Zugata Blog

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10 Lessons as Founding Designer

Posted by Jessica Phan on Jan 25, 2016 3:00:00 PM

A year ago, I wrote a blog post called 
6 Lessons from an Unemployed Designer talking about my fling with unemployment. The next day, emails and tweets started pouring in my inbox. People from all over related to those lessons and genuinely appreciated it. Those lessons ended up being a blessing as it gave me the opportunity to meet so many people. One of the people I ended up meeting was Deny Khoung, the founder of Whitespace and Designer-in-Residence at Formation 8.

Not knowing what Deny wanted and why, I met him for coffee at the Creamery down by 4th and King in San Francisco. He started asking me what I wanted to do and what kind of company I was looking for. After learning about me, he then talked about what he was up to at Formation 8 and the Whitespace program. 
Whitespace is a 12-weeks design program that pairs designers up with rising startups in the Silicon Valley. Three days a week I would go to the company I am paired up with, and the other two days I would join other designers in the program and participate in workshops, critiques and more.
After meeting Deny that day, we exchange several emails back and forth. He said he had a company in mind for me. It was a peer review app with a solid team of 3 called Zugata. After a few more questions, I joined the program. 
To be honest, I didn’t know what I was signing myself up for. I didn’t get the chance to visit the company I was paired up with, I had no idea who I was going to work, and I didn’t get the chance to see the product. There was nothing on internet about this company because it was in stealth. 
So I joined Zugata through Whitespace. In those 12-weeks, I’ve learned so many things, but here are 10 things I’ve learned as the first and only designer at a stealth startup.

10. Learn to design all sorts of things

At a larger company, you usually work on one feature on one platform.

At a stealth startup, we don’t have that luxury. But sometimes “luxury” could be too comfortable that it’s uncomfortable and boring. For me, “luxury” isn’t always practical. At Zugata, I get the opportunity to touch all sort of things.

One day, I’m designing for iOS, the next day, it’s the web app. Sometimes, it’s designing email templates. And other days, it’s creating presentation decks and designing swags. Being the lone designer, I’m always designing all sorts of things. Although there is a lot to tackle, my job is never boring; I love the variety.


Topics: Employee Development, Zugata Culture