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Tips and tricks
May 19, 2021

Ultimate Guide for Early stage Startup Designers

The life of a graphic designer in an early-stage startup can look very lonely in many ways. But the opposite may be true. It is just the way you set it up.

First of all, however, I would ask myself the question: "Is the position of Startup Designer really for me"? Within 7 years of working for startups, I have learned a lot. 

Here are some tips on capturing a project from scratch and being prepared for the rapidly changing startup ecosystem.


Build a system that behaves naturally to all changes

I called it a system because it is a working list of files or rules you use, but especially by your collaborators.


Analyze the main structure of the system (Brand, Marketing, Product)

Thinking from a comprehensive point of view is the most important thing in the beginning. Your task is to build a system in which your product and brand will intervene.


Overall overview

The overall overview is the main building block for you, the team, and especially the new designers coming to your project in the future. Pin main sections and points of communication elements for all possible sectors (brand, product marketing, etc.) to how they work and communicate with each other.


Tool selection (do not select tools only by yourself).

Properly selected tools and graphics applications are crucial in the startup's beginnings in terms of the speed of construction of materials for graphics, their changes, and cooperation in the team. Therefore, it is necessary to pay excessive attention to this point and specify with your team all the necessary needs to find the right tools.


Selection of responsible persons within the project

Personally, in a startup, I do not recommend making any strict decisions about who has what privileges. But definitely sit down and specify the people who will decide on applying changes in the graphics and its system. This point is crucial when growing a team to stay consistent across sectors and people.



Create functional templates and patterns

Creation of basic asset libraries for complex adjustments across sectors.

We will set up libraries and assign the right rights to the right people. We then expand and edit these libraries based on requirements. Libraries serve as the basic building block of the whole system. They contain only basic elements such as typography, colors, logos, etc. (but we will talk about what is usually part of the system in another article. If you do not want to miss it, subscribe to the news) arranged to give your team meaning. Here are a few tools that are perfect for the job.

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Product:

✔️ Figma (recommend)
✔️ Adobe XD
✔️ Sketch
✔️ Lunacy
✔️ Other


Brand Design:

✔️ Adobe Creative Cloud
✔️ Affinity Design Tools
✔️ Other

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Marketing Design:

✔️ Adobe Creative Cloud
✔️ Affinity Design Tools
✔️ Webflow
✔️ Other


Preparation of simple patterns for how to handle templates

Once we have compiled the libraries, it is advisable to create basic patterns and explain the context of their behavior and handling.

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Preparation of elements across sectors

And here we go! Now comes the more creative part: to specify and draw all the possible elements of the sectors such as web components, app components, and brand systems ...

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Sharing

Now we can introduce everything to the world. Don't be afraid to share your ideas about design systems, your teamwork, and more.

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Tools:

✔️ Notion
✔️ Confluence
✔️ Clickup
✔️ Lingoapp
✔️ Brand.ai
✔️ Zeroheight


Communicate and keep nothing to yourself

The status of each of the libraries must suit the team's needs.

Collective work is most important. Extra in startups, where things change really fast, and processes are much easier. Therefore, it is important to figure out how to work with design across teams, as each of them requires something different.


Your head doesn't know everything, so discuss

Don't think you know everything. It is advisable to find people with whom you can communicate or share your theories. Whether people from the team, mentors, etc., but especially your customers.


Accept criticism

The ego must aside! Really, that's not how you move forward. It's important to know and understand what you're doing, but pushing your opinions without any side view is almost suicidal.


Write down, stick to deadlines, and set goals.

Create a company and personal OKRs

Staying in the picture and sticking to the goal must be your motivation. It is therefore important to have appropriately selected goals and move towards them with gradual steps.

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Suitable tools:

✔️ Jira
✔️ Trello
✔️ Todoist (recomended)
✔️ Asana
✔️ Clickup
✔️ Taskade
✔️ Niftypm
✔️ Notion
✔️ Flow


Sprint as the law

I personally call it "sprint," but you call it any other way. Sprint is a given time interval for me in which the team and I determine suitable points that we want to catch in this period. The given tasks are always related so that they fulfill our goals and gain priority accordingly.

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Notes help develop ideas.

I only understood this point after years of practice. That is why I write down this point to understand that writing down and sorting out all your notes or thoughts and ideas is a very great thing. You can return to them at any time, inspire them and, above all, transfer them to the product.

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Tools:

✔️ Notion
✔️ One Note
✔️ Evernote
✔️ Google Keep
✔️ Spike
✔️ Dropbox Paper


You can return to everything at any time.

Remember that any idea based on a drawer can be the key. Don't be afraid to go back to what was initially and apply the old processes to the current states.


Analyze and edit

Analyze everything you do

Data, data, data. It should also be a certain entry point for improvement for the designer. Therefore, it is appropriate to involve external tools and, in time-limited respects, to analyze not only your work but especially everything around the product.


Integration tools:

✔️ Zapier
✔️ Pabbly Connect
✔️ IFTTT
✔️ Integromat
✔️ Integrately (Best Price vs. Integration)


Analytics and behavior:

✔️ Google Analytics
✔️ Usefathom (recomnded)
✔️ Windows Clarity
✔️ Hotjar


Listen to your customers

The client is the key to your success. Listen to him, analyze ideas, and apply them appropriately across sectors.


Adjust according to what makes sense

However, do not forget the overall (global) analysis instead of the individual's feedback. It is important to understand things in context and then apply them.

Don't be afraid to talk!

In a fast-growing startup, communication is key. Therefore, do not be afraid to express your opinion and consult it. Every comment and idea is a space for development. And it doesn't matter if you have senior or junior experience.

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I believe that thanks to this article, you will get at least a simple overview of what it is like to work for startups. Believe me, it's completely different. But if you like space for implementation, then do not hesitate and try it.

In the following articles, I will discuss the above points in more depth so that there are better clear connections between them. If you don't want to miss it, start subscribing to my news.


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