Uplevel is a tech start-up focused on creating the healthiest and most effective engineering teams. I was hired as employee #9 to establish and land a holistic design vision that established the brand and extended it to the product and the entire Uplevel ecosystem.
As Director of Design, I brought holistic design thinking into all the places people experienced Uplevel and continued to evolve and refine that brand in product, marketing, and culture. This helped propel the start-up into their own office space with 4x growth in staff, through series A funding, and acquire over 10 big-name accounts with 4K users.
After a couple of years targeting dev teams and ICs, Uplevel made a strategic switch to create their product to help the health of the entire dev organization. We needed to update our branding to include execs and higher-level managers.
Working closely with the marketing team, we developed a brand evolution and a new website targeted towards org leads. We kept core elements like typeface and colors the same to insure the product design system still fit within the brand evolution. Our updated branding extends to our website, conference booth materials, digital advertising, and sales materials and has resulted in multiple sales leads and a 4X click rate on ads.
PRODUCT: TEAM PROCESS
As an agile-based product team, our process was not agile. My team was designing features that would never be built, our launch cycles were few and far apart and there were bottlenecks everywhere along the way. I needed to understand the scrum process. Not only to design better solutions for our users (who were using this process to build their products) but to also diagnose our process. We needed to build iteratively, faster, and to find product market fit.
As research, I took a scrum certification course and collaborated with key leaders and ICs within our product team to encourage and course correct how we work. Prior were able to release 1 new feature. In 2021 we released 10 new features compared to 2 the previous year and increased our power users by 20%.
PRODUCT: DESIGN EVOLUTION
Our initial product design look and feel wasn’t showing well in sales calls. It was designed to feel friendly and unique, which -at scale- ending up feeling clunky and unprofessional. We needed to evolve the design system to meet customer expectations. Our solution had to conform to a process of small design phases, built in the spare time of the development team, so as not to interfere with their roadmap feature work.
We created a new design system that looks clean, simple, and easy to use while maintaining the friendliness of the brand. There were three phases of this evolution with comps, redlines, and detailed Jira tickets on how to evolve the current look. Our dev team was able to complete the evolution over the next few months. The new system met customer expectations for products in this space, and the sales team now gets compliments on the design in comparison with competitors. While we lack data on the new look and feel's direct impact on new business, the aesthetics are now a strength for the company moving forward.
PRODUCT: BUILDING A NORTH STAR
Our company had a reactive approach to feature building. You could compare our architecture to a “Weasley House” - tacked-on ideas and half features with no intentional structure or strategy. Our start-up was in need of a product vision to help guide decision-making and make our interim releases easier for the user to navigate. The solution would need to be flexible as we tested, grew, and pivoted to create a cohesive, intuitive experience.
I made the case to staff another UX designer, and we collaborated with stakeholders on a future vision of the product. Our North Star and global navigation system is helping leaders to make clear decisions, inspire the product team to test and try different things, and create a more intuitive product for our users.
CULTURE: OFFICE DESIGN
Uplevel was moving from their shared space within Madrona Venture Labs into their own office. They needed a casual and authentic space to make employees comfortable, appeal to new talent, and host the occasional sales meeting with prospective clients.
Basing aesthetic and functional choices in our brand, I was able to design an experience leveraging lots of greenery, comfortable collaboration spaces with whiteboard walls, and wallpaper that leveraged storytelling by scanning in old comic books. I also made space for a large oak table that facilitated communal dining, group games, and activities. Employees, clients, and prospects felt at home in our office which helped inspire new product innovations, partnerships, and a party or two.