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In this episode, Charli talks with Justin Rands, Director of Brand at Oyster. Justin talks about the company’s fast growth, and their commitment to design from the very beginning. Justin also discusses how they have evolved the Oyster brand in a way that helps them stand out in a crowded space, and what they love about Webflow. Oyster is an employment and HR platform that makes it easy for companies to hire people from anywhere in the world.
- Welcome back to "Inside Marketing Design," everyone. I'm Charli. I'm the creative director at ConvertKit, and if you couldn't already tell, I'm obsessed with marketing design. I think it is a highly underrated side of design and tech so that is why I started this show, to spotlight the folks that are doing great brand and marketing design work and learn from their processes.
Today on the show I am speaking to Justin Rands, who is the Director of Brand at Oyster. Oyster is an employment and HR platform that makes it really easy in this remote work world for companies to hire people from anywhere around the world by managing payroll in multiple countries, offering localized benefits, making the hiring process easier. They are a fairly new company formed in 2020, and they're globally distributed of course, given the company mission. Justin joined about a year ago to build out the Brand Studio Team, and Oyster have scaled fast. They are now at around 600 people and I mean in the whole company, not just on the brand studio team, obviously. That'd be a very large brand studio team. But it was really interesting to learn from Justin about the decisions he made in building out that brand studio function and also about how the brand has had to evolve since he joined. As you'll hear in the episode, I was very excited to learn the Oyster uses Webflow for the marketing site 'cause Webflow is our sponsor this season. I won't go into too much about it now 'cause you will hear Justin rave about how this no code visual development tool lets the Oyster team really easily manage and iterate on the marketing site as well as add cool special touches like this spinning globe or these icon animations that they have on the Oyster site.
Workflow is a perfect tool for teams who need a marketing site that they can iterate on efficiently in this fast growth phase like Oyster is in. So check it out for yourself at InsideMarketingDesign.com/webflow. But now let's dive in and take a look inside marketing design at Oyster.
Welcome to the show, Justin. Super excited to have you here and to learn more about how brand is operating at Oyster for such a, you know, fairly young company but is already like doing and achieving so many great things. Let's start by you telling us about your work as Director of Brand. What are you responsible for? What does that title mean?
Justin:- I mean, it's a hard question to answer 'cause it's literally almost everything, you know?
Charli:- Right, I started with a hard one.
Justin:- Yeah, it's, you know, I'm involved in meetings with sales folks about what they need for their decks, a look and feel of the whole brand from the website to collateral to how we show up at events. Working with product design on how our illustration show up in product. You know, working with the brand, the leadership team here and figuring out like what we're gonna plan out for Q3, Q4, Q1, et cetera. Hiring, everything. There's a lot, there's a lot happening, and you don't really realize it when you first start and then you're quickly sucked into this vortex of how are we gonna do X, Y, Z. So it's fun though. Having a blast.
Charli:- And you're not doing this alone, luckily, right? Tell me about your team. It's the Brand Studio Team, right? Is the name of the team that you lead?
Justin:- Yeah, we call it OBS, Oyster Brand Studio Team.
Charli:- I like it. Not like Open Broadcast System, which is the app that I use for streaming.
Justin:- Maybe we can do a collab someday. Yeah, I started, it was just me and another developer and a contractor, and that was the whole team. So we've grown to about, we're gonna be at nine in the next couple weeks. And we've got four designers, the one developer I talked about, two brand producers and a content producer animator that works outta the UK. And then we have a contractor in Florida. We're fully distributed, so, you know, we've got folks on the West and East Coast, there's someone in Canada and there's someone in the UK. But everyone's fantastic. The growth has been crazy so we've hired that many people in the last, like, six, seven months.
Charli:- Yeah, that's a fast ramp up for a team, right? To go from nothing to as a team of nine working on the brand. I love the Oyster investing in this and like clearly making it a part of the business strategy, right? To be investing in it in this early stage.
Justin:- Totally. That was one thing that was super clear to me when one of the co-founders reached out to hire me initially was they wanted to keep things kind of weird and invest in design and kind of take a style that my work had kind of been connected to and just like keep pushing it. So that gave me like full confidence going in, which is something you don't always get when joining a startup or bigger company or whatever, you know, like, design sometimes has no seat at the table, so to be here and to to show up in that way is super refreshing.
Charli:- Oh yeah, absolutely. I wanna talk more about design at Oyster in general, but first the developer on your team, they're a Webflow developer, right? You use Webflow for the Oyster marketing site. Love it.
Justin:- Yeah, that's right. She's great. Her name's Sadiksha, and she's a wiz all things Webflow and just development in general. She's pretty front-end based, but she's any sort of like crazy interactions we have, you know, salute to Webflow. All your interactions that you have on your site for people to use are fantastic. And she adds another layer in there too. So it's cool to like bring those in.
Charli:- Yeah, I love that. Out of curiosity and also because Webflow was sponsoring the season -
Justin:- Hey Webflow. Nice one.
Charli:- Hey Webflow, we're gonna share you out right now. I'm curious to know why you are those who chose to use Webflow for the marketing site versus, like, you know, any other platform?
Justin:- Yeah, I think we're always just thinking about what's gonna be scalable, what's, you know, people are using that is like more now, like, why would we use WordPress? I love WordPress. I've used you a lot, but you know, like-
Charli:- You're a bit old.
Justin:- Yeah. But half the internet still runs on WordPress, so.
Justin:- Which is crazy. But yeah, I mean the interaction side, you know, the way that people can just kind of jump in and update things quicker, it's a no-code tool for all the new things. So now I'll be clear, I didn't choose it, it was here when I showed up, and I was very happy that I was.
Justin:- Because most of my other friends in design are, like, always asking, "What are people using? Should I go to Webflow?" And it's always like, "Yeah, that's kind of where everyone's going to."
Charli:- Thank you for helping me in, you know, talking about Webflow some more, 'cause I'm very grateful to them for sponsoring the show. I firmly believe in them as well as a tool. But back to talking about design, I'm curious to know how us a team of, like, brand designers, right? How you collaborate with product. 'Cause you've talked about design having the seat at the table and so I'm gonna guess that there's a healthy design culture in general at Oyster, not just on the brand side.
Justin:- Yeah, we're trying. You know, it can be hard as we're fully distributed and people are siloed in different parts of the country to, like, come together. But, shout out Loom, Loom name drop.
Charli:- Maybe they can sponsor the next season.
Justin:- Shout out to Stew. We use Loom quite a bit. So if, you know, something that was happening on my team that happens on a lot of brand teams, unfortunately is like we don't always know the product as well as we should. And I don't expect folks to have like the most intricate knowledge of the product as like a PM would on an engineering side, you know, but there should be some level of understanding. So me and Jonas who leads the product design team here, you know, we've been talking about how we can have more collaboration. So something we did recently that was led on his side that included us was, like, a refresh of one of our dashboards we have for the product. And so like there was a free for all, do what whatever you want, minimal constraints. We could use some of these new illustrations that we had made on the brand studio team to integrate into the product. Yeah, it was just like a three-week sprint and that was super fun. To get the brand designers to understand what was happening more, he got some of the folks on his team to record some product walkthroughs with Loom. So there's like five or six different product designers, like, doing some 10 to 15 minute in depth walks through to the product that he shared with us, and that's been really helpful. You know, as we plan campaigns and, like, think about designing stuff, it's just a little bit better to know what the fuck you're designing for obviously. So I'm hoping that that starts to happen more with my team, and we really start to understand, like, our users and our product a little bit better so we can design the best experience.
Charli:- Yeah, it's like sharing knowledge, right? Between the teams. You don't wanna overload other people and expect everyone to have all of the context around your work, but sharing enough so they can like get the basics, and I think that helps us all.
Justin:- Yeah, for sure. They're great. I mean, we've just given them a bunch of our new illustrations too with guidelines on how to use them. And there's a Slack channel that we all communicate in and make sure we're up to date on color usage or if there's something that they make that they want, you know, a quick look at, it's always available to do so. So we're trying. I mean, I think we still have a long way to go, but it's never perfect so at least it's something.
Charli:- Yeah, Yeah, it's never perfect. And also the company was only started in 2020, so.
Charli:- You're doing great things for a company so new. What about collaboration with marketing? This is like a loaded question because marketing is the team that my brand studio team at ConvertKit collaborates with the most, is where a lot of the work that we do, like the briefs come from marketing or like in support of marketing efforts. Is it the same for you? And if so, what does the collaboration look like?
Justin:- Yeah, it's the same. We sit under marketing, but we're sort of a pillar to, like, product growth and, yeah, we sit as, like, you know, someone who just helps all the campaigns move along. So we're seen as a embedded studio within Oyster, but we do have a lot of say onto, like, what campaigns happen or not. Our team and the content team has put together these kind of, like, bundles, which is a newer thing for me. So if we're for, like, "Hey, we wanna do these 15 campaigns, we're like, "Well, check with us because in our bundles, like a landing page might take three weeks or an ebook might take a couple months depending on how long the content is. And so that way that they can sort of plan out like how many things we can realistically get done for that quarter instead of it being like, "Here's all our briefs, go," we can say we have the ability, shout out to Kevin Lee, our head of marketing, to say no and say this isn't gonna work in our timeline. We also have things that we're trying to do for our team, like we have new, or always trying to like evolve the brand working on new color palettes, you know, just trying to think about our blog and refreshing that or make sure our website's not fragmented with, you know, 50 grays which usually happens. So we have a big say, but we get together, the leadership team gets together and I'm lucky to be able to sit there with them and chat through the projects for the quarter. But then we check in with our team, we check in collaboratively with the other teams and try to, like, focus on what's gonna be the best for us. Typically, I feel like brand teams I've been on before kind of siloed in a way where they're just handed stuff. And that can be hard, especially if the team is really, like, talking to other teams, not only within marketing and they have a vision of what could be helpful for more leads or whatever, and then we're just like, "Here you go, you're actually gonna be working on this." So that can be kind of shitty. So here it's very collaborative, and like I said, design has a seat at a table. That's really pretty sweet.
Charli:- Yeah, that's interesting. So you said bundles, it's almost like a freelancer or an agency would offer to a client like here's a bundle that you can purchase or a way we can work together. But you're doing that internally, and I guess it's creating the shared language and understanding around how long projects take, right? And what brand studio can offer and how long those things are gonna take if you wanna take you up on that offer.
Justin:- Yeah, just trying to set expectations, 'cause I think a lot of people that aren't in design think that like we just snap our fingers or press a button and we poop out some beautiful design base.
Charli:- Well, that it's just infinitely scalable and we can just do as many things as there are to be done.
Justin:- Right, it's like really unrealistic. So I think shows like yours that I'm on right now and like the discourse in the industry and design becoming more of like a leader within marketing is like helping the other folks really understand how it can be useful and how long things fucking take, you know? It's way longer than expected.
Charli:- And how it's more than just like putting a coat of paint on something too that like getting us involved from that strategic level is gonna lead to better results.
Justin:- Yeah, I mean, sometimes we can do that. Sometimes we can throw on some paint.
Charli:- That's a bundle?
Justin:- But being involved in a big- I don't wanna take credit for the bundle idea. Shannon Deep who runs the content team here at Oyster, she brought it to my attention, and I was like, "This is interesting." Giving context surely-
Charli:- Thanks Shannon, 'cause I might steal it too.
Justin:- Yeah, do it. Be like, "This is all we can offer. Sorry, we're already doing this." So it's just more ammo.
Charli:- Speaking of resources and your team, I'm really curious to know how you went about building out that team. Did you build it from the ground up? Like, when you joined there wasn't around studio team and so you were forming that. I'm really curious to learn how you decided what roles to even have on that team and how you knew how many of each person you might need as well.
Justin:- Yeah, I'm gonna try to answer this. I was in a complete blackout once I joined trying to like-
Charli:- So, like, past Justin made that choice, and you can't remember why but he made a good one.
Justin:- Yeah, I mean the biggest thing was like, the developer on our team, I got her on our team, which was huge 'cause like-
Charli:- So she was already at the company but wasn't on the brand studio team, yeah.
Justin:- Yeah, you can kind of own the web, which is huge 'cause that's like the front facing of everything nowadays, is like your website.
Charli:- Yeah. Huge impact on the brand is the website.
Justin:- I mean it's literally everything. So getting her on the team was great. And then BB who is a contractor, was able to handle, like, quick tasks so I could throw stuff over to her. We have Super Side, which is a agency that we have like a hundred hours a month with terms. I can toss landing pages and ideas for things over and they can get things over quickly, but you need designers. So that was the first thing. And, you know, typically you look for like generalists. I wouldn't look for, like, someone who was just a type, you know, I'd be cutting off both my legs if I did that.
Charli:- You'd have great type but you wouldn't have much website, yeah.
Justin:- Right. And so I was looking like for a mix of like junior middle way and like maybe one senior person to come in and start going generalists that could, that no layout, maybe know something about photography, know a little bit of web, know illustration in art direction. And that's a lot of different things. But like I was always finding on a lot of designers because I think a lot of people have to have this sort of focus is that most people are generalists and as you rise through the ranks you're like touching on a million different things, and so I was able to find some great generalists to start. Jason Yim, he came over from Intercom where we worked together. He was the first hire here, which is awesome. And then Kate Manestee, she was like more middleweight, came over. And then most recently we got Natalie Harris, and King from RISD and he worked a job for like six months or so making decks. He's super talented, and he came over lasts. So that was the four designers. But they can all do little everything. Like Ryan is really great at animating. Natalie is working on a design system and type. Kate does a lot of illustration, deck building, systems thinking. And Jason's kind of acting as like an art director and really focusing on like photography and illustration. And he's worked a lot on our product UI, you know, most product UI's like abstracted nowadays. And so like what does ours look like? We're just thinking about that all the time. So it's a great mix, and none of them have any egos, which is awesome. You know, like, that's a huge part of it. Like, designers out there, put your ego aside, you know, like we're all one big team here and we try to work together really well and collaborate often and show our work a lot. So I'm really lucky that they're here, and yeah, it's going well so far. Knock on all the wood.
Charli:- Knock on all the wood. Interesting that you mentioned an agency too. I'm really curious to know how you decide what you outsource to them versus what the internal team works on. Is it like a certain type of project that the agency would do versus internally or is it more like just overflow 'cause capacity?
Justin:- It's a mix of both. A lot of it recently has become overflow. Like, we lean in heavily to them when the team wasn't really here or like it was just a couple designers 'cause we didn't hire them all at once. So it's all been pretty fragmented but it's mostly a lot of landing pages or, you know, a lot of the patterns that we've used were created by them and are directed by me and, like, based on our strategy. And they kind of like could bust out that stuff pretty quickly. And it looks great. At this point, it's a lot of landing pages, as you know, people need landing pages. For everything.
Charli:- Always more landing pages.
Justin:- So depending on what we have going on, it's like we've got a big event happening and all the designers are on it. There's still like a flow of stuff coming in so we have to either throw it over to our contractor or use Super Side, and they've been a really, really great partner. I don't think we would've gotten this far without them.
Charli:- The patterns that you mentioned, an agency working on previously, is that the, you know, like the super textural stuff that I can see over your website?
Justin:- Yeah, totally.
Charli:- Let's talk about how you got to those patterns 'cause I love them, I love the texture that they add, and I know that was like a brand evolution for Oyster, right? To figure that out.
Justin:- When I joined they had just worked with an agency, they're called Rack Edge, they're based out of London, and they've done some great work and have given us some great things. One great thing they did give us was a really well-thought out strategy around Oyster and what it means to be fully distributed in a world. And the thing that I based the pattern work out of was these real world textures that you would find out in nature. Like, what's something that connects all of us that's feels truly human, and, you know, that's leads, dirt, rocks, trees, water, you know, like, so they had been doing some of that stuff initially. I think they gave us, like, sorry Ragged Edge, but they gave us like five photos, five high res photos for textures.
Charli:- The texture, right? Yep.
Justin:- That was the initial textures, and then they were just using that on everything. So everything just became really same same. It was like a picture of a pool, picture of tree bark. And I knew that in order to scale and make things feel different from page to page or throughout our brand, that we probably need some more ammo, some more elements to work with. So yeah, put together a brief based on the strategy to Super Side that we are looking for real world patterns, you know, throughout things like what's an oyster shell look like, you know, what does it, you know, stuff like that that's fun. And they came back with like 30 different ones that me and the team then like art directed them through, and would be like, this one's not working, this one is, it's based on our color system. And then we also got some animated, so we got like 10 animated or so to really like, make it more engaging. And then we can use that on videos in the background and it just feels more playful. So that's been great, and that's been really helpful in pushing our brand forward.
Charli:- Yeah, and it just allows you to give an extra layer to your brand too, right? I feel like this is something we're working through right now with ConvertKit. And like, I don't know, I'm just feeling like, I'm really feeling that you need way more brand assets than you maybe first realize when you're creating a brand, 'cause you're right, things do get samey fast if you only have a few and you keep using them. Yeah, you always need more than you think.
Justin:- Yeah, I mean it's good to start simple. Now we're trying to kind of scale things, not back, but like it's a constant for evolution. So, yeah, doing that and then working with this agency in Copenhagen called Hagmun Studio. They're great. Maria is the illustrator there who's created a lot of our really cool, like, this bespoke illustrations. And we've been working with her since I joined. I loved her work she did on, can't remember what project, it was a radio station in like Sweden or something, and the characters felt really alive and really human and then they had texture as well. And so it's paired well with our system that we have going on.
Charli:- In this way you are like expanding on the brand, you know, existed when you started. I feel like you'll probably always be evolving it, right? Like, there'll always be some way that you are looking to make tweaks or make an improvement based on how things are going, how it's feeling to use it.
Justin:- Yeah, I mean, especially as, like, you start to get into the, it's like a designer horror word, but like upmarket, you know, like mid-market, upmarket, how does your... 'Cause sometimes the brand can take like a hit to its weirdness or its kookiness or, you know, whatever. So like just trying to think about how we can move that way while still keeping that, like, liveliness and weirdness that we've started with. So that's kind of where we're at now. So we're like thinking about a new logo, like our color system might affect a lot of different things. Like do we introduce a blue, because that feels trustworthy, you know, just stuff like that.
Charli:- Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, but like I just said, it's always evolving, but what does being on brand mean for Oyster now? Like, if you were to describe the brand, what would you say?
Justin:- Well, we just finished up our values, our brand values and our, like, kind of our persona for the company. And now it feels like we're a huge company but like you said, it's been two years and so like some of that stuff has slipped through the cracks, and we're like, there's so many things happening so-
Charli:- Or you need to figure it out along the way, right? Like, you have to learn how people are using the tool first, what their brand perception is, yeah.
Justin:- Yeah, so we have those things now but, so like trustworthy is always something to keep in mind. But our brand is fun. Like, we don't want it to feel dull. We have these really lively patterns and so as long as like we're using these patterns with our type system, we use Geist, it's our typeface and Work Sense. Like we use our color palettes. There's some textures, there's arrows and like brand magic stuff. And if that's being, like, used in the correct way, then you can just feel it. And a lot of designers here now that have been working with the system for a while, so they have a really good sense of like what's working and what's not. And we all share with each other too. So if something's really off then we'll call it out and make sure that we keep things on brand.
Charli:- Yeah, so it's like a shared responsibility, right? To define what this is and move it forward.
Justin:Right, everybody's a cop here. All the designers are cops. They're the brand police.
Charli:- The brand police. Let's move on to talking about the website. I know we touched on it briefly at the beginning already with talking about Webflow and how you are using that, but I'm keen to dig in on the homepage redesign project in general. Or actually maybe I shouldn't call it a redesign 'cause I believe it was more of like a re-skin, right? That you did.
Justin:- Right, exactly. It was putting the hot fresh coat of paint on, like you said.
Charli:- But with like goals in mind, like, what were your goals in working on this project?
Justin:- Yeah, so taking the new elements we made in collaboration with agencies and contractors, et cetera, and just exploring how we can make the homepage more vibrant. We also did a big push on the navigation, was feeling outdated. There was a lot of pages we weren't being used and so we used data to figure out like what were some of the key pages that we wanted to highlight in the navigation, how could we bring it into... I guess 2020, 2021 is when we did this. And one of the biggest key factors was we were gonna be looking for more funding and like some of the stuff was just feeling a little bit old and we wanted to like make a big splash, and so this was a great opportunity to kind of be be like, okay, let's just, like, rethink what this look like. Yeah, like we have Lottie embedded in the Webflow, which is awesome. You can do things on scroll that's, you know, there's a lot of things moving. We have those patterns. There's our types , how can we, you know, have big moments with type, color. How can we showcase our illustrations and use gradients? And so it was just like a fun free for all. We updated it in like a month. It was crazy.
Justin:- Yeah, it was a shit show, but it worked out.
Charli:- Okay, you mentioned data and my ears poked up because listeners of the show know that I'm obsessed with talking about designers looking at data. I think it's something that we need to encourage more of and that we can find a lot of power in it. Tell me more about what data you had access to, or like what you were looking at to make that decision about the navigation.
Justin:- I mean a lot of, it was a really light lift with data. So it was like using Hot Jar, these people don't know if you're Hot Jaring, you can kind of see where folks are clicking or navigating or stopping and looking at things. And then just good old Google Analytics, seeing what page's visited more, stuff like that, using SEO. We've got Tone on our SEO team. He's really great about getting that stuff all set up, and we didn't have a really great foundation for that. So just taking some of those numbers and making some educated guesses. You know, I would've loved to do some more testing, some user testing. We didn't get to do it around this time, but.
Charli:- Not when you were doing the project in a month.
Justin:- No, no, not really. It's really just like sharing with, you know, Kevin, our head of marketing, and Jack, our co-founder, and Tony our CEO and just getting kind of like a pulse check there. But it was me, Jason, Kate and Sadiksha just kind of like, and and Richie who's a animator, just kind of doing a free for all and moving quickly, and kind of using those insights from data to make our decisions for each section. But we tried to keep it pretty similar to what we had but just like really to turn that brand volume up 'cause it was feeling same, you know, our homepage didn't have much differentiation from our product page or, like, our about page or whatever. So the homepage is a place to like be loud and really showcase your brand. And so that's what we tried to do.
Charli:- And what's really interesting, I believe, correct me if I I'm wrong, the content of the page actually stayed pretty much the same, right? Between the two versions. And so we're really seeing here what a difference the, like, design attention. I'm not gonna call it a coat of paint 'cause I believe it was more than that, but that design attention gave to the content, like, it breathed new life into it.
Justin:- Yeah, sometimes, I mean, if you have folks that aren't as like insightful with type or color, you can play it safe, but this typeface fright guys is beautiful and there's a lot of different sun weights. And so just pushing on that and like I said, turning the brand line up with type and making things feel more exciting and engaging because we're kind of in a saturated industry here and we are only two years old and so how can we really differentiate from the deals or remotes of the world who have, you know, nice branding themselves. There's like 3D and there's like big photography, but I didn't see them doing kind of what we're doing and so it was a good place to kind of-
Charli:- The type of textures.
Justin:- Yeah, to push away from from that stuff. So it's a constant, like, engaging where we're at and trying to differentiate.
Charli:- Yeah, and I think that it's just really interesting to me to see these two different versions and with the content being similar but the design making it look so different. Question, going back to talking about the data, I'm curious to know if there was any surprises that you found in that? Like was there any page that people were clicking on that you were like, interesting, I didn't realize people would be so interested in that part of the site? Or the opposite. Was there a part where you were like, this is like a super valuable content, why is no one looking at this?
Justin:- I mean, there's probably stuff that I shouldn't say.
Charli:- Fair enough.
Justin:- But like that, you know, sign in, but that's like the biggest, you know, that's what people are doing. But like there was so many pages when I showed up like 40, 50, I'm like, "What? We have a lot of stuff." So like a lot of them just weren't being visited much at all. And so it's a constant like housekeeping, I'll call it, with your website, like, you should be experimenting and moving things around and not just letting things feel stale because that's gonna add to, you know, Webflow, you'll hit a certain point and things start to slow down, like, unless you go to Enterprise, you start applying new pages with more space. But if you have Lotties on 30 pages, you know, like it's gonna slow your page speed down everywhere. And so like trying to think about how to deprecate some pages if no one's visiting or at least you're moving them from the Navs, Twitter and archiving those things. It's like cleaning your house. Like, you know, we don't want your clothes to be lying around all over the place. You wanna make sure, like, things are moving along nicely. Data, yeah, the use of data has helped us out a lot and we're always trying to be better. We all should be better at it.
Charli:- Agreed, Agreed. So you worked on this project in just a month. What did the process look like? How did you get it done so fast? What were some of the, like, time saving things that you did to make that happen?
Justin:- Well, I'm lucky everyone's super talented.
Charli:- That helps.
Justin:- And I got to jump in as well and it was just like, you know, we worked in quick sprints and so.
Charli:- So were you were sort of like all walking on a section or like a version of the page with ideas and then meeting to discuss and talk about what you wanted to move forward with?
Justin:- Yeah, exactly. You know, the process, it's like, go ahead, let's have a kickoff and then people go heads down for a little bit, let's have a quick check in what's working, what's not. If we find something that's feeling good then show it to our stakeholders. We could, you know, throw it over with a loom, walk through Figma or we could have a meeting, but we're trying to be more asynchronous here. It's like one big thing we're just constantly trying to do. So looms are really helpful. And then giving folks, like, if we give them a loom, be like you have a day to get feedback. We're also, we're not gonna be able to to hit this. It's like making sure those bumpers are in there to protect our time and get things over the loom, yeah.
Charli:- Do you feel like you reached this design solution faster because you had a few designers working on ideas for it, and then coming together versus just one owning it and like doing it themselves with you giving out direction feedback, I guess?
Justin:- Yeah, for sure. I think it was a good, they had just started around the same time too, so it was a really good chance to see how they could interpret things and kind of see their skills. And so you'd quickly start to see like, okay, Kate's really good at thinking about interactions in big type and having things move and the use of textures and photography. And Jason's really good at art directing and thinking about the product UI or thinking about, especially with Lottie, you know, like, how are those product animations gonna move and feel real. So from each section you can be like, okay, Kate, let's work on this, Jason, let's work on this. And then there was collaboration between them and me and Sadishka, the developer to be like, "Whoa, that's too fucking crazy. Let's tone it back."
Charli:- Yeah, we can't beat the timeline with that, yeah.
Justin:- Right. Having a developer involved early is super helpful 'cause they can just be like, yeah, that's cool but, you know, Webflow already has this big thing so let's use this preset they have already for this. Like you don't need to think outside the box. And so we were able to move much faster that way. And then working with Richie, our animator, to get those Lotties made at the same time as we were kind of creating that new look and feel was super helpful too. So it was kind of a miracle we got it done in the month but, you know, with Webflow with going through quick sprints and all working together really quickly, you can do it. It's when companies blow to be huge at over like a thousand people and there's so many stakeholders, it's when it takes a long time. But if we were still around like maybe 200 people then and so it's really easy to move fast and not have to hear many people come in and be like, "Well."
Charli:- "What about this?" at the last minute?
Justin:- Yeah, Brett feeling really aggressive for me, you know, like.
Charli:- My mom said that she doesn't like this part, yeah.
Justin:- Right. Exactly. It was great. It was kind of like a perfect, perfect time for that to happen.
Charli:- I'm guessing there was a lot of focus on this in that month as well where you weren't really taking on other projects that were like going to agencies that we mentioned before.
Justin:- Right, we were just like Super Side here, BB here.
Charli:- Yeah 'cause we gotta focus on the homepage.
Justin:- Yeah, when building the team, if you're starting with not that many folks, like that's where the agency just comes in huge. So you can have that focus on the bigger impactful projects that need that brand lens that an agency's not gonna be able to give.
Charli:- What about the process between Figma to Webflow? And like the handoff there? Anything in particular that you all do to make that smooth? Obviously having the developer involved in the early design conversations hugely helps with that and like maybe that's enough, but yeah, anything else to share about ways you make that easier?
Justin:- Yeah, I mean, I used to be a developer myself. I was a front-end developer for a few years. I went to General Assembly in New York when I lived there. I did, like, this front-end crash course and so I was sort of embedded at agencies sometimes to make these style guides after, you know, the PDFs of style guides were really out becoming outdated so folks wanted like a live site and so I was kind of the UX developer person there. So I tried to make sure that the documentation on handoff was like perfect. We're trying to do that more here. Sadiksha, the developer, she'd agree. But, you know, annotations call-outs, prototypes, we're getting really good. Figma's been fantastic with like their prototyping lately. Is getting like crazy good. I just used to use After Effects back in the day, but now like having that in there is great. So all that stuff has been big for Sadishka to kind of like take in and work with.
Charli:- So it all happens within Figma?
Justin:- Yeah, it's mostly in Figma.
Charli:- What about project management tools that you use to keep control of like what's happening in this sprint, for example?
Justin:- Asana. Asana all the way. We were using Notion a little bit too, but we have converted everyone over to Asana, and our brand producers, Michelle and Stephanie, are really great at working with that. But they weren't here at that time. So it was me. I was the Asana person for a while. Which if you're a brand leader, get producers 'cause it's hard to deal with all of that.
Charli:- Yeah, this is what I need to do 'cause I am currently the brand producer as well as creative director. I feel like-
Justin:- Oh my goodness, I feel so terrible for you.
Charli:- Yeah, I feel terrible for me too.
Justin:- It's really hard.
Charli:- It really is. And it's very different from, like, the creative director's skill set, and so, you know, doing both those things in one day is a lot.
Justin:- Oh yeah, it's brutal. So, you know, like, but you work Scrappy and you use it as you can and like you're like attaching dates and tagging people and so Asana's great for that. You know, we'd have briefs attached to a project and then have like a bunch of tasks and sub subtasks and and dates and so, yeah, it was really helpful for us to kind of stay organized. But, you know, I almost lost my mind like 50 times.
Charli:- Well, now I wanna ask you more about brand producers 'cause I think this is something that people listen to this show who perhaps haven't worked in a larger tech company where this is a role that's on the team. What role do they play? And like how do you as the director of brand work with them?
Justin:- I mean, they play a monster role in everything.
Charli:- They keep things moving.
Justin:- They keep things moving. So we have a form if people need stuff. Obviously we have our bigger like Q4 projects that we're gonna have in Asana, but like one off things like decks or swag or a new landing page that might not fit into a Q4 goal. There's a long Asana form we have that was really light when I started. I think I set up like maybe four questions or something. Now it's like, you know, there's 10, 12 with different dropdowns that they've set up. You know, we're trying to, like, build up our design ops team here. And so them being here to kind of like create that system that scales across the company has been super helpful. We check in all the time, usually every day. And then we have like a dedicated meeting, resourcing meeting, Tuesdays where we go over upcoming projects or some of the stuff that came in from Asana from that form. They're also just really fucking great at like knowing design, you know, and wanting to build the culture here and thinking about different things to do for the team. Like we have Focus Fridays at the company, but on our team we put together like Spotify playlists and we all show up on Zoom. And we don't have our video on, we just have music going on and there's a theme every week. There's just like a lot of different fun things that we're coming up with together that they really love thinking about for a culture on our team. And they've been doing so well that the rest of the teams at Oyster are like clamoring for their help. So they've created like an Asana taskforce team where they're educating other people in the company in how to use Asana, and so that's a language we all, like, are working from the same cloth, like, no one's using it differently. And so that stuff is like really valuable, and they're like a key, key piece to everything we do here.
Charli:- So you are the one who is ultimately saying yes or no to projects. Are you alongside the other leaders with the seat at the table you have? But am I right in thinking or saying that the brand producers are the ones giving you that information about what resources you have and like suggesting to you what you say yes or no to based on the capacity that's available on the team?
Justin:- Yeah, totally. And they're, you know, they're constantly in communication with the person who made the request or another stakeholder that might have something going on or just bits and pieces. You know, there's conversations in Slack happening all the time. So just being that like filter between us and the rest of the chaos and making sure that like we have all the contacts we need.
Charli:- But none of the noise that you don't need?
Justin:- Right, yeah, the noise could easily get in. So just trying to protect our team so we can really just focus on designing and thinking about the brand instead of like Johnny Jenkins needing some shorts with a Oyster logo on the butt. You know, like we don't need to know about that all the time, as cool as that might be, but you know?
Charli:- Doesn't need to interrupt your flow on the homepage, for example.
Justin:- Right, yeah, exactly.
Charli:- Going back to the homepage, just to tie a bow on this project we're talking about, I'm curious to know what the impact's been since it launched, this new version of the page that has the brand, you know, turned way up, has it changed brand perception? Have you noticed a shift in that? Or has there been like a shift in the way people have been using the page since it launched?
Justin:- Yeah, I mean, it kind of like made a splash for us as a company. Our brand perception has is really high now. We have a lot of brand awareness. We had a brand awareness campaign at the same time of this new refresh. Had a bunch of billboards in Silicon Valley that performed well. We were looking for our Series C funding right before the economic downturn happened, which we weren't really sure that was even gonna be happening. So we got 150 million Series C, which sort of like was because of this pay, you know, there's a lot going on, but we wanted to make sure like, hey, we're here. You can rely on us for like a great design and great brand and we're thinking about, you know, our users and everybody who uses Oyster to get employed, and you can trust us. So that was a big, big project that had, it's kind of been carrying us through this year. And then just like making sure that we're using that homepage for the outta home campaign or for events and stuff. And like, it's just kind of carried through the year. So just thinking about brand a little bit like that, like big splashes and then the small like mini splashes that come from it, it just keep the brand pushing forward, it's been great. So we've gotten a lot of great feedback from folks all over the place. You know, I have to pinch myself that this is happening and it's going well, and I'm so grateful for everyone here. It's awesome.
Charli:- That sounds like best possible month spent on work. Like, you spent a month doing this homepage and it's like led to serious impacts with the company. Like, what a great use of time, right?
Justin:- Right. It could have been awful though. People could have been been like, "What the fuck is this?"
Charli:- Yeah, you're right. But like part of the beauty in it is the risks you took, right?
Justin:- Right. Exactly. Add gradients to everything, that's my advice.
Charli:- That's the solution. Yeah.
Charli:- Gradients and textures, done. Okay. Noted. All right, I always like to end by asking some questions about the future essentially, 'cause we've spent a lot of time talking about projects you worked on in the past. What are some of the main challenges you're facing as a team or you as director of brand that you'll be like looking to solve next?
Justin:- You know, as Oyster gets bigger, there's a lot more people who have a lot of say into how things might look. Like, there's more stakeholders and so like balancing that feedback and setting up those feedback loops correctly. You know, we were a little bit more off the cuff when we first started and now like it's just the nature of the industry and as you get bigger you have to set these feedback loops up and be kind of like strategic around sharing and who you're getting feedback from. So that's one thing. We were kind of doing B2B when I first started and now we're moving more like B2C and kind of being this hybrid because, you know, as we're targeting folks that are building a business that need people not only in, you know, I'm in California, but if I was looking for a great developer, and I was like, you know, somewhere in India or like somewhere in Canada or whatever, like we're really targeting those folks who have the budget, that need a team. But what about the people that are being hired? You know, like those folks need somewhere to go to look for jobs. Is there a job board? Or like how do we start targeting them to feel excited about using Oyster as well? And so that's something we're navigating into more and trying to like get a feel of, like, what's our consumer brand look like? Is there a difference between like enterprise for business and consumers, and what's... Is it color? You know, how are things showing up between the two? So, and then how are we going mid-market, upmarket? So there's a lot of like newer avenues we're starting to drive into that I'm trying to get ahead of with some of the work we're doing now with our logo, or color or the way we use photography. And so just always like looking at what's coming and preparing the team to start thinking about how we might do that by just being transparent with them and not like keeping this information, 'cause sometimes that stuff happens in the attic with the CEO and other leaders. So just like making sure that they know that this is something that's upcoming. So as designers we're always like looking at inspiration and thinking about how to push our skills or sell things, and so I feel like dropping in nuggets of this touch early will help like grow that idea and they won't be like, I have no idea how to do this. And we have a month now to change things so like-
Charli:- Right, we know you can do great things in a month though.
Charli:- Yeah, you're like future proofing the brand, right? Making decisions now that apply to like the current strategy but ensuring it has space to grow in the future. What about you as direct or brand in your skill set? Like, what are some areas of growth for you or like skills you're working on building or getting better at?
Justin:- I mean, it's been a wild ride for me. I've done a lot of different things. So being a director now is, it's a whole new way of looking at design, it's a whole new way of thinking, and so trying to be and grow more into, like, a business mindset, which isn't always the case when you're designing as an IC or an art director or developer or whatever. So like that's, what manager books should I read, you know, like stuff like that. Like, back in my day I vomit on myself, but now I'm like trying to think about the team more and upleveling folks and focusing on where I see folks really be really strong and then challenging folks to do think differently. So it's just like a whole different world for me that I've been doing the past year or so. And so just trying to always be better at that. Is there newer techniques? Is there something new? Is there a new tool that could be helpful with the team? Is there a new style or... I'm always trying to learn 3D, which I kind of dropped off in the past year, but just thinking about design in those ways, not just the the pixel pushing but the system thinking and growth of the other designers, 'cause I'm noticing that like, it feels really good to help folks more than sitting and like looking at a animation that I'm trying to build for the next day and I'm super stressed about. So it's cool to see someone, like, make that leap. And so there's a lot of, yeah, good feelings about that happening and I'm just trying to like grow in that way and be more of a mentor and support rather than, like, get in the weeds all the time. It's hard, you know, I like, as someone who's been designing for a long time, I'd rather be like, you know, that's not working and let me just do it. But I've had a lot of managers do that to me, and it fucking sucks. And so like how do you guide someone through to get to a thing that you think might work? And even if it doesn't get there, how are you just okay with it? You know, how can you just like let go, which is super hard in life and in general, like letting go of perfection.
Charli:- Yep, and knowing when to trust your gut in that, no, this is really just not right. Or when it's like, no, this is just a different idea and it's not the way I would've done it, but it fits our brand, it solves the need. Let's go with it in embracing those different ideas, yeah.
Justin:- Yeah, is anyone gonna die over a social post that goes out that someone will see for fucking two seconds? No.
Charli:- I bloody hope not.
Justin:- Not at all. Maybe I've had creative directors call me out and be like, "What's this Twitter post that went?" You know, like, "whoa."
Charli:- This is not a big deal, yeah. I like that. It sounds like you're being super conscientious of like the type of manager that you are and that you're continuing to become.
Justin:- Yeah, it's just all about being empathetic in listening and trying not to control things so much. And that starts at the top, like Kevin leads that way, and so if he didn't, I might be in a different situation, but he's kind of the leader of the marketing team and he's really great at listening and guiding in a way that doesn't feel like he's pulling you along. And so that's something that's really like, resonated with me and it helps with our team too.
Charli:- Well, I wanna end by asking you about the project or impact from your time at Oyster so far that you are the most proud of. Let's end on like a super good note.
Justin:- I guess I'd say from a collaborative standpoint, I'd say we just, we had our big first event called Ascent. It was a conference we had last year that was done just by like two people. And this year was a collaborative effort across marketing. And so we really started with like a brainstorm of like what it means to ascend. We had the whole team even, you know, as developer and animator come in and like throw in ideas around what does that mean? Is it like going up a ladder? What's metaphor for, you know, if you're listening to music, do you feel like ascending out of your body? You know, what does that feel like? What does that look like if you start trying to put it to paper or Figma or whatever.
Justin:- Yeah, Figjam. Yeah, like, so working like with the studio team in that way was something new that, like, everyone felt really excited about and then starting to like, you know, as the projects come in people kind of fall off and then the folks that are really embedded go and just working with a couple folks on our team and watching Ryan, the most junior designer here, kind of led the whole thing.
Justin:- And we tried to support him in the best way and make sure that like, he could get to the spot he wanted to be. But he was like doing animations, he was doing a lot of different things. And it was really cool to see him only own something like that, like that can be in his portfolio. And he learned a lot. I was really proud of him and the team to come together and kind of rally around this, our first like bigger official event, and then work with all other parts of marketing. We just hired an events person who like owns all events and like knows Hop In, which is like a streaming site for events. And so it was really cool to see it all come together and like we made this spoke swag and we had guest speakers and it was just really, really fun and super impactful. We're still talking about it and hearing about it in different channels, so that was awesome.
Charli:- I love that. What a great example as well. Tying back to what we were just talking about, about growth for you, 'cause you know, being a manager, giving your team those experiences and chances to grow is a huge part of it. And so I love that you're able to do that for Ryan.
Justin:- Yeah, hopefully he's, I mean, he needed a couple weeks off after that, but he did a great job.
Charli:- I love it. Well, thank you so much for everything you've shared about marketing designer at Oyster. I feel like it was super interesting for me to get these insights into the way a company is like growing really fast and like scaling the team quickly, but still being really thoughtful about all of these pieces to do with brand. So yeah, thanks for everything you shared.
Justin:- Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me. This is fucking fantastic.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this episode, folks. Myself and the brand studio team at ConvertKit are currently working on evolving our brand. So it was especially interesting to me to learn from Justin about the way that he and his team went about doing that, How they determined what needed to evolve as well as how they evolved it. I hope you enjoyed learning about that too, and all of the other great insights that he shared. I am always keen to hear what stood out to you in an episode, so please feel free to tag me on Twitter or Instagram with your insights. I am at Charli Prangley on both. And you'll find links to follow Justin as well as check out our season sponsor Webflow in the show notes. I do highly recommend you have a play around a Webflow and see for yourself why Justin and I were raving about it so much in this episode. Thank you for joining me. I will see you next week for another episode. And remember at any time you wish, you can check out our back catalog at InsideMarketingDesign.com. All right, see you next week.
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Sendible's Brand Marketing Manager, David Preston, tells us about the many hats he wears and the challenges he faces as the teams sole marketing designer.