An idea is only as good as its presentation — it’s why talented UX and UI folks are so in-demand. In fact, research shows you have less than a minute from the time someone visits your homepage to attract them, or they’ll click right off. So for startups trying to make a great first impression, good design is paramount.
Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to find the right designer to convey your message, and expensive to hire an entire design team. Sharing economy startup DesignCue takes the work out of the process for founders by assigning you to a project manager, who directs a remote team of designers and delivers exactly what you need. Think of it as the democratization of design.
Hype talks to Preston Attebery, the solo founder and design guru behind DesignCue, about how he came to design an app for a famous boy band member, stays on top of a fully-remote team, and strives to make the user a hero.
Is DesignCue your first startup endeavor?
When I moved to Atlanta and became inspired by the beautiful architecture, I started a design series called Simple City. Essentially, I created minimalist illustrations of Atlanta’s most prominent buildings. West Elm approached me to be a part of their local initiative and this was essentially my introduction to the Atlanta community.
I planned to take Simple City to other cities, but when I started playing around with the idea for DesignCue, I had to dedicate all my time to it.
If you run a company and aren’t a designer, getting high-quality app design can be a very difficult thing. DesignCue makes it really easy to get high-quality app designs at an affordable cost. I call it the democratization of design: building high-quality design for the common man. To achieve this, we work with talented freelance designers across the U.S. paired with project management that’s done in-house.
In the end, prices are fair, designers are really talented, and turnaround times are speedy.
How’d you get the idea for DesignCue?
Actually, doing my taxes! This year I used an app called TaxFyle to file my taxes. I was overjoyed with the experience of the sharing economy — connecting professionals across the country with intuitive software that got them paid and saved money.
The idea hit me: could this be done with design? I wondered if I could build a global workforce of designers to make design really easy for everyone.
What problem are you solving?
We solve the pain points consumers and founders have in finding design talent. For instance, we push for quick turnarounds, upfront and packaged pricing, free consulting throughout, and access to the best design talent. On the designer end, we’re solving the problem of instability by providing consistent work and enabling them to take on more design challenges to develop as an individual.
How does Design Cue work into the sharing economy? Is it cheapening the work of talented designers in any way?
DesignCue is really different than most design resources currently offered. On one end, you have 99Designs that rarely pays their designers for spec work. On the other end, you have big agencies with writers, developers, strategist, managers, and designers in-house.
DesignCue takes a different approach. We don’t do any development or writing or extensive planning in-house. We only do design. This intense focus allows us to offer a very well-design product without the high prices of big agencies or inconstancy of online networks.
Because of our sharing economy model, we allow designers across the U.S. pick up extra work as they find time or need supplemental income. For startups, we pair them with designers working with Southwest and Lyft — really top talent that they’d be unable to utilize before DesignCue.
One of your first projects at DesignCue was creating an app for Kevin Jonas. How did that project come about?
I had a crazy idea to create an Kanye West Emoji app. To get the ball rolling I tweeted “Anybody know someone in app development?” Someone commented and connected me with a local designer who happened to be the lead designer for Kevin Jonas and his app company, “The Blu Market.”
My app idea failed but I got pulled into a project for Kevin Jonas. I was tasked with creating the characters for Kevin’s new game featuring his brother Joe Jonas’s new band, DNCE. Throughout the project, I never spoke to Kevin or his team. After a few months go by, my contact left the company and I had no way to get in touch.
As a way of self-promotion (and because I wasn’t under NDA!), I tweeted out some of the designs I did for Kevin. The Jonas Brothers have a huge world-wide and my tweet quickly went viral. The next day I got a call. I immediately took down the tweets and they hired me to design all their major apps. And yes, I eventually got to chat with Kevin!
What is your management style?
We’re a remote team, so Slack is a staple. Everyone is using it and there’s a good reason for doing so. Other than that, I make a job of staying in constant contact and keeping it casual. DesignCue isn’t a highly structured environment. We have high standards and clear expectations upfront: get this done by X and make it good. From there, we adjust as need be.
At DesignCue, we believe in teams. All our designers are paired with a project manager — mostly me. I do all the organizing and vision casting. With a project manager involved, you lift the load of management from the designer and allow them to do what they do best.
I’m constantly asking how we can streamline our design approach as to maintain quality at an affordable rate. Even from the initial idea, I’ve been obsessed with how to scale quality. We hustle on each project and rally our designers around the vision; we try to focus on making the user the hero.
Interview by Muriel Vega. Development by Holly Beilin.