S1 • E9 – Aug 26, 2020

Inside Marketing Design at Basecamp

with Lead Marketing Designer Adam Stoddard

with Lead Marketing Designers Adam Stoddard and

with Lead Marketing Designer Adam Stoddard and

Basecamp takes a different approach to growing a tech company, and the same is true of their approach to marketing design. In this episode I speak to Basecamp’s lead (and only) marketing designer, Adam Stoddard, about how his approach to integrated design has him designing in the browser, copywriting, maintaining multiple websites and doing the print design too! You’ll hear how he gets it all done, and have some preconceived notions about the “right” way to do things questioned.


0:00 - Introduction

1:50 - Team structure at Basecamp

4:45 - Responsibilities as a marketing designer

8:40 - Being the designer and the developer

12:40 - A/B testing

17:10 - The pitfalls of modern marketing

20:25 - Tracking, privacy and tools

24:00 - Starting a project with copy, not visuals

28:35 - Design tools

31:20 - Every version of a page is shippable

33:45 - Isolation when your work is self-contained

35:20 - The future of marketing design at Basecamp

36:50 - Why Adam loves marketing design

40:20 - Wrap up and closing thoughts


- Welcome back to "Inside Marketing Design," I'm Charli I'm the marketing design lead at ConvertKit. And on this show, I speak to my fellow marketing designers out in the tech industry about how marketing design functions at their companies. Today on the show, we're taking a look inside marketing design at Basecamp. Basecamp are a small team of around 56 people, but they are a powerhouse. Their main product also called Basecamp is a project management tool that like over 3 million businesses use to get their work done. But they also more recently launched Hey, which is a new email client that you've probably heard of, if you've been on Twitter anytime in the past few months. I was really excited to speak to Adam Stoddard, who is the lead marketing designer at Basecamp and also the only marketing designer of Basecamp about how he gets work done and how he stays super efficient to keep on top of all this work, the company is putting out. Adam has been at Basecamp for about four years and he has a background doing a lot of different things in design, started out doing graphic design, worked in like Studio-Land for a bit, also was freelancing doing product design. He's also even worked in like the gaming industry before getting into tech. So he brings this huge wealth of experience to his work as Basecamp, and also to this episode, I learned a lot from him about his process and I'm excited to share that with you today. Basecamp do things really differently and if you know the company that won't be a surprise to you. But for me, it was really interesting to hear just how different it was to a lot of the other companies that have spoken to as part of the series. So without further ado, let's get into it. And let me show you an inside look at marketing design at Basecamp. Welcome Adam to "Inside Marketing Design," I'm very excited to have you here and to be talking about marketing design at Basecamp today.

- Awesome, yeah I'm excited to be here.

- Let's start by talking about the team at Basecamp. And so I know that you are the only marketing designer there, which.

- Correct.

- First of all shocked me.

- Especially considering the number of products that Basecamp has and like, the workload you must have, we're gonna get into that in the show, but what about the rest of the team? How many other designers are on the team?

- It's actually a really small team, five people.

- Okay.

- We're a little bit different I think, than than a lot of other companies, we're kind of a hybrid position of what you would typically expect for a designer and then also product managers, copywriters, front-end developers, kind of the whole deal.

- Right, so yeah everyone's a designer, but also wears all these other hats as well.

- Right.

- And you, it's sounds like you're talking about operating as a whole design team. Who do you report to and where does this design team sit within the company?

- It's interesting, I technically my manager is a Jonas Downey, He runs the design team, but in terms of my actual day to day reporting and who I work with typically on projects, it's almost exclusively Jason Fried the owner of the company.

- Right?

- Yeah, 'cause my role, I can broadcast, you know we were talking before the call that we are in a similar position being the only marketing designer and also the lead, my role sits within the marketing team. So like my manager is our director of marketing. What's your relationship like with marketing at Basecamp and how is the marketing team formed then?

- Yeah, so we only, within the last year hired our first like actual full time marketer. And that's the first.

- Interesting.

- First time in the history of the company

- Wow.

- That we had a dedicated marketing position because prior to that it's been basically Jason and David running the marketing with their own kind of, you know the thing that they do. And we just kind of decided that we'd hit a point where we wanted to kind of reach beyond their kind of natural reach that they have. And so we needed to start doing more kind of dedicated marketing. So yeah, so Andy is that person and he reports to Jason. So yeah, so that arrangement, I guess, is where we're different. I don't report to him. So our relationship is more collaborative. I still do projects for him all the time, but the reporting structure is a little bit different.

- That's really interesting. So you haven't really had like a "marketing team" within the company before now it sounds like everyone's just being the marketing team, like.

- Exactly, and that's kind of been the philosophy is that marketing is everyone's job and you see that with all the people who within Basecamp who talk at conferences who write blog posts, who podcast. And so there's you know quite a bit of that going on across the company.

- Yeah, I love that. I think that's a great approach to things. What does that mean for you and your role? How would you describe what your responsibilities are as the lead marketing designer? The vast majority of my time is spent on our various web properties. That's 80% of where my energy goes. And then the rest is the occasional assets for Ad campaigns, which we actually don't do that much display advertising. So that's actually a pretty minimal need. And then any like Merch if they're writing a new book, like I designed their last book that they released.

- Nice.

- A year or so ago, and I'm working on a print version of Ryan Singer's new book, which is nice. I love being able to kind of stretch my otherwise atrophied graphic design skills, print design skills I should say, it's like, "Oh yeah, in design cool."

- Let's crank this over and again.

- Yeah.

- I love that.

- Blow the dust off that.

- So you get a really wide range then of like types of design you end up doing as part of.

- Yeah, it's all over the place, which I love.

- But the main thing would be the website, it sounds like.

- Yes.

- Yeah. And would you say that's the main focus for marketing at Basecamp as well? Is the web, is the website sort of acting as a sales person I suppose?

- It is and also it's a vehicle for showcasing a lot of the other things that Jason, David and Ryan in particular are doing. So that's where like right now that's I built a web book system framework as part of basecamp.com to house like I just finished converting their original book "Getting Real," to a web version shape up is lives in that same format. It's not all like purely like landing page type stuff.

- Yeah.

- It's also you know highly, you know informational and housing the large amount of writing and work that they've done over you know the 20 or so years that they've been in business.

- Yeah like the website itself is kind of like a different another product, right hosting all this

- It is.

- Educational content, yeah. What's the split like for you in terms of working on the different products that Basecamp the company makes. Can you tell us a little bit about that? What are the different products that you end up working on and how do you split your time between them?

- I mean some of it's requests driven Jason or someone else will pin in me say, "Hey, I need X, Y or Z," and I'll work on that. But a lot of it's just driven on, so we're generally very self directed as teams. And one of my responsibilities is to kind of own the top of the funnel for basecamp.com and now for Hey. So doing AB testing on the home page and really trying to, you know make sure we're doing the right thing there. But in terms of like what works, what we work on now, like obviously basecamp.com gets a lot of the lion's share of attention because that's an important property. And then the other sites, which there are quite a few because we have, that's all me, let me see if I can go through the list here. Basecamp.com now hey.com, Rework FM for our podcast. There's the website for Stimulus, one of our front-end frameworks. There's the website for Tricks, there Signal Versus Noise, our blog, one of our old products, Highrise HQ, three or four different help sites, a status website.

- Oh man.

- I'm missing something, anyway that's still a lot.

- That's enough.

- Even with something missing.

- Yeah.

- And so a lot of those other sites, it's more like I'll touch them like once a year, maybe it's you know I kind of look at them every once in a while and I'm like, "Yeah, I'm still all right with that."

- Your fine we can leave you another year maybe.

- Yeah exactly, cause it's just not as important.

- Are you handling the build of all these sites and like he maintenance of them as well as the design.

- Yes.

- How Adam, how?

- Yeah, and so, and that's kind our secret sauce is that we kind of what I was talking about a little bit earlier, we practice integrated design. So most of our design happens in browser.

- Okay.

- And so, and we're also doing a lot of the copywriting and potentially illustration and a lot of these other things. And by doing that, you cut out all that work that happens when you have kind of siloed positions where you have to do a lot of documentation to convey your intent to the next person in the chain.

- Right?

- So like all of that, like, "Ooh, I'm gonna to go into Figma "and I'm gonna have all these detailed comps "in the hand of all these notes "and design multiple versions." So you can see what it looks like on mobile and whatnot. Like none of that happens because we're just.

- Just do it then.

- It's all in one person, so we're just doing it. So that's a really big efficiency gain.

- That's really interesting, And that makes me think of how so for the first two years that I was at ConvertKit, I was both the designer and the developer of our marketing site, but we needed more like design capacity. And so in order to open that up, we hired a developer to handle the website full time. Which has been great for me, because coding was never my like strong suit and I like to code but I hate bug fixing like anything to do with that, I'm just like, this is not fun I'd rather be designing, or like making something new. So I'm glad that that's someone job now, that I have been surprised to see, like, just how like you said, it hasn't doubled my capacity, just because we've got a person now taking on half of that work, 'cause there is a lot of work in that documenting and like, communicating intent like you said.

- Yeah, exactly, exactly. And there, and that is one of the trade offs though, is that we can't produce as much raw design because we're doing all the development as well.

- Right.

- So yeah, and there's some other trade offs, like it's generally harder for us to hire someone because finding people who are both, 'cause we're, we try to hit a fairly high level in terms of our front-end development. So finding people who are both very good designers and also good front-end developers is not necessarily the easiest thing in the world.

- Yeah, of course, but it's like you said, that's your secret sauce, right, that's how you get things done.

- Right, exactly. You know I'm a big believer in the, I think the medium and means that you pick to produce something has has a pretty dramatic influence on the final outcome. And, you know I think that's really true for a lot of the products we develop where we have this kind of tendency to develop really kind of a lightweight solutions. Like for me on the marketing side of things, I'm very interested right now in producing very performance, very small, very efficient, very accessible websites. And because we are kind of coming at it from both ends, I can think about the development side of things as I'm kind of conceiving of brand elements and like, "Oh, how is this going to translate? "Is this gonna be efficient? "Is this gonna be you know a giant hog, "if I try to implement it in this way." And I feel like that's kind of a harder thing to hit when it's more siloed and you're not really considering those other aspects because A, you may not be trained in any of that. So you may just not know, or like the communication isn't quite there, but like on the flip side, you know a team like Apple's a good example of kind of the opposite end where like really beautiful websites and they're, but they're like massive, like yeah a page.

- They make you computer fans run like crazy.

- Yeah exactly. Like, so it's just you get a different end product.

- And that's been something you've chosen to make a focus and it's like informed your design I guess.

- Exactly.

- I've seen a lot of them talking about the hey.com website in particular, I guess 'cause it's the hot topic at the moment and about how amazingly fast and like small file size that is, so yeah that's amazing.

- Thank you.

- You mentioned AB Testing before. This is something that I'd love to dig into because this is something I love doing is testing. I find it so fun to like try out different ideas, see what connects and just really challenge your gut. And I think it helps to train your gut as a designer as well on what you assume will be the best, most highest converting design. And then what actually turns out to be the case.

- AB Testing is an interesting thing for us 'cause we, especially now, like there was definitely a period of time around when I first started, we were doing a lot more exploratory AB Testing.

- Okay.

- But now it's a little more of a gut check step. Like we're still putting out whatever we feel is the message that's gonna hit, that we think is like the right thing to say at the right moment in time, that looks the right way. Like we're still like, yeah this is it. You know we're not trying to test our way to success in that in that sense, 'cause that's, in my opinion, that's you're only ever gonna find like the local maximum by trying to like AB test your way to a correct design. So it's a little bit more of a validation step. And so we'll kind of put out what we think is the right thing and then AB test it and if the test wins like awesome. And if not, that's actually still kind of awesome 'cause we just learned something.

- Yeah.

- But we, they actually organizationally used to not AB test and got a little burned by it by doing a home page that was not a great performer. And it ended up costing a lot of money

- Right.

- In lost revenue. So now it's like it's at minimum something like a regression test to make sure that we're not totally tanking the funnel.

- Yeah.

- When we launch a new homepage.

- Yeah, that makes sense. Do you find that what you're testing now is more like fine tuned rather than like two completely different designs against each other?

- Yeah, we actually, it's more the latter where we're testing wholly different designs.

- Okay.

- Yeah, cause we're it's, we've definitely done tests where it's like, "Oh, what happens when I use, "you know and an inline form for sign up "versus a button." And the more of those kinds of very small scale where you're you're one minor variable and those are useful for getting those kinds of answers. Like generally does this kind of component work better than another. But you know, we definitely steer clear of the kind of you know, infamous testing, "30 Shades Of Blue, "cause that's why like.

- Yeah.

- That's in my opinion, that's at, like you're kind of abdicating your job as a designer if you're just deferring to.

- And leaving it up to the masses yeah.

- Exactly, 'cause that's your job as a designer is to have a good taste and apply that good taste.

- Something I've learned as well from testing is that you should never test something that you're not happy to be the final design.

- No.

- 'Cause if it wins...

- I've learned that lesson the hard way as well.

- Yap.

- Like, "Oh no, that is."

- Not what you wanted to happen.

- Yeah.

- Can you tell me, like does one test come to mind where you were really surprised by the results? And it really was like, "Oh, that's not what I assumed "would be the winner."

- Yeah, I think some of the ones that were more surprising is ones where we've spent, you know maybe a couple of weeks doing like a really heavily illustrated piece and it just didn't make a difference. Which was kind of surprising, like you would expect like the more kind of visually rich thing to just, you know especially like on marketing websites for tech products, illustration is such a given at the moment. Like what 75% of websites.

- Right.

- Probably have some kind of illustration on them. And yeah, we've done a lot of tests with that kind of work where it just didn't make a difference or performed worse. And that's directly why like right now on the homepage of base basecamp.com and even Hey, there's no illustration work, the products are the heroes.

- Right.

- Of both of those websites.

- I feel like I've seen cause we use Basecamp at ConvertKit and I feel like I've seen, I can't even count how many different version of the homepage in the time that we've been it.

- A lot, yeah.

- Yes, yes.

- So it's clear that that's the main part of your job, you know. it's refining this website, keeping it up to date, trying new things and always tryna I guess, increase the conversion rate of it. Is there metrics that you're held to, you mentioned that you're responsible for the top of the funnel. How does the team work in sitting, like do you set OKRs or KPIs or whatever acronym you wanna use.

- Yeah, we basically don't have any we're in a good position where Basecamp is a very healthy business and Jason and David are, they don't come at it from a let's squeeze, every last dime that we can out of this. They're more interested in doing something, that they're proud of, that they feel good about that aligns with their values, which is one of the things I really love about working there. I think one of the pitfalls of modern marketing is the kind of very data driven, very numbers driven approach, has kind of sucked all the soul out of it and all the personality out of it. Where it's not about you engaging with another human anymore, it's just like, I'm gonna put you through some kinda sequence and retarget Ads at you. And it's, I don't know. Obviously it works for a lot of people, but that's just not really the kind of thing we're interested in pursuing. So yeah, so like obviously we want to grow the business in a healthy sustained way. You know we're not looking for necessarily the hockey stick growth. So yeah, there's no like, "Oh, Adam conversion funnels down "this month and you're onto your own thin ice." Like that's not, that's not a thing.

- That must be like, I don't know, that sounds like a nice environment to design in, to not have to worry about that side of things. And you can just, you know put all your energy into your work and not into worrying about the results as much.

- Yeah, and I think you know, we obviously, I mean obviously I would I want to improve those numbers and there's a intrinsic drive to want to make the business healthier and better, but by not having, by not making your job dependent on these things, it removes all the pressure to engage in bad behavior.

- You get into doing some dark patterns or something.

- Exactly.

- Because it's gonna drive through numbers.

- Yeah, yeah.

- Exactly, exactly.

- Yeah.

- And so like a good example of that is within the last year we decided to pull down, like we used to have a PDF of getting real behind an email list sign up, super common thing, everyone does it.

- Yeah, I work for an email marketing software company. I know all about that yeah.

- So common, but like we we've literally never used that list.

- Right.

- So it's like, why are we even doing this? So we pulled it all down. It's like, you wanna read it, read it. Like, we're not gonna like make you jump through these kinds of hoops to do it. And you know again, I appreciate that they're open and willing. I mean, more than open they're there, they want to do those kinds of things and.

- Yeah.

- Take a very different approach to things. And, you know that's really kind of baked into, Hey, as well. Like a whole thing around tracking pixels.

- And privacy yeah.

- And in emails.

- And making it really a privacy focused product. That's been a big push just within our company. Like over the past six months to a year, we've been removing basically all third party tracking from every website, every web property. 'Cause we just, at the end of the day, weren't comfortable sending customer information to Google and other big players like that. So now we do, we have our own first party internal tracking tool that we use, which shows us what we need to see and nothing else. And that's been really great, that entire push to just kind of like, take a different stance. We've gotten to a place as an industry where it's like, "Oh, well it's nice "to see this information, so we're gonna collect it." But kind of resetting that and be like, am I actually gonna do anything with this information? And if I'm not gonna do anything with this information, we're not gonna collect it, because we're gonna you know put, put the onus on respecting privacy first and foremost. And then only if we like genuinely even genuinely really, really needs something, will we collect that. And you know, in some sense that makes the job a little harder, but you know luckily we have people at Basecamp like Ryan Singer who does a lot of interviews with people. And so we get at it a little bit of a different way.

- Right, are you're still getting the learning, just not through collecting the data like a lot of other companies would do?

- Exactly yeah.

- Yeah.

- Yeah, I was wondering about that because you mentioned the top of the funnel and you know we're talking about conversion rates and things, but if you're not tracking things and how would that? So that's interesting to me that you have your like internal solution that just you know isn't sending data to Google, which is always a good thing.

- Right, yeah and it also just lets us be a little more specific about, you know with something like Google analytics or basically any kind of off the shelf analytic system, you get what you get, whether you need it or not. So with a bespoke system, there's a little more of like, "Well, we can like, you know poke these little holes "in the fence of, to get exactly what we need "and nothing more."

- Yeah, yeah. What do you use for AB Testing then? Is there another like internally developed tool?

- It is and the really nice thing about it is a lot of commercial AB testing tools require an enormous amount of JavaScript on the client side to make them work, which is, you know as like I mentioned earlier, when we were trying to pursue very performance oriented websites, it's kind of a deal breaker for us. And it also, you get kind of this nasty flash of unstylish content of the original version before before the JavaScript loads. So our setup it basically happens at the server level.

- Okay.

- So I'll design a totally different page that technically lives at a different URL, and then when you're, when you hit the original URL, you're placed into one of two core cohorts where you see either that original page or that other page that lives at the other URL gets swapped into the current URL, you're visiting and that's it. So and that also makes it very robust because if someone has a JavaScript disabled still works.

- Right, yeah. 'Cause you're doing it on the server side.

- Exactly.

- Is that a tool that you built or the development team built? How did that come up?

- Yeah that was our, that was our data team, yeah.

- Nice.

- That's above my head here.

- I was gonna be very impressed if that was yet another thing that you worked on at Basecamp. That's cool though. Let's go into talking about a project at Basecamp. So you already mentioned that things are very self directed there and that you might work very closely with the founder, but take me through like, say a recent project, maybe the design of, hey.com for example, because that's you know, very new and very recent. How does that start? Do you get a brief, is it a conversation? Take me through it.

- So yeah, with something like, Hey, where we're talking about our new product we'll almost always start with a copy and messaging.

- Okay.

- We tend to not start with visuals, 'cause the copy kind of drives everything for us. Hey was a little bit odd, because it wasn't Hey for a long time, it was Haystack. That was another, that was another domain that we owned. And so a lot of the, the brand development revolt around that at first. And obviously that's like in the digital dumpster at this point, but even when we were working on that, it was all about kind of developing this story about Hey and kind of where email started and like the time it was developed and how it was used and what it was designed for, which was like you know, one person talking to that other one person.

- Yeah.

- On a server somewhere. Like that's what it was designed for. And so it's just kind of like grown into this thing. That was actually never intentionally designed, but it's being used in this weird way. So kind of taking that and developing these kind of broad talking points, like screened your emails, like you screen your calls and these kind of like resonant messages.

- Yeah that everyone gets instantly.

- Exactly, and then from there developing an aesthetic around all of that, that we think hits the right tone for the product and like, and for Hey. It's this like, trying to straddle the line of like approachable and friendly, but also like not cute, but like you know lively.

- That's a good word, lively I like it. And are you the one writing the copy and figuring out this messaging? Is it done in collaboration with Jason? Yeah, how does that work?

- Yeah, he does most of the final copywriting because he's a better writer than I am, like and claim that it's anything different than that. But often I'll do, so like take a page like the, How It Works page.

- Sure.

- Where the images and copy are fairly integrated. So on a page like that, I'll do the initial pass of copywriting to make sure that the copy fit makes sense with the layout and also the overall structure of what we're talking about. And then he circled back around and rewrote it in his voice. So then that's something that we do fairly frequently and sometimes it's just, you know here's the template for you to do your thing with and he'll go. Like the manifesto page is probably a good example of that, where it was just like, it's mostly text and like here, here's a nice header piece. Here's where your words go.

- I love it, I sort of think of that. It's doing this initial pass you take first, it's like the copy wireframe you know. It's like, we talk about wireframing and usually in terms of the visuals and like boxes on a screen, but yeah, you can do a wire frame at the copy.

- Absolutely, yes.

- Yeah.

- Yeah and again, that's like, it's a nice shortcut because it's not like, "Oh, let's talk to the copywriter "and figure all this out." Like the design and initial copywriting, like it all happens in one kind of mushy step.

- Yeah.

- That eliminates just a ton of back and forth.

- Yeah sounds like it, let's talk tools for a sec about this. Where is all this happening? What are you using?

- Mostly just working in a text editor in code we use Jekyll for most of our websites. Basically the only exception to that is Signal Versus Noise, which is on WordPress, but everything else uses Jekyll, though I'm hoping to change that in the not too distant future and switch to Eleventy which I really like.

- I haven't heard them I'm gonna look into it.

- It's a spiritually inspired by Jekyll, but addresses a lot of pain points and is based in JavaScript, not Ruby and I am much more proficient in JavaScript than Ruby so.

- It makes sense then.

- Yeah.

- Okay, so you're not like opening up a what obviously not a Google doc, we know how you feel about Google, but you're going straight into the code to write up this wireframe? And is Jason getting in there too and editing it?

- Yes.

- Is that how it works.

- Yeah he'll get into the Repo and just, yeah.

- Nice.

- So we're just working in GitHub you know.

- Wow.

- I'll push up some changes on a branch, he'll pull it down and make more changes and push it back up. And yeah, that's where most of the work happens. So sometimes I'll like if I feel like the thing I'm trying to make is, like if I feel like I'm fighting with it in CSS a little bit, I'll kind of jump out to Figma or potentially Illustrator to riff on some ideas in an environment that's a little more fluid, not to produce a final comp, it's a scratch pad just to like get my head wrapped around what I'm actually trying to do and then jump back into code and actually you know execute it.

- Wow. Yeah, I'm thinking of all of my Figma files where I ended up with, like, I don't know when we redesigned our homepage recently and I ended up with about 90 different art boards and Figma of me trying out different things. Like that's what I need to make my brain work is to like see everything. But.

- Yeah and when the. More like the brand development and really nailing down the overall style, same yeah. Like, yeah. Dozens and dozens of art boards and Figma too. 'Cause you know one of the nice things about, about that approach, I think there's a lot of value in being able to evaluate multiple designs side by side.

- Yeah.

- 'Cause you just can't do that in an efficient way when you're designing and browser. So yeah, I'm generally like not a purist in that way. It's like, "Oh, I only design and in code "or you know whatever." I think you just need to kind of go with whatever works for that moment in time for what you're trying to achieve.

- Yeah, completely I agree. Just go with, go with what you need. And don't like worry too much about sticking to a strict process 'cause sometimes that can get in the way for sure.

- Exactly, and even, even with tools like if I'm doing something for screens, I'll probably use Figma. If I am working on Illustration, I'll probably use Illustrator or working on print work I'll definitely use Illustrator. And you know there, 'cause in my opinion, there they're different tools for different jobs. It's not like.

- You have to pick one and stick to it.

- One yeah, it's not the team that you're backing it's yeah. It's a different tools different jobs.

- That's interesting that your mind went there for the reference 'cause my mind was going "One tool to rule them all". Okay so you work with Jason on this like copy wireframe and that's really what forms of the design is the copy it makes total sense. How does, how do you call a project finished? Like who has the final say on a design? And is there anyone who's like giving stakeholder feedback in the middle of the process? Let's dig in deeper there.

- That all happens in that same kind of back and forth with Jason. And we tend to work in iterations on something. So like even in initial pass on a page we'll be more or less a shappable version. And we'll just do pass after pass that tightens it up and tightens it up and tightens it up and tightens it up. And the nice thing about doing that is we could ship at any moment in time, so it's not like, "Oh, we gotta, we're rushing to the deadline. "And we gotta make these things. "Otherwise we're not gonna be able to ship our project." You're always in a state where you can ship. It's just a question of like, how embarrassed am I gonna be about it?

- Well by this shipping, yeah. But you're never gonna end up with Lorem Ipsum or any sort of like placeholder imagery because you. Yeah.

- Exactly, exactly. And I feel like that removes a lot of stress out of it and it then is then it is just a question of like, do we feel like investing more time in this? Do we think we're gonna get more value out of it if we invest more time in it? Is this the message that we wanna go out there with? Yeah, so I guess to answer the question it's kind of both of us where we're both like, yeah this is, this feels good.

- You get to a point where you're both happy with it Happy with it or tired of it, yeah. Yeah, that's really interesting. Is that an approach to designing or like working on a project that you've had throughout your career? Or was that something that came about at Basecamp?

- I do feel like that's actually pretty common in my career and I think I'm probably pretty lucky for that to not have, you know to have a lot of say in the projects and not just being like, does this please you.

- Yap like.

- Powers that be yeah.

- Yeah that's great. I think that it's there's just so much power in having autonomy in your design and feeling the ownership of it.

- Yeah and I've always tended to work for smaller companies for that reason. At various points when I've been freelancing, worked at larger, more corporate type structures and where, where it is like a committee of people who are giving a thumbs up thumbs down kind of situation. And no it's not for me.

- Okay, so obviously things are sounding pretty darn great at Basecamp. You know it's an ideal environment for you to be working in for getting your work done, but can we talk for a second about any challenges that you face? Like what are some challenges you face in your role or maybe that you've overcome recently?

- Yeah this may resonate for you as a fellow team of one. It's being a team of one and also being remote. It definitely can be a little isolating at times.

- Yeah.

- And that's not in an intrinsic remote thing before I was at Basecamp I was also working remote, but in a different kind of position, so it was less of a thing. So that's definitely a little bit of a struggle, particularly because my, the work I do is fairly self contained, it doesn't require as much back and forth with other people as some of the other positions do. Like the product designers, they don't work with each other very much, because how we tend to break up projects is like even on the product side, it'll be like a designer and a programmer or two. So the designers basically never worked together, but they're usually teamed up with a programmer, whereas I am the programmer in my situation.

- Yeah.

- So just talking, talking to myself.

- That's another thing actually why I've been so happy to have a developer on the team full time. Now I can book it is because now I get someone to work really closely with on projects.

- Right yeah.

- It's been really fun for that reason. So yeah, I can definitely relate to what you're saying there. Do you ever see Basecamp hiring another marketing designer, like adding to your team?

- Yeah with now, with what's going on with Hey, I would be pretty surprised if we did not end up hiring another marketing designer. 'cause yeah, I feel like I was already starting to like hit my capacity, in terms of at least like to the quality level that I wanna hit. Like, you can always do a, you know more slap dash job and get things done, but that's not great. So yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if we ended up hiring another marketing designer.

- And that will bring with it, it's whole new set of challenges, you know because especially what we've talked about, how you being that team of one is actually a huge asset in terms of the speed at which you can work. So, you know.

- Yeah and I imagine it would follow a similar pattern where we probably ended up working on separate projects instead of tag teaming, in the same thing.

- Yeah, that makes sense too, so you can keep all those benefits, but also open up your capacity a bit more, yeah.

- Right, yeah and something we've been debating internally recently is just how to hire in a way that makes sense for us. And I don't know, I find a lot of appeal in the idea of hiring people who are a little more on the junior side and to have a desire to kind of be trained up in the Basecamp wave of doing things.

- That'd be amazing, you'd be giving someone like an amazing start to their career, you know hiring, hiring a junior into that thing that's really cool. Let's end by talking about your favorite part of what you do of being a marketing designer. Because as I said in the intro, which you haven't heard, but all the people listening to this did here. Now you've had this career where you've tried a bit of everything you know, agency, freelance, product, print, why marketing design, why do you love what you do?

- Kind of as I mentioned earlier, I really like being able to scratch kind of both sides of my brain. I really like being able to kind of hit the expressive, artistic side in one sense, and also the kind of engineering side where I'm kind of thinking about, how do I take this thing and build it in a way that's you know efficient and responsive and works on all these different screen sizes. And that like really does it for me, I've always had a really hard time of letting go of the implementation side of things, because I really love like making the real thing and kind of coming at it from both sides. I'm a big believer in constraints in general. And I find that like, it breeds a lot of creativity when you apply constraints to yourself. And that's kind of one of the things I like about focusing on these kinds of lean, very responsive websites. It's you have this pile of enormous constraints. And I find the, the process of designing a website that is both aesthetically pleasing, and also addresses all those constraints to be very, very satisfying.

- I love that, that's also one of the reasons why I love working in house as opposed to freelance is the constraints, where like you're obviously not changing up the brand every single week, when you wanna use new color, you're gonna be using the same colors for a long time and that's a fun constraint to work within, yeah.

- Yeah like my thing right now that I've been doing is to try to design responsive components that don't use any media queries. It's just like, yeah I like to set these little, these little kind of challenges for myself

- As if you don't have enough to do already.

- And see what happens yeah. I find that like, it helps you learn things like you kind of chart new paths that you may not have without them. And it also just kind of produces a little bit of different work. 'Cause something we always try to do with our marketing work in particular is to kind of offer a counterpoint to a lot of other things that might be out there. You see that with, I think with both Basecamp and Hey, where like common thing right now is you go to a homepage and it's a long scrolling home page, lots of illustration, super, super, super common. When you land on the hey.com homepage, it is a letter like.

- Yeah I love that.

- It's the, you know if people are kind of going right, we kind of intentionally choose to go left to make sure that if anyone's in kind of a comparative shopping mode, when they land on us, they are going to see something different.

- Totally, that's like, yeah amazing tip to end on. And like, feel like you just gave away some more secret sauce there. For people to be applying anyone listening to this. Thank you so much Adam, for everything you've shared about marketing design and inside Basecamp this has been fascinating to me, I'm sure it's been fascinating for our listeners. Is there anywhere, anything you wanna shout out? Anywhere people should go to follow you online if they wanna hear more of your thoughts on design?

- I mean, they could follow me on Twitter, but following me on Twitter is kind of like not following me on Twitter based on the frequency at which I tweet.

- Okay. But yeah try Hey yeah, Hey.com.

- Hey.com try it out, read that letter and check out all of the designs that Adam's worked on, will be linked in the show notes, if you are listening, I'm an audio podcast app and in the description on YouTube. Thank you for being here Adam. Yeah, of course happy to be here.

- Thanks for listening to this week's episode everyone. I have to say that as a fellow, you know solo marketing design team of one, it was really empowering for me to hear the way Adam talked about that limitation and you know wearing all the hats on a team as a strength, as how he is able to get more done, because it's him in charge of the design and the code, and you know working on the copy of the sites that he's working on. And it's true a bigger team doesn't necessarily mean you get more done. There's diminishing returns along the way somewhere and this conversation with Adam and like Basecamp in general is a great example of that. I certainly learned a lot from this episode, and I hope that you did too, I hope you enjoyed it. If have been liking the show, please head on over to Apple Podcasts and leave us a rating and review, it really helps us get the show out there. And as always, we are available in both video and audio form, so you can watch the videos on my channel, youtube.com/CharliMarieTV or find the audio in whatever podcast player you use. And there'll be links to all of the above, including links to Hey, links to Basecamp links to Adam on insidemarketingdesign.co.

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