Cloudflare's Creative Corner
The Creative Corner explores the experiences of creative professionals working within the tech industry. From challenges faced to lessons learned, we will join them on their journey as they share their wisdom as creatives in tech.
Welcome to the Creative Corner on Cloudflare. I'm super excited to have y 'all here today.
We have incredibly talented designers joining us from Nike, which Dylan and I were just talking about is one of our favorite brands ever and I own a lot of Nikes and I'm stupidly not wearing any right now.
I was going to quickly go put some on and like show them off but I'm really excited to have you here and talk to you guys about your process, what it's like to work for one of the most admired brands in the world.
So welcome and maybe we can kick it off with doing some some quick intros of everyone here.
Yeah for sure. Hey you guys, I'm Kat.
I'm currently a senior designer on the Nike flagship shop team. Flagship is Nike app and nike.com so focusing on those product design experiences.
Shop particularly is focusing on kind of the lower end of the funnel so kind of product pages, bag, checkout through post -purchase, that whole journey.
But the team is comprised of the whole entire Nike app and nike.com experience so Brian can touch on more the front end of that experience but yeah it's a little bit about me and also this is my dog Winston.
He'll be bothering us. I'm sorry. I love Winston.
Hi I'm Brian. I'm on the Discover team which is basically just landing pages, home pages and like the app feed and stuff like that so kind of everything before you get to like the checkout flow.
Yeah that's pretty much what what I do all day.
Pretty cool. I'm Stephan and I'm Kat's partner in crime on the shops domain so I work primarily on checkout experiences as well.
Yeah and we all kind of work pretty fluidly across flagship so Brian will sometimes moonlight on our team, Stephan will moonlight on their team so we're a very fluid design group where we do kind of everything end-to-end from strategy, design, execution, BQA, all the way across the funnel so no one's a specialist here.
Awesome. How big, I mean, are there multiple design teams at Nike?
I assume yes. How big is your team? Maybe you can talk to us a little bit about how that's all structured.
For sure so we are a larger teams.
We're about 15 of us total and you guys keep me honest where there's what seven of us on shop, three on discover, three four on membership and then a growth team as well but outside of that there is kind of a larger design organization, digital design that encompasses kind of the the other app spaces so you have the sports apps like Nike running club, Nike training club, some of the innovation work around I don't know if you guys heard about Nike fit which is kind of this cool experience where you go into stores and they'll scan your foot and determine your shoe size so that would be kind of expanding further down the line to more apparel and other things so a bunch of different little facets of kind of the digital experience world and we kind of sit, we're adjacent to brand design but you know very much separate in the digital org.
I love how you said it was a pretty fluent setup there.
I kind of wanted to ask a little bit about that because from an operational standpoint we've been working to you know better streamline our design process and we kind of shifted towards like a pod -based model where people are specializing as you said in you know particular brand design pillars to better manage workflow and get more efficient.
With you all being able to kind of transition between the teams or the sections, how are you able to address and manage projects with that type of structure and with that level of fluidity and movement?
Yeah that's a great question. I'm also sorry I'm not trying to talk over you guys.
Brian please jump in at any time. I think we are working towards that structure, the pod you know kind of more embedded team structure.
In fact shop is getting decently close to that you know where Stefan's very focused and has built those relationships very closely with you know the checkout team specifically.
We have Jess who's kind of owning you know bag and some of PDP. Some of our other people are focusing on post -purchase only but we are I would say a little strapped for headcount on our team right now and we have a ton of work coming through so we do kind of use that fluid moment to help focus when we have you know projects come through that we don't have enough support for.
But yeah sorry you guys also jump in.
Seems to be the standard case for just about every design team right?
Currently strapped for headcount doing what we can. Doing what we can.
Yeah I mean the goal would be of course to really get down and prioritize and specialize and have that ownership with that product partner versus kind of you know spanning a few tracks at the moment.
Because like Brian you're doing like you're doing landing pages and CDPs and also moonlighting on product pages and product walls and shop.
Yeah it's kind of all over the place because there's just been like a lot of random projects kind of come up sometimes as always is inevitable.
But yeah it's kind of fun like yeah just like this different kinds of things I get to work on.
So yeah it's pretty cool to be able to to kind of like bounce around a little bit.
It definitely gives us like a broader perspective too of what's going on within the you know flagship ecosystem which I think is is nice.
But it also it does you know cause some chaos here and there.
Where you know you aren't as plumbed in with what the KPIs are and what the goals are of said team until you really you know get down get to know them and specialize with them.
But it is cool to sometimes find out new workspaces and kind of bring in some of those ideas from other workspaces and start creating a little bit more.
I'm gonna say this really gross word synergy.
Gross but yeah.
Do y'all work with agencies too on your web properties campaigns or anything else really?
I mean a bit. I'm sorry I'm totally taking over you guys. A bit.
So prior to kind of myself joining Nike about three plus almost four years ago Nike Digital was very much agency led.
So everything was really being built in silos you know by agency briefs prior to us kind of being built as a team.
So you know we still kind of leverage that in some you know instances for maybe doing some vision work that we don't exactly have time to execute you know a grand you know vision on.
But yeah more or less we bring them in occasionally but we're moving away from that over time to kind of really bring everything in house where we have that ownership.
But yeah there is the occasional like global navigation. We just did this very light style update if you take a look at nike.com.
But in the process of you know doing that work track we brought in Working Co to kind of think about what you know what would a search based global navigation look like.
How would that function?
What kind of things can we do to update that we were slated for and you know be able to think about those far out things and maybe bring a few touches of that into the you know the build that we could lay out.
Cool. I just realized I had my background on backwards.
It's like oh boy yeah Cloudflare logo is going in reverse.
So I have to ask like Nike is obviously an iconic brand.
It's been around for years, puts out high quality design, advertising, storytelling.
What is it like being on the inside of a company like that for a brand like working for a brand like that?
I mean I don't know.
I guess I don't know. Maybe I'm jaded. I'm used to it. I mean it's a company like any other place.
You know I'm sure you know people coming in working at Google and Airbnb say the same thing.
It's just like you know we're all people.
We're all trying to do our best work and you know Nike's so sports focused.
There's a lot of people here who are deeply ingrained in the sports culture and love it to death.
I wish Justin had come because he is like he's obsessed. He's like Lakers basketball like don't even talk to him about shoes because he has all the hype gear.
It's definitely like a major you know a major element that's underflowing but it's you know the real focus at least for me you know is solving you know user questions and user goals and you can do that with anything but you know it is nice to have that kind of I guess our like what is our maximum of like help all athletes like an athlete is any person with a body doesn't necessarily need to be you know someone who's like super hardcore which is you know kind of a nice underlying goal is you know helping people get active and be part of sport.
Brian, Stefan, anything else?
You're nailing it Kat. No oh my god I'm just rambling over here.
Well Steven and Brian how long have you both worked at Nike? I think we, Stefan and I started around the same time like I think he started a couple months before I did like early last year in 2019 so I've been there like a little over a year and a half maybe.
Yeah I think I joined in January of 2019 so it's been almost two years.
It'll be two years coming up soon. Faster than I expect I think.
Yeah I think quarantine's really messed that up for everyone. I feel like I'm still at like two and a half years but like what?
I've got a quick question for Brian.
You mentioned working on a lot of landing pages and a number of the product pages for the web properties, correct?
How does Nike handle you know A-B testing and prototyping specifically like in your workflow?
That's something you know we're trying to bolster and build out within you know our design function and it's always really interesting to hear how the different design teams across different companies kind of prioritize or value that.
Is that something Nike does on a pretty regular cadence? Yeah I mean kind of one of the most shocking or cool things about like kind of working here is that like yeah we have like people like that run tests and like have the whole like come back with reports and all that stuff.
Like I came from the fashion industry before this and it's like you don't you don't have money for that because they don't really care.
So it's you know it's like about looking cool and not about analytics and stuff or at least in the you know the companies I used to work for but yeah it's just it's really cool as far as that that stuff goes.
So we like test features depending you know if we're trying to like roll something new out we're testing stuff so it's pretty cool.
We have like a pretty close partnership with like our user testing team and like our core UX team and stuff that kind of like really you know hones in on a lot of those things and gets things tweaked just right.
So same Kipuna library same design system or does Nike have kind of different ones for different groups?
That's an amazing question Dylan. So history on this.
Even when I joined Nike we didn't have even a type system. We didn't have color system.
We didn't have a grid system. We had nothing design system for all of the Nike properties.
So it was really the wild wild west two years ago. It's still a little bit of the wild wild west.
We've started building a component library for the flagship area of the Nike like digital products but there's you know a larger work stream that's it's currently got well I guess I got kicked off about a year ago now to build kind of a grander digital design system but we're very much in the throes of that process which is quite a lot where it is you know we have what five plus digital teams all working on current you know ongoing projects delivering UI and then also at the same time trying to decide on what UI base we need to use going forward.
So there's a lot of mismatch of like okay what's future, what's now, what's past and trying to like organize all that as well as we haven't really been able to set aside time to define our design system.
It's really been you know part of the ongoing flow of delivering products.
So it's a very complex system that you just like don't really touch.
I'm sorry now I'm going down the rabbit hole.
Yeah it sounds like a bit of a bomb. Yeah I think there's also just a bit of added context to like things like the Nike app.
It's only four years old. Yeah it's a pretty new property for a brand like Nike.
You know the website's been around forever but I think that really tells you a lot about kind of where we're at in terms of our maturity as a digital org right.
I think yeah we're very new.
We continue to build new digital products and with that we just kind of on the fly are now realizing how complex that gets as more products get added and how much we need some unifying design factor and engineering factor to it.
So we're getting that slowly prioritized you know across product design and engineering to build that system.
We currently have a few things in place which is great and it's definitely accelerated us decently but you know the speed could be insane once we kind of get more components set up.
You know all the you know a carousel defined fully you know what's our iconography which is still very much in flux for me.
But yeah I think there's there's so much still going on with that but it's something that we're trying to prioritize going forward.
But it's crazy a company the size of Nike like the digital design area didn't have a design system and you think of the brand and it's so strong and then there's this just pure chaos when you go to the web and you're like wait what what is this button color is orange here and purple there like.
It's somewhat of a relief to hear that a brand like Nike is experiencing these things.
It's not just like a brand like Cloudflare or another brand over there it's like it's it's a real thing that I think a lot of companies experience.
It's impossible to be 100% consistent I think. Yeah I mean I envy like you know Airbnb seems like they have it so tight you know Apple of course always on point but you know material design system seems like so perfect and well-defined and then it's just like I feel like everyone else is hopefully in chaos.
Maybe but yeah I think it's definitely my personal passion project if you can't tell by me just rambling on about it.
But I'm so excited to see kind of how that keeps going and how that gets built and how it kind of speeds up everything because imagine you know we're iterating on some stuff and landing pages for Brian where you know there's a bunch of carousels with different content types going down a page and right now those teams are having to build you know a carousel from scratch and if they can just grab the component plop it in we can iterate on the style of it if it you know carousels you know with three products at a time or one or you know it's much more aggressive swipe gesture like all those things could be on maybe testable at like such a larger scale than where we're at now basically.
Do you have any that you're kind of admiring or that you look to like I wish we could have something like that from an assistant's perspective?
I mean we we creep on material all the time of course as you probably I mean it's just easy.
I think Polaris which is Shopify I believe is their design system it's pretty interesting as well.
There's a lot that you know when you look at it you're like oh my god this is amazing and then you start digging into it and it's like not really that in in depth it's like you got color theory down and that's that's it.
Yeah I think you know Google Materials is definitely nailing a lot of things and like thinking about kind of the the deeper layers.
Stefan you should definitely go into this about kind of what deserves hierarchy, what deserves leveling, what deserves certain structure versus just being like oh I like this line weight.
Yeah I mean when I think about design systems I was pretty lucky to be on the Starbucks team in 2016 when we were developing our brand new digital we called it like the universal design system and it was a part of a reorg, a restructure, a complete re-platforming of our back-end services in addition to rethinking our UI system to better support a global feature set and you know that work was super powerful to me.
They and if you if you google it it's not the the design system that came out recently where it was like a really pretty kind of like brand expression it was the Starbucks pattern library which was which happened in partnership with our engineering and our product folks and you know we did a lot of work making sure that you know every single coded component was you know crafted really well exactly the experience that we were expecting that it supported all of the ally accessibility features that we needed to have and we had a very strong point of view on our accessibility requirements as well as just as a company so you know it was it was a really formative kind of experience for me working on that team and you know anyone that knew me before then probably would have been absolutely shocked that I was working for Starbucks as like a former specialty coffee barista who used to scoff at you know Starbucks coffee but you know you used to work at Starbucks too.
I did way back in the day yeah yeah so I mean I was never a barista at Starbucks I've probably I was only a specialty coffee barista but when I came to to Starbucks I was you know looking back it really was the blueprint in a lot of ways for I think how I'd like to work and you know really proving a lot of the value of systems work and you know collaborating really tightly with engineering and product folks you know if anyone if anyone from that team is listening shouts out to you.
Awesome. Yeah one part of that too which I'm so jealous of is the fact that they basically took three months to just do design and system work.
Six months. It was even cooler.
That's the dream. Yeah we had an agreement with product and engineering where we basically just stopped all new feature work for six months it took a lot of took very courageous leadership to make that call but I think it paid out in dividends you know we were able to do so much deliver really great experiences we delivered our progressive web app which was you know super fast didn't require any downloads great for customers that are in areas with low Internet connection speeds and we ended up becoming I think at that year after we launched we were the most used digital payments platform in the U.S.
even passing Apple Pay so it paid off for sure and you know that can definitely be a testament to anyone that's looking to invest in you know design systems and not just you know pictures of UI or you know sketch or figma files but like how it's actually coded and making it available and consumable for all of your engineers is super valuable.
That's fantastic. I mean having that level of executive support to full-on you know feature freeze like that is that's the dream.
Yeah that's the dream. And often you know it's you know so many companies are dealing with outrageous amounts of tech and organizational debt that you know it just it really just takes some courage to just pause for a second and invest in your future.
Yeah it's funny too like there's been a few attempts at design systems within Nike and it's been you know design led and there's like a master sketch file or figma file or engineering led and there's this repo that's the components or I guess that's about it product doesn't really care and the thing is they've never really come together and this is the first time that we're finally bringing those two elements together like one cannot exist without the other and that's been our problem for a very long time is like oh design gets together and we we want to do this and we want to define this but without the engineering components and without those two being one-to-one or mirrored or closely aligned I think it's just it's not gonna you know come together and be effective the way it should be.
How did you so those six months just going back to the design system work how has that work prioritized?
Was that something that came from the top down I imagine? You know that was one of my early you know digital product design roles.
I was super fortunate to land myself on that team.
It was a really great just group of people in the first place but I think you know ultimately it was you know our we were we used to be at Starbucks run by marketing it was and it was it was paired with the reorg where you know the product design engineering teams had more agency over just the technology at Starbucks and then you know we had an agreement where we said okay well we know we need to have our back -end services propped up you know and they need to be fast because we want to ship to a global market and then we also knew that the design language wasn't really where we wanted to wanted it to be it wasn't supporting all the features that we needed to support wasn't modular enough to be able to be flexible and it didn't come up to the accessibility standards that we strove for and then on top of that you know engineering so I mentioned the back -end systems there was a recognition from product engineering that that really needed to take place so I think all of those things kind of came together for them to really make that case and that that gave us that flexibility and that opportunity to really spend the energy really focused in on what's the future of the Starbucks experience and how do we deliver that and that's that was ultimately the outcome.
And at Nike what is the relationship like with your team and the developers that you work with?
It's a really big org it's huge it's way bigger than anything that happened that it was at Starbucks bigger than any other team I've been on so it's really a mixed bag.
Yeah there's like 300 just web developers to our you know 15 designers.
That is crazy. Yeah so it's a huge you know huge organization on the tech side so it's definitely you know we build those relationships with the ones that we have the most contact with through features and project work but it is it's a massive work.
It's a big spectrum from you know really tight working relationships to some education on what's the value of design or how do we collaborate you know so it's the whole spread.
Yeah some you know as Devin mentioned like incredibly tight super helpful you know really understand the fine details and the pixel pushing that you know design wants to come in and do and then some where they may just ship it without telling.
So you get back so it's definitely you know there's there's quite a range and you know we do we do build those relationships and and try and be really good partners and understand there are compromises that we do have to make you know with timelines and just you know different different levels of strength within the code base so it's definitely fun navigating.
With that type of staffing ratio how do you all prioritize and and plan your project work?
Is it just kind of as it comes in or do you have a roadmap that you work through?
What's that like and you know how does it impact your design decisions on a you know day-to-day basis?
You have really amazing operations partners.
Yes. They are the people that really organize that work and they take some of that negotiation off of our plate.
I've actually never had a producer or an ops partner in the past so it's been actually a big relief to be able to kind of focus on the work and have someone who can help me kind of get in front of some of the conversations that need to happen or to let me know about something that maybe I want to go you know to a meeting and have a conversation about some upcoming work and manage expectations about it so it's been great.
That is a huge element is our producers that are kind of segmented out to each workflow so we have a discover, a shop team, a membership growth, etc.
producer that manages those work streams, help us prioritize, handles a lot of the like meeting structure and conversations while we are still you know very tightly integrated with you know directly communicating with product.
They at least you know take some of that burden off and helping us kind of keep organized and you know build the asana boards.
Yeah and prioritize because that's always been kind of it for me like I always had to like make my own google spreadsheets and all that stuff that have you know like when I'm gonna you know ship stuff when stuff is due because it was you know I was like it's some of the companies I was just like I was the design department so it was like people would just reach out and be like hey can you do this can you do that so it was like yeah having like that support of producers and ops people is like crucial to kind of being able to like actually focus on just like doing the best design work we can instead of having to like you know always go back and forth with you know different people about stuff so they really kind of like act as a buffer to like let us actually do our best work I think.
Yeah and they're great at really helping us say no which is something I know I struggle with personally so that's that's always great is to help have that kind of umbrella protection when there is you know a ton of work coming into the studio and we need someone to you know be like hey look that's that's just not on our roadmap that's not possible.
Well on behalf of ops managers around the design community we appreciate it that we're making some form of an impact.
I don't know about you personally Dom.
We are our ops manager. Otherwise we'd be in a sea of trouble.
Yeah I can't even imagine we would oh my god it would just be 24 7 chaos.
All right well I think we're just at time. Thank you all so much for joining us.
It was so great chatting and hearing a little bit more about what you're up to at Nike.
Thanks for having us.