How working with Scout made me a better designer.

Shuya Gong
Feb 14, 2018 · 8 min read

Shuya Gong is the co-founder and CTO of unsize. Recently, she and co-founder Katie Wilhoit wrapped up a semester long design project on unsize as clients of Scout, Northeastern’s student run design and development studio. Shuya continues to head up creative direction and product design at unsize. These are some learnings and takeaways from our project together.


This past academic semester, Katie and I had the great privilege of working with Scout, Northeastern’s student led design and development studio. We approached Scout seeking helping hands, creative energy, and talent to help us redesign our website, take our brand to the next level, and think through and build part of our user-facing product.

It was magical, it was amazing, it was humbling. It was all the positive adjectives which any layperson or design saavy professional, would respond to when looking at their formidable body of work (check it out at here). The work that comes out of this studio is the kind of stuff that gives you imposter syndrome as a designer, which only gets worse when you realize that they’re still all undergraduate students. But you’ll appreciate it regardless because the work that comes out of Scout is special. Its refreshing, it’s personable, it’s understanding, and it’s stuff that makes you say “Woah.”

An inside look into Scout’s HQ & where we would meet every week. (source: Scout’s Website). Also the cool girl pointing down is Victoria Romulo; check out her work on our instagram http://bit.ly/2sxhXgQ.

Design has been important to unsize from day 0, from our customer experience, validating our business model, and our to aesthetic. We started with desirability, knowing that our product and experience needed to be human-centered through and through, so our brand, or the world and mission unsize users related to, were embedded into the whole process. Our approach to good design is less so methodical, and more so “we’ll know it when we see it”…a phrase with huge potential for pitfalls.

So we knew that the design journey would be one that we both, client and design studio team, needed to take some care navigating. We were determined not to let the scenario of working with designers become the cliched Client From Hell sketch comedy fodder it could become, and buckled in for a fantastic journey.

Here’s what I learned, as a designer turned client during a semester long engagement with Scout for unsize:

1. Enjoy the journey, the wander is the wonder.

An example of iterations of one of our inclusive illustrations by @Josh Pensky and @Gabi Homonoff.

Unsize started off as a rather vague brand. Full of personality, yes, but mostly with abstract shapes and doodles representing it. Somewhere along the journey, the evolved to be the inclusive illustrations we have today. I. Love. Them. It’s totally not what we were expecting, and it started with some simple, experimental sketches Katie and I loved — but didn’t feel as though they were totally right. They were cute, endearing, but a little too young. But then they matured — literally, into the figures we know and love today. They wouldn’t have gotten there if we had immediately shut it down because the initial sketches weren’t totally on brand or in our set of deliverables at the beginning! Thank goodness— they’re totally magical and unexpected, and one of my favorite things.

2. Trust your team, ask for the same

A sneak peak at unsize’s brand book made with love by Scout.

But the trust ran both ways — Scout encouraged us to take whatever was produced and do the natural thing as designers — transform it, use it, adapt it — but keep the integrity and original spirit that it was created in.

But would it really be okay if we blatantly pushed back against a designer’s work? Or if we took something fresh off the press and totally transformed it? Is a brand expression that was explicitly meant for digital also okay if we blew it up and put it on a poster?

Turns out, yes. And it’s welcome. Doing so, making crappy prototypes, and sending them over to say “Hey! We did a thing with the things you gave us, it’s not perfect but how do you feel?” ended up informing some big turning points, and it wasn’t awkward to do so at all. If anything, we created some fodder for thought, and seeing the brand expressed in a certain way freed up Scout design team time to explore deeper in the same direction, or realized that it wasn’t right and paused it there.

2.5 Trust your team, ask for the same

We also quickly realized that Scout is also an environment that you can bring your team- your whole team- into. Although Katie and I experienced Scout as fellow designers, Ashlyn, Engineering Lead at unsize, brought solely an engineering background to our weekly meetings. Still, she felt comfortable enough to contribute and provide clarity to the process. Scout is experienced and flexible enough to work across disciplines and with any member of your team, a critical skill for any project’s success.

Scout’s application of our brand in unsize tutorial videos

3. Fuel up on creative energy, don’t be afraid to be extra about it.

4. Breakfasts & banter is good for the soul, good for work.

Also KT sometimes brought fried/baked/flayed potatoes for breakfast, so that was great.

One last point about the professionalism of Scout from a purely functional viewpoint:

I’m a huge proponent for DIYing but working with Scout gave us the whole, cohesive brand package, gifting us with a design language and library that is super flexible and allows unsize to keep churning out cool stuff without too much of a lift — letting Katie and I put out other fires around a start-up and be able to consider design stuff as a treat to work on. It was a luxury having all the fonts, brand variations, color hex codes, wireframes, website component guides, you name it, all in one place. Scout makes continued brand work for unsize easier, so we could focus on getting clothes that fit you easier.

The final thank you

Part of the unsize team with a lovely brand book (not shown: Shuya & Ashlyn)!

In no particular order: Adam, Gabi, Jon, Josh, Madison, huge thank you for putting up with us and all our little requests and delighting us every Wednesday morning and going above and beyond our biggest expectations. You took unsize and bent and twisted and pushed our brand to the extreme, and we ended up with something that was totally not what we thought we would end up with — something that neither Katie nor I could have even imagined at the beginning of the semester. That’s the sort of magic I thought I would find this semester at Scout. I’m not surprised that I was right, but I’m ever so delighted that it happened. And to Christina, Molly, Nick, and Brennan, thank you for the structure and continued management. You do the work of running a (practically and functionally) professional design and development studio…while being full time students. I’m astounded. We were so lucky to have worked with ya’ll.

Here’s to hoping that this isn’t the last time.


Check out www.unsize.me to see some of the work done by Scout this semester. Interested in working with Scout as a client? Applications open twice a year at www.northeastern.edu/scout.

Unsize

Eliminating sizing to humanize fashion

Thanks to Katie Wilhoit

Shuya Gong

Written by

Designer @ IDEO CoLab. Harvard 2017. Percussionist, mechanical engineering, design. @ohmygong

Unsize

Unsize

Eliminating sizing to humanize fashion

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