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Unlike other design teams where brand, product and UX designers may sit separately, Design at Eventbrite is centralized and highly collaborative. This lack of silos strengthens communication, improves the product, and particularly influenced Eventbrite’s recent holistic, system-focused rebrand. To find out more, we spoke with Brian Beaver (VP of Design), Tom Censani (Director of Product Design), Lumen Bigott (Principal Product Designer), David Scott (Creative Director, Brand Communication), and Evan Leach (Senior UX Architect).

What is the Design team’s role within Eventbrite?

Tom: Design has two responsibilities: improving the product for our customers and anticipating their future needs. We collect requirements from various sources across the business and from customers’ feedback and then apply design standards to realize that vision. By having a holistic view of the entire product, design is able to recognize patterns and identify opportunities across different departments and teams. This context switching between the granular day-to-day work and the broader big picture is what creates variety and excitement as a designer. With the design team thinking as one single unit it allows us to retain alignment and generate more solutions to problems both big and small.

Above and below: Designers designing! And collaborating, pondering, commiserating, and laughing.

What’s your vision for Eventbrite right now?

Brian: Everybody has thrown some kind of event before, even if they don’t recognize themselves as event organizers. For everyone, we want Eventbrite to be the first place that comes to mind when you want to host or find the perfect event to match your interests.

Lumen: We want to make going to an event as simple as taking an Uber. When you want to go out, you ask your friends, “Hey, do you want to go do this?” It’s so easy. We want to bring that experience to all events.

Tom: I’ve always thought of Eventbrite as an online marketplace for experiences that connect people offline. Most people know us as a ticketing provider, but we have a greater opportunity in influencing the end-to-end event experience, including at the event and after it.

How did that vision influence the recent brand refresh?

Brian: For ten years we’ve built muscles for helping event organizers. Our muscles are much smaller on the attendee- and consumer-sides, so we’ve put a lot of work into defining and branding how we want consumers to experience Eventbrite. That means our brand has to be elastic enough to speak to both audiences.

David: The first step was to define four personality attributes for the brand: radically simple, dynamic, trustworthy, and inviting. We can dial up or dial down the expression of those attributes depending on our audience, and on which part of their experience we’re targeting. In other words, each audience and each experience is its own thread — and they all tie back to the parent brand.

“Each audience and each experience is its own thread — and they all tie back to the parent brand.”

Brian: For example, let’s think about organizer payouts. The “dynamic” attribute means we want things to feel lively and exciting, yet organizer payouts are serious business. It turns out, organizers are looking for predictability, so we’ll dial down “dynamic” and dial up “trust.” Before each project, we discuss which part of our personality we want to express. One designer might say “Couldn’t we be a bit more expressive here?” and another will say, “No, that might be annoying and undermine trust.” We always try to keep that dialogue going throughout the process.

Lumen: To drill into that a bit we initially treated copy the same for both organizers and consumers. We wanted to be consistent, but that was a mistake. A lot of organizers were frustrated because they expected something technical, not casual and lighthearted. The same applies to the UI. When you’ve got people waiting in line for an event, everything needs to be fast and to the point. We made the fonts larger, sped up the animations, and worked on small touches that help the organizer get things done.

Above and below: Mock-ups of the Eventbrite Design System.

What role does customer feedback play in design?

Evan: We do a lot of qualitative user testing and usability testing, and Engineering and Product Design often join those sessions. It keeps everyone going in the same direction.

Brian: We have a compendium of videos from user interviews that we reference when making decisions. User testing also comes with some creative tension. Product may want to change little things about an interface that has already been tested, which can create anxiety over whether we’ve strayed too far from what tested well. We may want to re-test it, but obviously we have time pressures. You don’t always get to put every design change in front of users, although ideally you would.

The grey and black uniforms were unintentional

How is design organized at Eventbrite?

David: A lot of places have the brand team separated out and embedded in marketing. We made a conscious decision to join our brand, product, and UX teams into one core design team. That decision occasionally creates tension — sometimes we need to be close to the teams we serve — but we try to stand our ground and keep the designers sitting together most of the time.

Brian: We try to stay balanced. We don’t want to be completely isolated, but if designers are embedded in feature teams and not communicating with each other, that can create a fragmented product. We think of our structure as a home base and satellite model. We have one collective design group, but we’ll also tell designers, “Go sit with your product team for a day.” As we scale, we absolutely must have good design infrastructure. It’s the only way to benefit from our designers’ diverse perspectives and still maintain brand and usability standards.

“If designers are … not communicating with each other, that can create a fragmented product.” –Brian

Tom: Rather than asking everyone to be generalists, we embrace people’s various design disciplines. The goal is to amplify everyone’s strengths rather than level up everyone’s weaknesses. We want the UX person to draw on the expertise of the product designer, the brand person, and the front-end engineer. That way we have multiple people solving each problem from different perspectives rather than a single person carrying all the weight.

David: We try to keep the complete user journey in mind when we design — from the moment the user first hears of Eventbrite to when they actually attend an event or use the product. We can all think of companies that wooed us in, but everything was different when we then used the product. That often happens when designers are isolated. Making design a core team helps us maintain a cohesive experience for users throughout their entire journey.

The Design team’s weekly all-hands meeting (above) is blessed by the Nicholas Cage Holy Trinity (below).

How does communication work — or not work — when design is centralized?

Brian: I don’t think one can underestimate the power of informal collaboration, whether it’s overhearing a conversation and saying, “Oh, I’m dealing with that same challenge. How are you solving for that?” or kicking your chair back to see what’s happening on the screens next to you. It’s powerful. At the same time, it inspires new ideas and improves the consistency of the brand.

Tom: In addition to those impromptu moments, we also have bi-weekly check-ins where teams present early concepts and solicit feedback from the group. That’s helped avoid the feeling of designing in isolation.

Lumen: If the brand team is working on an illustration project, I’ll see it and can say, “This is great, we can use this in the product.” If we weren’t working together, I might not see those illustrations until the project is released, and then I might have to wait until the next release to add them. Or if I don’t partner with Evan in UX, my vision could get lost in implementation. He needs to know where my ideas are coming from and early in the process, so his wireframes are well informed and we don’t get caught up in implementation details with engineering.

“I can rely on a brand-comm designer to inject more feeling and polish into a project where I’ve focused strictly on functionality.” –Evan

Evan: We capitalize on each other’s strengths. One advantage of having one big, happy design team is I can rely on Lumen or a Brand Comm designer to inject more feeling and polish into a project where I’ve focused strictly on functionality.

The Design team loves being a quick 5-minute walk from the newly remodeled SFMoMA. Coffee breaks often include a swing through Richard Serra’s “Sequence.”

Since you have so many specialties within design, what ties you all together?

Lumen: At our core, we’re thinking about people. As a company we’re on the technical side of events, solving problems, but we always want people to have fun and make people happy.

Brian: We all love to embrace really big, hairy problems. A single, very narrow part of our product can be 200 pages of wireframes. At some companies that’s the entire product.

Lumen: That was exciting for me when I joined. I was like, “There is so much to do here.”

“At our core, we’re thinking about people.” –Lumen

Evan: We call them “problems,” but we love them. They’re never small and the product is so important to our customers’ livelihood. It feels satisfying when an organizer tells us “This is so easy. You saved me a ton of time.”

Brian: I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a team where everybody’s been so talented outside of their work. We have DJs, musicians, painters, artists. Our CEO’s favorite internal event of the year is our talent show. Last year one of our designers did an amazing tribute to David Bowie, and another designer made a Freddie Mercury appearance. They did a duet — it was incredible.

What’s a project that you’re particularly proud of?

Tom: Similar to what Brian mentioned earlier, there are teams in our organization working on parts of the product so large they could be their own businesses. The reserved seating team built an entire seat designer in the browser that can load up to 150,000 seats. Unless an organizer turns on the reserved seating feature they would never even know about it, yet it’s so valuable to larger venue organizers who use it. The beauty of working at this company comes from aligning all of these teams and complex strategies together. When a feature is being worked on that affects multiple teams, those groups can create the most effective solution for our customers.

Brian: Our work is incredibly broad. There are these deep pockets of functionality and no single audience sees everything. Creating something cohesive only happens when we collaborate.

Is there something you’re excited about in the design team’s future?

Tom: As we look into the future of the Eventbrite platform, I’m excited to push into the at-event and post-event experiences for our customers. There are also opportunities to improve communication between organizers and attendees and connect people more directly to events we think they’ll enjoy. These areas present a host of challenges, and as a team we’re more than eager to dive in.

How Eventbrite Solves Complex Design Problems with a Centralized Team was originally published in Briteling Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Published on May 15, 2017

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