We Got Soul

If you’ve followed me for a while now, you may remember when I lamented about the lack of soul in web design over 4 years ago. It’s no coincidence now that when our team at Creative Market was looking to shape an acronym to help us remember our newly defined design principles, I came back to this word, soul.

The secondary definition of soul is:

soul /sōl/ noun — the essence or embodiment of a specified quality

How meta of us.

It Starts With Our Principles

Gerren Lamson did an amazing job detailing out our principles, of which you can dig into here, but I’ll briefly list them here as well.

Design for Everyone
People Over Pixels
Clear and Simple
One Brand to Rule Them All
The Details are the Design
Design is a Shared Responsibility
Creativity Fosters Community

The full article Gerren wrote captures our thoughts behind each of these principles and how they came to be in supporting both our product and brand teams. It’s a deep dive, and we realized that with seven principles at this level of depth, we needed a shorthand way of recalling their meaning with ease.

In order for our acronym to be effective, we needed to group these seven principles into the four letters that we chose to work with in S.O.U.L. Additionally, we wanted to come up with a simple phrase that reflected the themes around each word. Here is how that netted out:

Simple

Our phrase for Simple is: Simple and clear system that feels right.

The themes that apply to Simple are Design Form, Details and our Design System. These are the areas we try to focus on simple output. Our form and system should be simple, not overly complex. We want to get out of the way of the folks who sell on Creative Market — we want their work to shine through.

Simple is better, but we also didn’t want to lose out on the details that “simple” can sometimes imply. We tried to capture that “simple but with details” spirit with the “feels right for our users” part of our phrase here. Because everyone knows simple without details no es bueno.

One

Our phrase for One is: One team building one brand.

The themes that apply to One are Team, Brand Experience, Process and Responsibility. These are the areas where we try to aim to deliver a singular brand experience as well as a shared responsibility across the entire team in all the work we deliver. We are one team.

We’re unique in that our design team manages both product design as well as the entire brand design ecosystem. In larger companies these are most certainly separate teams, but for us, right now, we’re one. Additionally we operate on cross-functional teams where we expect our product managers and engineers to help take responsibility for excellence in everything we ship.

Usable

Our phrase for Usable is: Easy enough for anyone to be successful.

The theme that applies to Usable is Design Function. Nothing new here to see, right? Everyone aims for this, and we’re no different. But it is ever-important to keep focused on this goal. Remember when Apple stuff just worked? Yeah, me too. Our ultimate goal is to build a platform that is so easy for people to use that anyone can be successful in using it. So far, we’re right on track.

Loyal

Our phrase for Loyal is: Engaging with our community creates brand loyalty.

The themes that applies to Loyal are Community and Brand. We are a User Generated Content marketplace — everything we do is for our users and because of our users. We one-hundred percent understand that as we engage with our community and as work to serve them, we create loyalty in return. That loyalty is part of what sets Creative Market apart from the competition, therefore it is absolutely what we should focus our efforts on.

QED

Principles are worthless unless they’re put into practice. SOUL is a quick way for our team to remember our principles so that we can put them into practice in everything we do. Don’t believe me, just watch us over the next few years, you’ll see we’ve got soul.

Hat tip to Bronwyn Gruet for the beautiful letter illustrations!

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