Redefining the Art of Collecting
Plenty has been written about the increasingly important role design is playing in startups and how they are building strong internal teams. And now, these teams have began to share the processes, challenges and insights that have brought them to where they are today.
From Google’s unveil of their new identity to the latest articles from the Asana and Compass teams, it is fascinating to take a peek into the worlds of these teams and gain a better understanding of how design can impact a business.
I recently finished a 3-year engagement with Paddle8. And during this time I was fortunate to play a role and experience its journey from a small startup with 20 employees to a prominent player in the online art and luxury collectibles markets with over 100 employees and offices in New York, Los Angeles and London.
Back in 2011 when Alexander Gilkes, Aditya Julka and Osman Khan started the company, they saw how traditional brick-and-mortar auction houses were struggling to keep up with technology and the massive shift towards online shopping.
They identified a gap in the underserved low to mid-tier art market and created a model that combined the prestige and luxury of the auction house with the ease and efficiency of an e-commerce company. Their vision, to become the premier online collecting destination for art, design and luxury collectibles.
Spring 2013 to Spring 2016
Design Director and Lead Designer
Product (Web & Mobile)
Print & Environmental
Marketing & Advertising
Head of Product and Design:
Chief Marketing Officer:
Kim Dumo, Georgia McElveen, Shawn Lisle, Stephen Francis
Defining Paddle8's Brand and Identity
It was clear from the beginning that redefining the art of collecting for the 21st-century consumer required a streamlined business and operational model. But, more so we recognized the importance of having a strong and unique brand that could deeply connect with today’s collectors.
Knowing that people see their collections as part of their lifestyle and identity, Paddle8 provides them with a curated experience, where they can find the world’s treasures under one roof, while inspiring them through tasteful content.
These have been the guiding principles for the company and my process since day one. Back in 2013, I was brought in as their first full-time designer to work closely with the co-founders and the head of product and design (Adam Dinwiddie) to build a great design team that could help make Paddle8’s vision a reality.
One of the first big projects I worked on was rethinking the identity. At the time, as we were redesigning the website, we realized that the direction we were taking wasn’t in line with the original identity. After many conversations and explorations, it was quite clear that the brand needed a bigger change.
The new identity was a reflection of Paddle8's core values of trust and taste. A simple, elegant and timeless system that embodied the company's outlook on collecting while making the offered items the center of attention. We employed strategic design elements and a thorough understanding of the modern collector to streamline the consumer journey while maintaining an aura of aspiration and luxury.
An Engaging Consumer Journey
There are many ways consumers engage with Paddle8 - Web and mobile platforms, brand/personality partnerships, nonprofit partners and their events or through advertising. In order to ensure we engaged at every touch point, we mapped our consumer journey to ensure a coherent and consistent experience that could become a unique signature for Paddle8.
Being an e-commerce platform, we spent most of our time continuously improving the experience - both for consumers who are new to Paddle8 and collecting, as well as seasoned collectors.
Intuition and a constant dialogue between teams have played a key role in designing these experiences. But as the company (and our design team) scaled, we begun to put more structured processes in place to facilitate rapid iteration, testing and better results. And while these are important steps, I am personally a big believer of intangibles, such as intuition and empathy to help us create truly relevant and delightful interactions for each user.
Doing Philanthropy Well
One of the reasons I decided to join Paddle8 was its commitment to making a difference by supporting non-profit organizations and cultural institutions.
Traditionally, as part of their fundraising efforts, nonprofits would host events with a silent auction of works donated by artists. Paddle8 saw an opportunity to scale up their efforts by bringing their auctions to our platform and opening them up to our worldwide community of collectors.
It is a win-win situation as organizations see an exponential increase in the amount of funds raised and collectors have an opportunity to do good by supporting them, while adding to their collection. This partnership has also helped Paddle8 create brand awareness and grow its collector community.
Marketing and Advertising
Marketing plays a huge role in communicating Paddle8's story and what it stands for throughout the collector’s journey. This manifests itself in different ways:
Through print and online advertising to reinforce its position in known markets, as well as accessing new ones
Through partnerships with celebrated cultural institutions and international tastemakers
Through rich and engaging editorial content that highlights the collecting lifestyle and the value of what Paddle8 sells
Throughout all of these touch points, design and marketing are actively collaborating to ensure that it lives up to its promise
Creating an Internal Design Culture
As the company grows (over 100) and expands into other continents, it is key to create an internal culture that values design and understands the importance of providing the same experience our collectors have come to expect from Paddle8.
Final Thoughts & Looking Ahead
Paddle8 is at an exciting era in its existence. It is growing and expanding into new territories and categories at an impressive pace. It has a strong brand that connects and resonates with collectors all over the world. But, there is a lot more work that needs to be done to become, not only one of the leading players, but the leader in the market.
This journey wouldn’t have been possible without the great team I got to work with at Paddle8.
From the co-founder Alexander Gilkes and CMO Susan Cernek, who have defined what Paddle8 stands for to the Head of Product and Design Adam Dinwiddie, who was instrumental in creating a product that is engaging, elegant and seamless.
And a special thanks to our incredible design team. To Kim Dumo, our mobile designer (and Ben Gold before her), who both have created an amazing iPhone app. To Georgia McElveen, who has played a role in the design of pretty much all of our touch points. And to Shawn Lisle and Stephen Francis, who make sure all the imagery in our site accurately represents the items we offer.