Design Chats

A Look Inside Design at Trunk Club

4 min read
Amanda Hackwith
  •  May 20, 2014
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We’re tracking down InVision users inside the world’s most amazing companies to discover their favorite tools, inspirations, workspace must-haves and the philosophy behind what makes them so awesome.

This week, we chatted with Kim Ruelo, product designer at Trunk Club, a website and app that solved a simple, chronic problem: most men hate shopping, whether it’s in the store or online. Founded in 2009, Trunk Club offers members a personal stylist who chooses awesome clothes, responds to feedback and ships a trunk filled with returnable options right to a guy’s home or office.

With over 40,000 customers and 350 employees, the Chicago-based Trunk Club has a 30-person tech team working on internal and external tools, including six product designers and one graphic designer. Here’s what Kim had to say:

How did you arrive at your role at Trunk Club?

I went to school for graphic design and photography, but I never really thought about UX until after college. I joined the UX team at Tribune Company and that’s where I got a lot of mentorship about UX and how it plays a role in the entire design process. After working corporate, I got into the startup scene and found Trunk Club!

What’s your role and responsibilities at Trunk Club?

We’re at a point at Trunk Club where we’re trying to figure out our vision of how we want to proceed — my role as a designer is to connect the dotsTwitter Logo between the member experience and the stylist experience. We’re really selling the convenience of shopping rather than the actual products. So we need to get the right information from members and design it in such a way that’s easily digestible for the stylist to thoughtfully personalize each guy’s trunk. Each stylist has hundreds of members they’re trying to shop for, so we need to figure out how technology solves that.

We do everything in-house and we serve a bunch of departments — so I wear multiple hats and do a lot of research into understanding all of our current users and their needs.

What are the key skills and capabilities necessary to be good at what you do?

Any designer can make something look nice, but a great one figures out the actual problemTwitter Logo before jumping to a solution. Designers have to be open and receptive to what customers, clients and stakeholders say.Twitter Logo Being good at knowing which questions to ask people is a skill in itself, but having the ability to observe, understand pain points, and execute on solving them are key.

What are the wider design industry trends that are changing the nature of your role?

The shift into mobile in the last five years has really changed how designers thinkTwitter Logo about how we deliver products to our customers. We have discussions here all the time: Are we thinking desktop first or mobile first? What are the advantages of mobile? Can we fit everything into a smaller screen? Do we have to sacrifice any features on that device?

So we need to understand how people are using mobile devices, when they’re using them, and build a service for them that has a pattern to it — something you could come back to and do over and over and over. The goal is to design a cycle that people get addicted to.

How do you use InVision?

Sometimes it’s really hard to communicate ideas to our internal teams — I’ve tried a variety of things, from walking people through wireframes to creating user flows. I’ve even combined them and made a user flow out of actual mockups, and then also included business requirements along side each mockup.

But what I’ve found most effective is to actually let people feel the experience.Twitter Logo To let them play around with the prototype in InVision. That’s much more powerful than just talking about it. Also, for myself, when I start mocking things up in InVision and feel the transitions and the UI elements, I get a sense of the pieces that are missing or things that aren’t working.

“What I’ve found most effective is to actually let people play around with the prototype in InVision and let them feel the experience. That’s much more powerful than just talking about it.”

What are the three critical elements of your workspace that you couldn’t live without?

  • Collaboration is critical to a designerTwitter Logo — communication is huge here, especially as we’re expanding really quickly. We want to make sure we all have a shared vision.
  • Having the right tools is essential to designTwitter Logo — our cinema displays and our MacBook Pros.
  • Hmm…the third? Maybe whiteboards.

What physical equipment do you use to help do your job more effectively?

I definitely do a lot of sketching, that’s where I usually start. Sketch first, because a lot of initial ideas are throwaway ideas.Twitter Logo Sketching is more fluid than going straight to the computer. I want ideas to be flexible enough to change, so there’s something psychologically helpful about using hand sketches. Then we use our whiteboards to brainstorm in a collaborative space.

We all have our MacBook Pros, and our external monitors are all cinema displays. It’s very helpful. I’ll have the mockups on one screen and research on the other. And, I like to put all my screens on the brightest setting! I know it hurts everyone else’s eyes, but I’m a stickler for accurate color and seeing it at the best possible resolution.

Where do you look for design inspiration?

For me, inspiration comes through the insights gained from doing user research.Twitter Logo I’m also inspired by my team. Mike Wolf is great at taking a step back and thinking larger picture. Dan Nelson is detail oriented and can constructively criticize a product from many different angles. Whenever I have “designer’s block” (and even sometimes when I don’t), John Tucker and Matt Melchiori help push design ideation to another level. There’s so much talent and knowledge over here that strengthens and shapes our products.

“InVision makes it easy to send to targeted people and get feedback. It gives stakeholders a cohesive picture of what’s to come.”

What are some of the tools you use in the design process?

Well, InVision, of course! I’m sure everyone mentions that one. Some of us use Illustrator and some of us use Sketch, too. We’ve been kind of just playing around with whatever works best.

We also use Balsamiq for prototyping and Lucidchart for user flows. There’s Trello for story management and task management. Some of us use Sketch, Illustrator, or Photoshop.

What sources do you read to keep up on design information?

I read UX Magazine, UX matters, Medium, Colossal and Swissmiss. I also like checking tech blogs, like Gizmodo, just to make sure I’m keeping up.

I would also say Dribbble is a great place for information and inspirations. We follow people and post on there a lot.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other designers that want to get a role as awesome as yours?

First step: make sure you understand the problem facing the user you’re building for.Twitter Logo If you don’t really understand the user or the problem, you’re probably going to go down the wrong path and build something that just doesn’t make sense for them. So, we tend to spend a lot of time just really figuring out what are the pain points the user has with our current service, how can we make it better, and feel like if you skip those steps you’re just going to be in a bad spot.

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Trunk Club at work." /]
  • Image from Inside Design: Trunk Club.
  • Image from Inside Design: Trunk Club.
  • Image from Inside Design: Trunk Club.
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    Collaborate in real time on a digital whiteboard