When starting out a career in design, it’s helpful to know some of the great practitioners in your field so you can follow their work and use their career progression as guidance to plan your own.
Wherever you are in your journey towards mastery we hope you’ll find designers on this list who will inspire you to continue honing your craft.
This list shouldn’t be interpreted as a ranking of the “best designers” (if such a thing can even be judged). Instead, it’s meant to highlight some exemplary digital designers who are building noteworthy careers.
It’s worth pointing out that this list is primarily made up of designers who have:
- built their careers at high-growth startups (vs. at agencies or freelancing)
- concentrated on designing digital products
- progressed into leadership roles (either within companies or within the wider industry)
- shared their work or learnings publicly
- built a name in Silicon Valley (even if they’re currently working in another geography)
There are obviously plenty of amazing designers who don’t fit these criteria, but for the sake of creating a manageable list, we had to make choices.
After reading through the profiles, if you find there’s someone great who we missed, put their name in the comments section and let us know why you think they’re great.
To continue learning from these individuals, here are some concrete steps you can take:
Allison House — Art Director @ House Studio
Age: ? Hometown: Orlando, FL School: N/A Concentration: N/A Clients: Adobe, GitHub, Intel, Dropbox, Maxon, Giphy, Warner Brothers, Wilco, Microsoft, the White House Specialties: 3D Visuals, Motion Graphics, Gif Art
Why?: Allison first became prominent in the Valley’s design community after leading teams at Codeacademy and later as an early design hire at Dropbox. Today she’s a pioneer in 3D visual design, and helps others edge into the field with her courses on 3D for designers and illustrators. As a freelancer, she’s worked with clients like GitHub, Giphy, Adobe and The White House. More about Allison: Hear the story of how she transitioned into 3D here. Read an interview about her creative process here.
Amanda Linden — Head of Design @ Asana
Age: ? Hometown: Yreka, CA School: UC Davis, San Francisco State Concentration: Design, MBA Companies: Asana, Intuit, Yahoo Specialties: Enterprise UX, Product Design, Branding, Research
Why?: Amanda is perhaps best-known for her work in enterprise design and making some of the most complex interfaces clear and intuitive. She has brought her expertise to a number of notable of companies in the Valley including: Oracle, Yahoo!, and Intuit, where she notably led the redesign of Quickbooks. Today, Amanda heads up design at the fast-growing team productivity startup, Asana. More about Amanda: Amanda’s ebook about the future of enterprise UX can be found here. Read her article on enabling great product design here.
Andrew Coyle — Product Design Lead @ Flexport
Age: 26 Hometown: Minneapolis, MN School: Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) Concentration: Communication Design (BFA), Illustration, Advertising Companies: Flexport, Intuit Specialties: UI Design, UX Design, Interaction Design
Why?: In his relatively short career, Andrew has managed to secure the lead design role at the rapidly-growing startup, Flexport. Meanwhile, he’s managed to build a large following among the design community by chronicling his experiences on Medium. More about Andrew: Read about Andrew’s learnings from leading design during Flexport’s hyper growth here. Take a look at his do’s and don’ts of form design here.
Andrew Crow — Head of Design @ Medium
Age: 43 Hometown: West Hills, CA School: N/A Concentration: N/A Companies: Medium, Uber, GE, Razorfish, Adaptive Path Specialties: Branding, UX Design, Interaction Design
Why?: At Uber, Andrew grew the design team from a handful of talented practitioners to a large, world-class team within the fastest growing company in the world. While at GE he led brand and design globally including rebrand for the company’s $47b brand. He’s now leading design for one of the valley’s most impressive teams and beloved products. More about Andrew: Watch him discuss his thoughts on how design careers are evolving here. Read about why he chose to join Medium here.
Audrey Liu — Director of Product Design @ Thumbtack
Age: 37 Hometown: ? School: Barnard College, Art Center College of Design Concentration: Art History, Visual Arts, Product Design Companies: Thumbtack, SYPartners Specialties: Design strategy, UX design, Visual design, Building design teams
Why?: Prior to joining Thumbtack, Audrey served as Managing Creative Director for SYPartners where she helped design experiences for Fortune 100 companies including Starbucks, IBM and Deloitte, as well as building the company’s award winning app, Unstuck. She’s now leading the design team for one of the Valley’s fastest growing two-sided markets. More about Audrey: Watch her talk about how Thumbtack closed the empathy gap between their product and users here. Read an interview she gave about her career here.
Braden Kowitz — Design Partner @ Google Ventures
Age: 36 Hometown: Barrington, IL School: University of Illinois, Carnegie Mellon Concentration: Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction (MS) Companies: Google Ventures, Google Specialties: UX Design, Product Development, Hiring Designers
Why?: Braden kicked off his career building and designing VR simulators at the Beckman Institute. Since then, he’s built a storied career for himself, first leading design for some of Google’s flagship products, including Gmail, Google Apps for Business, and Google Trends. He’s now landed at Google Ventures, where he founded the team’s Design Studio and works to advise budding startups on critical design issues. More about Braden: Braden’s thoughts on how to hire great designers are here. His podcast interview with Intercom is here.
Cap Watkins — VP of Design @ BuzzFeed
Age: 33 Hometown: Portland, Oregon School: USC Concentration: Creative Writing Companies: BuzzFeed, Etsy, Zoosk, Formspring, Amazon Specialties: UX Design, Product Development, Hiring Designers
Why?: There’s a lot more than to Buzzfeed than viral listicles — as one of the fastest growing media properties in the world, it’s also been heralded for reimagining how media and news sites can be designed. Cap Watkins is one of the chief architects behind that vision. Before Buzzfeed, Cap built his career working with companies like Zoosk, Formspring and, more recently, Amazon. He now leads of team of 18 to shape Buzzfeed’s platform and brand. More about Cap: Read an interview with Cap about his career and his path into management here. Watch his talk on how product, design and engineering teams can work better together here.
Chetana Deorah — Head of Design @ Scribd
Age: 44 Hometown: Mumbai, India School: Academy of Art University, St. Xavier’s College Concentration: Graphic Design (MFA), Biology, Film and Video Production Companies: Scribd, Liftopia, Betfair, Yahoo, Pentagram Specialties: Design Strategy, UX and UI Design, Graphic Design, Digital Branding, User Research
Why?: Chetana’s a skilled design leader who’s devoted to mentoring and inspiring the next generation of designers. From her experience leading product design and building teams at Liftopia, Betfair and now, Scribd she’s grown a wealth of knowledge across design methodologies and at creating empathy. She is equally adept at hiring, motivating and nurturing design teams. Passionate about design education, Chetana has taught at design accelerator programs and also volunteers with school children, introducing them to design. More about Chetana: Check out the slides from a recent talk she gave on crafting a great portfolio here. Slide decks from her other talks can be found here.
Chris Messina — Developer Experience Lead @ Uber
Age: 35 Hometown: Bedford, NH School: Carnegie Mellon University Concentration: Communication Design Companies: Uber, Depict, Delectable, Google Specialties: UX Design, Product Strategy
Why?: Perhaps best known as the inventor of the Hashtag, Chris recently joined Uber to champion and enhance the experience for Uber’s third party developers. Prior to Uber, he steered the creation of Google Developers as a central hub for resources for developers on Google’s platforms. He’s been a driving force in the discussion around conversational commerce. More about Chris: Read his thoughts on “conversational commerce” here. Listen to his interview on the A16Z podcast here.
Dan Becker — Design Director @ Strava
Age: 32 Hometown: Cincinnati, OH School: University of Cincinnati, DAAP Concentration: Graphic Design Companies: Strava, Airbnb, Square, Huge, Odopod Specialties: Product Design, Design Strategy, Branding
Why?: As the Design Director at Strava, Dan leads cross-functional teams focused on crafting the future of social fitness. Over the past decade, he has helped shape product and brand experiences for companies such as Airbnb, Square, Apple, and Tesla. He’s been the recipient of numerous design awards and serves as an advisor and design counsel for companies in the Bay Area. More about Dan: As a side project, Dan co-authored and designed a book with Chronicle Books which showcases over 500 vintage beer cans unearthed from the Midwest. Pick up a copy here.
Daniel Burka — Design Partner @ Google Ventures
Age: 37 Hometown: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island School: University of Prince Edward Island Concentration: History Companies: Google Ventures, Milk Inc., digg.com, Mozilla Specialties: UX Design, Mobile, Hiring Designers, Creative Direction
Why?: Daniel made his name as cofounder and Creative Director of the legendary news aggregator, Digg. He later partnered with Kevin Rose again to cofound mobile incubator, Milk. These days he’s a Design Partner at Google Ventures, where he advises portfolio startups on design decisions. More about Daniel: Daniel’s advice on hiring designers is here. His stand against the use of overflow menus can be found here.
Dann Petty — Host @ Epicurrence
Age: 33 Hometown: Tullahoma, TN School: O’More College of Design Concentration: Visual Communications Companies: Epicurrence, UENO, Luxe, Medium Specialties: Web Design, Interaction Design, UI Design, UX Design
Why?: Known for showcasing his work on sites like Dribbble and Behance, Dann was handpicked by Ev Williams as Medium’s first designer. Dann is now forging ahead as a full-time freelance designer, and chronicling other freelancers’ work in a full-length documentary called “FR$$LANCED.” Dann is also at the helm of the “un-conference” Epicurience, which has become the unofficial gathering spot of the design community. More about Dann: Watch a live AMA he did here. Listen to his advice for freelancers and new designers here.
Dantley Davis — Director of Product Design @ Facebook
Age: 36 Hometown: ? School: University of San Francisco Concentration: Information Systems, MBA Companies: Facebook, Netflix, Yahoo, SAP, PayPal Specialties: UX Design, Interaction design, A/B Testing
Why?: Early in his career, Dantley led design for many of the PayPal/Ebay integration features by conceptualizing their original payment experiences. As the lead product designer at Netflix, Dantley pushed his team to build a world-class experience across mobile, tablet and TV. He’s currently leading design at Facebook, where he’s focused on augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and camera related experiences. More about Dantley: Watch him discuss Netflix’s cross-platform re-design here. Read a profile of him and other execs that are shaping design at large tech companies here.
Diógenes Brito — Product Designer @ Slack
Age: 27 Hometown: New York, NY School: Stanford University Concentration: Product Design, Companies: Slack, Linkedin, Squarespace Specialties: Interaction Design, Information Architecture and UX Design
Why?: Though still relatively new on the design scene, Diógenes has already made his mark both on some of the big-name companies he’s worked for — including Squarespace and LinkedIn — as well as the broader design community by facilitating important conversations amongst designers. Diógenes is currently working at Slack, where he’s been key to building their highly successful platform, and has also become a voice of their admirable company culture. More about Diogenes: Read his story of how small design decisions can make a big impact here and his post on every designer’s journey to figure out the right label for their work here.
Dustin Senos — Former Head of Design @ Medium
Age: 31 Hometown: Vancouver, Canada School: Center For Arts and Technology Okanagan Concentration: Digital Animation Companies: Medium, The Walt Disney Company Specialties: UI Design, Software Development, Interaction Design
Why?: While there have been many great designers who’ve helped shape the early direction of Medium, it could be argued that Dustin’s influence has been the most profound. During his 3.5 year tenure at the company he helped shape the UX and visual design of both the mobile and web products. Previously he worked as a visual designer and software engineering lead at Walt Disney building a game called Club Penguin (acquired by Disney for $350 million in 2007). A couple of his notable freelance clients include Dreamworks and Samsung. More about Dustin: Listen to Dustin talk about his background and experience at Medium here. Read his advice on how to get value from wireframes here.
Frank Chimero — Design Director @ Abstract
Age: 31 Hometown: Long Island, NY School: Missouri State Concentration: Design Companies: Abstract, Nike, New York Times, Starbucks Specialties: Illustration, Graphic Design, Interaction Design
Why?: He’s an award winning designer who’s worked on projects for some of the world’s most recognized brands. He’s also the author of a beautiful book on storytelling and design craft called The Shape of Design. More about Frank: Read an interview he gave about his work and career path here. Read his extensive collection of articles and essays here.
Frank Yoo — Director of Product Design @ Lyft
Age: ? Hometown: Long Beach, CA School: UC Berkeley Concentration: N/A Companies: Lyft, Zimride, LinkedIn, and Yahoo! Specialties: Transportation, Peer-to-peer marketplaces, Product Design, Design Management, and Product Management
Why?: He’s been designing at Lyft since the company was called Zimride and worked his way up into the director role. Prior to Lyft he was a mobile UX design lead at Linkedin where he helped overhaul and ship completely new versions of the mobile experience for iOS, Android and mobile web. More about Frank: Read about how Frank manages design and UX research here. Watch his talk on designing peer-to-peer marketplaces here.
Gabriel Valdivia — Product Designer @ Facebook
Age: 29 Hometown: Sancti Spíritus, Cuba School: Art Institute of Tampa Concentration: Graphic Design Companies: Facebook, Automatic Specialties: UI Design, Virtual Reality
Why?: Gabriel was the first designer at mobile app and smart driving assistant Automatic, where his work won several awards. Today he’s leading some of Facebook’s biggest design initiatives in VR, and has also been a driving force behind the design of immersive 360 degree photos and Facebook stories. More about Gabriel: Listen to an interview he gave about his work at Facebook and Automatic here. Read his advice to practitioners who find themselves having to manage other designers here.
Geoff Teehan — Product Design Director @ Facebook
Age: 42 Hometown: Toronto, Canada School: Seneca Colleage of Applied Arts and Technology Concentration: Design Arts Companies: Facebook, teehan+lax Specialties: UX Design, UI Design, Digital Strategy
Why?: Geoff is Product Design Director at Facebook. He leads the design of some Facebook’s core features related to News Feed Notifications and Interfaces. He and his News Feed team were a big part of one of Facebook’s larger changes to the user experience in recent years — the addition of “reactions” over that of the standard “like.” Geoff is additionally the cofounder of Teehan+Lax, one of the most respected agencies in the design world. While he was leading the agency, T+L’s team helped shape products for iconic companies like Google, Medium, Yahoo, Prismatic, Flipboard, YouTube and many others. More about Geoff: Geoff gives an interview on his career progression and his working style here. Some of his recent work at facebook can be found here.
Irene Au — Design Partner @ Khosla Ventures
Age: 44 Hometown: Columbia, SC School: University of South Carolina, University of Illinois Concentration: Electrical and Computer Engineering, Human Computer Interaction (MS) Companies: Khosla Ventures, Udacity, Google, Yahoo, Netscape Specialties: UX Design, Interaction Design, UI Design, User Research, Organizational Design, Hiring
Why?: As former head of the design teams for Google and Yahoo!, Irene has been a huge force in shaping UX talent in the Valley over the years. Irene has also led the Product Design team at edtech startup, Udacity. Today, she’s a Design Partner at Khosla Ventures where she mentors startups on the all matters related to design (building design capabilities, scaling, creating a coherent vision, storytelling, etc), and shares many of the UX and career insights she’s gleaned along the way. More about Irene: Her thoughts about design team morale as a leading indicator for company culture can be found here. Watch her talk on how to be a CEO who supports design here.
Jake Knapp — Design Partner @ Google Ventures
Age: 38 Hometown: Eastsound, WA School: University of Washington Concentration: Interdisciplinary Visual Art Companies: Google Ventures, Google, Oakley, Microsoft Specialties: Design Sprints
Why?: Jake is best known as the creator of Google Ventures’ design sprint process and the NY Times bestselling book he wrote with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz explaining how to replicate it. Since establishing the process, Jake has run more than one hundred sprints for companies and products such as 23andme, Slack, Nest, Gmail and Google X. Aside from pushing companies forward in the design process, Jake also advises startups in the GV portfolio on their design and product development decisions. More about Jake: Watch Jake talk about the Sprint process here. Read an interview on how he works here.
Janice Fraser — Director of Innovation Practice @ Pivotal Labs
Age: 49 Hometown: San Francisco, CA School: Ohio University Concentration: English Companies: Pivotal Labs, LUXr, TaskRabbit, Adaptive Path Specialties: Product Strategy, UI Design, UX Design, Interaction Design
Why?: Before joining Pivotal, Janice was the founder of 6 startup companies. Among her startups, Janice was founder and CEO of Luxr, an early Lean Startup firm, as well as Adaptive Path, the world’s first User Experience firm. She has coached organizations including the White House, Navy Seals Training Command, Lyft, and Proctor & Gamble on how to deliver innovation at scale. More about Janice: You can listen to a podcast interview of her here. If you’d like to learn directly from her, you can sign up for her Udemy course here.
Jared Erondu — Product Designer, Ambassador @ Greylock
Age: 22 Hometown: Brooklyn, NY School: N/A Concentration: N/A Companies: Greylock, Teespring, Omada Health, Treehouse Specialties: Product Design, UI Design, Brand, Writing
Why?: While Jared may be one of the youngest people on this list, he’s clearly managed to make a name for himself within the industry, starting with his role as creative director during the early days of Teespring. He has worked with companies like MIT, Omada Health, Treehouse and Y Combinator. He now serves as a mentor to some of the Valley’s most prestigious VC firms, including Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock Partners. Jared is currently building a design community tool called Playbook. More about Jared: You can get to know him better in this interview or this podcast episode.
Jason Mayden — Designer in Residence @ Accel Partners
Age: 36 Hometown: Southside of Chicago, IL School: College for Creative Studies, Stanford GSB Concentration: Industrial Design + Graphic Design, General Managememt +Social Innovation Companies: Super Heroic Inc. Accel, Nike, Mark One, Slyce.io Specialties: Product Design, Branding
Why?: Jason spent over 14 years at Nike– designing everything from Nike+ to the Jordan Brand. More recently he’s been advising early-stage companies at Accel on design, working with Steph Curry on his new app Slyce, lecturing at Stanford’s d.school, and searching the country for the next great designers– whom he’s coined “cultural alchemists.” More about Jason: You can find his inspiring TED Talk here or read his most recent FastCo profile here.
Jason Putorti — Design in Residence @ Bessemer Ventures
Age: 34 Hometown: Niskayuna, NY School: University of Pittsburg, Parsons Concentration: Computer Science, Mathematics Technology and Design (MFA) Companies: Bessemer, Brigade, Causes, Votizen, Intuit, Mint Specialties: UX Design, Branding
Why?: Jason made his name leading the award-winning design of Mint.com. Since then, he’s served as VP of design for Votizen, Causes, and Brigade– all startups trying to give citizens a louder voice in the American political system. Jason is currently a Designer in Residence at Bessemer Partners, where he develops curriculum and best practices for portfolio companies. More about Jason: His talk about how good design leads to dollars can be seen here. You can check out his favorite design books here.
Jean-Marc Denis — Product Design Manager @ Facebook
Age: 34 Hometown: Toulouse, France School: N/A Concentration: N/A Companies: Facebook, Google, Sparrow Specialties: Immersive Design, UI Design, UX Design
Why?: Jean-Marc first gained notoriety for his work on the minimalist email client Sparrow, which later evolved into Google’s Gmail refresh, Inbox. He then went on to dig into VR projects for the company. Now, Jean-Marc is at Facebook focused on Messenger. More about Jean-Marc: Read about how he found his way into VR here or an interview he gave about his career path here.
Jesse James Garrett — Co-Founder @ Adaptive Path
Age: 43 Hometown: Ottawa, Canada School: University of Florida Concentration: N/A Companies: Adaptive Path Specialties: UX Design, Information Architecture
Why?: Jesse wrote one of the foundational texts for the industry, The Elements of User Experience. He also helped found Adaptive Path, a firm that is credited with helping bringing the practice of user experience into the mainstream. When he’s not at Adaptive Path, you can find Jesse hitting the speaking circuit and giving talks on product strategy for design, technology, and business audiences all over the world. More about Jesse: Watch a masterclass he gave summarizing the learning from his book here. Read his original proposal for standardized notation for interaction design here.
Joe Robinson — Organizer @ Designers & Geeks
Age: ? Hometown: St. Paul, MN School: University of Wisconsin- Madison Concentration: Information Systems Analysis & Design, Marketing Companies: IDEO.org, Circle, Square Specialties: Consumer FinTech, Product Management
Why?: Joe made a name for himself in the design industry building products for reputable fintech companies like Square, Circle, and IDEO.org. As the producer of Designer and Geeks, one of the largest communities for designers and technologists in the world, Joe brings engineers and designers together to share interesting findings and identify new ways to collaborate. More about Joe: You can watch his talk on designing FinTech products here, and learn more about his group, Designers and Geeks, here.
John Ashenden — Head of Design @ Mesosphere
Age: 30 Hometown: Jacksonville, FL School: University of Florida Concentration: Software Engineering Companies: Mesosphere, Grooveshark, H1 Studios, The BKRY Specialties: Product Design, Design Leadership, Frontend Engineering, Branding
Why?: As a one-time engineer, it’s no surprise that John’s interest in product development sits at the intersection of design and engineering. Before leading design at Mesosphere, he ran a boutique design agency in New York called H1 Studios where he worked with clients including Salesforce, Heroku, Rdio, and many others. Before that he also served as a SVP and Creative Director for Grooveshark. More about John: Here’s an interview he gave about design at Mesosphere. You can check out his Dribbble account here.
John Maeda — Global Head of Computational Design and Inclusion @ Automattic
Age: 50 Hometown: Seattle, Washington School: MIT, University of Tsukuba, ASU Concentration: Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Design Science (PhD), MBA Companies: Automattic, Kleiner Perkins, eBay Specialties: Visual design, design education, leadership
Why?: Before joining Automattic, John was a design partner at KPCB where he advised companies like Sonos, Google and eBay. He previously was a professor at the prestigious MIT Media Lab for 12 years, and then became the President of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). He’s also the author of The Laws of Simplicity, which is considered a landmark book in graphic design. More about John: Read about why he left KPCB to join Automattic here. His TED talk can be seen here.
Jon Lax — Director of Product Design @ Facebook
Age: 44 Hometown: Toronto, Ontario School: University of King’s College Concentration: History, Journalism Companies: Facebook, teehan+lax Specialties: UX Design, Digital Strategy
Why?: The other half of the dynamic duo that started Teehan + Lax– Jon is now responsible for the design teams across a range of Facebook products including Pages, Events, Marketplaces and the Facebook Developer Network. Jon is a Part time Partner with Notation Capital and an advisor to Design Inc and Push Strength. Over his 20 year career, Jon has worked with companies like Google, Medium, GM, YogaGlo, YouTube, Bell, Delta Airlines to design and build their digital products. More about Jon: Read his playbook for designing and building products here. Watch his talk on killing the billable hour here.
Joshua Goldenberg — Head of Design @ Slack
Age: 40 Hometown: Chicago, IL School: N/A Concentration: N/A Companies: Slack, Palantir, Lucasfilm Specialties: Growing and hiring design teams, UX Design, UI Design
Why?: As head of design at Palantir, Joshua built a team of over forty product and communication designers to create a global brand and a consistent user experience across the company’s web, desktop and mobile products. Prior to that, he was working with Lucasfilm designing oscar-nominated software. He’s now leading the design team for one of the Valley’s most exciting enterprise products. More about Joshua: Learn more about what Joshua looks for in the interview process here. Learn more about his work at Palantir from his website here.
Joshua Taylor — Director of Design @ Credit Karma
Age: 34 Hometown: Orlando, FL School: University of Central Florida, Elisava Concentration: Spanish, Design and Art Direction (MA) Companies: Credit Karma, Evernote Specialties: UI Design, UX Design, Mobile Design
Why?: He was one of the first design hires at Evernote. 4 years later, when he left the team had grown to almost 30 and the company was serving 150MM users. As design director he led the design of the Evernote Web App and Penultimate for iPad. As a contractor he worked on new features for Airbnb’s iOS and Android apps and helped multiple startups launch MVPs. Recently he joined on to lead Credit Karma’s fast-growing design team. He is also currently working on launching Parrot, a social podcasting platform. More about Joshua: Listen to an his thoughts on growing within organizations and leveling up as a junior designer here. Watch his talk about bridging digital and physical design here.
Julie Zhuo — VP of Product Design @ Facebook
Age: 32 Hometown: Sugar Land, TX School: Stanford University Concentration: Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction (MS) Companies: Facebook, Specialties: Management, Scaling Design Teams
Why?: Julie has spent the past decade at Facebook working her way up from design practitioner to executive. Today she is the company’s VP of Product Design, and fortunately she’s chronicled much of her sage wisdom– stemming from both her career and her personal life — along the way. More about Julie: Listen to a recent podcast interview she gave here. Browse her extensive and excellent writing on Medium here.
Kate Aronowitz — VP of Design @ Wealthfront
Age: 41 Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA School: Savannah College of Art and Design Concentration: Graphic Design Companies: Wealthfront, Facebook, Linkedin, Ebay Specialties: Hiring, Scaling Design Teams
Why?: Kate’s held design leadership roles at three multi-billion dollar consumer-tech companies — including Facebook, LinkedIn, and eBay. At Facebook, Kate led a design team of 200 and helped scale the company from 145 million users to 1.2 billion. Today she heads up design at Wealthfront, the fast-growing online investment platform. More about Kate: You can watch her talk about building effective design teams here. Her explanation for why she joined Wealthfront can be read here. If you’re interested in seeing her speak in person, you can request an invite to Designer Fund’s Source summit here.
Kate Rutter— Principal @ Intelleto
Age: 46 Hometown: Tucson, AZ School: Wellesley College Concentration: Studio Art, Painting Companies: Intelleto, Tradecraft, LUXr, Adaptive Path Specialties: UX Design, Information Architecture, Sketchnoting,
Why?: Kate built her career alongside other renowned UX practitioners at Adaptive Path. Since then, she’s helped cofound LUXr, and mentored the next crop of aspiring UX practitioners at Tradecraft (where we were lucky enough to work with her). She now teaches and spreads the art and practice of sketchnoting. More about Kate: Watch Kate teach the fundamentals of sketchnoting here. Check out a gallery of her work here.
Katie M. Dill — Director of Experience Design @ Airbnb
Age: 35 Hometown: Chappaqua, NY School: Colgate University, Art Center College of Design, INSEAD Concentration: History, Industrial Design Companies: Airbnb, Frog Design Specialties: UX Design, Experience Design
Why?: Katie oversaw Airbnb’s global rebrand, all while growing the team sixfold. Recently she spearheaded the redesign of Airbnb’s mobile UX, and her and her teams’ work hasn’t gone unnoticed in the industry, either — Katie has already collected big-time design and tech awards, including a Crunchie for Best Design in 2015, and a Webby for Best Travel site and app in 2014. Prior to joining Airbnb, she served as creative director at top design agency, Frog. More about Katie: You can read her thoughts about how to organize critique here. To see how she thinks about organizing teams, watch her talk here.
Kerem Suer — Product Designer @ Operator
Age: 32 Hometown: Istanbul, Turkey School: Northwest Missouri State University Concentration: Interactive Digital Media Companies: Operator, Omada Health, Lovely, Fitbit Specialties: UI Design, Interaction Design
Why?: Chances are you’ve seen Kerem’s work before — he’s helped to pioneer the design of several noteworthy products and services, including Fitbit, My Fitness Pal, Lovely, and Omada Health. Kerem is now working on conversational commerce interfaces at Operator, where he’s working to instill systematic methods to help humans better communicate with machines. More about Kerem: You can listen to a podcast where Kerem discusses career here or read an interview with him here.
Khoi Vinh — Principal Designer @ Adobe
Age: 45 Hometown: Saigon, Vietnam School: Otis College of Art and Design Concentration: Communication Design Companies: Adobe, Wildcard, Etsy, New York Times Specialties: UI Design, UX Design, Information Architecture, Usability
Why?: He’s been blogging more or less continuously for the last 16 years. During that time he’s overhauled the way design is practiced at The New York Times, wrote a book about grid principals for web design, and collaborated on Adobe’s mobile design tool, Comp (to name a few). Fast Company named Khoi as one of the “50 Most Influential Designers in America.” More about Khoi: Watch a recent interview he gave here. Browse his extensive catalogue of posts here.
Kurt Varner — Product Design Manager @ Dropbox
Age: 29 Hometown: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania School: University of Pittsburgh Concentration: Industrial Engineering Companies: Dropbox, Shyp, Zurb Specialties: Product Design, Design Management, Design Recruiting
Why?: Kurt spent his first four months in Silicon Valley living from his car to save money during his transition into the tech industry. Four years later, he was responsible for directing Shyp’s award-winning design and building the team into what it is today. Now he’s leading the design team for Dropbox Pro and Small Business and working to drive new value into these areas of Dropbox. More about Kurt: Read the inspiring story of how Kurt originally arrived in the Valley here. Read his post on why he left Shyp for Dropbox here.
Leslie Chicoine — Advisor @ Multiple Startups
Age: 34 Hometown: Lenexa, Kansas School: Savannah College of Art and Design Concentration: Interactive Design, Game Development Companies: Talk to Ivy, Breadcrumb by Groupon, 42 Floors, Lovely, Adaptive Path Specialties: UX Design, User Research, Product Management & Strategy
Why?: On top of her impressive design credentials, Leslie has also been the product founder of four companies, two of which had successful exits. She’s currently serving as a mentor to multiple early-stage startups, helping with design research and product management. More about Leslie: Learn more about what Leslie is up to by following her on Twitter here.
Luke Wroblewski — Product Director @ Google
Age: 40 Hometown: ? School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Concentration: Art History, Graphic Design, Human Interface Design (MFA) Companies: Google, Polar, Bagcheck, Yahoo, eBay Specialties: Mobile Design, Form Design
Why?: Before becoming Product Director at Google, Luke was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Benchmark Capital where he co-founded two companies, which were acquired by Twitter and Google. He’s been the chief design architect at Yahoo, an advisor to multiple startups, and has authored three popular design books and hundreds of articles. More about Luke: To learn his thoughts on mobile design, watch this presentation (as well as part 2). If you want to check out his books, you can find them here.
Malthe Sigurdsson — Head of Design @ Stripe
Age: 40 Hometown: Årslev, Denmark School: N/A Concentration: N/A Companies: Stripe, The Factory, Rdio, Skype, Leo Burnett Specialties: Branding, UX Design, Product Development
Why?: Over the span of his 20 year career, Malthe has perfected the balance between strategic visual design and scaling product development. It comes as no surprise, then, that he’s led the design direction of a number noteworthy design teams including Rdio, Skype, and most recently, Stripe. More about Malthe: Hear his thoughts on hiring and scaling design teams here.
Marcos Weskamp — Head of Product Design @ Uber
Age: 38 Hometown: Rosario, Argentina School: Tokyo Designer Gakuin Concentration: Graphic Design Companies: Uber, Flipboard, Adobe Specialties: Product Design, Information Design, UI Design, Information Visualization, Software engineering
Why?: Marcos is perhaps best known for leading the design of Flipboard, the news aggregator that upended our idea of what the RSS feed could be. More recently he’s stepped in to lead Uber’s design efforts as their Head of Product Design. More about Marcos: To learn more about how Marcos thinks about design, read this interview. For more on his transition to Uber, read this article.
Mari Sheibley — Creative Director @ Walker & Company Brands Inc.
Age: 34 Hometown: Fort Wayne, Indiana School: Columbus College of Art and Design Concentration: Advertising, Graphic Design Companies: Walker & Company, Foursquare Specialties: UI design, Interaction design, Branding, Iconography, Illustration
Why?: Mari first made her name in the design world while working as the first design hire at Foursquare, where was responsible for dreaming up the brand’s now iconic look and feel. Today she serves as Walker & Co.’s Creative Director, and is so synonymous with design that she was credited with designing the logo for Pied Piper in HBO’s Silicon Valley. More about Mari: To learn about Mari’s career, listen to this podcast or read this interview.
Mark Otto — Director of Design @ GitHub
Age: 30 Hometown: Wisconsin School: N/A Concentration: N/A Companies: GitHub, Twitter, ZURB Specialties: Front-end programming
Why?: While Mark was at Twitter, he helped create the popular, responsive and mobile-first front-end framework, Bootstrap. He’s now leading design for the ubiquitous developer hosting tool, Github. More about Mark: Listen to a podcast interview Mark gave about how he started Bootstrap here. Watch an interview he did discussing how he got started here.
Matt Hunter — Product Design Lead @ Jawbone
Age: ? Hometown: ? School: The College of New Jersey, Darden Business School Concentration: MBA Companies: Jawbone, EightBit, TextSlide Specialties: UX Design, UI Design
Why?: Matt is best known for his product design work at wearable company Jawbone. In 2013, he spearheaded the launch of the company’s core UP app by upending its user experience. Matt is now Product Design Lead at the company and is working on special projects. Prior to joining Jawbone, Matt founded Textslide and Eightbit.me More about Mat: Matt was named one of the 75 best designers in Silicon Valley here. You can check out his app, EIghtbit.me, here.
Matias Duarte — VP of Material Design @ Google
Age: 42 Hometown: Silverspring, MD School: University of Maryland College Park Concentration: Computer Science, Fine Art Companies: Google, Palm, Helio, Danger Specialties: UX Design, Industrial Design, Information Architecture, Visual Design
Why?: As the VP of Material Design at Google, Matias has spawned something of a cult following within the design industry. He is best known for his work transforming Android’s once-chaotic and confusing UX and visual aesthetic into the experience that it is today. Since then, he has led the charge on the re-design of Google’s logo last year, and has continued to spread the Material Design ethos across the company’s many products. More about Matias: To dive into how Matias brought material design to Google read this article. Watch his talk at Google I/O on the anniversary of Material Design here. Check out some of his earlier work on Palm’s WebOS here.
May-Li Khoe — Director of Design, Co-Director of Long-term Research @ Khan Academy
Age: ? Hometown: Vancouver, Canada School: MIT Concentration: Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (MA) Companies: Khan Academy, Apple, Microsoft, Leapfrog, IBM, MIT Media Lab Specialties: Interaction Design, Visual Design, Research & Development, Prototyping
Why?: Before joining Khan Academy to work on the company’s design direction and found a new long-term research group, May-Li spent over seven years designing at Apple. While in the company’s Human Interface Device Prototyping group, May-Li and her team created new interactions across Apple’s product suite, and helped invent core features like Apple’s Force Touch and the Taptic Engine. She has studied topics ranging from game design and pedagogy to computational fashion in order to inform her work. More about May-Li: Watch her talk on prototyping and humility here. Listen to her discuss her range of passions and interests on this podcast interview.
Nancy Douyon — UX Research Lead @ Google
Age: 30 Hometown: Haiti School: Suffolk University, University of Michigan Ann Arbor Concentration: Information Systems, Sociology, Human Computing Interaction (MA) Companies: Google, IBM, Accenture, Intel Specialties: User Research
Why?: Nancy leads research on the end to end experience for all new and critical launches for Google. Just in 2015, she completed 25 research studies and worked in 12 countries. Her goal is to change the way the tech industry does research to ensure that people of all social and economic backgrounds are included. More about Nancy: Read an interview she gave about making her way from her home in Haiti to a prominent post at Google here. Watch her talk on psychological principles that designers can use to build better products here.
Navin Iyengar — Lead Product Designer @ Netflix
Age: 36 Hometown: Oak Brook, Illinois School: University of Illinois, Academy of Art Concentration: Computer Science, 3D Animation, Game Design Companies: Netflix, POP Interactive Specialties: Cross-platform design, A/B Testing, Product Strategy
Why?: Navin’s led cross-platform product design for Netflix’s Website, iPad, iPhone and Android apps as well as the product’s social recommendations feature. On the side, he gives back to the Silicon Valley community by mentoring startups and entrepreneurs in design at 500 Startups. More about Navin: Watch a talk he gave about how Netflix uses A/B Testing to inform design decisions here. Read his interview with Wired about Netflix’s redesign here.
Netta Marshall — Designer @ Airbnb
Age: 32 Hometown: Los Angeles, CA Companies: Airbnb, Tally, Palantir, Watsi, Rdio, Square, Modcloth, Myspace Specialties: UI Design
Why?: Nicknamed Netta the Ninja, Netta’s held design positions with some of the Valley’s most prolific design teams including Square, Rdio, and Palantir. She’s responsible for spearheading the redesign of Watsi and leading the design at Tally. Currently, she’s working with Airbnb and recently released a side project called Hindsight, that’s built to collect career wisdom for fresh creatives. More about Netta: Watch her talk describing her career path and desire to design for good here. Check out some of her design work on her pesonal website here.
Randy J. Hunt — VP of Design @ Etsy
Age: 34 Hometown: Orlando, FL School: University of Central Florida, School of Visual Arts Concentration: Graphic Deisgn (MFA) Companies: Etsy, Supercorp, Citizen Scholar Inc. Specialties: Experience Design, Brand Strategy, Omni-channel Design, Design Leadership
Why?: Over the past 6 years he’s helped lead and scale Etsy’s award-winning design team through hypergrowth as well as an IPO. He’s also the writer of Product Design for the Web about how to create meaningful online experiences that keep users coming back. More about Randy: Listen to an interview he gave about the challenges of growing Etsy’s design team here. Read his thoughts on why designers should stop trying to be clever here. Check out his team’s work on the Etsy Design Medium account here.
Rhiannon Bell — VP of UX and Design @ NerdWallet
Age: 38 Hometown: Aberystwyth, United Kingdom School: N/A Concentration: N/A Companies: NerdWallet, Zynga Specialties: Product Design, Brand, Product Strategy, Building Teams, Hiring Designers
Why?: Rhiannon is an an award winning Creative Leader with 18 years experience in brand and product across broadcast, gaming and now finance industries. During her time at Zynga she was responsible for the creative team of their hugely popular game, Words With Friends. Now, in addition to scaling and leading a best in class design team at NerdWallet, she’s also a sought after advisor for other teams in tech at companies like Thumbtack & WorkPop. More about Rhiannon: To learn more about her background, check out her Linkedin profile here.
Robert S Andersen — Creative Director @ Square
Age: 28 Hometown: Denver, CO School: N/A Concentration: N/A Companies: Square, Apple Specialties: Branding, Industrial Design, UI Design
Why?: He’s been at Square since day 4 and has worked been an instrumental part in the initial design for the Square Reader, the UI of Square Register, the company’s iconic logo, as well as many other core projects. He was also responsible for designing one of the first Twitter clients available for the iPhone, PocketTweets. More about Robert: Read the story of the design of Square Cash here. Check out his Dribbble account here.
Sasha Lubomirsky — Head of Design Research @ Medium
Age: 32 Hometown: Kiev, Ukraine School: Stanford Concentration: Psychology Companies: Medium, Airbnb, Google, Android, YouTube Specialties: User Research, Design Strategy
Why?: Sasha is one of the premier authorities on user research and design strategy in the Valley. In addition to leading design research at Medium, Sasha also serves as an advisor to Homebrew VC. Before Medium, she helped to build the design research team at a rapidly scaling Airbnb. While at Stanford, Sasha also had the opportunity to work with renowned psychologist Philip Zimbardo on his book, The Lucifer Effect. More about Sasha: Read her post about common misunderstandings with design research here. Her interview with Hunter Walk of Homebrew can be found here.
Shaun Modi — Partner @ TM
Age: 31 Hometown: New York ,NY School: RISD Concentration: Industrial Design Companies: TM, Airbnb, Google, Motorola, Nokia, Nasa Specialties: UX Design, UI Design, Product Strategy, Branding, Service Design
Why?: As one of the first designers at Airbnb, Shaun orchestrated the redesign of Airbnb and helped launch the company’s first discovery feature, Wish Lists. Today you can find Shaun heading up his studio, TM, where he’s worked with clients like AltSchool, Boosted Boards, Digital Ocean, Mesosphere, Radpad, and Product Hunt. More about Shaun: Read an interview Shaun gave discussing his approach to design and his career here. Get a glimpse inside TM here.
Soleio Cuervo — Angel Investor & Advisor @ Multiple Startups
Age: 34 Hometown: Piscataway, NJ School: Duke University Concentration: Music Theory & Composition Companies: Dropbox, Facebook Specialties: Product Strategy, Design Management, Venture Capital
Why?: Soleio was an early Facebook designer where he designed several of the company’s seminal products and features: Video, Groups, Chat, Messenger 1.0 and the Like button. He also helped build Facebook’s early design team and culture. Soleio later became the head of design at Dropbox where he nurtured some of the Valley’s most talented designers. He’s now an active investor and advisor to early stage tech companies like Earnest, Framer, Figma, Zeit and Point. More about Soleio: Learn about his design process here. Read his thoughts on personalized products here.
Tim McCoy — Senior Director of Design @ Pivotal Labs
Age: 43 Hometown: Westwood, NJ School: Rutgers- New Brunswick Concentration: N/A Companies: Pivotal Labs, UniversityNow, Inc., Cooper Specialties: UX Design, UI Design, Agile Methodologies
Why?: With an impressive two decades of experience under his belt, Tim uses his role at Pivotal to advise companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100 on how to create compelling products and services. In addition to Pivotal, Tim’s also worked with other heavy hitters of the design world at the agency, Cooper. More about Tim: Read how Tim got his start and his advice for those who are just starting out here. Watch his views on design leadership here.
Tim Van Damme — Designer @ Abstract
Age: 31 Hometown: Steenokkerzeel, Belgium School: N/A Concentration: N/A Companies: Abstract, Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram, Gowalla Specialties: Full-stack designer, Advisor
Why?: Like the way your Instagram feed looks? You can thank Tim Van Damme for that. Tim’s been helping to shape the design of some of the world’s most iconic, consumer-facing mobile products for the better part of the last decade, including Dropbox and Facebook. These days he’s a designer at Abstract, where he’s working on a new tool for design teams. More about Tim: Read an extensive interview he gave about his career here or listen to a podcast interview he gave here.
Timoni West — Principal Designer @ Unity Labs
Age: 32 Hometown: Wayne, Nebraska School: George Mason University Concentration: Medieval Literature Companies: Unity Labs, Foursquare, Flicr, Scribd Specialties: VR Design, UX Design, UI Design
Why?: When Unity Labs needed a someone to lead the design of their new tool to help creators build immersive VR experiences they asked Timoni. For good reason too — Timoni has played important roles in shaping the design of products like Foursquare, Swarm, Flickr and Scribd. As a freelancer, she’s also worked with clients like Airbnb, Samsung, and Causes. More about Timoni: Listen to an interview she gave on the UX hurdles of designing for VR here. Read her pointers for designers looking to build VR expirences here.
Ugur Kaner — Head of Design @ Memebox
Age: 35 Hometown: Istanbul, Turkey School: Middle East Technical University, University of Oulu Concentration: Computer Science, Digital Media (MA) Companies: Memebox, Udemy, Rovio Specialties: Mobile, Product, Design
Why?: While Ugur is currently at the helm of the fast-growing e-commerce startup Memebox, chances are you’ve also seen his work products for recognizable brands and products like Google Express, Udemy and Angry Birds. Over the years, he’s additionally served as an advisor to several startups and written prolifically as a co-author of both books and articles. More about Ugur: Learn about Ugur’s philosophy for designing products here. Check out his ideas for how Lyft can gain ground on Uber here.
Vítor Lourenço — Head of Design @ Expa
Age: 28 Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil School: N/A Concentration: N/A Companies: Expa, Ando, Operator, Envoy, Reserve, Twitter, Yahoo Specialties: Design, Product, Branding, Prototyping
Why?: Vítor got his start in the design world as Twitter’s first designer at the age of 20. Since then, he’s founded Envoy, and now leads and advises on design for many of Expa’s portfolio companies, including Reserve, Operator, and Ando. More about Vítor: Read a story about him deciding to leave Twitter here. Read about his decision to join Expa here.
Wilson Miner — Director of Digital Design @ The California Sunday Magazine
Age: 35 Hometown: Wichita, Kansas School: The University of Kansas Concentration: Journalism, Strategic Communications, Italian Companies: California Sunday Magazine, The Factory, Facebook, Rdio, Apple Specialties: Interaction Design, UI Design
Why?: Wilson is a big name in the design world — as an Interactive Designer at Apple, he worked on a comprehensive redesign of the brand’s home page (the company’s first in ten years). He’s also held notable positions at Rdio, where he led a prolific group of designers, and at Facebook where he helped to write a unified system of interface guidelines. These days you can find Wilson at design and media darling, California Sunday Magazine, where he’s the Director of Digital Design. More about Wilson: Watch his inspiring talk on shaping our environment through design here.
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