Tom Censani on Product Design at Eventbrite
“Design here aligns with the ethos of Eventbrite, which is generating that fun and delight– which is why I’m still here four years later, still having fun in the office, and making stuff. We’re working on a product together that is highly visible and beneficial to the world.”
Tom Censani leads the Product Design team at Eventbrite
Where did you get your start in product design?
I went to Manhattan College in New York for Computer Science. I actually have an engineering background. I did C, C++, Unix, Java, all of those really nerdy languages. I liked the problem solving it presented but I tend to be a more throw everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks sort of person. Engineering tends to not really work that way.
By my Junior year of college I knew programming wasn’t really for me and on the side I was learning design and researching web products. I finished my CS degree cause I was determined to chug along and get it, but I started coding and doing web design, which is how I started out in product.
What were you up to before?
I interned then went full-time for a Flash design company, which focused on restaurant websites. Seeing the writing on the wall that was designing in Flash, I jumped out of that fairly quickly. From there I moved to Food Network, where I was in charge of their e-commerce store. I designed and developed their store and eventually became visual designer for their main site.
In that role, I ended up designing the first version of their universal iPad and iPhone app. After my feet got wet in mobile, I moved to SF and joined the Eventbrite team. I was born and raised in the Bronx, and lived my entire life in NY before making the move west, it was a really big step for me at the time.
What made you want to join the team at Eventbrite?
I was spinning my wheels a bit in my current role and was tired of all the red tape. I was familiar with Eventbrite as I had been to a few events on the platform in New York City and I had a couple of phone calls with the designers and product managers at the company. Immediately when I spoke with the team I felt they had a certain spark, a magnetism to them that’s fantastic.
Towards the end of my in-person interview at Eventbrite I ended up meeting 5 people in the span of 20 minutes and almost missed my flight. It was the first time I really felt “wow, I would leave New York to work with these people.” A lot of it was that everyone is so likeminded, even though they come from different backgrounds, do different things and have vastly different perspectives. I think it really sends a positive message that all these people care so much about one vision.
When I’m interviewing people to join the company now I do a self-evaluation called the beer test. It’s a simple quest I ask myself which is “would I have a beer with this person?” Everyone who works here is someone I would enjoy chatting with over a beer. What more can you really ask for?
What makes you excited to come to work in the morning?
The Design team here is really outstanding. Everyone here, whether they’re user experience, marketing designers, or on my team doing the user interface design, are all excited to be here and just cranking on things. We’re pretty lean considering the size of our company and the scope of our work; we produce a huge amount of content.
We’re getting really good at doubling down our efforts and focusing on the right parts of the product. I think it’s really paying off with beautifully clean, simplistic design that just focuses on what the content.
What do the Design and Product teams look like?
We have the three different parts of design: user experience, product/UI, and marketing design.
How would you describe Eventbrite’s aesthetic?
We have a lot of bright colors, obviously orange is in our blood. That said, throwing orange everywhere could get obnoxious really fast, which is why we don’t have orange couches everywhere in the office. On the product side our aesthetic is very clean, we work a lot with light shades of gray, with brighter colors to call your attention and makes things pop. It’s minimal and clean. We want the images and the events to do the talking.
What are you working on right now on the product design side?
Top secret! No, consistency is something I really want to nail down this year. So we’re working on optimizing a lot of our site for mobile and making that look great on tablets and desktops, which is really exciting. Responsive has been a big buzzword for us.
What product or project are you most proud of releasing last year?
Personally, I was really excited that we worked on the iOS 7 redesign of our app. It’s not too often that you get to completely redesign your app from the ground up. What I loved the most about that project was just how small the team was.
We’re a growing company, but we can still be a little scrappy at times (as we should). We were really passionate and fired up about being one of the first ticketing and event companies to have an iOS 7 focused app, and we were able to make it happen quickly. The result was a really great, clean app that is a good representation of our aesthetic.
I see the design team huddled around that wall that has all of those images posted up on to it, what are you guys doing over there?
Every week we have a design critique where you print out anything we’re working on, pin it to the board and UX, Marketing and UI design go over to it and ask questions. We get feedback on in-progress work and it’s a really good way to have visibility on what everyone’s working. Our process of design is a really collaborative group effort.
You’ve been here for 4 years, how has Eventbrite changed?
I was around employee #100 and I think we’re at 500 now. We are reaching that point of being a bigger company and the perks that comes with it, but we have to always retain the scrappy startup mindset.
Our design aesthetic has evolved a bit by simplifying. We’ve pared things down and stripped away excess and it’s gotten to a point where it’s focusing on what matters, and in a way we’re also doing that with our company as we grow. We’re focusing on the things that matter, making sure everyone is happy in their growth as a leader, and their growth in their career
Design here aligns with the ethos of Eventbrite, which is generating that fun and delight– which is why I’m still here three years later, still having fun in the office, and making stuff. We’re working on a product together that is highly visible and beneficial to the world.
What is one of your most memorable moments in the Briteland?
Every time we have a Hackathon there tends to be a level of absurdity. Every hackathon is definitely… an experience. It’s that 4 to 6am stretch where you’re on your 3rd Redbull — and you don’t ever drink Redbull — heads down cranking on a project and you look around at everyone else and it’s a sense of “We’re really doing this?!” Those are really fun moments.
What about the new office excites you the most?
I love that we’re still adamant about trying to keep everyone on the same floor, that connectivity where we’re not all disjointed and in different spots. For my own selfish reasons I’m really excited for the new design lab we’re building. As we work in a digital space it’s always nice to get back to crafting with our hands. Look out for fun, crazy gadgets that will allow all Britelings to explore getting their design skills on.
Eventbrite Design is hiring. Want to join us?