Jordan Darbishire

Shopify

Dear Shopify,

 

I want to work for you. I want to work for you more than anyone I can think of. So badly, in fact, that I created a page on my website just to tell you that. Well, to tell you that but also to give you some insight not only into why I want to work for you, but also why you should hire me. Please read on.

 
 
I take myself very seriously

I take myself very seriously

About Me

I am a Graphic Designer by trade, but in the time since college, (it's been a bit) I have become much more than that. I freelanced for a long time after graduating. Working on branding for small businesses, websites, printed marketing materials, learning how to run a print shop, discovering manual printing techniques and selling illustrations to large corporations. I realized while doing a million different things that I only truly loved a few of them: creating identities for clients that were clever, beautiful and efficient, designing for the web and learning how code works, and coming up with "big ideas". 

The last one, the big idea, is what informs everything I have done since that time. Designers are problem solvers. Finding interesting solutions and new ways to communicate or sell products really is at the core of what I love about being a Designer. A few years into my career, I was given the opportunity to build and lead a small team of creative people, and thats when I really knew that this is what I am supposed to do.

I don't care much for titles, but in the classic sense I am a Creative Director. I guide ideas, people and stakeholders through murky, confusing waters in order to solve their problems, or communicate ideas to their audience. It's incredibly fun and rewarding. But like I said - a title is less about me and more about explaining what I do. I could take it or leave it quite frankly, and I did (leave it).


Being a Leader

Arcane is an agency that started in London, ON. While freelancing after graduation, I saw that they were hiring a graphic designer. They had a cool, mysterious brand, and I was always interested in learning more about them. So I went in for an interview and got the job after having a beer with the two partners, John and Eric. I soon realized how quickly we were growing, and we had more work than we could handle. I started looking for freelance designers to help out. We hired one, then another, and before I knew what I was doing, I was hiring full-time staff and leading the design team. I had never led anyone in my professional life, so I had to learn by doing, and from the guidance of the excellent leadership team there.

In that time, I learned what kind of leader I wanted to be. To me, the most important things about leading are simple:

1. Work is getting done, and the team is challenged around every corner to produce their best possible work
2. The people completing the work are happy to be doing it
3. I am always approachable and available
4. My team members are growing as designers and individuals, while contributing to the greater organizational goals

There are of course more nuanced challenges to managing people, but these are the core things that I learned from the first three and a half years doing it.  One of my favourite hires I made at Arcane was Michael Brewer. He was pretty green, but talented and eager to work. After being at Arcane for almost three years, he was craving a change. He found Shopify, got hired and never looked back. Everything he was doing there seemed to be so rewarding for him. He could not speak more highly of life at Shopify. Last week I went to an art opening of his and he told me about this position, and that I would be a perfect fit. I knew I had to apply.

Actual fortunes I got while writing this letter – not going to argue

Actual fortunes I got while writing this letter – not going to argue


Standing in artsy European rooms, mostly

Standing in artsy European rooms, mostly

What I'm Doing Now

At Arcane, I helped the company grow from 12 people to 85 across 4 cities in just over 3 years. I made the move from London to Toronto as I was spending most of my time here anyway, and I stumbled on an opportunity with a brand called Umbra. Being a Toronto design institution, I was very intrigued by the idea of moving from agency to in-house to see how the other half lived. The role was Manager, Brand Design, and I would be in charge of their entire Creative department. That includes all creative direction: catalog, photography, social media, campaigns, packaging and website (more on that later). After 7 or so interviews with all senior management, I made the switch. When I started, I found a bunch of talented people who were working really hard with no leadership (my role had been vacant for almost 5 months while they looked for the right candidate) and no real structure. 

Over the last year and a half, I've completely changed the way the studio runs. Umbra has two review sessions, one in January and one mid-year. They essentially give scores from 1 - 5 based on your performance. It's somewhat vague, and when I had my first review I left feeling a bit unclear about how I should try to improve. So for my team, I kept with the formal reviews they were accustomed to, but I also implemented a January goal setting session in which I spend two hours with each team member to collaboratively set long and short term goals for the year. We always make sure the sessions and goals align with the higher level company goals for the year, but most importantly, that they align with where they want to go in their careers and how I can help them get there. We meet bi-weekly for the remainder of the year to make sure they're on track, to discuss wins, losses and whatever is on their mind. I love my team, and I love being the kind of manager that they feel they can talk to. The level of honestly and openness is something that is very important to me. I want them to feel challenged, and I want them to feel they can trust me. I represent each member of my team to the greater company and executives, and that's something I take very seriously.

Along with creating a more supportive and personal goal-oriented environment at Umbra, I also introduced processes and changed the way projects are managed. The lifecycle of product development there is extremely long and complex, requiring multiple revisions, several approvals from internal and external stakeholders, as well as the influence of competitors, speed to market and marketing strategy. There are so many opportunities for error, that as I learned the ropes, I was amazed (not in a good way) to learn that they had no formal process to guide the teams through these touch points. So I wrote one. I worked with my team, product development, designers, engineers and executives to distill almost 40 years of knowledge and design history into one fool-proof document to guide even the freshest employee through the cycle perfectly. We've just implemented it, and already there has been an increase in productivity and a decrease in error. Not only fiscally helpful, it gives my team more time to think and be creative, which to me is obviously important.

One of the accomplishments I am most proud of at Umbra, though, is that after much cajoling, prodding and campaigning, I have convinced the executive team to make the move to Shopify for our website. I have been promoting this idea since my first month at Umbra. If you look at our current website, it's a little... lacklustre. I am so excited that they have decided to make the move. We're currently working on the planning, and I've copleted wireframes and begun mocking up some non-product pages to pitch. You can see some of those in the 'Work' section of my site.

With everything I've learned between Arcane and Umbra, I know I am perfectly suited to be a Design Lead at Shopify. It's what I want most in my life right now. More than that though, I am a down to earth, genuine human being who loves being around other kind, funny and thoughtful creative people. I have so much to offer both personally and professionally and I can't wait to sit down with you all and tell you more about myself.


My Process & Why I Want to Work For You

Over time my process has developed from a singular human trying to solve problems to a collaborative group working together to find the best possible solution. I like to start with a brain dump. Take literally everything I can think of, no matter how seemingly insignificant about the problem we are trying to solve, and write it out. Either on a whiteboard or a shared document.
About the client: Who they are, what they do, who their audience is and what they expect. Any other relevant information is collected and documented. Essentially I want to capture who they're speaking to and what their brand promise is. 
About the project: What is the main problem they're trying to solve? What do they need to communicate in order to solve that problem? Is there anything else they need? What is their perspective on the problem?
Tactics: Once I've clearly identified the problem and how to solve it, the next step is to figure out in which medium the solution will be most effective. This may be one tactic or several, depending on where their audience is looking. 
Roughs: Roughs, roughs and more roughs. Thumbnail sketches, point form ideas, moodboards, research. All ideas are documented and discussed, no matter how crazy or wrong they may seem at the time. This is often where we find the diamonds in the roughs. Pun intended.
Iterations: Once we've identified the correct solution(s), I break the team out into smaller workgroups or individually to iterate on the chosen solution. This may be different layouts for print, IA for the web, or different styles of photography. I like to have at least 2-3 polished versions of an idea to discuss with clients / stakeholders.
Final Design Phase: Once we have approval on one of the directions, the team re-assembles as a whole to execute. We take the semi-comps to final level as far as quality, content and scope go. All deliverables are created, refined, and presented back to the stakeholders for final approval.
Launch: Releasing the work into the wild. Working with the larger marketing and strategy teams, we help facilitate the launch of the project and provide any graphical or creative support necessary. 
Personal Promotion: I also encourage my team to share the projects through their own networks, whether it be Instagram, Dribbble, Behance, Facebook etc., organic engagement is a great catalyst to the success of the project.

Repeat.

Quick notes for my Shopify application

Quick notes for my Shopify application


So that's it basically. I mean, that's what I wanted to tell you in my "cover letter". There is much more to discuss in person. I hope it wasn't too long, and that it gave you a sense of who I am and how I like to work. Hopefully, it also made you want to sit down with me for a chat. If you'd like to get in touch, please visit the 'Contact' page.

Thank you so much for reading.

Jordan Darbshire
September 16, 2017