S3 • E3 – Oct 05, 2022

Inside Marketing Design at Auth0

with Senior Brand Designer Austin Couillard

with Senior Brand Designers Austin Couillard and

with Senior Brand Designer Austin Couillard and

In this episode, Austin Couillard, Senior Brand Designer at Auth0, talks with Charli about how the internal brand team works with external agencies to manage all the brand design needs, as well as the internal relationship-building that Austin considers vital to his work. Auth0 is an authentication and authorization platform that companies can use to make their users' signup and login process really smooth and, most of all, very secure.


  • 03:48 - Austin’s responsibilities as a Senior Brand Designer
  • 05:38 - What brand designers do at Auth0
  • 07:50 - Auth0’s creative process
  • 09:01 - How brand design works with product design
  • 11:43 - How feedback works at Auth0
  • 14:30 - Working with external agencies
  • 21:56 - Merging two brands after an acquisition
  • 24:46 - How Auth0 maintains brand consistency
  • 27:40 - How template helps deal with change
  • 35:02 - How Austin sets goals
  • 36:45 - What kind of assets does the marketing team produce?
  • 38:45 - How Austin divides his time among many responsibilities
  • 41:01 - Challenges Austin is currently facing
  • 44:02 - Austin's plans for growth in his career
  • 47:50 - The project Austin is most proud of


Welcome back to Inside Marketing Design. I'm Charli, I'm a marketing designer, currently working as the Creative Director at ConvertKit. And this is a show where I get to speak to my peers in the tech industry about how brand and marketing design works at their companies. Today on the show I'm speaking to Austin Couillard who is a Senior Brand Designer at Auth0. Now Auth0 is an authentication and authorization platform that companies can use to make their users' signup and login process really smooth and most of all very secure. So their target audience is either developers building applications or the folks making the big picture like infrastructure and platform decisions at product companies. 

Auth0 were acquired by Okta in 2021, so now they're operating as like a separate product unit within Okta, and Austin joined the team last July, so he's been there a little over a year now. You're gonna find it really interesting to hear about the way that the internal Auth0 brand team works with a bunch of different external agencies and like freelancers to keep up with the brand design needs. And you'll hear from Austin about all of the internal relationship-building that is vital for his work. So we talk about a lot of things that are not like hands-on design in this episode, all important stuff though. 

Before we get into it though, let's thank Webflow for sponsoring this season of Inside Marketing Design. Webflow is a visual development tool that you can use to build websites without writing code. And one of my favorite parts of Webflow, 'cause I do use it for my personal website, is creating interactions. This is something that I always found so difficult to get my head around in code, but in Webflow you can create animations on a timeline and set them to occur on hover, on click, on scroll, whatever you like really. It's a really easy way to add something a little bit more special to your site, make it more engaging, which is why companies like Dell and HelloSign and Lashes use it for their marketing website. Check it out for yourself at insidemarketingdesign.com/webflow. 

And now let's get into the episode and take a look inside marketing design at Auth0. Welcome to the show, Austin. Super excited to have you here and to learn more about marketing design at Auth0. Let's start by telling us about the team. How many other brand designers are there besides you? Where does that fit into the company? Give us the lay of the land.

Austin:- Yeah, totally. But first I just wanna say thank you for having me. This is my first podcast experience so that's,

Charli:- Okay.

Austin:- That's fun for me.

Charli:- We'll try to make it a good one for you.

Austin:- But for our team, it's a pretty small team. We get to do a lot, but essentially other than myself, there are two other brand designers. One is a principal designer. And then the other designer, he considers himself a full stack designer because he also is a developer in a previous life and he truly is just so talented, can make a concept and then also build out a website which is pretty wild. And then we also have a couple more web or visual designers.

Charli:- Okay, and how many of them are on the team?

Austin:- There's two.

Charli:- Two of them, okay. So we're talking like five designers total. And what team are you technically on? Is it called the brand team?

Austin:- Yes, technically our direct team is called the Brand Design Team and we sit within the design org that ladders up to our products.

Charli:- That's interesting. I find that there's usually, it seems to be a pretty even split in these episodes when I talk to folks that brand design fits within design which ladders up to product or it sits sort of more within marketing or growth within a company as well.

Austin:- Yeah, but I was pretty much hired as a kind of like a liaison between the design and product org and our marketing org, 'cause that's more so my background is in advertising and marketing. Like you were saying with brand design teams and where they sit, it can kind of be a little ambiguous, but I also talk a lot with different marketing stakeholders.

Charli:- Tell me more about that, about what you're responsible for in your role as a senior brand designer.

Austin:- Yeah, so, man, because our team is small, it really does touch a lot of different things which I love. But within marketing like we were just talking about how we help meet with the brand marketing team to look at any kind of feature videos or explainer videos to explain our product. We'll also look at different specific campaign work that will be pushed out to different media touchpoints. Within marketing, there's also of course like demand gen and banner units and all that fun stuff.

Charli:- So you're responsible for creating those like the ad banners and things like that?

Austin:- Well, because of our small team scale, it's more so our direction. I'm not hands-on creating a lot of these at this point. Our brand manager has put in a lot of work in building up processes so that we can more so be shepherding design versus having our hands in it, which has been really nice as far as being able to get a really bird's-eye view of things. We also like to help do like art direction and creative direction with external agencies that help us put those things together too.

Charli:- Interesting, okay, so you are doing a lot of art direction and creative direction work, and it's the agencies who are doing the hands-on, making it this size, this size, this size.

Austin:- Exactly, yeah for the most part. Sometimes I'll build out something that I just call like a campaign toolkit. Like if we're gonna be working on a campaign, but an external agency is gonna be producing it, sometimes I'll create like the assets that'll probably become components in Figma on the agency side and just give like some rough guidelines on putting the look and feel together, 'cause sometimes campaigns are a little bit more nuanced than what you would see in a brand guideline, so it's kinda hard to know where to push the line with the design.

Charli:- Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. And so that's you setting the direction for it and then the agency can take it from there and go with it.

Austin:- Yeah,

Charli:- I like that, okay, we'll definitely get into talking more about working with external agencies in a sec then. But what about the rest of the brand designers on the team? Like I guess in general at Auth0, what is brand design responsible for 'cause it's interesting to hear that there's a separate group of designers who work on like the website, for example.

Austin:- Yeah, it's so funny I feel like I also when I look at brand design roles at different companies, it's always kinda hard to know because--

Charli:- And they're all different too that's why we do this show.

Austin:- Yeah, they're all so different.

Charli:- Yeah.

Austin:- Yep. No, that's right. I'm trying to think of the best way to break it down. But essentially the principal brand designer, her name is Ceci, she really helps kind of shape the brand presence overall. Like before I joined, the small team led the brand evolution for Auth0. So there was a rebrand done right before I joined and they created very extensive guidelines that kind of touches marketing assets and video product and all these different things, but I would say since then, they really have a more in-depth relationship with the product team and the research team and working on brand delight and brand experiences and new visual identities that come up for internal products and external landing pages and things like that. So basically they kinda lead the extension of the brand after they set, like we have to reset like a bar, if you will, with the brand guidelines.

Charli:- Yeah, that makes sense. And then you're doing the same with applying it to the like marketing asset materials, right, where--

Austin:- Yeah.

Charli:- Like maybe not literally yourself, but with the agencies making sure that that consistency is there, that they're meeting that cold the bar as well, the work the agency produces.

Austin:- Yeah, it's always funny talking about this stuff with other people 'cause I feel like it's more enlightening to be like, yeah, that is what we do. That is how we do it.

Charli:- Yeah, you can figure it out as you explain it to others. I love it.

Austin:- Like we also try to leave room for like experimentation on the team with our brand. So a couple things to shout-out there is like I've been working with an external agency on building like a video motion library that eventually we're hoping to kinda do like a sonic evolution of the brand, and see like how those video assets could sound like and then how those assets then could be brought into the product or into campaigns. So there's like a level of discovery with what we can do with the brand which is really fun. Gishei, who's the full stack designer that we talked about before, he's been working on like generative like artwork websites for using our patterns in our brand guidelines and like figuring out how we can make more nuance creative with that kind of a tool.

Charli:- Oh wow, that sounds amazing.

Austin:- It's just been really fun. Yeah.

Charli:- Like that sounds really fun to have the space to do that sort of thing and also like great for the brand too to be having a group of people who are pushing it forward in this way and thinking about those things. I love it.

Austin:- Oh absolutely. And then we can also like share it on social just for like our brand design team socials and kind of enter different conversations about design then that we might not have if we can share it out.

Charli:- I love that. You mentioned the product design and research team before. I'm curious to hear more about ways in which brand design collaborates with product design. Like even just calling out that brand delight in the product is a priority for Auth0 is really interesting to me. So, yeah, tell me more about that.

Austin:- So we have something called brand in product, and it's its own like Figma library and assets and things, but essentially that is like kind of internal guidelines that we have that's always a work in progress with the Product Team to find areas of brand delight and kind of always the, looking at how we can tighten things up within the product and how it comes across from like a brand point of view. And that's kind of a really an ongoing initiative that comes up as we get feedback I think from the product team and also from our team when we do like internal reviews or things are flagged in different meetings or like weekly meetings. So that's always a fun thing. And like a part of the brand in product, like an example of that would be kind of like for empty states and figuring out how we can add illustration to the product for different delight or what level of delight is applicable given the context, 'cause if we, like since we're a login security company, if you get a message--

Charli:- Yeah, you wanna like not, that makes you playful.

Austin:- If there's something wrong, we don't wanna be showing a very brightly colored fun-looking animation to be like something's wrong.

Charli:- Yeah, like, ooh, our bad.

Austin:- Yeah, we wanna have a more serious tones. There's different like, yeah, I think the tone of things really comes a lot into play with brand in product. But other than that, we also have like a cultural side of our design org, where brand design, research, and product all come together. We have different like internal creative lunch and learns as we call them where we bring like external speakers to talk about different industries or like different topics that come up in our retros, like quarterly retros that the team wants to you learn about. So we collaborate outside of projects a lot. We don't collaborate outside of products, but we come together just to get to know each other and grow outside of work.

Charli:- And you're collaborating on the culture, design culture at Auth0 by doing that.

Austin:- Yeah, and I think it also builds just a lot of trust too like between people 'cause you get like a different flavor and you get to like see people in a different light and also just like learn random facts about them to get closer to people especially when we're working remotely.

Charli:- You mentioned a weekly meeting, but I wasn't sure if that's a weekly meeting that all the designers get together or, yeah, I don't know, how often are you meeting as a wider design org? And do you give each other feedback and do shared crits across like brand in product teams?

Austin:- So our brand design team has a weekly like Monday sync where we essentially have a Google slides deck and we recap the work that we've done, and each person has a slide and recap the previous week and we talk about things going on that could be cross-functional between our teams or between people. And then as our design org, we have a quarterly all-hands and also monthly all-hands to talk about our goals, 'cause all of the goals and really like the main tasks that need to be achieved are visible to everyone on the team, so everyone knows what people have to deliver on. And so if someone's reaching out to you and you know that that's a very important goal for them to work on and they're looking for some help, you can always figure out and prioritize like how to help that person, which I think is really useful. Other than that, I would say we also have design crits where anyone can kinda bring a project that they've been working on and opening it up to conversation for people to review. And I feel like I'm missing something but.

Charli:- That's enough meetings for now anyway.

Austin:- Yeah, there's a lot of meetings. But we also have research readouts where the research team presents like the work they have been doing and kind of just like an update which are always really interesting, because sometimes the business needs for the research team is wildly different than what brand design might be working on, because I feel like as far as the work we do, we can relate a lot to product design, but with research, we don't have as much visibility into like all the different ways that they help shape like the product and like the customer experience more so. So it's really interesting to see like the work that they do especially with building out like archetypes and things like that.

Charli:- Yeah and it's always interesting to hear what perception users have of the company, right, unlike of the product 'cause brand plays an impact on that too. That's what I always like listening into product research calls at ConvertKit.

Austin:- Especially when it comes to accessibility too like with the research and understanding like what isn't working well within the brand and what needs to be changed 'cause sometimes you might be making a design decision that could really like we've had feedback on our patterns and things like that that are always great to hear and keep in mind when like iterating on the brand.

Charli:- Oh yeah, heck yeah, and that's like hearing it from a user might be something that you didn't realize yourself because we're very close to the brands we work on, and so it's easy to not spot things like that. Let's talk more about these external agencies. So so far I've heard from you, an external agency who works on the like ad banner assets. You mentioned one working on some motion stuff, I don't know, maybe it's the same agency. But tell me more in general about how many agencies you're working with and what sort of things you outsource?

Austin:- Totally, but I feel like when I first joined, it was such a learning curve to figure out all the pockets that agencies existed because it seems like every marketing team and sometimes even individual designers or marketers will have their own agencies and freelancers they work with. But to give you an example on the design team or the brand design team specifically, I help or direct, along with a web designer, a agency called Fusco. And I know that Figma also mentioned that in their episode that they use that, which is kind of funny. But we really touch on a lot of different types of work. Like they have a lot of breadth when it comes to like their skills and knowledge. So we'll obviously touch like web project work, but that could also lead to different ad assets that will lead to those web projects or landing pages. We also use agencies to extend like our illustration systems to do illustration exploration and get like a kind of like a third party perspective on the work that we've done, which is great. Other than that as far as like motion and animation in general, like some of the designers in our brand design team have been here for over four years and have relationships with freelancers that are incredibly talented. So we have like a 3D agency, our freelancer that works with Ceci, our principal designer, and then we also have motion designers that work with each of us as like an extension of our work. So I would really say a lot of our brand designers if they're not hands-on design, they're art directing and kind of directing how the brands like evolves. It's a lot of fun to have that level of responsibility but also like freedom to create stuff. Outside the brand design team though we do have agencies that are more generalized I would say, and they can pretty much do anything 'cause of the scope of work we have with them, but they're mostly to support our marketing team in order to take on all of the different niche tasks that come up that marketers need visuals for, whether it's banners or even like assets for white papers or things like that.

Charli:- So you said that that's like an agency that the marketers work with. So how do you get involved in that? 'Cause, I don't know, maybe I just need to let some things go, but I like to like make sure that any visual thing being produced for ConvertKit comes through the brand studio team, like not necessarily me but someone on it at some point. How is that for you? Like is the agency producing a white paper, it goes straight to the marketing team and you never see it, but you trust them 'cause they've got the guidelines? I don't know, what's it like?

Austin:- Yeah, , I will be honest, like this was a huge learning curve for me when I joined because I came from an even smaller team where we did touch everything. But essentially like for the agencies that support the marketing org and everything they create, they create a lot of content, we have like monthly recap decks where I will review the work done by the agency, and it's very extensive as far as like the amount of work that is done, and I can point out things and see trends and maybe see if we need either like an external agency training on a specific area of the brand guidelines or flag anything that might be off-brand and kind of like just redirect the work, because sometimes naturally when you're working remotely especially with agencies that you don't meet with often, there could be ambiguity of like what decisions may be made. So that's kinda how we direct the work. We're not reviewing every little thing, but we're always accessible to the marketing org through Slack if they have questions about the quality of work done by an agency. Or if they feel like they would be more comfortable with more visibility, they can always add us on to a project, which is actually through like the agency's third party like platform. So it's not like a sauna or anything, but we can then like see the work done and like give direct feedback which is really useful. But, yeah, I would say it was definitely a learning curve not like seeing something that could be better and not like taking it on myself or like figuring out how to fix it, but more so like thinking foundationally like what could be fixed so that it doesn't come up again and I'm not having to refix it again. So that's where like the agency training and well documentation comes in, which has definitely been a shift for me, but very like helpful for our team as far as like freeing up our time on what we can work on.

Charli:- I really like what you said about redirecting based on trends that you're noticing 'cause I think that that is honestly what I needed to do to stop worrying about the like individual things and like look more at the patterns of what is happening overall. Like one graphic goes out with something not quite right, but everything else is great, you're like, okay, that was just a like a one-off, and we can do better next time. But if you see like a new pattern being introduced or perhaps some sort of brand element not being used in the way it was intended repeated across different assets, then you're like, well, now I know this is something that I need to like course correct. I really like that, that way of doing things.

Austin:- Yeah and like this was an interesting like design use case of that is, so the brand before I joined was kinda like this vermilion bright orange, and that was the main brand color, and we've had people that are very tied to Auth0 who love the orange and keep on using it. And then when the brand evolution happened before I joined, it turned to the bright indigo. But in the brand guidelines, we always had the orange of like kind of like a secondary primary color. So everyone historically at the company who had been there for a while, they would see that and be like, oh, we could still use the orange. And now it's like one of the trends that we spotted is that a lot of swag and banners were coming out that were like purely just orange and it didn't resonate with the brand evolution. So that was a trend that we had to like then go and see in the brand guidelines how we can create some more proportion with the indigo to make sure that everything was a little bit more congruent.

Charli:- Yeah, that's a really great lesson in the documentation, right? And knowing that, okay, I know how these colors should be used and I'm laying them out and calling this a secondary color, but I didn't spell out that this shouldn't be used alone or like it needs to have x percent of the indigo used as well. I've definitely noticed that happening as well with ConvertKit brand colors when you spot those moments where you're like, ah, I did not explain that correctly.

Austin:- Yeah, that's why it's kinda wild to see how even like a sentence in a brand guidelines can make such a big impact when it's being read from like a different perspective.

Charli:- Yeah, yeah, exactly, read by someone who perhaps doesn't have all the context that you do. Well, while we're speaking about brand then, we haven't talked yet about Okta. So I know Auth0 is part of Okta, but that you operate at the moment anyway as like Auth0 is still Auth0 within Okta. How has that been for you with dealing with these two different brands and like what have you done to sort of bring them together I guess in your work as a brand designer?

Austin:- Yeah, so the work, if I'm being honest, we haven't done a lot of work as far as merging the brands in any kind of true sense. They're still true very separate brands, and even like our teams are dedicated to the same work that we have been working on. And I think really it kinda comes down to resolving ambiguity for like our marketing stakeholders and being flexible with how we see our brand and see Okta. And an example of that is like a lot of specific use cases when it comes to like the businesses when like the product they're selling sometimes could have overlap without like a brand decision when it comes to like in-person events like how you're branding a booth if you're selling both of these products, how do brands show up together has been a big question and a good experience for me personally on how we resolve that and how we create documentation to help clarity or clarify like what to do. But I think really what it comes down to is just trying to like thrive in the ambiguity of the situation and be flexible in our like approach when like talking to marketing stakeholders mainly. And the brand team also internally like we, as far as like the a cultural piece, because when a company's bought out, people's individual career trajectories, career trajectories can change and like their goals. So it is a big deal for many people. And so the brand design team like created a whole internal kind of like launch as far as like the joint branding assets that we made and had a 3D video to announce all those assets and like create just more excitement around it which wasn't seen externally but was really just to help bridge the gap between the two brands and help people like also point them, like basically get their attention and then also point them to other documentation that they need to figure out what to do.

Charli:- Yeah, like that's important too. Sometimes we've gotta do brand marketing internally.

Austin:- Yeah.

Charli:- Yeah, I love it. So what do you have in place then to ensure brand consistency for Auth0? 'Cause obviously for Auth0, its product is like for the users as well, you wanna give people stability during an acquisition, right? Like that's the most important thing. It's for people to like these are the things that are not changing, we're staying consistent, we're still providing you the service. Same for the brand as well. What did you have in place to ensure that consistency in a time of such change?

Austin:- Yeah, so I mean the external agencies we already talked about were wildly helpful as far as taking on a lot of the continued Auth0 work that was done. And also it was a great, having an external agency is a kinda like a filter 'cause you would see the breadth of work, you can also spot those trends again of people asking questions and things that need to be resolved, things like people asking should this be Okta-branded? Should this be Auth0-branded? Like what are our options? And that would come up through the external agencies who would ask us that question because they hadn't been trained on the Okta brand. So that was interesting because we could be like, oh yes, this needs to be redirected this way or to a different vendor, but it also like kinda clarify the work that Auth0 was doing and I think it kinda settled some nerves for folks to realize that they still had all the same resources that we had before. And like we also had a DAM system that, which was Brandfolder that we used for templating with a marketing stakeholder. So really it kinda came down to brand enablement for them and for us to be able to give people tools to use through that transition. But I will say like we already had those tools before, so I think a lot of it came down to really like semantics and knowing how to direct our own internal employees on what to do with the brand.

Charli:- Now I'm not sure if the templating you just mentioned then is one that I'm thinking of, but we talked before, we didn't record, so sorry listeners, you missed out on that. I asked you if there was any examples you had over time that you're like iterated on some marketing assets 'cause I'm always really interested in digging into that. And you told me about a templating system that you were rated on. Is it the same one that you're referencing just then?

 - Yes, it's the same.

Charli:- Okay.

Austin:- The same one, Brandfolder. We also have other internal templating systems that are built primarily in Figma that are given to, not given but like more so owned by the brand design team. So we, and with Figma's access limits, we only have it scaled to certain like teams that really need that type of tool that's more flexible.

Charli:- That you can trust as a design tool, yeah.

Austin:- But I was mostly mentioning the brand. Oh yeah, yeah.

Charli:- Yeah.

Austin:- But I was mentioning the Brandfolder's template projects.

Charli:- So I know that this project came up when you noticed there was a lot of bottlenecks in production, right? Like that was what was happening and you noticed that this was something that needed to be solved. Tell us a little bit more about what that was feeling like and what the issues were you resolving with this.

Austin:- Yeah, well, I like to say that it didn't really come up from bottlenecks more so is that we actually had a role, we had our senior like design ops manager leave the same week that I joined.

Charli:- Oh, no, I'm sure it was not--

Austin:- Yeah, I know. So, but we used that really as like, or the team used it as opportunity to review a lot of the different self-service tools that were set up in that role with our marketing stakeholders, and Brandfolder was surely one of them. And with the templating, like really what we wanted to do, because there was a lot of outdated assets still from the brand evolution that was using the bright orange and different things in the old brand is that there really needed to be a re-haul of how we thought we were using a template, whether it's Brandfolder or something else, how we were using templates strategically and making sure that all the marketing teams and their various use cases like were being supported by it.

Charli:- Yeah, so how did you go about figuring out then what this Brandfolder needed to be versus what it was?

Austin:- That is a great question and it's also something, since this is really one of the first big projects I worked on, it was kind of really great project for meeting a lot of different teams.

Charli:- Mm, good excuse to talk to people.

Austin:- Yes, exactly and start like building trust with those stakeholders. But like in order for me to figure out how to solve it, the how we were using templates, I had to meet with all the different marketing teams and understand like what's working, what's not working, what's like a dream template, if you will.

Charli:- Yeah, no promising anything, but just saying, yeah.

Austin:- Just curious. Yeah, what's a dream template or what is a dream use case that templating could solve for you? And so I got to meet everyone and like learn from that a lot, which I then took into FigJam and did a lot of iterating with flow charts and doing research in what we have in Figma templates internally in the brand design team, and learned where there's overlap and where we could, kinda streamline things. And what ended up happening really was we used Brandfolder with a different, completely different use case than what it's actually set up for. So Brandfolder, like we still use the templates, but before there was a lot of like standalone assets you could download like PNGs, PDFs and things like that. But we used, I think, if I remember correctly, it's called a PRLink and it's intended just to be like an image that has a URL that it directs you to. And internally we use Google Drive for pretty much everything. So what ended up happening is we created like a whole new system in Google Drive for storing our brand files and working with vendors through a different set of share drives, and those folders linked from Brandfolder, which is a whole new way of working for the marketing org, which got a lot of visibility but also helped streamline updating assets because that was the other part of the templating system is that it was really hard to like update those templates. I don't wanna get into the the nitty-gritty details of that, but essentially it is just, since we probably work in Figma, everything was done in InDesign. And when you upload--

Charli:- Well, those are very different tools, yeah.

Austin:- Yes, yes, and if you changed a name in a system, it would break the link and you'd have to like

Charli:- Uh-oh, yep.

Austin:- Go find it. It was a whole thing. Yeah, so I would say just to answer your question, it really came from like meeting with those teams and learning what works and what didn't on a simple level and kind of mapping backwards to figure out overlap and how to like streamline a tool that everyone is using, so.

Charli:- It honestly sounds like the design process like hands-on moving the pixels on the screen, that that might have been a faster part than all of the like the strategizing and the figuring out the system side of this. I don't know.

Austin:- Oh, 100%.

Charli:- Maybe InDesign got in there and made it take a little bit longer.

Austin:- Yeah, no, 100%. I think in this role currently, and I know, I'm sure we'll talk about career things later on, but the strategic thinking and more so like business-solving I've had to do as a brand designer in this role has been wildly different, but it's been like a really good learning curve for me personally just to figure out systems for the brand on how to like get to a more on-brand environment. But really it's about building relationships and making sure everyone's on the same page about like the strategic end goal and really good documentation.

Charli:- How did you do some of that business learning? 'Cause I think this is often a gap that we have as designers, especially on the brand and marketing side where like in product they sort of have it built-in that they have to like learn from the user research and the flows and things like that, so they're perhaps a little bit more connected to outcomes of their work than we are, but I think it's something that we all need as brand and marketing designers to do to level up and really provide value. So how did you go about getting that skillset?

Austin:- I would say that like it kinda is like a unexpected byproduct of the way that the brand design team works, where our manager has a lot of trust in us as designers. And therefore like we're not micromanaged in any way. We're really like encouraged to seek out people that we need to ask questions from whether and not worry about hierarchy. I think sometimes in companies like if you really need the input of like a SVP of something, you might have to talk about it with your manager and their manager and then figure out a whole solution when I think we were really encouraged to kinda break through that and talk cross-functionally and to figure out a problem. So I think that just having that freedom to kind of create and like also reach out and talk with folks like made it easier to make those decisions, but also still being able to lean on Emily, our senior brand manager, for like just advice was really helpful. And it's kind of an ongoing process, so I really never feel like I know what I'm, like I never feel like I know what I'm doing completely. It's always just trying to figure out the best in solution and having that like in mind. I think once you have like a clear goal, it's so much easier to talk to people from other teams and get what you need to get that work done.

Charli:- Yeah, do goals that you set at Auth0 tend to be project-related as in like we need to overhaul this template library? Or is it leading up to some metric I guess like we need to increase the clickthroughs on these ad assets that the marketing team are creating?

Austin:- I would say it's a mix of both. I think for the templating project, it was more strategic and just more like operational. So it's more so like making a better like internal experience for how the like people use the brand. But I think like you could say that that could also be measured by the output of work being done, like are the templates easier to use and therefore people are using them more so? Now something I actually looked into for the Brandfolder to see if we could track like links, like click-throughs on the URLs that led to certain places in Google Drive, but I don't think that was a function, but we can see like we get like summaries of top used assets and like how much things have changed. So there's definitely metrics involved in everything out of either like sheer curiosity but also just for kind of validating a goal that we had already set. But we do have different projects that we set those goals or KPIs like before we start them, but I would say those tend to be more like customer-facing.

Charli:- Mm, yeah. Well, that's still cool though that you have that information about how these templates are being used 'cause if it came time to like increase the conversion rate of the more whatever, you'd know which ones are being used the most so you could focus your attention on those.

Austin:- Yeah. Or what ones haven't been downloaded in like six months.

Charli:- What kind of assets are marketing team producing from this brand library? Like is it like that there's a space for them to put in a headline with an image and then they get it like as a download?

Austin:- That's definitely a use case. Like there's definitely like banners that either I have helped art direct and then we use an agency to like build out all the InDesign files so that they have kind of like a basic general template and then like a campaign-specific template. So there's definitely templates like that where there's a header, sub-head, CTA button, and they can go crazy and like get copy from their copywriter

Charli:- They're crazy

Austin:- Than they were.

Charli:- Within the system. Yeah.

Austin:- Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go crazy as in have fun downloading their own banners.

Charli:- Yeah.

Austin:- But other than that, I would say that's really the main use case. Like there's also blog images.

Charli:- Like that's the most popular template.

Austin:- Yeah, and then some that are really just used for cropping things into the right size and to like make them the right size for our blogs or feature a photo a certain type of way. And I don't wanna plug them too much, but really outside of that, we have to use external agencies for anything that's like large format printing or video. So I think really just like is small kind of granular task that we can free up the design team's time from making by using those like template features.

Charli:- Yeah, and I'm sure that by doing this like overhaul of the system and making it easier for the team to use, you've helped with brand consistency there, right? 'Cause now you've made it easier for people to be on brand.

Austin:- 100%, yeah, and it also has freed up our team just like to take on like those brand extension projects or, I forgot what I called them earlier, or more experimental projects.

Charli:- The fun stuff.

Austin:- Yeah, the fun stuff.

Charli:- That's how I heard it, yeah.

Austin:- The things that we weren't asked to do but could always make our brand stronger essentially.

Charli:- Yep, if you had to estimate, and I'm putting you on the spot here, how much of your time is spent on the relationship-building, the art-directing, the like systems-building versus hands-on in a design tool in any given week?

Austin:- In this current role I would say I am 80% art-directing or working on system or building relationships. And the other 20% I'm designing things, sometimes I design things to then talk to other stakeholders and like talk, make presentations and make sure that things are aligned. I would say most of the time that I am specifically designing something and iterating something is that fun stuff that we talked about, like the things that we see a good brand opportunity where we could extend the brand in a fun way or extend, it doesn't have to be fun, but extend the brand in a way that evolve what we currently have is what we kind of get to cherry pick the things that we work on, which is so much fun. Because we use Jira internally to manage all of our projects in the design team 'cause it's so closely related to the product design team and how they function, so if we get a Jira ticket and that this would be a great project that, one, a designer on our team would be excited to work on, and, two, like would be great for the brand, then it makes a lot of sense for us to keep it internally versus having an agency iterate on it, which is just awesome, yeah.

Charli:- That sounds ideal.

Austin:- Yeah, very ideal.

Charli:- Yeah, you've set up the systems as well to allow you to do that, 'cause I was gonna ask how it felt as a designer to have so much of your time not being spent designing, but it sounds like it means the design time is on the like highest impact, most enjoyable, like pushing your skills as a designer stuff, and then you've essentially

Austin:- 100%.

Charli:- Outsourced all of the things that a lot of us marketing designers put up with because we have to like resizing banners for example.

Austin:- I mean I've definitely resized some banners here, but it happens.

Charli:- Yeah. No one gets completely low.

Austin:- You have to be flexible.

Charli:- Yeah, I love it. Well, let's talk more about the future for you and your career and maybe we'll start by asking what are some challenges you're facing at the moment? This could either be you as a designer or the brand design team, however you wanna answer.

Austin:- I would say challenges either for myself or for our team is kinda like that ambiguity part. There's a lot of questions to be answered by the team that we also don't maybe know the answer to ourselves, because they're more so, I feel like brand design is always like a really great reflection of business decisions as far as like high level like opportunities for the company or like current focus. I guess like when being acquired by a larger company, there's always gonna be a ton of questions, and the brand design team doesn't necessarily always has the answers. I would say that the biggest challenge is learning how to, or the current challenge is learning how to like direct our brand in a way that ladders up to those product decisions and to those business decisions, and just keeping kind of like the positive energy around the brand up internally for both Okta and Auth0 so people know and feel comfortable in what they have to work with. I guess I would maybe say the other challenges are building those relationships. Something I didn't expect from the merger once we actually started merging like internally and our teams weren't as siloed as they were, like 'cause we have the Auth0 brand design team and there's also like a counterpart, like the Okta brand design team. And once you've been somewhere for a little over a year like I have, you have to kind of build up those relationships all over again for the other brand or for the other side of the table and learn all the context. I think context is one of the hardest parts in a job especially within design is to learn why decisions were made and build relationships. So it's kind of as myself and the team, we're like all in the middle of that right now and making sure we understand the history and that they understand like our own brand history so we can figure out how to like move forward together. So that's something that is a challenge but it's been great meeting a lot of new designers and thinkers on the Okta team.

Charli:- Yeah, it's like you need to both get an understanding of your brands' pasts so that you can have the respect for it as you move forward like in the future of it, right?

Austin:- Yeah, totally, 'cause you might be like, oh, why do you do this? And there could be a very clear like either business decision or like just situational thing that has happened, and it's just always great to know the history of the brand.

Charli:- Yeah, or like sometimes they might ask that question of you, and you're like, you know what? There's no good reason for it.

Austin:- There was no decision. It was a gut feeling.

Charli:- Yeah, it just happened, yeah, and that's okay too.

Austin:- And that's just the honest truth, I'm sorry.

Charli:- Yeah, what about you? What future plans do you have or like hopes do you have for growth in your career whether that's like the position you're in, skills you're building, anything like that?

Austin:- Yeah, well, I will say like, and I feel like with some friends, I know this is happening more and more. Like this is my first job in tech. I came from an ad agency, like advertising media and also like kind of branding studio. It was like brand studios were my background. So for me I really am just kind of like sinking into this role and learning as much as I can. And I've been really enjoying the structure of working in tech. Marketing and advertising, for anyone who listens to this, knows it's very reactive, and as a creative, it's good as far as like the breadth of work and different brands you work on, but you can't really like build something and build something new as easily as you can at a tech company that's tied to quarters and goals. And for me personally as a designer, that is so, it's less anxiety-inducing. So to answer your question actually, I'm just really like currently trying to sink to this role and learn as much as I can about how branding works within tech. That is kind of like my current career strategy, if you will. But down the road, I would really like probably see myself as you know what? I'm not sure.

Charli:- That's okay.

Austin:- Yeah, I feel like every company is calling things different. So like I would say director.

Charli:- That's a really good point.

Austin:- But who knows?

Charli:- Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Austin:- What it could be.

Charli:- Yep.

Austin:- Just really being flexible, but outside of that, like I really love learning 3D. I opened Blender like four years ago for the first time and have constantly been off and on learning it. So that's something that I've found a lot of enjoyment in. My fiance helped me build a PC so I could keep on doing it. Yeah, really just trying to bring that into my work and how we can present work too. Yeah, Blender to me is just like the 3D version of After Effects, where you open it and you're like, oh my God. When you're a young creative and you open After Effects for the first time, it's like what have I got myself into?

Charli:- Yeah, there's so many settings.

Austin:- And Blender's kinda the same way or just a 3D world in general 'cause you can do so much with it. It's so daunting sometimes, but the land of YouTube is very helpful and--

Charli:- Is helping you there, nice. And maybe that's what we'll see as part of these like brand extensions and explorations. Is your 3D work coming in handy?

Austin:- At least with art-directing, I think that's one of the reasons why I wanna learn more 3D is 'cause as we work with 3D agencies, it's like I have the context to talk to something as far as like a process in 3D or like texturing and modeling and rigging things. And just being able to understand how that world works, it helps me as a designer and art director give direction, so.

Charli:- Yeah, I fully agree with that. That's why I love having, I can understand code, I don't code anymore, so I wouldn't call myself a full stack designer, but it helps me in working with the web developer on the brand studio team at ConvertKit 'cause I can like sort of speak his language more when giving feedback. So, yeah, I love that you're paying attention to that. It's a good point.

Austin:- While we're at it, I'll add learning basic code to my list.

Charli:- Okay, great.

Austin:- I think I've done like the HTML and CSS, like Codeacademy, Bootcamp like I think four times now.

Charli:- It hasn't sunk in yet?

Austin:- Yeah, it hasn't sunk in too much, but, yeah, that would be a great skill to learn.

Charli:- Yeah, well, you're lucky you've got a full stack designer on your team who might help you learn, huh?

Austin:- He's gonna love listening to this, oh my gosh.

Charli:- Oh no, what have I signed myself up for? All right, before we keep adding more skills to your to-do list of things to learn, let's end by talking about the project or the impact or like the thing that happened at Auth0 that you're most proud of in your time there so far.

Austin:- Man, I would say there's kind of like, well, we've been talking about building relationships and also design and cherry picking projects and really like figuring out how to build those systems. Like I feel like it's all kind of come together in this latest project that we've done for the brand called DevDays. It's a global conference that is gonna be, it just kicked off at the time of this podcast. It kicked off last week in Seattle, but it's gonna be in Sydney and Berlin and London. And we've created 3D videos with an agency. We've created motion templates, Premiere templates, 2D, all the different assets you could think of and like our own kind of standalone brand guidelines for the event. And I've also gotten to work personally with the principal designer Ceci, who's amazing, and it's just been my favorite project. We've really got to shape like everything about it down to even like the experiential part with the production agency we're working with. So we get to touch everything and it's been just a lot of fun.

Charli:- Oh, that sounds amazing. It's always fun to create a sub-brand.

Austin:- Yeah.

Charli:- So you come from a branding studio background.

Austin:- You can have more fun.

Charli:- So maybe you've made a lot of brands. But I've worked at in-house tech companies my whole career, so whenever I get to do a sub-brand, I'm like, great, let's use a new color, let's use color in a different way. Let's, yeah, it's fun.

Austin:- Yeah, what we ended up doing was we took our, we kinda like revitalized an old project that I got to work on was like for a YouTube series actually. It was called Dev Bites. And we ended creating an eight-bit version of our brand font, which is Space Cortez, to like playing to the name of bites, but also into the kind of like coding world and all that. And we got to use that eight-bit style in DevDay in the work that we do and kept on iterating on it for the sub-brand, and it just led to something like really fresh that like no one had really seen within the Auth0 brand, but also made a lot of sense with like the context of the developer conference still. And I'll definitely like send you some of the things. We can showcase the work 'cause it's always, it's always like not as fun to listen if people are only listening to this on the podcast and not being able to see it, but we'll definitely like.

Charli:- Yeah, good shout-out to go look at the YouTube version of this show.

Austin:- Yeah, yeah, well you definitely need to check out the YouTube version. We'll have some fun 3D videos of that come to life. But that project has been my absolute favorite.

Charli:- I love it. Well, thanks so much for everything you shared today, Austin, giving us this behind the scenes look at Auth0. We look forward to following along as you learn all these skills that you've just added to your to-do list during this talk.

Austin:- Yeah, and thank you for inviting me. This was a ton of fun as my first podcast. And, yeah, thank you.

Charli:- And you wanna do more? It was a good experience?

Austin:- Yeah, no, it was fun.

Charli:- Great.

Austin:- I always love talking to people one on one, especially working remotely, I feel like when you get like more than six people into Zoom, it's a little alienating, but I could do this all day, so.

Charli:- I love it, so we just recorded our one-on-one so that then thousands of people can also listen into it.

Austin:- That I'm okay with. If I can't see that they're there, we're all good.

Charli:- Great, all right, well, thanks for being here, Austin. I really love what Austin had to say about the internal relationship-building side of his job. That's like a key asset to being an in-house designer is that we can get super close to the problem that we're designing a solution for and spot opportunities for improvements because of these like internal relationships we can build. I also think this episode really highlighted that there is really a lot more to being an in-house marketing and brand designer than spending time in a design tool. Am I right or am I right? As always, I would love to hear your takeaways, so please feel free to tweet them, post about them on Instagram stories, your feed if you want to. And you can tag me so that I can see them. I'm @charliprangley on both platforms. Thank you again to Webflow for sponsoring the show. You can find a link to check them out in the show notes. And thanks to Austin for sharing all these insights today. You'll find links to follow him in the show notes too. And he also told me that he might be starting a YouTube channel soon. I don't mean to put you on blast, Austin, and I also don't mean to pressure you, but I think it'd be pretty cool if he did. So I will add a link in the show notes to that if he does indeed start it. And maybe you can comment on the video version of this episode and let him know that you'd like to see that too. And lastly, of course, thanks to you for listening. And I will see you next week for another episode. See you then.

Expand full transcript
Collapse transcript

Enjoy the episode?

Rate it on Apple podcasts or tell your friends to listen!

More episodes