Try the no-code website builder used by designers and marketing design teams (and by this show, for the site you're on now!) – Get started for free
Instacart experienced a lot of growth during the pandemic with us all ordering food from home. In this episode we hear from Monica about the ways in which marketing projects changed in 2020, the huge amount of work she and the CRM team get done, and the clear processes in place to make it all happen. You'll also learn about the design team structure, and the approach Instacart takes to create "craveable" food photography.
0:00 - About Instacart & this week's episode
1:45 - Design team structure at Instacart
4:10 - The difference between brand & marketing design
8:45 - What does a production designer do?
11:05 - The Instacart brand
13:30 - The impact of the pandemic on Instacart & Monica's role
18:00 - What the CRM team works on
24:30 - Starting a new project
28:20 - Tools tools tools!
30:40 - The design process and pace for a project
39:00 - Measuring the success of a project
45:35 - What is Monica most proud of?
47:50 - wrap up
Charli: Welcome back to Inside Marketing Design. I'm Charlie, I'm the creative director at ConvertKit and this is a show where I interview my peers about how marketing and brand design functions at their companies. Today I'm speaking with Monica Galvan, who is a Senior Marketing Designer at Instacart. Now, if you're based in the US I'm sure you know what Instacart is, and you've probably used it yourself, I know I have when I've traveled there, but it's an app where you can order groceries, household items, beauty products even, and get them delivered by a personal shopper. Monica has been on the team for about a year and a half and as a company, Instacart is at around 3000 people now so getting quite big, it was fascinating to talk to Monica about the growth Instacart has seen throughout the pandemic as many more of us have obviously been ordering our food online and of course, we also get into loads of great details about her work as a marketing designer. Before we get into this episode, though, I do want to give a big shout out to our sponsor Webflow, Webflow is my favorite way to build and launch websites, but something else I use Webflow for sometimes is prototyping, I made this mock-up for example, in Webflow recently of an idea I had for the ConvertKit homepage. I used Webflow interactions to build out this animation in a timeline so that I could show the developer what I had in mind for the homepage and it really helped to communicate that vision. Even if the marketing site at the company you work for is on a different platform, you can still get a lot of value out of Webflow. Check it out at insidemarketingdesign.com/webflow, but now let's get into it and take a look inside marketing design at Instacart.
Welcome to the show Monica, I'm excited to have you here and to showcase this different side of design and tech, Instacart is this product that's so used. I've used it before, when I've been in the US and I'm excited to hear more about the marketing design side of it.
Monica: Yeah, I can't wait to tell you more about it.
Charli: Let's start by talking about the team, this is where I always like to start, it gives us some context of where your role fits in within the company and where design fits in within the org structure at Instacart. You tell us a little bit more about the team you're on, who you report to how many other designers are on it?
Monica: Yeah, so I'm on what we call the brand and marketing team abbreviated as BAM, and we've actually gone through quite a few.
Monica: Yeah. We've actually gone through quite a lot of like leadership changes, we used to be under the design org, which was more, I would say product design focus, I would say earlier this year we had an official split and so now we're part of our own, and that's, you know, where we started with the new brand and marketing team, a new VP of marketing, new creative leadership under that so that's the team that I'm on and I would say even within that, there's a couple of subsets, mostly like director level and within mine to the creative team, that's on the brand and marketing team, I would say there's about 19 people from, the very top, the executive creative director, the creative director of CRM, which is my manager, they're hiring another creative director on the marketing side and then under that, we have probably about 11 designers, including production design, outside of that, we also have like a motion designer who recently is now an associate creative director of motion, a illustrator and that's where it is so far, but we're hiring a lot so it'll grow a lot so I guess that would be about 30 people on our direct team.
Charli: Nice and it sounds like you've got a lot of different skill sets covered there as well, which is cool.
Monica: Yeah, I think that's one of the things that I looked forward to most when I joined Instacart and I'm still excited about is that, with having all of these different people with different specialties, we can really get focused on those things. Like I've never worked with a dedicated motion designer, so that's so awesome that I could just hand off design and an idea, and he's so awesome, he'll come back with something in a couple of hours and I just love being able to do projects like that, that I wouldn't be able to at smaller companies.
Charli: Yeah, that's super cool, man, I remember having a motion designer on the team at my first job in tech and it was wonderful and I feel like I've missed it ever since, it's something I'm trying to bring back to Convertkit through working with a contractor in the coming year, because it's just so fun to design something and have someone make it come to life you know? So I know at Instacart you have brand and marketing designers on the team, right? Your title is Senior Marketing Designer, but there are also people on the team whose title is Brand Designer, which I found fascinating 'cause a lot of people use these terms interchangeably, I do too sometimes mostly because I feel like that's what other people do so I'm like just trying to show them that this content I'm making is for them, like we talk about brand design, we talk about marketing design. What is the difference between those two for Instacart?
Monica: Yeah, that's a great question. I know whenever I used to look for jobs years ago, I was always like, why are there so many prefixes to design jobs?
Charli: Right, can't we just be designers?
Monica: I know, it's like visual designer, what's that? Aren't we all visual designers? I don't know.
Charli: Yeah. Yeah. Same with creative designer, that's a job title I have a problem with, I'm like, ideally we're all creative.
Monica: Yeah, we're actually hiring for one of those and I was like, I don't understand why they have a different title, so yeah, I'm still learning what that person will do. Yeah, at Instacart, we have three brand designers, six total marketing designers, including myself, but three of those are more on the CRM side. So I can briefly talk about all three of those subsections, 'cause we're kind of building out our team in like these pod structures, so that we're focusing on different things. I guess we're building out like a social pod and we're even going to hire designers that are specifically working on that, really growing out these little specialties. So the brand designers, they are working on things, obviously on the brand, things that are kind of like paving the way of the voice and tone and the look and feel of the brand. A lot of them in the past have worked a great deal on illustration because Instacart was a very illustration heavy brand, so they would be the one that would work on new illustrations and really cultivating that style and they're continuing to evolve that, so Instacart is kind of in like a rebrand now and so we're working with an agency on that rebrand, I have no idea about the timelines on that probably next year kind of, but they're working with them on that, on like photo shoots and developing the style and really being in on those meetings to give feedback, so I know that's a big part of their project. One of the brand designers is located in Canada, so he works on a lot of the things on the enterprise side in Canada. So those are kind of the main things that they're working on, but of course they also help out on other marketing projects. So marketing designers, essentially, I would say the big difference between brand and marketing designers is that marketing designers work on things that are driven by a marketing budget, there's money behind it, whether it be, you know, paid advertisement, ads, TV, out of home, billboards, it could be anything and we've worked on a great variety of that over the past year and a half. So yeah, things that are driven by money and performance. And then the CRM designers specifically, so I would say back in November or December of last year, I had conversations with my previous manager at the time and there was talk about me transitioning into being more CRM focused because when they hired me, that was like a big project I shared in my portfolio interview and I just had a deep knowledge and email and just really very system forward thinking in that sense, so they saw a big need for that and this was just growing like crazy the CRM side. So we had talks of me transitioning into that solely. So I kind of consider myself the first CRM marketing designer at Instacart and we've since hired two other ones back in the spring, so it's really slowly starting to grow, as well as a production designer, and so we're focusing more on CRM, obviously that being like the email component, for me that's like life cycle, so thinking about the onboarding, onboarding of people like, a new user signs up for a free trial, or they just, you know, to get them to make that first order and cultivating that relationship, new retailer launches, but really owning the email and the site side. So what happens when you click on this button in the email? What does that look like on the website or the app? So owning that part of the experience, but again, we also still help out on other bigger projects as needed, but that's our focus.
Charli: Well, yeah, that's a lot of focus, yeah, is what I'm hearing in this team structure right? There's a lot of designers, but everyone very clearly works on a specific part of the business, or you know, a specific part of the design needs, that's really interesting. How would you describe the difference between a production designer and say what you do as a marketing designer?
Monica: Yeah, we only recently got a production designer, a senior production designer, he joined, I think July, and we also have like a new contractor, one that started so he'll kind of just be floating around for the next few months, working on various projects, more so for like the brand team, 'cause this one sits on our team, so he's primarily focused on that, but you know, helps out when he has time on other projects, but especially being on CRM team, there's a lot of repetitive work. I'm creating new concepts, new designs for an email, but then there's all the testing involved, like okay, this is the main creative, but then we're gonna test this to different audiences, we're gonna test different incentives, non incentive versus incentive, free shipping, free trial, there's all these variables, so like all the versions, so that's like one thing that we really needed help with because the designers were just being bogged down by all of this repetitive non-creative work and our time could be used to create more creative assets versus doing all of this versioning. There's also a lot of like masking, Photoshop, retouching, those kinds of things, with convenience, which is a new initiative that we launched this past summer, which is trying to get things delivered from your favorite convenience stores, maybe you want a Slurpee, a bag of chips, just whatever you might get at like a gas station or those little stores around the corner, and so for that, we were really focusing on food photography, so that was really important, so there was a lot of like retouching and going on there. So the production designer is helping out on a lot of that and the designers are working on the comps and creating different ideas and once it's approved by leadership, then the production designer will take over and kind of finish things with the eye of the designer. So I would say it's just, they're working on the more repetitive tasks, refining things, making things better. He's also been helping me out with some things that I hand off to the dev team as well.
Charli: Yeah, again, that creates more focus, right? For the other designers on the team, everyone knows what they can focus on and you know, the time is best spent in their specific area of focus, that makes a lot of sense. I know you're not on like the brand side of things, but obviously you work with the Instacart brand a lot. Can you just give us a rundown of like, how would you describe the Instacart brand? And we'll have some visuals on screen, but for any audio listeners, let's just, yeah, give them a description.
Monica: Honestly, in the last year and a half that I've been here, there's been a lot of like little rebrand here and there, so there's been a lot of changes. Before it was like very illustration focused, there was like these kind of cute little, maybe basic characters that would be like the customer and the shopper and that was just things that we used on repeat, our photography style, honestly, wasn't anything that stood out so we had like a 1.5 brand refresh and that was when the brand designers refined some of the illustrations and it was great, they created like these fun food illustrations and color's kind of evolved slightly from the original brand, so it was just like a refresh that was meant to get us in between the next rebrand. But now I would say it's a lot different, so we are now food focused company, whereas before we tried to do a lot of things, we were like delivering, trying to get you your electronics from best buy or makeup from Sephora,
Charli: I've used Instacart for that before.
Monica: Yeah, makeup for Sephora as well as you're like grocery shopping and things like that. But now leadership made the decision that we are a food focused company. So this is all about creating craveable food photography and I've loved seeing the work that's come out with the brand designers and working with agencies and photo shoots and the photos they're not perfect, they're not like these perfect setup, lifestyle photos of people eating food or lifestyle shots or whatever, it's about that messy first bite, like you're poking into the yoke,
Charli: Hmmm, I love that description.
Monica: Yeah, you're pasta spiraling off of your fork, there's a little bit of a stain or a little bit of a drip here or there, it's really imperfect and it's all about just making you hungry, whether it be for, you know, like the food that you're making at home, or like this convenience food that is like it's junk food, but also it can look really delicious and really craveable. So I would say that's where the Instacart brand is going, very food focused and that craveable food.
Charli: I mean, I'm hungry now just listening to you describe those images, so I can imagine what any of the people watching the YouTube video, having seen some of the images of feeling, that's a fantastic description, I love that. So Instacart like, okay, now has this focus on food and I'm sure that the pandemic, I mean, maybe had a bit to do with that, but I'm sure that also usage of Instacart must have risen a lot during the pandemic, right? As we're all stuck at home and we couldn't go out whenever we liked, to go to the store, we were relying on people to deliver food and to have food delivered to our homes. How did that impact your work?
Monica: I think it's important to mention that like I went first when I started interviewing with Instacart, we weren't in the pandemic just yet, but throughout the interview process, that's when everything happened so they were going through a lot of changes just as I was interviewing and then as I joined, so I feel like I joined right in the middle of that explosive growth and definitely experienced all of that. How it's changed my role, I would say, even though we experienced a lot of explosive growth last summer and you know, when it comes to like metric wise of how you measure growth, that's actually an interesting thing because we obviously can't compete with how we performed that year and so what is our new normal kind of a thing, especially being a pre IPO company where they want predictable earnings, so these are all things, that I'm hearing a lot in a company all hands meetings, but it wasn't as busy as it was this past summer because of new structuring of the teams, and new marketing initiatives, as I mentioned, like a convenience being a big project last summer, or last fall, we did a launch with Walmart, we brought Walmart onto our platform, it was a huge deal because I basically opened up millions, maybe billions of dollars worth of revenue to be able to work with Walmart. So all of these different things and the continual partnerships that we are building every single day that are going on, that different team members are working on, I would say it's like all coming together and there's just been a lot of that going on and I've seen more of the growth this past summer with all of those new marketing initiatives and new leadership and just a lot of eyes on us as a company and within us internally. How it's changed is that I'll just be honest, there's a lot of stressful times sometimes, you know 'cause especially anything new that you were working on, prepared to work on a lot of different options and have a lot of feedback and be adaptable and not really know where this is going until we've kind of nailed down the design direction. So you have to be able to pivot a lot and just be a very adaptable designer and so I would say it's increased my patients and just like, yeah, it just taught me to have more respect for that, 'cause I don't think I've ever worked on a company that had such high that wasn't, you know, like with so many eyes on it, you know?
Charli: Yeah and more resilience to maybe it sounds like, you know, getting through these stressful times where everything's really busy and learning how to do that. I imagine too, given that you're focused on the CRM and like email marketing side of design there, Instacart was probably relying on that more during the pandemic than perhaps before, when there'd be a lot of like billboards and I don't know, like posters on the Metro and things like that, that when people are not going outside, you've gotta reach them through marketing, in their inboxes and like meet them where they're at. So did that marketing focus change during the pandemic as well?
Monica: You know what's funny is that I would say last year, what I heard was that there was like pretty much no marketing, like we didn't really need to do anything because people were coming to us.
Charli: It was all word of mouth. Of course.
Monica: Yeah, it was just like, it was like essential service that you needed so there wasn't much of, we didn't even really need to try hard, you know, then it was more of just like brand awareness, and being like communicating things well, and so that's why I say this year is where there's a lot more marketing initiatives and so now is where we're reaching out, more paid advertising, I know is a big initiative that we need to expand more. Our team is even gonna help out a little bit on like we're using, 'cause we've created so many things for like these convenience projects or just anywhere on the CRM side, and now we're trying to find a way of like reusing that for paid and organic social. So now is when we're ramping up all of that marketing, but we didn't have to do much of it before.
Charli: Right, right. Well, that's kind of cool isn't it? Like you said, that is brand awareness, right? That's people knowing when the need arose, where they should go to get the service that they were after so it's sort of like the work from a few years before really, really paying off. I love that. Can we take in a bit more on a CRM and specifically on like, what is involved in that from your perspective, for example, like what are these assets that you could then reuse for paid? You mentioned designing things for emails, designing stuff for the marketing website, is there any other like design projects that come in as part of your role, a CRM marketing designer?
Monica: Yeah, so for me specifically, being like the most senior marketing designer on CRM team, I do have a lot more responsibility in that sense. Like I would say one of the biggest projects that I owned was the email design kits. So it's kind of like a toolkit, guidelines, templates kind of like your brand guidelines, but for email and a little bit more technical because it's, there's a lot of wire framing involved, and this is things that we are using to hand off to the dev team because that's what they're using to actually create. So that has gone through a shift, a different designers started it a year ago, but I've evolved it quite a bit over time, cleaned it up, made it more user-friendly, especially as more designers are using it, really focused on creating guidelines because while my team specifically is very in tune with what is working, what's right and wrong on the CRM design side, other designers, whether it be other marketing designers or brand designers, they're not as fluent in these guidelines, so that was a big thing that I was working on over the summer is just like creating like a guidelines and best practice page, you know, really getting into the nitty gritty of like the size of things and best practices for exporting, file naming, how do you set up your Figma file? How do you name your page? Like everything, because everybody's doing everything different when it needs to all be the same. So owning that email design kit is one of my ongoing projects and owning that conversation with the dev team, I have weekly meetings with them where we are handing off things or just talking about any kind of hiccups that come up or just any kind of questions, so that's a big part of my role. I also kind of help out with some of the other designers, like we have a mid-level designer, I kind of worked on some projects with her, of like whether it be brainstorming, or you know, mentoring, reviewing her projects before she shares it to the creative director. So those kind of like leadership type things that I work on and outside of that, then it's just like brief kickoffs and working with our various engagement marketing partners on new retailer launches and so we're creating assets for, you know, this is like a new retailer that we're launching, how are we going to speak to it? And push notifications, email on site and in app banners, those kinds of things. Those are the main assets I would say each project has, so those four and you're partnered with a writer on all of those.
Charli: That's great. It's so interesting hearing you talk about, like the system of this all, right? Like essentially you manage the design system for the email kit, like you said, and more and more I'm noticing as I talk to designers about how they do their work and like their specific focus areas, we're not all that different from product designers, it's just that what we're working on is not a product that an end user, like an app they download or an app web app that they go to, often it's more of like an internal use case thing, like with your email kit or it's the marketing website, which is a product in and of itself. We talked about this in the episode with notion as part of this season, which you haven't heard yet, Monica, 'cause it's not out yet at the time of recording, but yeah, it's just interesting to me that the systems thinking you're applying to your role.
Monica: Yeah, and that's what I mean by like that something that I've done at the last two companies I've worked at, I've really actually created like at Blue Bottle, we had nothing and I totally created a toolkit in a different program, we used Adobe XD there and a tool kit their guidelines, you know, creating like a visual guidelines, and just that would help communicate with the marketing side, I had workshops where I was like teaching the new senior designer, how to use the program and then also just how, I created like drag and drop components and everything, so I've done that at like the last two companies so I'm pretty good at creating that now.
Charli: Yeah, and it's super important, right? To be able to do that in the role you're in, to keep things aligned. Speaking of the marketing website though, what team does that fall under?
Monica: I think it's owned by not any one particular team, but several. So it's definitely owned buy product designers, but we have a lot of different product designers, whether they be like, they're focusing on the shopper end or the customer side, enterprise, they all own a different part of the process, maybe it's like billing or, you know, some other subset so it's always a product designer, so whenever we're handing off those assets, occasionally they'll come back because something needs to be fixed or there's something not quite right about the specs, that's when a product designer will come in and I'm like, oh, you're the one that's working on this. So yeah, it's it's product designers, but it's such a big, there's so many of them, I couldn't pinpoint like which team it is, 'cause I think it's owned by all of them.
Charli: No that's fine. Well, that actually brings me to another question is how often do you collaborate or meet with product designers at Instacart? Do you have like wider design team meetings and crit sessions or anything like that? Or are they simply just too many of you?
Monica: So when we were part of the design org, that's where we were all mixed together and so when I had, so when we had our cause, you know, each team, larger team has their own meetings, it's different from like the company all hands, 'cause that's everybody, but then you have like maybe monthly meetings with your team. So for me, it's the brand and marketing now, but before when we were under the design or then I would have a little bit more access to seeing what they were working on or hear more of their names. So we don't interact that much anymore, other than just like when we're tapping in on these projects that we're working on, like, oh, we're working on a new banner for this new retailer and we need to hand it off to them. So not as much as I would like, but that's actually like a goal of mine is to collaborate more with product designers at some point in Instacart.
Charli: Yeah, I like that. I think that's a good goal to have, this one we're working on right now, I can work it as well as more collaboration. Let's dive into a recent project of yours, as you've mentioned this convenience, like push into this new space right? Which I feel it would be a good, I mean, it's fresh in your mind, you've just completed it, let's talk through the project. Where does this start? Like for you specifically, where does it land on your desk at what point in the process and who does it come from?
Monica: So starting off with a new project. So convenience is a big one 'cause it's considered a new marketing initiative, so we have tiers of projects right now that are going through different like leadership review, whether something is more higher visibility, it would be a tier one versus a tier two. So convenience was considered a tier one project on this past summer. So how it would start is there would be like these sandbox meetings where the marketing stakeholder or whoever is involved, would bring their briefs and really discuss it, this is more so with the leadership team so we don't as individual contributors, we don't have to go to that, I went to some of them in the beginning, but things were new and it wasn't very productive for me so I quickly stopped attending 'cause they were just discussing a brief that may or may not come about, so I'm like why I didn't want to fill my brain with that. So they have these meetings where they're discussing the brief kind of poking holes and being like, is this really something that we should be focusing our time on? And so that hopefully when it funnels down to actually being resourced, kinks have been worked out and it's like, this is something we should be doing. So before anything ever gets to me, it's starting somewhere off there, where leadership is talking through the greater initiative and then from there, it's kind of it's resource to the different subsets, like, you know, is this more of a brand thing, marketing, is it CRM? So then, you know, we all have our own PM's, which we call them program managers, and so then it'll kind of go to one of those, and then from there, you know, that program manager, as well as like let's say with my, with the creative director on my team, they'll kind of discuss who should be working on it specifically within our team, whether it be on bandwidth or specialty or like this person always works on these types of projects, although we do mix it up every once in awhile. So that's kind of how the brief start and how things get resourced.
Charli: That sounds like there's a really solid process in place for like the project management side of it and that you, as a designer, what I'm hearing is don't really have to worry about that because it sort of it's being sorted, you know that some, you can trust that someone else's scoping the work and like figuring out when you're going to fit it in. And I assume that you can, push back when needed on that, if you notice that things haven't been scoped quite right. But yeah, someone who does all of the project management and stuff, as well as the design work and all that, I'm like a little bit jealous, I'm not gonna lie.
Monica: I think process is something that always suffers a lot in companies, I don't think I've ever worked at a company that has gotten it right. You know, like it's a work in progress, there's always gonna be…
Charli: There's always room to improve
Monica: ...there's always room to improve, so I would say this has been improving a lot over the last couple of months, because again with different people coming into the company, we have had so many new people on like the executive level coming in, I think this is like their way of really getting to the bottom of, are we spending our time where we should be? That's not to say that things don't come in that we don't question, like I give it to the writers because they really dissect the briefs because a lot of times writers are starting the projects most of the time, they're the ones that are probably asking even more questions and they're just like, this doesn't make sense or it's too vague or something. So there are definitely things that come through that could be refined, but I think that step helps.
Charli: Totally, other people have already poked at it by the time it comes to you, so some of those questions that you might've had, someone else might've already asked. Speaking of process and like project management, just as a quick aside, what tools are used at Instacart as part of this, to track the workflow?
Monica: Yeah, so we use Wrike, we use that as our resourcing for new projects, that's where you would upload the brief, any kind of documents, that's where tasks are created by the program manager with milestones of like what's the live date and then working backwards as all the different steps, you know, like in marketing first looks leadership review, partner review, legal review, we have so many steps in there, that's kind of what we use to house it, it's not a perfect tool, we're all still learning how to use it, I feel like we're not using it to the fullest potential, 'cause it is a beast of a tool and there's a lot more that we could be doing, but we're also trying to keep communication there, so like when you're posting something for a first review, you would be posting a link from a deck, which is where we kind of put our screenshots and things like that, that would link to like Figma and copy docs and all that. But we try to keep the conversation within Wrike as one solid system. Outside of that, I think, you know, the Google things, that's how you access your email.
Charli: All of the things.
Monica: Google meet we use Zoom for other bigger meetings where they're over, I don't know, say 20 people, and what else? You know, the designers use Figma and like the Adobe creative suite.
Charli: Cool, is design feedback given within Figma or within Wrike?
Monica: It kind of depends, if it's overarching feedback, more in depth feedback, we definitely want it in Wrike, so that it's documented and it's there in its complete form. But sometimes it's really helpful to use like the Figma commenting system and point exactly like, oh, this is what I'm talking about, because if you put it here, it's like, what do you mean? And then you got to slack them and find out so legal actually does a lot of their comments directly in Figma. So they, yeah.
Charli: That's cool.
Monica: So it's a little bit of both, I would say more of like the overarching feedback and themes and documenting things, even if you're kind of like saying, oh, Hey, I left comments in Figma, that kind of a thing, and then specific to design and copy are directly in Figma.
Charli: Thanks for indulging me in my nerdy tooler side. But let's get back to this convenience project that you worked on. So you've got the brief, it's sort of been vetted and it's clear to you now what you need to do, what were the things that you needed to design for it? And what did that design process look like? Like how many rounds did it go through? How long did you have for it? Give us the deats.
Monica: Yeah, so again, for a lot of these projects, at least on my team, like I mentioned, the main assets are things like push notifications, email, website and in app banners, those are like the main ones, but we're creating lots of different versions. So let's say like, what are the bigger ones in the beginning I remember? Was 7-Eleven, that's an example where we're kind of merging both brands, the Instacart brands, the 7-Eleven brand. So there would have been a launch there and then there was also like ongoing email launches and just, you know, continuing to reach out to the customer for different things. So sometimes we're specific to the retail and sometimes were like more food specific, from there it's like coming up with, you know, after the brief kickoff, then the designer and writer are partnering together. Sometimes the writer will start first, sometimes the designer will start first, sometimes it's together, it depends because of timelines of things and we're coming up with different ideas based off of whatever they're trying to sell, whatever they're trying to target. Sometimes we're looking at specific things, like with convenience, there were a couple of projects where there were like, oh, we wanna do something game day related, so let's focus on like hotdogs and chips and chips and guac, what are the kinds of things that you would wanna eat on a game day? So from there, it's coming up on the design side with a lot of visuals, a lot of stock photography. So I spend a lot of time looking through food photos on stock sites, trying to find those gems and putting things together because you know, you're never gonna find the perfect photo and you need to like merge things together, again, that's where like the photo retouching comes in. I spend a lot of time coming up with different options there, so not even just different combinations of food, different background colors, the way that convenience design is, I think one of the brand designers worked on toolkit for this, which kind of gave us some guidelines of what to follow for this new initiative and so there was gradient colors involved, a little bit of neon because with convenience, it's kind of like late night craving,
Charli: Yeah, yeah.
Monica: So leaning, yeah, leaning into like neon lights. So those were kind of some of the design things that we were working with, with these very specific gradient colorways, neon lines in the background, and then this craveable convenience food. So taking those and creating lots of different variation, different color variations, different food options, and that's kind of what I'm working on, and I share that internally with the creative director on my team and kind of get his take and be like, Hey, what are your thoughts on these? Any feedback there could be some refinement there. My personal process is to show a lot of options, especially with these big projects. I wanna show five to 10 options and I'm just taking one asset, so like I'm not doing this for all of them, like I'm starting with email for example and I create one email, one version so we're not focusing on all the different incentives and variants and all that, I'm taking one email and then I'm designing five to 10 different headers and maybe the writer has five different headlines as well, or subheads or different body copy or so forth. So it's more about variety in the beginning, share it if there's any kind of feedback, then we address that there, then it goes into a marketing first looks where we're sharing it with the marketing stakeholder, getting their take on it. From there, it goes into leadership review, so we use some internal decks to communicate with legal, where we put screenshots and links to all of the things and it needs to get like their stamp of approval. Then it goes to a partner review, so like in 7-Eleven example,
Charli: To 7-Eleven.
Monica: then it would need to go to them. That's a stage that can sometimes take awhile and it can sometimes push back a launch because the retailer takes their time, like we have an expectation of how long it might take, but you know, maybe it's supposed to be three days, but then it ends up being a week, two weeks on a very extreme case, even longer. But that's out of our hands if they take longer.
Charli: Yeah, yeah.
Monica: Then that's their fault. But once it passes that, then it also has to go through a legal review. That's the absolute last step and then we're handing things off to the dev team. So it's kind of like from start to finish. There's a lot of steps in there.
Charli: Oh wow. How long does this take? I know that you've mentioned the, like the review part can often take a while, but what about the design phase itself? Like maybe to reach the point when you're sharing it with the partners, when internal stakeholders reviewed it, you've done your options and settled on for this project? What was the timeline?
Monica: Yeah, in the summer, this past summer, when we were doing a lot of convenience projects, there would be like literally kickoffs, like 3, 4, 5 new convenience briefs every week or more. So there was just so many of them coming at us, so those ones were very quick turnaround time when might have like a day to work on design options, internally you know, like after things are kicked off, maybe a day or two or three before internal review is due, and then a day after for marketing, and sometimes with the tight turnaround times, some of these milestones would even be stacked, like internal review would be the same day as marking first looks, and that made it to where it was like, okay, the first one we'll make sure it's done by the morning and the other one by the end of the day, kind of a thing, if it was the same day, we have gotten them out pretty quickly, within maybe a couple of days a week at most, right now, because we're much more efficient with creating these projects, now we know what we're creating, nothing is a surprise, so they're going a lot more smoothly now and we have a little bit more time, but yeah, it could have been as quickly as a couple of days, a week.
Charli: Wow, that's really surprising to me because I feel like you often hear, the bigger a company gets, the slower projects are and like the longer it takes to get through things, but it sounds like you have like a lengthy process and that there's a lot of steps to it, but that you can get through it very quickly, you know? And that it's very efficient, like knowing when to move one thing along. Yeah, that's super interesting to me. I was not expecting you to say a day in response to my question just then.
Monica: Yeah, a day or two, it could be as quick as a day or two, you know, it's hard to say and especially like with the CRM team, there's a big amount of volume of projects, like I mentioned that in our July, we went through like July or August, I can't remember, we went through three X amount of projects, we did the previous month, end of September now we're almost at 300 projects for my team specifically. So it's a lot higher pace, the CRM marketing design team, a lot more of the volume of projects, and we're expected more, it's going to increase, like the amount of partnerships we're actually have heard that we now wanna get leadership, or I don't really know where this is coming from, they wanna get it down to where something is executed within like three to five days, like completely like from start to finish and so we're onboarding agencies to kinda help with some of that repetitive work and so we're doing things that will help us scale because it's just not possible with three CRM marketing designers and production designer and remaining sane because it's a lot of things to keep straight in your head because when you're working on all of these projects, it's like, you have to remember all of these things about these different partnerships. So we have things in place where we're gonna work with agencies and help us scale over time.
Charli: That sounds like quite the challenge and I'm glad to hear that you're tackling it and knowing that you need extra resources for it as well though and not just being like, well we'll make do, 'cause that's not healthy for anyone involved. What about the end of this project? So it's launched now, you mentioned before that the work you do as a marketing designer, is more driven by money and like revenue and it's got money behind it and different success metrics as well. Can we talk a bit about those metrics of success, this convenience store project, for example, what was the performance measured by for this work?
Monica: Since everything is so new, we don't have anything to measure it on, and we have started attending these weekly meetings where the CRM team is discussing performance 'cause we've actually been kind of sheltered from it a lot, not on purpose, but I don't know, it wasn't shared, so they're slowly bringing us in so that we can see how things are performing and kind of learn from that. You kind of have to take it with a grain of salt though, because just because something is performing well, we still really don't know why.
Charli: There's so many factors that could go into it, right?
Monica: Yeah, we could hypothesize why, and actually that's sometimes people on the creative team are challenging them, they're like saying, oh, we think this did well because of this, but we don't really know, so it's a lot to take in. So that's kind of where we might learn a little bit more about how things are performing. I don't have like specific statistics off of the top of my head, but I know that convenience has performed very well, that has done very well in testing and so much so that now we have to pivot back to grocery shopping because now everybody's doing convenience,
Charli: Convenience yeah.
Monica: now we need to get them, to make their grocery order again, so now we kind of have to like switch there.
Charli: When you say that it's been performing well, you mean like orders, right? Like that people are using the feature and shopping with the retail partners through Instacart. That's the main thing that is measured after one of your projects ships?
Monica: Yeah, so other things that I would say are measured are like basket size, so that's something that, the amount of money someone is spending per order and with convenience orders it's a lot different because with grocery orders we have like a $35 minimum for like free shipping and all those kinds of things, or lower fees and that kind of a thing, like until you spend a certain amount, it kind of doesn't make sense, I mean you can, it just gonna cost a lot more in fees. And so with convenience, it's really hard to spend $35, you know, cause these are cheap items. So it's like lowering the minimum on that, maybe it might be like $10 or something. So looking at increasing that basket size over time, repeat orders, so first of all, getting them to try it out and then repeat orders, and those are the biggest metrics I would say that we're looking at. How often are they ordering? Are they trying out different retailers? Do they only order from Walmart or 7-Eleven or whatever, how do we get them to try it out for other things? You can also order for other people, you don't have to order just for yourself 'cause you could choose any old address you want.
Monica: There's a lot of things like that that can be measured.
Charli: And what about you as a senior marketing designer in particular are there sort of metrics you're held accountable to? Is the main thing you're accountable for, producing the work on time and meeting all these tight deadlines?
Monica: Not exactly, like I wouldn't say that I'm like required to finish X amount of projects kind of a thing, and I'm glad that we don't have that kind of a metric 'cause that would just be very stressful. Although if that were the case, the CRM team would win. But you know, if that truly were a contest, but yeah, we don't have like a specific amount for me, my own like personal metrics is like, being able to work on higher impact projects and then kind of delegate out the other ones, whether it be to, like a mid-level designer and kind of mentoring that process or handing off a lot of CPG things to the agency, so that I have more time and energy to work on higher impact projects and that's just how I will grow and that's kind of how I'm assessed, like how much impact am I having on the projects and the people that I'm working with.
Charli: And that impact that you're having on the projects and the people you're working with, is that more of a qualitative thing than quantitative? Like it's not impact that you're having, isn't measured by a number of something, it's more the sense of what strategy level, things that you contributing to and yeah, making sure you're delegating things like that?
Monica: Yeah, exactly. 'Cause as I mentioned that we have like different tiers, like tier one, tier two projects, convenience was a tier one, eventually it will be a tier two though, because it won't be as important.
Charli: Or new.
Monica: So yeah, or new, 'cause it just means that there's less eyes on it, if it falls to a tier two. Yeah, working on those tier one projects, I worked on a back-to-school campaign, collaborate with another marketing designer on that, that was a tier one project, so those ones that have high visibility.
Charli: Yup, making sure you're on them. Can you give an example of a tier two? Is it more like, say convenience for the launch was it tier one, but ongoing, if you add a new retailer, it might be a tier two?
Monica: Yeah, that's a good point. So like a touch two, there's a lot of times where you're, maybe if it's a new retailer, there's that first launch, but then they wanna have multiple partnerships after that or there's just some kind of contract that we're fulfilling once we've kind of nailed down that launch, those other ones could be considered tier two, actually a lot of life cycle projects I would say are tier two because those are just our own brand and ongoing projects and yes, they're important, but they don't have like another partner involved and there's just a little bit more leeway there, so I would say that those are tier two projects and something that had less assets, maybe just like it's a one-off thing, there's a lot of projects that don't even touch design, like there's a lot of projects that the writers do, they're working on push notifications, that's a big thing that they're working on and I won't even know that project at all 'cause it will just kind of have gone around me, that's probably like a tier two project as well.
Charli: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Let's end by actually, you know what, one question before I get to the serious ending question, but a slightly less serious one is, are you just hungry all of the time when you do your work? Because I feel like I've gotten progressively hungrier as we've done this interview.
Monica: Yeah, I truly, with the new direction of the food photography, it is so appetizing and I'm not a big like, and then when it comes to the convenience stuff, I don't eat a lot of that kind of junk food, that's something that maybe on a road trip you might have, but it's making me wanna make these bad food decisions. But yeah.
Charli: I feel like I would struggle with that too.
Monica: Yeah, exactly.
Charli: And now, okay. For the actual last question that I wanna ask you, is during your time at Instacart, what are you most proud of from your time there? Maybe it's a project, maybe it's a certain impact.
Monica: I feel like when you work in tech, one year is like five years.
Charli: Oh yeah. Especially with the amount of projects you're working on.
Monica: Yeah, you do so much work, and so some people are like a year and a half, but like that's a lot, learn a lot of things in that time. So things that I'm most proud of, notable things, like I mentioned, working on the Walmart launch, I would say that was like one of my first biggest projects or highest visibility projects of last year. That was a big deal, for Walmart to join the Instacart platform. Love being able to say that I've sort of worked with Walmart, in that sense and worked on a lot of campaigns as well, that had high visibility. Another one I like to mention that I worked on for St Patrick's day because something that I designed was featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live, there was an Instacart skit, so like I designed-
Charli: Oh my gosh.
Monica: some end cards that were related to the campaign that I designed for, so I like to say that something I designed has been seen by millions.
Charli: Literally has, yeah.
Monica: So those are fun things to mention, but honestly I think the things that I'm most proud of, are anytime I can make design easier, more efficient, better for myself and the team. So things like working process oriented things, like the email design kit, creating new templates, rethinking email, adding motion, I love working with our motion designer, on adding a little bit emotion here and there, working with the dev team, it's not always fun, but like all of these things, these process oriented things and just making things better and more efficient, I like to make my life easier and for the designers around me. So those are smaller, less visible, not as exciting, but I think very important things.
Charli: I love that. Well, thanks so much Monica, for everything you shared, this has been like a fascinating look into the efficiency and processes of a bigger company for me and I'm sure for a lot of our listeners as well, and I really appreciate you sharing your insights.
Monica: Yeah, its great and I love being able to share the things that we're working on, you know we're really changing a lot and so I can't wait to see how Instacart grows over the next 1, 3, 5 years and how I was a part of that.
Charli: Totally. Hope you enjoyed hearing about the intricacies of Monica's role as a marketing designer, working on the CRM team at Instacart. A lot of the designers that I speak to on the series are on smaller teams or they're on a larger team, but they're responsible for the marketing design of a certain product. So it was super interesting for me, to hear other ways that things are structured at Instacart based on channels instead, and I hope that was interesting for you as well. You can get more episodes of this show at insidemarketingdesign.co, we've talked to a lot of really interesting companies by now, and if you wanna hear more from Monica, she actually has a YouTube channel of her own, which you should go check it out and subscribe to, it will be linked in the description, but it's called Monica's Design Process and I highly recommend you check it out. Thanks again to Webflow for sponsoring the show. Thank you to you for listening, and I will see you next week. Bye.
Rate it on Apple podcasts or tell your friends to listen!
Learn about why brand design was a priority from day one at presentation software company Pitch