We’re tracking down InVision users inside the world’s most amazing companies to discover their favorite tools, inspirations, workspace must-haves and the philosophy behind what makes them so awesome. Today, we’re talking to Gerren Lamson, Head of Design at Creative Market, a platform that helps designers around the world sell creative resources, from WordPress themes to stock photos to Photoshop brushes. We chatted to Gerren about taking risks, bettering yourself as a designer, and seeing design as a long game.
Hey Gerren, thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Tell us a little bit about Creative Market and your role there.
Thanks for having me! Creative Market is a community marketplace for design resources made by independent creators, and I’m the Head of Design / Chief Creative Officer here. In our young start-up days, that meant something different than what it does now. Early on, I was doing much of the design work, as we sprinted for 6 - 8 months building tons of key features for the initial site.
These days, I manage two talented designers on our team who do much of our product design — Liam McKay and Greg Corby. It’s rewarding to empower them to contribute their best ideas to the platform. They’re helping us shape the future of the product and make valuable contributions to our community too.
Where do you get inspiration for your design work?
The best way to get inspired is to do an activity you’ve never done before. It’s easy to live your life and do your work on repeat, but that hinders growth and learning. I personally enjoy traveling and experiencing new environments – that resets the lens of my perspective. Heck, even just getting away from the screen and the city helps refresh my vision so that I can see things differently again.
InVision's features really improve the efficiency and outcome of our design reviews.
I’m also inspired by talented shop owners we have on Creative Market. In particular, the work of Dustin Lee, who has captured designers’ desire to create aged, distressed work. It’s very inspiring to see somebody put in the hard work of consistently producing beautiful work. I'd say the same thing about many of the type designers too, such as Kyle Wayne Benson, Drew Melton, and Laura Worthington. I love designing typefaces, so I enjoy watching others push style, layering, and texture with fonts. And who doesn't like looking at creative letterforms?
Tell us about your process for crafting new features at Creative Market.
Our design process these days is loose and flexible. In the early days, our product roadmap was straight-forward and linear. After discussing and scoping each feature, we'd design and develop it with minimal back-and-forth. Nowadays, our team gets together every three months to pitch ideas and vote on them in a democratic style. We assign a dedicated designer and developer to collaborate on each feature, and the process is iterative.
Our support and community team listens to our members daily. Based on that feedback, we'll fix bugs, make small iterations on features, and scope out new tools during each quarter. Our community really shapes the business and platform just as much as we do.
And how does InVision fit into that process?
We recently started exploring InVision as the primary tool for our design reviews. The ability for our team to share feedback visually on the work makes communication much more direct and clear.
It's all about the long game — a great designer is forged out of inexorable endurance and evolving one’s design thinking.
Ranging from wireframes to user flows to comp variations, we review a wide range of deliverables in our meetings. InVision's features really improve the efficiency and outcome of our design reviews. Everyone's ideas are visible on the canvas, so we can be sure that the process was collaborative. And, we can refine their feedback into a clear, organized list of action items after the session, preparing us for the next meeting.
What, in your opinion, makes a great designer?
Great designers are constantly taking calculated risks. Instead of following the tried-and-true path, make time to go down crazy, creative rabbit holes. If you keep doing that, you'll see interesting results over time.
As designers, we watch our peers share amazing work and think, "Wow, I'll never be able to do that." However, we don't see the decade of bad work, struggles and experiments that got them to that point. What makes designers successful is the drive to constantly push forward. It's all about the long game — a great designer is forged out of inexorable endurance and evolving one’s design thinking. That doesn’t mean enduring bad projects, terrible clients, and maintaining the status quo. It means being curious enough to keep experimenting with new ideas and approaches in your day job and in your personal projects.
Don’t be anxious about needing to be five years in when you’re just starting out. See your design career as a long journey.
How would you define success? Do you think you’ve found it yet?
Designers bring a lot of preconceived notions to the table when they hear the word success. It's really just a case of interpreting what it means for yourself. For me, success is about personal fulfillment in the type of work you do and in your relationships. When you neglect meaningful relationships for false success metrics, you can't be truly successful. The math doesn't add up. I think that we as designers need to change our metrics for success.
And finally, what advice would you give to people starting out in design?
Don’t be anxious about needing to be five years in when you’re just starting out. See your design career as a long journey where you'll be able to learn different skills and work on various projects over time. As you progress, see each quarter or year as a season, and make conscious decisions on what you want to improve and learn. Before you really start growing, you have to build a good design framework and a personal roadmap for where you want to end up. You’re going to get somewhere, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get there. So, take your time and pay good things that happen to you forward in some way.
These days, there are a lot of designers who are only learning how to work in one small sphere of design. It’s important to pursue a diversity of experiences. They strengthen design thinking. Early on, I designed identity and environmental projects that made my web design better. It may be a challenge to find different projects. I recommend coming up with your own personal side projects for the sake of learning and playing. They can lead to exciting things. Don't be the person waiting for somebody else to do something innovative. You can lead that innovation through your passion projects and have fun doing it too."What makes designers successful is the drive to constantly push forward."
Photography by Peter Prato.