Creating a design-centric work culture with Marc Hemeon of Design Inc.

4 min read
Kristin Hillery
  •  Feb 10, 2017
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Design Inc. curates top designers and hooks them into high-profile design gigs. Since launching in December 2016, they’ve seen over $1.1 million of projects come through the platform across almost 300 submissions projects.

We sat down with Marc Hemeon, Design Inc.‘s CEO, to hear his thoughts on creating a design-centric work culture, building team trust, and more.

Marc Hemeon. All images courtesy of Design Inc.

How do you create a great work/team culture?

Culture is the amalgamation of all the personalities and trends and tastes and attitudes of each person on the team. We hire the kind of folks who, regardless of their role or how busy they are, will drop what they’re doing to help take out the trash, help the UPS guy carry in packages, or they’ll take a moment to recognize someone else’s accomplishments.  

“Great design always starts with listening.”

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We wrote these values when we first started, and they tend to guide and underscore how we think about things:

  1. We believe humans are the center of all design
  2. We believe everyone, regardless of role or title, can create
  3. We believe design should be developer-friendly and actionableTwitter Logo
  4. We believe great design always starts with listening
  5. We believe fast is better than slow and done is better than perfect
  6. We believe our struggles determine our success. Love the struggle, not the victory
  7. We believe the best efforts are collaborative
  8. We believe people matter and should always come first
  9. We believe great design flows from a happy and healthy life. Whatever that means for you, we pride ourselves on a work environment that is holistic and exploratory by nature

Want your company to have a design-centric culture? Hire engineers who care about the pixels and won’t compromise on what they ship.Twitter Logo Our front-end engineer, Mikey, has incredible product instincts—some of our best wins on our platform have been his ideas.

Related: What exactly is a design culture?

We’re flexible in our approach. Everyone knows the high-level goals and then is left to govern themselves and execute against our broader goal.

How does your team communicate with each other? And how do you communicate with the designers you pair with clients?

We all work together here in our Costa Mesa office. Since startups are dynamic and so much changes and happens every day, I don’t know how a remote team would be effective.

For the broad Design Inc. community of designers, writers, illustrators, photographers, and videographers, we have a massive Slack group where we chat and communicate each day. Folks direct message me and the team every day and we do our best to build out the features and address issues as they come up.

“Be quick to give others credit.”

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Can you talk about giving great, actionable feedback? And how do you criticize work without crushing someone’s soul?

If someone’s ego gets hurt, it says more about the person than the person giving feedback. Here’s what we follow for our design critiques:

In general, please keep the spirit of Judy Reeves in mind while you do your critiques, remembering a critique is not criticism:

Criticism passes judgement — Critique poses questions
Criticism finds fault — Critique uncovers opportunity
Criticism is personal — Critique is objective
Criticism is vague — Critique is concrete
Criticism tears down — Critique builds up
Criticism is ego-centric — Critique is altruistic
Criticism is adversarial — Critique is cooperative
Criticism belittles the designer — Critique improves the design

What catches your eye when you’re looking at someone’s portfolio? What makes you immediately move onto the next applicant?

I gravitate towards work that was designed and then was engineered and shipped into the real world. The ability for a designer to tell a story and advocate to stakeholders for their point of view is one of the most under-utilized skills a designer can have.

Related: 8 things to know about building a design portfolio

I also love when designers take a moment to identify what their role was in the project and are quick to give others credit. I get turned off when I see a bunch of glossy concept work that never sees the light of day.

You’d be shocked how many portfolios say “coming soon,” or only have 1 or 2 pieces of work. If I have to hunt to find your work, I’m moving on.

What can teams do to build trust with each other?

Building trust is the cornerstone for healthy teams.Twitter Logo If no trust exists, then every time a team member asks for something, it’ll be looked at with contempt.

Eating lunch or dinner together and getting out of the office together allows folks to bond and share their backstories. We’ve also gone out and done escape rooms and multi-day offsites—and in general we try to spend a lot of time with each other.

Trust takes months to develop. And once you lose trust, it’s almost impossible to get it back.

“Once you lose trust, it’s almost impossible to get it back.”

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How does your team use InVision?

We use it all the time to build prototypes and share mocks. We love how InVision makes it easy to drag and drop graphics and instantly create life-like prototypes that help us think through an idea.

Where do you see design headed in the next 5-10 years and how should designers prepare for that?

Design is headed from the art studio to the board roomTwitter Logo, so designers should brush up on their soft skills and business acumen and spend some time learning about marketing, sales, accounting, and all the other aspects of running a business.

In the future, the best designers will be those who can help unify and focus stakeholders and users.

“Always do what you say you’re going to do.”

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What’s your best advice for young designers?

Have a point-of-view and an opinion about what you’re designing and why.

Always do what you say you’re going to do. If you say you will have work done by tomorrow then you have to do whatever it takes to get it done. Being reliable will help you more in your career than being good.Twitter Logo

It’s okay to do free design work. There are going to be times where you want to work with a certain person or company, and the only way to make that happen is to compromise your rate or even do a little pre-work. Some of your best relationships and work will come from this. And yes, the money will follow.

You can copy, but never plagiarize. When you see a design pattern you like, it’s fine to try and create the pattern yourself, but add your twist and your point of view. Never pass off someone else’s work as your own. That’s just lying—and it’s bad karma.

Raise your rates every yearTwitter Logo.

Drink plenty of water.

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