3 Simple Design Practices for Maintaining Sanity at a Start-up

Startups often have a barebones team — one marketer, one engineer, one customer service rep, and so on. It’s always a skeleton crew, all the time.

Each member takes on a lot of work that would in larger organizations be delegated. This means wearing a lot of hats, learning on the fly, and pushing workloads to maximum capacity.

While exciting and fulfilling, the structure carries an inherent danger, sometimes referred to as mental burnout. Take on too much work, spread yourself too thin, and suddenly quality takes a hit and productivity dives.

At RealCrowd, I’m the Director of User Experience and the one designer in house. Like everyone, I make keeping sanity in check — while being as efficient and productive as possible — a big priority. It’s a delicate balance.

Here are three simple processes I’ve implemented, along with the rest of the RealCrowd team, to mitigate mental burnout.

1. Enlist the Help of Non-Designers

We are fortunate to have a CEO and business team who have Photoshop and Illustrator installed on their machines and know how to use them. This has made it easy for them to create fliers, banners, and other collateral.

Once they have prototyped a design that they feel good about, I’m able to perform a quick design review or quick tweak to finalize the design. This helps speed up the design process and untangle competing deadlines between application and marketing needs. This also allows me to know which files should be templatized for reuse by the team so that I can focus on designing for the harder design problems.

2. Create a Product Design Backlog List

Coming from the corporate world, product backlogs can seem daunting, especially for a team that wants to be agile and flexible. Our Product Design Backlog contains design priorities that cover both product and marketing design projects.

There are so many projects that the product team, the business team, and I want to complete. Some need to be planned or designed prior to our weekly scrum. We now have a list of conceptual, redesign and branding work that we plan to complete.

A backlog list makes it easier to visualize similarities in projects, prioritize, and see when we need to call in additional help or scale back.

3. Assign Days for Important Aspects of the Job

At a startup, designers have to do more than deliver wireframes and high-resolution designs for the application. Depending on the day, I may need to help update our homepage, create a mobile-only solution, create an ad banner, or create an infographic. There’s a lot to do, but if you’ve already created your backlog, you probably see there are a few themes – product design, marketing design, and UX-led initiatives.

Once you know what’s in your backlog and have a good idea of your velocity, consider setting aside specific days for your major themes.

Currently, my week looks like this: product design on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, marketing on Thursday, and design-led initiative on Fridays. As our backlog shifts, this may change, but for now, it’s working well.

These quick tips have really helped me through times when I was close to burnout. If you’re a designer, hopefully you’ve learned a few tips that will make your design process smoother and more productive.

If you’re a RealCrowd user, hopefully you’ve noticed some of the changes that we’ve made with the help of these methods. As always, we’re itching for any feedback you might have, so don’t hold out. We’d love to hear it.


For more information about how you can fund your deals through RealCrowd, access the platform’s investor and transraction management solutions, or become a participating investor visit www.realcrowd.com or email info@realcrowd.com.