S3 • E9 – Nov 16, 2022

Inside Marketing Design at Planoly

with Design Manager Carra Sykes

with Design Managers Carra Sykes and

with Design Manager Carra Sykes and

In this episode, Charli talks with Carra Sykes, Design Manager at PLANOLY. Carra talks about the evolution of social media, and how the shift toward video has impacted her team and the need for marketing designers with a broader skillset. She also talks about marketing design challenges, and how she balances her desire for high quality and the need to iterate quickly. PLANOLY is a social media content management and scheduling tool designed to simplify the social marketing process.

Timestamps

  • 02:05 - How does the Marketing Design Team fit into PLANOLY’s overall structure?
  • 02:52 - Carra’s day-to-day responsibilities as a Design Manager
  • 04:27 - What the Marketing Design Team is responsible for
  • 07:08 - How Carra describes the PLANOLY brand
  • 08:59 - How PLANOLY maintains brand consistency
  • 12:02 - How social media design has evolved
  • 15:41 - Carra’s process for creating video ads
  • 17:31 - Designing for video vs still graphics
  • 24:24 - Marketing a product or feature that doesn’t exist yet
  • 27:03 - How marketing and product collaborate at PLANOLY
  • 29:01 - Carra’s approach to product imagery in design
  • 35:24 - How Carra works through ideas that didn’t work
  • 37:00 - Who owns and manages the marketing site at PLANOLY
  • 41:18 - Working with contractors and agencies
  • 50:02 - The biggest challenges Carra is currently facing
  • 53:03 - Carra’s proudest moment

Transcript

Welcome to another episode of Inside Marketing Design. I'm Charlie, I'm a creative director in tech and I've spent pretty much my whole career so far working on brand and marketing design. So it is safe to say that I am just a ton obsessed with it. In each episode of this show, we speak to a designer at a different tech company to hear about their projects and the processes that they use to do great work. 

And today I am speaking with Carra Sykes, who is a design manager at Planoly. Planoly is a social media content management and scheduling tool. And compared to other companies that are featured in this season so far, they're definitely on the smaller side of being a team around 50 people at the moment. Carra and I had a great chat about how changes in social media trends with everything being photo based and now being video based has led to changes not only in the Planoly tool but also in the kind of marketing assets that Carra and her team need to create. And we also talk about the Planoly marketing site and Carra's approach to creating product imagery, it is a good one. 

But before we get into that conversation, I wanna say a big thanks to Web Flow for sponsoring this season of Inside Marketing Design. I use Web Flow for my personal website as well as the podcast site, not only because it lets me bring my designs to life and code without having to actually write the code myself, but because of how easy it is to keep them up to date and add new content through the Web Flow CMS, you can create multiple collections of content in a Web Flow site and set them up with whatever fields you like. And then you can use the data in those CMS fields for whatever you like within the design too. For each episode of this show, for example, I have a space to add the logo, the designer's name and title, the audio embed, the video, all the different pieces that go into featuring an episode on the side within the exact design that I wanted for the pages. Once you get into it yourself, you'll definitely see just how powerful a customizable CMS like this can be. So check it out at insidemarketingdesign.com/webflow. 

But now let's dive in and take a look inside marketing design at Planoly. Well welcome to the show Carra. I'm really excited to have you here 'cause I know that you and your team are doing some great work making some great changes at the moment at Planoly so it'll be exciting to dig into them. Let's start with you telling me about the marketing design team at Planoly. What roles are on it and where does it fit into the overall structure?

Carra:- Yes, so we are stationed under marketing and then I am the design manager. So I manage a team of two full-time designers and one contract designer and we have, one of my designers is labeled senior designer. But we kind of function as a normal whole rather than kind of super title based.

Charli:- Yeah, yeah like there's not a whole lot of layers, especially when the company's as small as Planoly is, right. So you lead the team, what does that mean in terms of your day-to-day responsibilities as a design manager?

Carra:- So when I first started I actually was doing a lot more designing and less kind of planning on my end. So now I'm more on, I'm in meetings, strategizing with the rest of the marketing team and bringing that back to my team. We have some days that are meeting heavy and then other days that are kind of heads down, I used to assign the projects to the team members but I actually gave that to my senior designer so now she assigns out all the projects and makes sure that everyone kind of has an equal load that they're sharing and then that was able to free up my time for more ideation and planning with other members on the marketing team, which I really, really love and love to get involved with that type of planning. That's kind of taking a step back and seeing it as the big picture instead of being in the weeds of every little aesthetic detail.

Charli:- Yep, yep. Sometimes it can be hard to let go of though every little aesthetic detail.

Carra:- It is very hard but I think being at Planoly, it's been awesome for me to kind of let go of that piece of me. I am very much attention to detail and I've had to kind of take a step back which is I think good for everyone.

Charli:- Well I love that you've then given the sort of like design ops stuff essentially to the senior designer on your team too 'cause that's like extra leadership opportunity for them as well as freeing up your time, which is cool. How would you describe what the team is responsible for like the marketing design team?

Carra:- Okay, so the way I see it and I've been kind of visualizing it myself more recently is it's almost as if everything eventually funnels through us that's gonna be outward facing. Everything that involves creative imagery that the outside world's gonna see or even internally has to go through us at some point. Unless we've created templates for some of, we have created some templates for the social team to use.

Charli:- But still that came through you because you made the template in the first place.

Carra:- Yeah, so it's interesting, I see this like funnel kind of happening and which is, I told my team one time I was like everything, I mean we touch everything that goes out, which is a pretty big deal I feel like and that they should be proud of that.

Charli:- Absolutely. It's also 'cause I feel the same way about my team and that we try and touch all the front facing things that go out but that it also comes with a lot of pressure, to make sure that you are doing the work efficiently, that you can actually get done the things that need to get done and create the templates when needed and all that.

Carra:- There is. Yeah, there is that bit of pressure. Something I've been telling them recently and it's something I had to tell myself, especially when I do freelance illustration stuff, it's reminding myself that this isn't, doesn't have to be the most incredible thing that's ever been designed ever. We still have our standards and it's still gonna be what we believe how it should be, but to not put that pressure on ourselves that this will be the best ad we've ever created or the best thing because honestly that blocks the creativity and you kind of get scared and then you're like I don't wanna touch any of this because what if it doesn't live up to what it needs to live up to. So try to occasionally tell them that because I need that reminder myself in order to continue to be able to work without feeling so cramped.

Charli:- Yeah because like if you thought about every single thing you were doing as having to be the best thing ever, you might end up spending hours on something that's like just a little graphic for social media that maybe a few thousand people will see and then it'll like move on through their feeds and we've gotta like be real responsible with our time in that, right?

Carra:- A thousand percent, yes. And I think that's the interesting thing too about some of the digital stuff we do is that stuff is seen and gone and that relieves some pressure too.

Charli:- We're definitely gonna get into talking more about video in particular being seen and gone and social and all of that later in the episode. But first I'm curious just to stay high level, how would you describe the Planoly brand? And also follow up question, are you and your team the ones responsible for evolving that brand?

Carra:- What I love about our brand is we sometimes feel like the older, not the older sibling, but someone who has experience and is working really hard but also still is cool but not trying too hard to be cool. So we try to keep kind of a classic look but still stay on trend without making ourselves kind of mold to all of the trends that are happening. I think of it is the way that fashion can be timeless but it can also be very on trend in the moment. I think we are more leaning towards kind of the timeless look but people kind of go towards that through all the trends. So that's how I see that. And then for our team with the brand and evolving it, we get to be a big part of that which is really cool. Right now I'm actually working on some pieces that are gonna be refreshing our brand, not a full brand refresh but we're building upon it as we go. Just like our product we're ever evolving, we can't really stay still, but we can always feel like it comes from us and I think we are really good at staying true to ourselves even through all of the changes and the trends and we actually just hired someone to be a brand manager. I'd say that the marketing team is a really big part as a whole in involving our brand. We just get to really push that on the creative and visual side.

Charli:- Yeah because I mean there's obviously much more to a brand than just the visuals, so that makes a lot of sense. What about maintaining consistency with the brand across all the things that are going out with the the templates that people are making of their own assets perhaps maybe within the product itself. What do you have in place to help everyone at Planoly stay consistent with the visual brand?

Carra:- As I was saying earlier, with everything kind of going through us, we're able to, and the team really knows the brand well too outside of just our marketing design team. We kind of have that filter and we are very open on in our marketing team to speak up as something seems a little off brand even I tell the team, please call us out too if we're ever getting complacent and like.

Charli:- Ooh, has that ever happened?

Carra:- There was one time it was and it was one of those super awkward moments. I'm like ah dang it. I did overlook that but it was one of those things where I'm very happy that someone said something because I need to know those things and being in the position I am in, I know that could happen and I'm like, I will take it. Let's take it in and let's learn from it and note that moving forward, it's really nice to have people also really proud of the brand and looking out for us in that way outside of our team as well. I mean right now we're in this weird space where TikTok style is so different than a reels and the way that you're portraying yourself. Even people I follow, I'll go to their TikTok and it's more comedy based or something a little more, not shocking but a little more edgy and then reels is a little more contained and sometimes it leans on the edgy because they want to make it well like it does on TikTok. So brand wise it's been really interesting because we are kind of that bigger sister personality like mentor, we wanna help you plan your social media. It's been really interesting and I've been proud of the social team and watching them grow and how they've expressed our brand through TikTok and things like that. So that type of consistency I think has been a little challenging to find our place. But visually, we don't really have to touch anything on TikTok right now because there's no covers or anything like that. One of my designers though, she's part of the, what we call the video team, so they've been producing TikToks and reels and things like that and she's been doing an amazing job. So it's cool to see her do something other than just design things are changing on social and the way that we visually do stuff. I think our team's been doing way less social kind of sphere design and more on the ad space and email imagery, blog imagery and and leaving more of the social stuff to be a little more scrappy for the social team. You'll still see some posts from us, but a lot of it's from the social team.

Charli:- Isn't it interesting 'cause I feel like even a few years ago when we would make a video from a brand to go on social media, it would be highly produced like us as designers, we would get very involved in if not in making the motion graphic ourselves in making like the story ward that emotion graphics designer would animate or art directing that. Whereas now it does feel like no everything needs to feel as organic and as unbranded as possible in order to do well, which is really interesting. I'm, yeah, I'm keen to hear more from your experience in Planoly, you're obviously really close to this. How has this impacted your work as a marketing designer aside from cutting down on that stream of social design work?

Carra:- It is interesting because we were at the beginning when video was kind of becoming a thing in social, we were definitely doing more highly produced stuff and that was time consuming. What's incredible about my team is everyone knows a little bit of motion graphics never really classically trained in it. We just all are kind of, I feel like everyone on my team is really eager to learn things that interest them. One of my designers had never done it before and now she's doing stuff in After Effects and you get to really see this want to learn these things. But right now we're only really using those for other avenues because right now it's really scrappy. I think what I love about our scrappy content, that was hard for me at first because being someone who likes to produce things and makes things feel very tight and well done in the sense of graphics and art kind of side and design, I had to let go of that and now I really appreciate the scrappiness of our social team and what they're doing and what's cool is it kind of relates to our customers in that sense too because if we show them all this highly produced stuff, they're gonna think, oh I have to make highly produced things content and how am I gonna do that? And they still, that might scare them away from our product, but if they can see that our team is being scrappy and building these videos, you know on the fly, there's a lot of planning that goes into it too, but they can see that, oh I can do that too. And essentially we're helping them feel confident to do that as well.

Charli:- Yeah, it's almost like what I'm hearing in that is that at Planoly you are trying to show that you are part of the social media management world. Like you are there alongside your users. This is what we do at ConvertKit as well. We're really trying to come across as a creator as a tool that is built by creators for other creators and yeah, that's a really good point that you need to use the same visual language that your audience is using and guess what? They're not producing highly produced stuff. It's filmed on a phone, it's someone talking to the camera. That's been really interesting and it's cool to hear that a designer on your team is getting involved with that too, which is not technically design work but it is still making things that represent the brand so it is related, it's interesting. Our jobs are evolving.

Carra:- I know I feel as though graphic designers are always, these people have had so many interests. I think you go into it people are oh you make logos or you design websites or t-shirts for the local softball team. But I think most people are going into graphic design and maybe this is just an assumption but we just want to keep doing things and so the cool thing is we have all these avenues, we're not just kind of typecasted as some people might see us or what a family might think we do but we get to do so many things and so being a video creator is another thing that we get to do. Even though I would've never done that in school. I did take a music video class in school but.

Charli:- Yeah, I remember being in a few like filmed for a few class member's video projects in our motion graphics class. Everyone had to basically star in each others for the the footage part of it.

Carra:- I love that.

Charli:- Yeah didn't expect it to lead to what I do today, that's for sure. Let's talk a little more about the video ads though that you produce because, so these are slightly more, there's more design work quote unquote involves in it. What does your process look like for working on video ads for Planoly 'cause I'm gonna guess that you as a company like we have at ConvertKit have discovered that video ads generally perform better than static ones these days.

Carra:- Yes and there's a wide range of what that even means, which at first when I first started making them I thought oh my gosh, it's gonna be this whole thing I make After Effects, I've gotta bring in music and all of this stuff, which there is one side of that but recently my last ad that I made, I did in Photoshop and just did it using frame by frame simple animation because we were kind of short on time and had to get smart with how I was creating it and being someone, like I said, the perfectionist part of me, which has been amazing Planoly's kind of helped me break that up and some people might think, oh well what do you mean? But it's allowed me to kind of let go in ways that actually let me grow as a designer and as a person too letting go of certain perfectionist things. So working on these ads and trying to decide, okay, do I have enough time to build something like this out After Effects and add the bells and whistles and make it do all this beautiful transitioning or do I need to get down to it and build it in Photoshop.

Charli:- And just make it happen?

Carra:- Yeah, yeah. And every ad that we produce has a still counterpart. So because with the whole testing, testing out ads, a lot of times our video ads have done better but occasionally our still graphics have done as well. A lot of times we're producing a still ad version and square and then we have it in the nine by 16 and then we have to produce a counterpart that's in video form. So having to think how can I relay this message in one image and not make it so busy but also produce it in video form is a really interesting split of your brain I think.

Charli:- Yeah. How do you do that?

Carra:- It can be tough sometimes honestly I will have this idea and I can think of it in motion and really tell the story in that way. And then having to backtrack from that and make it a still image sometimes is harder because you have these moving parts that can tell the story and not feel so crowded but then when you make it still it feels a lot more crowded. And each time, honestly I've taken a different process depending on what the concept is or what we're trying to get across. Sometimes I'll do the video version first and then I'll go back to still or I'll design the still and then make a video, which in the instance of the one I was just talking about that I built in Photoshop, it was easy to do because literally I just like made arrows kind of appear on everything. And so it was based on the still image that I created. But yeah, our process for ads are a little different than everything else that comes through because the need for them kind of appears. We decide that we need to share a certain feature. So our digital marketing manager, he will bring it up and then we'll work with product marketing and we're trying to decide are we sharing what we need to share for this. And then actually a lot of times I'll take what they're saying and then creatively concept it and kind of ideate on that on my own and then come back and pitch some ideas and then they'll build off of those ideas. And so in a way it's kind of this interesting building upon each other's ideas and then we get to a point where I feel confident that I can somehow produce some images that will get across what we're trying to say. And sometimes I think, oh man, we got here, we did it. Sometimes you're like, how are we gonna do this? Because it's not always obvious on how you can translate what you're trying to say into visuals. And so a lot of times too, I'll build it out and if I'm doing the video I'll suggest some copy. We don't have a copywriter on our team. All of us kind of act as that. So we do lean on social and our blog team to give us some witty copy. But I've actually really enjoyed being a part of that too. And my design team too has been super excited because we'll think of things and we'll think, hey what do y'all think about this? And then so I will say, okay, let's replace this with this and it really becomes super collaborative, which I don't know if that exists in a lot of companies because teams can be so split. But I feel as though our marketing team works in a really collaborative way. You'll hear me talking about the design team but also so many of the other marketing members putting in their say and helping us build the best we can. And so those ads, usually I finish either the still or motion one send it and then our team sends it to an agency that I guess I'm kind of like slightly removed from that, but they will kind of review it and make sure it looks good. There's not too much type or because usually what I do is I'll do one, so I was telling you I was doing the video or the still and then they'll send it off and I won't do any, I won't make any moves on the next step until I get the approval because as we all know, video and moving forward on things, if things change, there's a lot of edits, it really can kind of make the product process a little muddy at least on my end. That's how I work.

Charli:- It's really interesting to hear you talk about the ones where you're like you hear the brace and then you're not sure instantly how you're gonna express that visually. Those are always a really like fun challenge to work through. Does one come to mind where you work through this recently that you could share like what the message was and then how you did end up communicating it and we could show it on screen for those who are watching the video version?

Carra:- Yeah, one actually it ended up getting pulled down from Facebook I think because we had their logo in it, but yeah.

Charli:- Facebook is so picky.

Carra:- That happens, it's the reality of those types of things and the sad thing is I really liked it but so our product video planner kind of, it hadn't come out yet, but we were having to essentially tell people about it and share this product but it didn't exist yet but we had the--

Charli:- Right, it was like a teaser like it coming soon.

Carra:- Yeah. Which from our end we didn't really know what it was gonna look like. We had the idea of it. So this was probably one of my favorites because the challenge of how do we get the idea across, get people excited enough to click in and sign up to learn more. And so I went to our product, played with our current one, not video planner at the time, but played with our product, looked at the interface, tried to figure out how I could kind of get some ideas from that into presenting what it meant. And so at the time this idea of video planner is to upload a video and then be able to share it on multiple social platforms. And so I built it out and use toggles that we have on our app and built it out. And I loved it because I did sneak my son into it. I had sourced like videos that I had taken random ones and I've been trying to take more random videos because right now with the scrappy content, how do I use videos? I can't really use stock videos because sometimes those look too nice. So I had to go into my own phone, get videos that I had filmed of random things that might even feel as though I was a content creator in what I would use in planning videos. So having to do that too and crowdsource videos from the team that weren't, and then having people in it too. So sometimes you have to make sure that you're able to even have people. So I asked my wife, I was like, can we have our son in it? She goes, yes. And I go yay because everyone liked it.

Charli:- And I was famous.

Carra:- Well at first I was gonna cut it, it was just filler and the team was like, why did you take out the baby? And I, no, I'm sorry, I didn't know y'all wanted it. So I do feel like feel though our ads are on the end of quickly produced and, but they can be beautiful too even though they're made in a short amount of time. I think there is this also world where ads are made over a period of six months and people build a campaign. But a lot of the ads we do are kind of are necessary needs in that moment, within that quarter and what we need to share to our audiences that are potential clients or potential customers subscribers.

Charli:- Yeah that makes sense. I can't wait to see what that video is by the way. On screen during that part.

Carra:- Picking music for ads is very difficult and it always feels cheesy to me. I always feel like I'm slightly cheesy with my music choice but I know not everyone has their audio on when you're on your phone.

Charli:- I don't, I would never hear the music on your end. So yeah. It's really interesting that you were having to visually demonstrate a product that didn't exist yet as well. I don't know, are there any concerns there around over promising or promising the wrong thing of what the feature would do before it had been designed and built by the product team?

Carra:- Yes, that's also the part right now we have a product or in our video planner and you can upload one video and it can go to YouTube shorts, reels, TikTok and Pinterest idea pins. So the ad that I produce had it going to had the toggles going to a few different other social platforms that right now we don't have it within that product yet. So I think that was probably big dreaming on my end as well, seeing our product and believing in it in that way. But with Planoly in general all of those platforms that we showed are ones that we actually can connect to but not specifically for video yet.

Charli:- Yeah, yeah. Well what I like about that and like this example is it's exactly the like small and scrappy way of working, it shows that you weren't like, okay well I cannot do possibly do a single thing until the product has been designed. You are like, you know what, we're gonna make our best guess and if we end up being slightly wrong and having to change it, no big deal, we'll do that later. That's something that we can do at a smaller company that I think perhaps bigger companies have to be a lot more careful of or they don't have the luxury of.

Carra:- Yeah, I feel very lucky in that sense where we get to be kind of, we get to influence there as well and we have team members, our team would use some of the people that would use our product the most. So it's really cool to have that kind of mix of our marketing team, we would feed best candidates to use Planoly. So we think in that mindset and we're able to build how we market based on that as well, which is really interesting. But yeah, I think we have a little more squeeze room, wiggle room to create these dream ideas and we won't get as much backlash. And we told people too, what I really love about this product that we have video planners, the fact that we are trying to grow with people. So when we've been asking for feedback and we want to make the product product the best it can be. So we ask people what do you need? And finding that out from either our team, what our social media manager needs or what I would need as a creator and we're able to talk to the team and see if those things can be added to our product, which is really cool.

Charli:- Nice, it's like easy user research built in.

Carra:- Yeah, yeah.

Charli:- Well while we're speaking about product design, I'm really curious to know how you work as a marketing design team with the product designers. Do you get together as like a wider design or do you do cross critiques? How does that work?

Carra:- So we haven't done as much as I was hoping and still trying to push for it. We try really hard at Planoly to not be in silos and have everything out in the open so people know what everyone's working on. As a designer, as a marketing designer, I have reached out to a couple of the product people and we've met, but I need to be better about it honestly. I would love to have more of a relationship with them. But we have product marketing team and they're kind of what I see as this lovely bridge to bringing us into the product team and they're the ones that really help us continue to understand our product and meet with the product designers and meet with those teams and bring it back over to us. I never realize how little amount of time we have each day until you get into meetings and then try to meet with people and then try to keep on top of all of your work. That's something I really want a little more and more as we also kind of evolve our product because this is what's so exciting is we haven't really done a lot of big releases since I've been on the team. For two years it's been small releases but when we release video planner it was this big thing that we all got to be a part of and kind of get hype on. So yeah, long way of saying it, I wish and want to talk to them more and that could be on me, so.

Charli:- Yeah, I mean thanks for sharing that and for being willing to admit when things aren't completely perfect as well. I think that's really important to be able to do. But I wanna keep talking about the product slightly through product imagery 'cause I know this is something that you've been working on evolving recently and I've kind of been, ever since we first got in touch I've been spying on the Planoly site and seeing updates to imagery being made, which has been cool. Yeah curious to hear what your approach is to product imagery at Planoly.

Carra:- So when I first started, most of our product imagery was direct screenshots, very tiny almost. Sometimes when I see product shots and things compiled together, it doesn't really give me the information I want. I see maybe there's a calendar, okay, there's that, but you feel very far removed from it. Or at least from my opinion I feel that way. So what I wanted to do with what we're doing now and on that video planner page, I really wanna pull people in and I want things to be bigger, not too big because sometimes you go to a site and things are way too big and you're almost like, I need to get outta here. The words are taking up the whole screen, is my computer yelling at me. So I find this nice balance of having the imagery be big enough to feel as though you are being able to visually interact with it.

Charli:- And see the details.

Carra:- Yeah, see the details and things like that. So with screenshots, the quality can really degrade fast depending on how big you want that piece to be. So something I'm actually currently working on right now is building out some visuals of our product in Illustrator, and our team does design in Figma, but I think that might be the control side of me where I wanna create the way it's gonna look on marketing and how we can use these pieces, almost a library to grab from when we're building and really bring the viewer in and have that assist alongside of whatever text we have. So really also making sure that if something's said in the text, maybe it's expressed in the visuals so then they can have that connection. It hasn't always happened in the past but in this way too, I'm a visual learner. If I go to a website, I am looking at the images not only 'cause I'm a designer but because maybe I can learn something from it. So if there's a way that we can create a visual, they'll help someone understand what they're reading, that's how I wanna connect it. So being very intentional about the imagery alongside of the text is super important I think.

Charli:- Yeah, I fully agree. There's a line right where you, from screenshots to completely abstracted UI where you could go too far so that people are like really not getting to see what the product is like maybe the, it's communicating the general action that could happen in the product but they're no longer getting a sense of the product UI. Where do you feel like Planoly product imagery sits on a scale like that? Say if like screenshots is one and the completely abstracted is 10, where do you aim to be at?

Carra:- Oh yeah, that is an interesting piece because if you were, so say you were to screenshot our web platform and then post it on our website, it's gonna be, everything's gonna be so small and you really won't know what it is you're looking at. Okay, I see this is a web page but I don't know what it is. And then you have the whole idea of reimagining it and it doesn't look anything like your product. So yeah, I think finding that balance is interesting. I think sometimes you can teeter totter, I don't know, I think I lean more towards what's gonna help get across what people are gonna get. The hard part is not making it look too fancy so that when people get the product they're like, well why aren't my buttons big? And like why doesn't it look this way? I would hope that people wouldn't feel that way after. 'Cause I think our product's really beautiful. I'd rather lean somewhere in the middle, but to where it visually communicates what we're trying to get across.

Charli:- So maybe at like a six where it's slightly more abstracted than it is screenshot. That makes sense.

Carra:- You, yes.

Charli:- How do you decide what pieces of the product who pull out on this imagery and what pieces you are hide or abstract basically to avoid adding that additional complexity that isn't necessary. I'm gonna bet that it requires a very deep understanding of the product, and what a user is trying to do with, for you to be able to make these decisions.

Carra:- For us, especially our design team, to have context is so important because when we design without context, then we really don't know how it's gonna be taken in because at that point what text is gonna go alongside it? How are we gonna know if we are visually telling that story with the text that's along with it? So what we will be putting on the website for example, if we're doing something for the website and I have the text alongside of the way I can brain map out what the visual be, then I'm able to kind of read the texts, decide what actually matters and what's really important and what pieces we can take out. I don't know what it is, it's your brain when there's some things your brain can put together when pieces are taken out. I don't know what that's called, but it's those visual pieces where you can see a word and then, but it might not be the full word written out, but you're--

Charli:- The first and the last letter of the say of the right but in the middle they're scrambled. But your brain can still read it somehow.

Carra:- Yeah, but I think about too, not just the scrambled, sometimes they have it where pieces are removed, but those are the unnecessary pieces, so.

Charli:- Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Carra:- Yeah, so like finding a way, like what pieces of our visuals are gonna clutter the idea of what's written there. So it's kind of like how do you, I always feel as though in design I go, I always tend to go two steps too far and then I remove and that's where I find that sweet spot. So putting too much there, stepping back, looking at it and saying, oh I can remove this, I can remove this, I can make that bigger. And then it feels right.

Charli:- So maybe you start your process at about a four on this scale that I've apparently made up and then it ends up at like the six that you aim for.

Carra:- Exactly.

Charli:- There we go. As you've been figuring this out and making the journey from just purely screenshots to what images are now, is there anything you tried that didn't work where you were like, okay, that was the wrong direction?

Carra:- I think that as a designer I'm critical on everything I create more so than what the design team creates. I think that's just how maybe we are molded.

Charli:- We're our own worst critic for sure.

Carra:- Yeah, I know. I'm like that sounds like no I feel like everything ends up working out in the end but maybe it wasn't what we imagined in the beginning, so.

Charli:- Oh, I like that answer. I like that a lot.

Carra:- You have this picture in your mind of what the final product is gonna be and then there's instances along the way that might make you pivot or decide, oh actually what was in my head wasn't as good as I was thinking. And then my favorite most humbling pieces is whenever my design team comes up with something, I'm like, that is so amazing. I would've never thought of that. And so I love that because when they're given that space they'll bring it and that's amazing. And then able to kind of put that into our other work. But that's a side thought on that. But we kind of take a journey and get to somewhere at least we get somewhere every time whether that's we're gonna cut that or oh that looks good, let's go with that, you know.

Charli:- So I know that the marketing site is obviously a key place that this product imagery that you've been creating recently goes on. I'm keen to talk about that a little more. Does your team own the marketing site, like the design of those pages?

Carra:- It's interesting because some of the landing pages are kind of built out by other team members and then we come in and kind of do our thing. I like to think of as design team comes in, we do our thing, we make magical stuff, we are not magicians, we do work really hard something but one of the, two pages that we recently got full control over were the homepage and the pricing page. So the homepage used to have to be go through engineering and go through a process if we wanted any updates to it. Just not using their time wisely and not using our kind of request time wisely like we needed to get to there and do what we needed to do. So we were able to start playing around and building out the homepage the way we want to update it whenever we want to. Which has been a really fun project to work on and figure out the imagery there. One thing I'm really proud of of our site is we really try to keep it as simple as possible. So Planoly wants to help people simplify their planning and their social marketing and everything like that. So our website, I want it to feel like that. I want it to feel very simple to get to know our product, not have too much in your face and make you wanna turn away and feel overwhelmed. So we've really stripped down the homepage and made it as approachable as we can with some of the limitations being HubSpot building and I can't, I don't know how to code or go in there, change anything in that way. So I have to work with what we have there, but it's been kind of fun to try to figure out how to work in that kind of field. But with the pricing page, what's really cool is I actually ended up getting on that project with a product marketing team member and we worked together on building it out in a different way. We needed to create the product, the pricing matrix. She asked would you be interested in designing it? And I said well I haven't designed websites for a very long time since I was in my agency days, but you know what, I wanna do it, let's do it. And the cool thing about working at Planoly is if there's something you do wanna do and you say it, most of the time you have the chance to work on something as our designer's on the video team, things like that, you have opportunities that you might not have at other jobs. So I broke open Adobe XD had never used the product before.

Charli:- I love that you went to Adobe XD and not Figma, which you just said the rest of the team were using. You're like a real Adobe like stronghold.

Carra:- Well the thing was, because we already have cloud memberships, I figured it'd be easier to do that than create a Figma thing and I'm used to the interface there so I was like you know, I was gonna do this so I build it out and and I told, so we worked with a company that helps build out HubSpot pages and things like that. So it was a really cool project because we started talking on how to make it more mobile friendly, also web friendly and I got to work out how people experience it and then build it out. And then I made a little video for the, that we sent using Loom I had, we sent that to the team that was building out the page and for the most part they got everything felt really good the first round of.

Charli:- Wow that's very rare, that's amazing. Must have been.

Carra:- I was very, very happy and we went through a few more very picky things and things that I didn't know how to do in XD like make a secondary sticky nav and things that needed a little more explaining but now it exists and I'm super proud of it because it's something that was out of my comfort zone but was all fun. Yeah, yeah.

Charli:- I love that. Okay, so I feel like through telling that story, you just answered several questions that I had, which is great. I wanted to know like what the site was built in and also 'cause you mentioned for the homepage that you are putting it together based on what exists. I was thinking, oh my gosh that seems so limiting as a designer. Like what do you do then if there's something that doesn't yet exist? And it sounds like when that happens you work with an agency or like a contractor on getting those pieces built.

Carra:- Yeah, and with the homepage too. So the pricing page was kind of, it had a little figure timeline where it was a little more vague of when it needed to go live and it was kind of a, let's make it really great so that anytime we update the product to our matrix can have new pieces added on by our team, which is incredible. We used to have to ask the team to go in and add one line of texts when we got reel's auto posting, things like that that shouldn't take much time would take a lot more time than necessary. So now the whole project idea was how can we make it usable for us and easy for us but also easy on the people who are coming to the page and learning about our product and which package they wanna get. And then with the homepage right now is kind of, we need to get this done, we wanna update it. So we were working within kind of the template pages that HubSpot we had. But we do have the ability to kind of do a similar process that we did with the pricing page. But right now it's kind of not top of mind. There are a lot of things that I would love to do with the imagery on the homepage, which is definitely something that we are gonna be doing in the near future. But right now it kind of had, we kind of had to settle for like what we could do and I like to think of things sometimes when you do it on your own as like the duct tape version. So like instead of, there's ways of doing things, getting creative and duct taping it together and it works. It's not maybe the cleanest and best that you want it to be and then eventually you're able to take that prototype and make it into you know, keep evolving.

Charli:- Can we talk about the pricing page a little more? Since it sounds like this is definitely a page that you did, were able to like do more than the duct tape version on, to use that analogy. What did the pricing page look like before and like what were you looking to change about iterating on it? 'Cause obviously it was more than simply the functionality itself. It sounds like you wanted to change the design of it too.

Carra:- Yeah, so when new go look at it now the top part is similar to what we had it, my team originally there was no imagery and it was just the pricing and the different plans. This is an instance where my designer came up with such an amazing idea. The different plans is one is a little bit of little tiny little tree or plant and then it grows into medium sized plant and then it grows into a tree. So it's kind of the different levels. Like we have the starter, we have the growth and we have the professional plan. So she came up with this idea and I thought that's so genius. And we have a joke at Planoly where for April Fools Day we did Plantilee. And so we said that we were changing into a plant planning and watering product. So it's kind of nice to have a little inside joke on there. So that had been what we had touched on the pricing page and then kind of below it were pieces of features of each pricing level, but they didn't really communicate anything. We realized we were, oh this isn't really telling people anything. And I kind of felt like we weren't giving them what they need. If you wanna find out, you know when you go and you review products and you see that some products have on this tier you can have this and on this tier you can have this, but you get an extra 20 of something. Well our pricing page at the time didn't really explain those details that would inform someone to go from either the starter or to go into something like professional, which one do you need? So what we did was we cut that part off. I went into XD, I screenshotted the top part. Yeah, I cut that part off, covered it. And then the idea was how do we take someone through this page in the different ways that they might look at it. Some people might see the top level and say, well that's the price I wanna pay and I see that you can have this many users. Okay that's all I need. Go ahead, I'm gonna get the product. Then you have some people who wanna compare each of these plans. So we created a button that says compare and find your fit. Something like that. I was trying to see what it would be like as someone walking through you click on that and it takes you down to the pricing matrix, which is the full one where you can compare the cute little grid. And so there was that aspect of it on the website. Now on our mobile site and something that we're constantly working on as a team is optimizing our mobile site because when our site was built, it wasn't really years and years ago wasn't mobile first. And so that in itself causes a lot of issues when people are experiencing it on the phone versus on desktop.

Charli:- And I bet a lot of your audience experiences the site on a phone just given the nature of the product that they're looking for.

Carra:- Yes. And so if you're going somewhere, honestly I will leave a page if it's not good. If I can't get through it, if I can't, if it's even a product that I'm interested in, I might just be like, ah, I'll wait until I get home and get on my computer, but.

Charli:- And then you can forget and yeah.

Carra:- Yeah, you might have lost a sale someone at that point. So this idea for the pricing page and building it, not only making it look good on web, but it was really important to me and the team that we make it accessible on web and tablet and make it look nice and have you go through an experience where when it's really small versus seeing everything together, we had to figure out how to shrink it down into one pricing plan at a time. But I didn't want it to have to, if you click on the next one, scroll back up to the beginning, I wanted it to be like, if I click on it, you see it change right there and you can scroll and click. So the whole just so it's easy. Like that's the whole thing. People nowadays, our attention span for certain things has gotten a lot smaller and you get frustrated because it's like why can't I have it right there and.

Charli:- Why is this real 10 seconds and not not five?

Carra:- Yeah. Because I need to see that part I missed and I can't rewind it. Like certain things, it's those things. So it's thinking in that way I think is really interesting for our site too, as a marketing team, because we have to guide people in a way that they're gonna access the information with ease. I mean all of our lives are so stressful, no matter what you do, we all wake up, we see everything that's happening in the world, we see all this stuff. So we have so much clutter already happening. So how can we simplify those things for people and make them feel a little more like, like, okay, I can have help and this product will help me in that way. So the pricing page has to be that way too. We can't make it complex because that's feeling like it's not our product, you know?

Charli:- Yeah and what you said at the start, that's the approach you take to the marketing site is you want it to feel simple for people.

Carra:- And I'm super proud of it. I feel like super nerd out about it because it's something, again, it was outta my comfort zone, but it seems to have, we're getting some data and knock on wood, that it has been somewhat successful of a change. And so I only say somewhat 'cause I'm like, oh, I don't wanna say anything and jinx it. But I don't know, it's like those moments where, especially with getting feedback in that way as designers, a lot of the time, the data that we can't really always, I don't know, put data to visuals unless it's clickable or I feel like sometimes in design there's no data that like a logo or something has given the brand more customers. So when pieces like that do work in it based on the experience of someone and the flow of it, it's pretty exciting.

Charli:- Yeah like so much of what we do is indirectly measurable, where we're like, well we feel like it had an impact. But when it comes to something like a change to the pricing page and you can measure who is clicking on what, who is signing up for the product, are they doing it more or less than before? Yeah it is really rewarding, I agree to know that your work had an impact in their way. So touch wood that that does actually turn out to be the case. I always like to end these episodes by talking a little bit about you and your career and the challenges that you are facing in it or what you wanna learn next as well. So let's start with that. What are some of the main challenges that you are currently facing, either as an individual at Planoly or perhaps as a team? The marketing design team?

Carra:- I think with everything evolving and the sphere of what our product touches, it is challenging to kind of feel innovative but not too stretched because things happen so quickly now. I think of all the designers or all the photographers on Instagram, when video became a thing, they felt very like, well now I guess I make have to make video. Or you feel like you have to do certain things, which I don't think everyone actually does. I mean, I still think that there's still people out there making a living off of being a painter and maybe not even being on social or there's all that. But there is a lot of pressure when I think you're in design because things are constantly changing. How do you keep on top of it? I didn't have a TikTok, I got a TikTok, I'm learning it. There's a lot of that pressure to continue to learn what's next. You know, we have Meta, when is that gonna be the pressure for all designers? I'm still kind of occasionally telling my team, hey, I wonder what Meta's gonna do for our product. Are we gonna have to find a way into doing that? So there's that pressure, but I think the other exciting part is we get to constantly learn and there's never really a dull moment. Yes, I do think burnout is fully real, especially in our, like what we do, which I feel very lucky to be at this point in my career where I can kind of notice when that's about to happen and I can kind of remove myself and find some peace in some way and then come back feeling refreshed. But when I was more junior, it's like you don't, maybe that's not in your head that you can step back and take a break or kind of find that piece. But yeah, I think it is interesting too with marketing design. When I was looking for a job years ago, those roles aren't super out there. It's mostly agency. You don't find a lot of in-house as much. And when you do find in-house, it's typically related to product design or managing a product team, which I don't do and I don't have experience doing. So those seem like opportunities that would be very difficult to get. So the field of of marketing design feels like that how did I get here? I feel so lucky to be in a space that I get to be on the marketing team that also influence the design.

Charli:- I love that. Yeah, I fully agree obviously I'm a big fan of marketing designers. Anyone who listens to this show knows. And yeah, I hope that just in by doing this interview, Carra, that you are getting marketing design out there for more folks so that more folks can find roles like these. Let's end by you telling me about the project or the impact, anything from your time at Planoly so far that you are most proud of. What do you wanna give yourself props for?

Carra:- Well, it's actually a side piece that didn't actually get too far in the world, but I'm very proud of. But we worked on a video, a brand video with a agency out of Dallas, Fort Lion Studio and there were some friends of mine and we connected with them and we did a whole shoot. Like I had never done a a commercial before, but this is something that we dreamed of and Catherine and I came to the team with a potential budget and a pitch and all of this stuff. Something that we don't, we have the opportunity to do, but since we're working on so much, sometimes it's just not time to do that. But we pinched it, we got the budget, we went out and we shot it with them and helped build the story of everything and it looks so good and I'm super proud of that because I always wanted to work on something that scale. That's kind of the visual side of things. But like working at Planoly I think one of my most proud things, and I talk about this with my wife, is just the growth I've seen from being there August, 2020 to now and managing a team. I never realized how much that was a part of me and that I needed to be a leader in that sense. And really watching them grow and kind of see their path has been so incredible because I've always worked kind of alone. And when I was freelance, I worked alone. And then when I worked at the agency, we were working alongside of each other, but it was this sense of, I don't know, like this piece of me that was always missing, but now it's like, oh cool. I never realized how much I really love managing people and helping their growth and there's no talent.

Charli:- Oh, that's beautiful. Carra, it sounds like you've ended up in honestly the exactly right role for you, doesn't it?

Carra:- I think so.

Charli:- Yeah. Well, thank you so much for everything that you've shared in this episode. Loads of insights, love hearing all of the details and just, yeah, thank you for telling us about your work. I really enjoyed that chat with Carra and I hope you enjoyed listening to it too. It really got me thinking about how varied our skill set needs to be as marketing designers to adapt to changes in marketing flows and trends like leaning into video for example. I also really enjoyed hearing about the changes that Carra and her team have been making to product imagery at Planoly and how that's displayed on the site. 'Cause that is something that I am also working on right now at ConvertKit. As always, I would've loved to hear your takeaways from the episode. What did you learn? What did you find most interesting to hear about? Feel free to tag me on Instagram or Twitter to share your thoughts. I am @Charlieprangley on both of them. Thanks to Web Flow for sponsoring the season. You can check them out at insidemarketingdesign.com/webflow, especially if you wanna do some cool things with the CMS. You'll find more episodes of this show on YouTube and your favorite podcast app and of course on insidemarketingdesign.com. There's just a few more episodes left this season, so make sure you subscribe and I will see you in the next one.

Expand full transcript
Collapse transcript

Enjoy the episode?

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

More episodes