• Aubrey JohnsonAubrey Johnson, 7 years ago

    Hey AZ!

    I've done this quite a few times as the first/only designer.

    (Was employee #2 at Twilio which IPO'ed in Late June, the first design hire at Color after their failed / infamous launch which Apple later acquired and I was the first designer / DIR at Science Inc - which just sold one of it's early investments: Dollar Shave Club for $1B)

    I did not have a mentor, but I do suggest you find someone that can lend advice as Joe Blau said - agree there.

    Here's my take:

    You should do it if you are fast. I don't think you have to have immense experience or be perfect, but I do think you must be fast. Overall, It will be demanding. It'll be downright sucky at times. But, you should do it because unlike another commenter here said - you WILL learn something. You'll learn a lot because you'll have to do a lot and the team is counting on you to do it and do it well. I joined Twilio straight out of school and was a total idiot compared to now. Being new does not mean it can't be done.

    There are lots of great tips in this thread (don't obsess on perfection, be prepared to get out of product design at times, learn how to prioritize or at least ask often what is top priority, etc).


    • It's just you - if it works you get a lot of credit and unmatched experience.
    • You'll learn business which is (IMO) a critical skill to product design.
    • You'll make lots of stuff, which is pretty fun. It's fun to make a physical thing (like a biz card or t-shirt or design a booth) and get out of digital sometimes.
    • You'll get even faster because you have to.
    • You'll be core to the team and there's a strong bond there.
    • When it's time to build the team - ideally you get to start doing some really cool next level stuff like hiring and managing (which was also tough but a new and fun thing to learn and do).


    • It's just you. If you mess up, there's no team to help shoulder that.
    • You have to do everything. It feels like getting pulled in a lot of directions.
    • It's usually a LOT LOT LOT of work, if you are very motivated though it won't be so bad.
    10 points
    • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, 7 years ago

      I can back what he says as he said this to me over the phone many times while working at these places (hint: we're related)

      3 points