, design the first iteration, and create a prototype. Weekly design reviews with both the Creative and Ecommerce teams are also an ongoing practice.

We have to maintain a balance between what’s feasible from a development standpoint, what has the most value to the business, and what’s best for our customers.

Jason Harvey

Director of Site Design and UX, Crate and Barrel

4. Testing - The team tests prototypes in customer sessions, sometimes remotely

5. Internal workshopping - Before launch, they workshop the product/feature with developers and product managers

6. Parallel launches - The team uses a single code base so it can launch experiences for all devices at once

7. A/B testing - Depending on the project, A/B testing usually follows the launch

A/B testing is just built into our process. We have a great analytics team we partner with closely. I love getting their perspective on why something is or isn't working. If a design doesn't work the first time, we take it back and try again.

Jason Harvey

Director of Site Design and UX, Crate and Barrel

8. Iteration - The team combines information from A/B tests and customer feedback to make tweaks and modifications

Org design

A hybrid approach, which is common in large enterprises, blends multiple organizational models and runs different models in parallel. In hybrid structures, an organization might position designers in a temporary cross-functional team to work on a focused project with a clear deadline. When they’re done, they return to the centralized design team.

  • Reporting structure - The Digital Product Design team reports to a VP-level ecommerce leader. Designers (visual, interaction, and hybrid) sit under the Director of Site Design and UX.
  • Keeping Creative involved - From the Director of Site Design and UX, there’s a dotted line to the VP of Creative.

Another common hybrid model strategy is to distribute designers in cross-functional teams, then pull them back together for design reviews, stand-ups, and fireside chats, which help maintain peer connections, even on isolated teams dominated by engineers.

Many large companies position the design system team as the hub of design culture to which embedded designers return for discussion about creating a unified customer experience across platforms and products.

Customer focus is central to Crate's culture—so much so that cross functional teams can work fluidly between different reporting structures. Our job is really to focus on the customer and design for what makes this brand great.

Jason Harvey

Director of Site Design and UX, Crate and Barrel

Tool stack

How Crate and Barrel uses InVision

  • Prototyping
  • Communications around design concepts
  • User testing
  • Stakeholder design presentations (high- and low-fidelity)
Transform your team with InVision. Here’s how.