Good Design is More Than Looking Pretty

Design is a field that I have a love-hate relationship with. When I was a kid, I used to rearrange the furniture in my parent’s home while they were at work, sometimes changing the entire layout of the house. As a teenager, I painted my bedroom walls with the changing season or my changing mood, which meant many many coats of paint. While I would say “design” is a strong value of mine, I could never figure out a way that design made sense for me as a career path at least not yet anyway. Instead, I rely on re-nesting rooms as my primary procrastination strategy. If I have a big client resume or article deadline, you can more likely find me dragging a couch around the living room than typing away in my office. 

So, when I have the opportunity to meet or work with designers I’m always in awe of their creativity, vulnerability, and ability to translate the needs, preferences, and un-said desires of clients into tangible solutions. One such person on my list of amazing designers, is Lisa Cox, Brand Designer and Founder of Lisa Cox studios. Lisa understands what design is really about, and takes design beyond just looking pretty to having real impact.

Lisa kindly took some time out of her busy schedule designing brands for emerging consumer-based companies to have a career conversation with me. Check out her story below:

JF: At Fink Development, we define an Authentic Career as one that taps into your strengths, values, and interests. Which of your strengths, values, and interests align with your work?

Lisa Cox: I've always enjoyed solving problems. Even as a kid, my dad would give me homemade worksheets with thought problems for fun. I was drawn to design because it involves a lot of creative problem-solving. I'm also a curious person and enjoy exploring

things through different perspectives. I have a natural talent for seeing things through other people's point of view and empathizing with customers' needs, which makes it easier to come up with solutions tailored to a wide range of customers. Design opens up a whole world of possibilities, and these strengths have helped me jump between different industries nimbly.

JF: I feel like the word design gets thrown around in so many contexts. For someone who has no idea about various design careers. How would you describe what it is you do?

LC: Many people view design as just making things look pretty, but there is so much more to it than that! Design is problem-solving and creating solutions for people. Within design, there are lots of fields from graphic design to UX design to product design. Regardless of the specific design area, they all involve diving into users' perspectives to figure out solutions that align your goals with their priorities.  

In my current work, I use my skills in design, plus my experience in building a business to specialize in designing brand identities and developing brand strategy. 

When I work with consumer companies, I need to help a company define their business goals and their customers' needs.  The business goals might include increasing sales, establishing a product-market fit, or growing their customer base, while the user's priorities might consist of managing dietary restrictions, achieving sustainability goals, or managing time constraints. I help pinpoint a solution that translates customers' preferences into a visual brand identity. I evaluate how the brand will look, sound, and feel across multiple touch-points, and develop a strategy to execute the new brand identity to meet business goals. 

JF: In 2017, you pivoted from a design role at a leading apparel company into co-founding and running a consumer product company. What led you to that decision?

LC: I've always loved learning. In a professional environment, for me, that means being exposed to new challenges. After five-plus years of designing apparel, I was ready

to try something new. I wanted an opportunity that inspired me, and I had always had a passion for food. When a close connection told me she wanted to start a company selling plant-based ice cream, I was in! After I heard the idea, I quit my job the next week! I'll admit it was a little impulsive, but I just had the feeling that this was the right decision. It was scary because although I had been designing within a consumer company, so much of the food industry was new to me. What pushed me forward was the fact that I was so excited to take on this huge challenge and learn a new industry. Sometimes in life, you have to trust your gut and take the risk.  

JF: What was the hardest part of getting a consumer company off the ground? And would you do it again?

LC: There are so many moving parts of getting a consumer company off the ground from branding, sales, marketing, finance, manufacturing, operations, and more. Figuring it all out was a steep learning curve. I loved how fast-paced it was. Yet, carrying the weight of the company's success on my (and my co-founders) shoulders felt like immense pressure. I want to continue working in the early stages of a company because I love the fast-paced environment. But, I would have to think real hard before starting a company again. The emotional pressure of starting a business was unexpected for me and something that needs to be considered carefully by any entrepreneur.  

JF: In 2018, you started a design firm helping companies create purpose-driven brand designs. What kind of companies do you most love to create brands for?

LC: It's the most fun for me if I'm personally excited about the product or industry. It's easier to dive deep into the customer's priorities and perspectives when you have a genuine curiosity. In the food industry, I've been really interested in functional foods and plant-based alternatives. The food you eat has such a significant impact on how you feel, and I like working with brands that improve people's lives through healthier (but still tasty!) options. Lately, I've also been excited to see more female-focused consumer brands pop up. It feels like there is finally a more authentic approach to explore what real women actually care about and I would love to take on a more prominent role in that discussion.  

JF: We have just passed over into a new year. When you think about the upcoming year, who would you most love to connect with?

LC: I would love to connect to more people within the consumer space. I'm most excited about the opportunities to speak to women through female-focused brands. Right now, there are so many ways to build connections with consumers. In 2020, I want to connect with experts in the design industry who are also exploring how to enrich the consumer experience. 

Contributor Bio:
Lisa Cox is a Brand Designer and Founder of Lisa Cox Studios. 

She offers brand identity design and brand strategy for consumer-based companies.

Connect with Lisa: