Adam Polselli on growing as a designer

Film, music, and a few great mentors influenced Dropbox designer Adam Polselli’s path

Lisa Sanchez
Jul 8, 2014 · 3 min read

Adam Polselli grew up watching TRL. He watched it every single day after school. Occasionally, he taped it so he could watch it again.

In college, he studied film with an eye on becoming a director, and music videos seemed like a way in. He did music videos for his best friend, a singer-songwriter, and his film studies honed his critical eye.

“A big component of my film studies in school was formal analysis,” he says. “It was a lot of looking at a still frame in a film and analyzing the meaning that can be created through color, composition, and lighting, and the way that you can use all of these things to direct attention. Those things come into play whether you’re designing a frame in a film or a poster or a screen in an app.”

Prior to joining Dropbox, Adam spent three years designing Rdio. It was his first formal product design position. He’d been making static websites since middle school, and as he says, “Wilson Miner was the one who took a chance on me. He was really instrumental to me being where I am today.”

Miner, Rdio’s former head of design, not only gave him a foothold in the industry but became a mentor, shaping Adam’s understanding of what it means to design products. Ryan Sims, who now leads design at Rdio, also influenced Adam’s work.

“While we worked together he was a really great mentor,” Adam says of Sims. “He’s got incredible taste. A lot of the designs that were his original ideas for Rdio went on to set a lot of trends you’re seeing today in other apps.”

Adam designed the desktop apps for both Rdio and Dropbox.

These days, Adam is dedicated to developing mentorship within the design team at Dropbox, alongside another of his own mentors, Soleio Cuervo. The team has grown dramatically since he joined a year and a half ago, and it’s still growing.

“We’re a company in hypergrowth,” he says. “So it’s incredibly important that anyone who comes onto our team can also be a hypergrowth individual. And that takes really great mentorship.”

The intention is for Dropbox designers to be able to double their skill sets within six months to a year. That’s only possible with the right combination of collaboration, mentorship, and feedback.

“We want Dropbox to be the place where designers can come to work for years and build a career,” he says.

A great mentor, according to Adam, is someone who gives you the kind of feedback that helps you up your game every single day. And on the flip side, becoming a mentor allows experienced designers the opportunity to help shape someone’s career.

As a designer, Adam came to Dropbox because he saw the opportunity for growth.

“I never want to look back and see that I was in the same place five years ago,” he says. “And Dropbox is an awesome place to grow. You’re challenged every day. You’re thrown into the deep end of the pool every week. You’re forced to become a better version of yourself every day that you’re here working on the product with all of these insanely intelligent people.”

Early iterations of Adam’s designs for shared folders in Dropbox for iOS

In addition to learning from his team, Adam continues to draw inspiration from the music industry, taking a cue from Beyoncé.

“She’s just an all-around excellent entertainer,” he says. “Everything she puts out there, she holds to a really high standard. I think it’s really important to own the things you put your name on.”

The Dropbox design team is growing. We’d love for you to join us.

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    Lisa Sanchez

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    Dropbox Makers

    Meet the designers, engineers, and product managers who make Dropbox. Join us.