Written by Esther Chung
At Unfold, there’s a saying that gets tossed around quite a bit. Whether we’re describing logo concepts, product features, or even doodles in our weekly Gartic Phone sessions – “do more gooder” has become our team’s pre-game chant. It fuels us, drives us, and riles us up to do just that. We design to make things “gooder” than how we found them.
To give you a little bit of context about Unfold, we’re a design agency that crafts digital experiences through branding, illustration, web & product design. You might recognize our ‘Birds are Drones’ NFT conspiracy project (Dronies) or the watermelon logo that spams your Dribbble feed. We’re a weird but lovable bunch who are obsessed with chicken, crocs, and creating delight through design.
You might be wondering: what is the secret sauce that brings and holds our ragtag team together? Well, we believe that “doing gooder” can only be achieved through the “goodness” in each of us; we’re the greater sum of all our quirky parts. This is our guiding principle, and here are the ways we practice it:
Stop, Collaborate and Listen
Just like Vanilla Ice, our process is to stop, collaborate, and listen. From the way that we structure our teams, to the way we interact with our clients – we believe that success is earned and enjoyed through a collective effort.
More specifically, we create each project dream team by assigning two designers and a Creative Director to lead the project to success. Although we can say with absolute certainty that each individual team puts their all into a project collectively, our “goodest” designs come from bringing the whole gang together.
For almost every project, we organize a team push where all of us melonheads hop into Figma to brainstorm ideas, share feedback, and just jam out together. To take it a step further, we also utilize our #feedbash and #helpwanted channels in Slack where folks can ask for help or get a second opinion. Suffice to say, it takes an Unfold village.
Partnering with Clients
Now, let’s talk about our clients for a second. Well first, let’s ditch the word “client.” To use a more fitting description, one of our recent clients called himself our “partner in crime,” and this couldn’t be more accurate. We truly believe that the companies we work with are our partners, and only through reciprocal trust and open communication can we achieve shared success.
In any partnership, there’s a delicate balance between establishing ourselves as the design experts and making sure that our clients feel valued and heard. That’s why it’s imperative to recognize that while we may consider ourselves the experts in what we do, our clients are experts in everything else – their business, their customers, the list goes on.
To use an apt metaphor, each project is like a baby that its parents (our clients) have entrusted us to care for. The clients understand each and every facet and nuance about their baby, and it’s our job to gather every bit of knowledge and insight they have to offer. What phases has it gone through in its life cycle so far, what are its specific attributes that make it special and unique, and what issues is it dealing with today? Similar to parenting, we employ active listening and empathy towards our clients and their users to answer these questions. And by demonstrating our willingness to first listen and learn, we’re able to develop an honest dialogue and ultimately build trust.
Now that we’ve established a solid foundation of trust, it’s important to continuously foster and nurture that relationship (just as one would nurture a baby). We’ve learned that the best means to do so is through open and continuous communication.
Contrary to what shows like Mad Men tell you about pitching to clients, we don’t present our work with some grand reveal that solicits either tears of joy or throwing a paperweight against a conference room wall. We believe that the best way to showcase our work is to fully understand and align on expectations from the get-go. For example, we want to know the best way to get our clients to make decisions and feel confident in them. Do they want to see as many options as possible when reviewing designs, or do they only want to see the top two options? Are they looking for more of an exploration, or are they looking for complete flows? Client feedback is and should always be an integral part of every step in the design process. After all, we know how keeping clients in the dark ended for Don Draper.
We recently had our office holiday event, which was a smash. There were tears of laughter, tears of joy, and tears of gratitude. One tear-jerker moment, in particular, shared between our “Junior” Web Designer and our Web Creative Director, encapsulates Unfold’s leadership approach so perfectly that it bears conversation.
Being a career changer and new to web design, our Web Designer took a junior role so that she could learn the ropes a bit more. And while she opened up about feeling afraid to make mistakes on the job, she also felt a sense of assurance that she could “fail safely” here; that the learning lessons that go hand-in-hand with growth would be celebrated, not scrutinized. She shared her gratitude that in a situation where so many managers are the biggest of critics, hers was her biggest champion. Let’s just say that there was not a dry eye in the house.
There’s something really special about the leadership here at Unfold, and this is not coming from leadership (#thisisnotanad). That special something is the trust that they place in us not only to succeed but to also sometimes fail. Recognizing that failure is a part of growth, they empower us to learn from the good and the bad, and give us the space to do so. With their trust, leadership, and support, they help us become our “goodest” selves.
Although we’ve all heard the company line “we’re a family,” at Unfold, it means something a little different. We don’t come from the same place, nor do we share the same ancestor (although we can all agree that our Creative Director Evan, is our collective dad). What we do share, the characteristic that ties us all together, is our faith and trust in one another. We hype each other up, shout each other out, and support each other through the good and the bad.
So if we can somehow celebrate our losses, our wins are a spectacle to behold. Each and every person on the team is equally overjoyed because we know our success is a result of the collective effort we’ve put in together. These wins, big or small, are a constant reminder that the “goodness” we’ve always seen in each other, has now come to fruition. Simply put, what makes us a family is our belief in each other to “do more gooder”; what makes us win is that we’re a family.
At Unfold, we believe that there’s a unique and special “goodness” in each of us. It’s that subtle spice that brings all of us to the table, blending perfectly to create the secret sauce that holds our team together. It grounds us, inspires us, and unites us around this simple but powerful idea: We do “good” because it inspires “gooder.”