Episode 31: Growing and Supporting the Design Community with Gerren Lamson
Gerren Lamson is an Austin-based designer and the co-owner and Chief Design Officer at Creative Market. In this episode, we explore how Gerren got started in design, the value in teaching yourself new skills, the differences in working agency vs. product, and how to transition from making to managing. Dan and Gerren also chat about what Creative Market and Dribbble have in common, community and company culture, and his team’s newest product, Creative Market Pro.
This episode is brought to you by Wix. Push the limits of design and start creating beautiful, impactful websites that are uniquely yours at wix.com/dribbble.
Links Mentioned in Overtime
- Gerren Lamson
- Gerren Lamson on Dribbble
- Gerren Lamson on Twitter
- Gerren Lamson on Instagram
- Creative Market
- Microsoft FrontPage
- Font Lab
- Dribbble Jobs
- Creative Market Pro
- Averta Font
- Team Timeout: Turning Passion Into Opportunity at Creative Market
- Hang Time Seattle
Dan: Hello everyone. Welcome to Overtime, this is Dribbble’s official podcast. I’m Dan Cederholm, your host and this is episode 31 with Gerren Lamson. Gerren is currently Chief Design Officer at Creative Market, a great company that’s been a great partner of Dribbble’s over the years. I think we share a lot in our mission and goals and community and even our CEO, Zack Onisko was a big part of Creative Market’s growth over the years. So it’s a great talk with Gerren. We get to hear about his path from alligator hunting as a kid through creating your own fonts and side projects, and going into agency work and making fried chicken parallax happen. It’s true, I’m not making this up and transitioning from agency work to start up at Creative Market. So it’s great conversation, I think you’ll really enjoy it.
This week’s episode is brought to you by wix.com. Push the limits of design and start creating beautiful, impactful websites that are uniquely yours with Wix and we’ll talk more about Wix further on into the episode.
I also want to again mention Hang Time Seattle. This is Dribbble’s big one day event in Seattle on May 15th. Tickets are available at a discounted price right now. So you’re gonna wanna go grab tickets while they’re available. We’ve got quite a schedule planned for hang time Seattle. Lots of cool guests and speakers and activities and an after party and you’re gonna wanna come hear Aaron Draplin speak and Dana Tanamachi and Nathan Yoder and Khoi Vinh, among many others. So just go to dribbble.com/hangtime for more info and to get tickets and we’ll see you in Seattle. But for now, let’s get on with our chat with Gerren Lamson. Welcome to Overtime, Gerren Lamson.
Gerren: Hey thanks Dan, so excited to be here today.
Dan: Yeah. Thanks for taking the time with us. Very excited, there’s so much to talk about here. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that … I’ve done a little research and have some pretty interesting … I think you have some stories from your past that are pretty cool and stuff you’re working on with Creative Market. Just your path to becoming a designer and there’s a whole bunch of stuff. So I’m excited about it. I guess I’ll start … I mean it’d be cool to hear how you got to where you are, I think is gonna be really fun and I have to ask right off the bat about alligator with your dad, and how that sort of like …. What’s the story there and then … and I assume this is when you were younger but?
Gerren: Yeah. We can start there. Yeah. So I grew up in a family, we were seven total. I had four brothers and sisters and I was shyest, quietest one out of the group. And so about the age of five or six, my dad was always trying to figure out like special outings and activities to take each one of to individually, and he thought, “I think Gerren needs to get out of his shell a little bit.” So I know some people in community, I lived in Louisiana, that had some tags for alligator hunting, which was something … We rarely ever hunted so I was like okay, we’re gonna go do this fun thing and I’m not sure I was told upfront what the thing was.
But ended up going alligator hunting with these two Cajun guys, with pistols on their hips and a little like prow fishing boat. They were throwing like whole chicken breasts on hooks over into the water and I’m like super small. I could fall over and be the bait myself into the water in the bayou, but it was … It made a big impression on me, I mean I was scared to death. That’s such a crazy, terrifying thing to experience being young child but we did catch one and in the end, looking back on it and I talked to my dad about it later, it really … it challenged me to be okay in very uncomfortable situations. But yeah, yeah.
Dan: I bet. That’s crazy. I didn’t know you could hunt alligators first of all. That’s a new one.
Gerren: Yeah. There’s some shows I think on A&E or something that talk about that, but I mean we weren’t in that community of people but-
Dan: Yeah, I know.
Gerren: He knew a guy and then that’s what we did.
Dan: Wow and then, did you get one that day or?
Gerren: Yeah, we did and there’s a picture of me sitting on top of it that my dad blew up and then gave to me later. It’s just a really weird day. I think it kinda burned in the back of my head. You gotta take-
Gerren: Your fears head on even if you don’t really wanna choose to do that for an activity with your father, yeah.
Dan: Oh, no. Absolutely. All right, we’re gonna have to get ahold of that picture, if you allow it.
Dan: That’s amazing. So you grew up in Louisiana, right? Was design … was that something always that you knew that you had in you, like that you were gonna do later on in life?
Gerren: Yeah, I think so. I mean I didn’t have the word for it and I was certainly into creative experiments and crafts of all sorts, drawing, all those sorts of things. I even liked things like organizing. My father had a coin … My grandfather had a coin collection and he wanted me to like do spreadsheets and organize and put pricing and details on all that. So these sort of projects that I really enjoyed, even coming up with like my own video games that I wanted to send to NES, right, to build.
Dan: Oh, yeah. Wow.
Gerren: They all kinda led up to a point where design started to make sense, but I didn’t really know what it was. Yeah.
Dan: Yeah. That’s cool. I kinda have a similar experience, growing up. I knew I was … I knew I was into these things, but I didn’t know that was design or I didn’t think about that people have made a living doing this or creating this stuff. I wish I had known it earlier. Right?
Dan: I mean … And so, growing up in Louisiana, was there … were you aware of a design scene there at all or is that sort of much later when you went off to college or?
Gerren: A little bit of both. I mean there is a really strong arts and cultural scene in Lafayette where I grew up and in Louisiana in general. It’s very unique for the southern part of the United States. So that at least showed me that there was an appreciation for particular points of view on creativity, but it wasn’t until I went to college and I went up to Portland State in Oregon, where I was just like I don’t know if I can pick a major in fine arts. I’m gonna be poor and not make a living, and I saw graphic design as an option. I was like that kinda sounds maybe a little bit more interesting and I might survive in that. So yeah, that’s kinda when I started learning about it and getting more into it.
Dan: Yeah, yeah. Totally. That makes sense and I hear through the grapevine that you jumped into the web just right after college and like me, believe it or not, dabbled in FrontPage, Microsoft FrontPage while you were learning-
Gerren: Oh, no.
Dan: Web design. Is that accurate? Can we confirm that?
Gerren: Yeah, yeah. So I got a BFA and had to focus on printmaking and branding and packaging and poster design and stuff like that, and I did take some courses and I guess they called it multimedia back then, web design.
Gerren: I think Dreamweaver had just come out, but right after graduating, my first job I landed was pretty much all web design. And I basically learned about HTML and CSS through what the garble that FrontPage pushes out, once you’re building sites and had to reverse engineer my education there on what good web design practice looked like back then.
Dan: Do you think it was a good … Like I look back at that too and like it does spit out some terrible code and obviously some … I mean browser bugs were certainly a bigger problem back then but in a sense like because it was so bad, it kinda forced you to learn how to fix things. Instead of like if it just spit out perfect code, then maybe we wouldn’t have gone on to really learn it, you know?
Gerren: Yeah. There might … That’s a really good way to put it. There might not be a better way to learn things than just getting thrown into the middle and having to thrive.
Dan: Yeah and so you went … You had focused on print and identity design in school, but then the web kind of … you were self taught in a way, other than some classes. That’s the thing, is nowadays you can go and get a … I assume you get a degree in CSS or something. Back then, it was multimedia and it was sort of all put together. Did you find you enjoyed learning on your own better than sitting through a class about design or?
Gerren: Yeah, I think so. I mean it definitely … I don’t know if other people experienced this, but it definitely puts you on edge. Right? You get a little more stress and anxiety, like I’ve gotta learn to figure this out ‘cause I’m building something for myself or for a client, and there’s expectations there. Whereas in a class, it could even be kinda like a paint by numbers thing, like everyone make an Iframe based website of … I don’t know, NBA teams, like team schedule or something and-
Dan: Yeah. Yeah.
Gerren: The sandbox is much smaller and forces you to learn a particular technicality, but there’s as not as much room to play and I think that’s where a lot of the good growth comes from.
Dan: Yeah, it totally and you definitely played after that. My goodness. So … I mean you went on … So let’s go through like after school, you’re self teaching yourself webdesign, HTML and stuff and then where was the career path at that point for you?
Gerren: Yeah. I think like a lot of people, I stumbled into … like just the generalist disposition. Right? The web was growing in its maturity. It was the good old days when you could just make a website and didn’t care much about like image optimization and stuff like that, responsive wasn’t a thing, all that. So I had a couple agency experiences where I kept digging in deeper to the web side, but I did a bunch of other things too. Specifically, I did a lot of environmental work and signage work that still is around in San Antonio where I moved after college. That was really interesting that I was doing that and web at the same time. Those things were starting to have some overlap and I was making connections there that were valuable. But I kind of wore a lot of different hats, did a lot of brand work, did a lot of print work still and then just kept honing in on digital and then moved up to Austin. I worked at a place, at Springbox where I really started digging deep and it’s weird to think back. And I was thinking last week, like wow, I worked in this agency for two half, three years and I didn’t talk to a single user and was building stuff for dozens of clients and all their customer bases and like that seems completely upside down to how things operate now. But that was an interesting journey.
Dan: Yeah, for sure. Totally. Yeah, it is interesting. So sort of an insulated safe cocoon in a way, when you’re making stuff that way. So you’re doing agency work, the journey from that to … you’re currently … you’re a Chief Design Officer right, at Creative Market. How did you get from point A to point B there?
Gerren: A lot of tripping and stumbling I’m sure. Yeah. I started to recognize that it was hard to empathize and gain really deep understanding of each client and what they’re trying to do and who their target customers were. It’s just the nature of a lot of agencies and back then, I think the trend was even greater. It wasn’t like we have a retainer and you’re gonna work on something for a year or two. It was like you got two or three months. And so from going from small boutique agencies, wearing lots of hats to medium level interactive agencies, focusing on fewer clients and just doing digital work, to then getting into advertising. I got to a point where the churn was a little bit of a burn out right, weren’t able to dig on to a particular problem or a set of users in a deep way. And I started doing a lot of really creative experiments on the side to scratch that itch, because of the narrow sandboxes that I was finding during my day job, and I think that started to lead me down a different path at some point.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. Well tell us about those ‘cause that’s … I find that those creative side projects always … are always useful and sometimes lead to career changing trajectories. Right? But yeah, tell us what you were experimenting with.
Gerren: Yeah. There was a lot of space. I started getting back into like my roots in print making. I took so many print making courses in college, I almost got a minor in it. But started self teaching myself screen printing, which is something that I skipped in college and started producing some work out of my house with my wife and selling stuff on Etsy, was doing a lot of drawing and I started really being interested in fonts. I mean fonts are one of those things that I feel designers … you just kind of use and it’s hard to have an appreciation for what goes into making them until you understand it, and I didn’t understand. I wanted to learn it so kinda dug into that, started to teach myself fonts, start of putting them out there available for people, selling them for a couple of bucks ‘cause I undervalued my work at the time. But up until that point, a lot of those experiments were just play. I even put it on my website, talked about it as like play projects, but really I think they were leading up to what I’m doing today, when I look back at things.
Dan: Yeah. That’s always … It’s always useful ‘cause I think there’s some passion there. Right? Like … That’s the thing about side projects for … that I’ve found is that … I mean client work’s fun in a way sometimes and sometimes it isn’t. Right? So like … doing some things that you’re actually passionate about and it’s not driven by … I don’t know, revenue or a deadline right, can be super helpful. I mean you’ve made a … You learned how to make fonts and just did it. Right? Is that … I wonder if you could tell us about that?
Gerren: Yeah. I mean the first thing that I started doing was like tapping some people that I know and like, “What programs you use?” That kinda stuff ‘cause I was really interested in trying bridge like the handcrafted stuff that I was having a lot of fun playing with, whether it was like lettering or things I was drawing and turning into multi-layers screen printed prints. That side of craft and art into fonts ‘cause I think there was a strong skeuomorphic and interest and movement around craft and webdesign, which started to go down from there at that point. But got into some tutorials with FontLab, started drawing some stuff, vectorizing it, bringing it in, like a lot of the same skills that I was using in some of the identity work and illustration work were directly applied there.
But there’s a lot of nuance in font design of each individual letter form and then how they work as a set and then how you kern and then other considerations, diacritics and all that. So as I cracked it open, I was like well there’s a lot here, so I started pretty minimal and did a test, just basically a Sharpie marker and tried that out. I was like okay, I kinda get it. Let me try going deeper and then after producing two or three individual fonts, I was like well let me a try a family. It was like I kept going deeper and every time I went deeper, I started to learn some of the nuances and I have a strong appreciation for anyone doing any level of font design ‘cause it’s a beast. It’s a difficult path.
Dan: Yeah, I briefly dabbled creating a … like a pixel art font years ago … years and years ago and didn’t know what the heck I was doing, and just used … I think it was FontLab too. I don’t … What … I was curious … like not to nerd out too much on this, but like what-
Gerren: Let’s do it.
Dan: All right. Let’s go. Let’s do it. Let’s nerd out.
Dan: Yeah. Like what tools you actually used to create the font and I think it’s interesting asking someone who just kinda decided to learn it and taught themselves, rather than someone who was trained over years in school or something how to do it. Like how did you … You said some tutorials, but like what actually software did you use to create it?
Gerren: Yeah. So FontLab first and then I got a little bit more into TypeTool, which I think is the lighter version of what they offer. But I wanted to learn the technicalities first. How to port over vector forms from Illustrator into either of those programs, how to scale them all the right way, from baseline to X height. All that kind of stuff and then even like the needs around how to kern well. Like some of my early fonts were like too heavily kerned, kinda like junior rookie mistakes of like kerning so tight, where someone might wanna use it and they like gotta add 50 or a 100 to it. They gotta space it out. So learned some of those lessons, but at a certain point, I wanted to keep going deeper and I just ran out of time after we started building Creative Market, and I’ve done a few things since then. But all of these new apps keep showing up about design fonts directly in Photoshop and Illustrator or upload some things over here and it’ll spit stuff out for you. So I was really interested in that side of it, but I have a deep respect for the craft and I didn’t really get to the depths that I think a lot of pro font designers have gotten to.
Dan: Yeah. It seems like there’s … It’s an endless kind of discipline that you could get … you can go down a rabbit hole in a good way I guess, when designing type and … But that’s incredible and what’s cool about this too, is that you’re creating fonts which is a digital asset right, which is a great segue into Creative Market, which is a market place designed for people like you to sell fonts and other digital stuff. So there’s … Was that … Was your font design the fore during your time at Creative Market or?
Gerren: It was definitely before …
Gerren: But I kinda lucked out that it lined up because … So in full disclosure, I found the job listing for the Creative Market design director role on the Dribbble job board when it was very young, I guess a year in or so, in early 2012 maybe.
Dan: Whoa, whoa.
Dan: Okay and we’re not paying you to say this, right? We just-
Dan: This is a … There’s no contract behind this. That’s amazing. That’s great.
Gerren: Yeah. I mean y’all really help connect the community and my start at Creative Market was connecting to Aaron, who’s now the CEO through that job listing.
Gerren: And so I was doing some font design and kinda scratching that itch on the weekends and at night while I had the agency job, but one of the turning points for me is this story about parallaxing fried chicken that I’ll tell real quick. So …
Dan: Okay. Please do because I’ve never heard parallaxing fried chicken spoken before and I’m really excited about this now.
Gerren: Yeah, maybe it’s a hashtag. I don’t know.
Dan: Oh, it will be after this.
Gerren: So I was in an agency and we were pitching a lot. I was told it was an abnormal season of pitching where I was working overtime through the weekends and even up until like a Monday and Tuesday, they’d be like, “Oh, you could take a Wednesday and Thursday off.” And doing that like three times a month. But we got into the holidays and everyone was going away, 700, 800 person agency going away for Christmas and I … Maybe my name got pulled out of a hat, but I was one of the few people who knew web there and we were gonna do a pitch for Popeyes and they brought in an outside creative director and there’s one other … two other people with me inside the agency.
And I had to work up until and through part of Christmas on this but we ended up with this crazy idea when parallax was starting to be a big thing, where the … I’m gonna hate saying it, but the raw chicken was like falling down the page going through the oil and the spices and the fryer, just this really … just insane right, visual idea that … What person would wanna see this and wanna go eat this food? And this would be the home page, but we did this thing and I really got burned out that point and I said, “This doesn’t make sense. I don’t think we’re gonna win the pitch.”, and we didn’t. So it was at that point, I was like I’m really having a lot more fun doing these creative projects and I need to try to find a path that gets me closer back to that, while sort of capitalizing on all the years of experience I was digging deeper into web stuff. So that’s-
Gerren: Where things kinda came to a head and then the Dribbble job board, I saw that listing and I was like that kinda merges like all these things. Like all the things started to make sense, and then once I met Aaron and we hit it off and had a great conversation, the rest ended up being history.
Dan: Wow. First of all, I’m pretty hungry now. Even more so than when we were talking about alligators, but that’s incredible. I’ve kinda … Is that still viewable, the chicken going through the … ‘cause I’d love to see that. That sounds like a really good use of parallax actually.
Gerren: It’s not. I mean the pitch didn’t win and we were actually prototyping it, one of the front end engineers that I worked with. He and I were the only ones at that time doing web work there. We were trying to make it work so we could demo it to the client. I don’t remember what level of fidelity we got to, but I actually found it on some of my old archives and I need to pull it. I looked at it two months ago and I was like I don’t … this is insane that we did this. But I need to go bring it back up ‘cause it was-
Dan: I think you do. I think that’s great ‘cause there’s so much … You mentioned like when parallax was popular and there was a time when it was sort of being used for all sorts of stuff. But that sounds like a legitimately good way to use it, where you’ve got this thing that’s falling through something and I love like really creative uses of that, that makes sense, not just for frivolous things moving around. Right? They’re moving around for a reason kinda thing.
Gerren: Yeah. I’m not sure the reason of showing the user the raw chicken’s a good one. But I do remember very specifically one evening we were working late and I was like this is putting my Photoshop retouching skills to a whole nother level of test to make raw chicken look not disgusting and I was like-
Dan: Oh, gosh. Yeah. I can imagine that actually.
Gerren: Yeah. I was like I think I’m done. I think I’m done with this.
Dan: So like … Apple podcast has like … when there’s profanity, they have to put a little E next to the episode, but I wonder if there’s something for vegetarians that we might have to put on there for this episode, but-
Gerren: I think you’re definitely gonna have to. Yeah.
Dan: Yeah. I mean this is a … I can imagine tofu being similarly difficult to make look appetizing in Photoshop, just like the glistening white … glistening white cubes of soy. Anyway …
Gerren: Food styling, it’s a whole other … It’s not food, it’s all chemicals, it just looks like it.
Dan: It just looks like it, right?
Dan: Yeah. I … So this is incredible. Fried chicken parallax plus Dribbble job listing has led you to Creative Market and this was quite a few years ago. Right?
Dan: When you first started there.
Dan: Yeah, amazing. And Creative Market and Dribbble have been … always worked together well over the years and I’ve had a great appreciation for the way Creative Market’s handled everything like branding … from branding and interface to the community and this service it provides, and it just seems to be a … I think we share a lot of similar values in terms of why we’re building what we’re building and how we do it. Was that … Well tell us about the team and kind of your evolution of your role from when you started to now, where you’re the chief designer there.
Gerren: Yeah. I mean first let me say thanks for those kind words. I think the feeling’s mutual about Dribbble and I think a lot of people have a great level of respect and appreciation for stewarding the community, and everything on the brand and product side you guys do. It’s no feat, right? It takes a ton of energy and effort and a lot of people to do it.
Dan: Yeah, you’re right. You’re right.
Gerren: Yeah. And so-
Dan: Thank you.
Gerren: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean early on, we were small and scrappy and when I joined, there was just myself and one other … sort of more junior designer and-
Dan: Oh, wow.
Gerren: With the MVP that we built with the market place took six to seven months ish and the only thing that was really going for us was, we had initially a brand. We had a logo type that needed some work and the color and sort of a general spirit and a mood we wanted to put together. So we knew wanted to feel approachable and crafted and feel like it was by creators and designers for them. We wanted to feel like a digital farmer’s market-
Dan: Wow. I like that. Yeah.
Gerren: For designers. There was one weekend, I remember Aaron sent me some photos of a New York farmer’s market and like, “How do we make it feel like this?” And I was like, “That’s a really good sentiment.” And then from there, as the web sort of stripped away textures and skeuomorphism and stuff, I was like I don’t know how we retain that spirit when we start losing all those elements that we originally built. But the team was small and really up until about two months ago, and I’ve been at Creative Market for about six years next month, we … I was doing both making and managing, which is its own thing to unpack, but for a very long time, I was in the weeds doing both brand and product work, alongside at least one or two other designers, and then about two, two and a half years ago, things really started to open up. The team got up to about four, five on the design side, shrunk back down a little bit, now we’re up to seven.
So for a long, long time it felt like I have to be building these things and there got to be a certain point when it felt like I really wanna support the other people coming into the company on the design team, of taking things and progressing it to the next level. And so somewhere along the way, like just month over month, my mentality kept shifting towards I really wanna support others, taking this to a whole nother level.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. How cool is that, ‘cause … Going back to your background, like creative side projects and creating digital stuff, and now you’re helping create this market place that people similar to you can use to sell stuff. It just seems like it was meant to be.
Gerren: Yeah, definitely. I mean from the beginning, we’ve always thought about how do we put enough brand there so people know where they are and what the spirit of the company is, but how do we also get out of the way. Because I made a statement a few months ago, where I really … I think our creators and shop owners … their user generated content is most of the brand experience itself, and so how do you surround and-
Gerren: Support that, but also get out of the way. It’s been a really big thing we’ve tried to steward well and it’s a difficult problem to solve, for sure.
Dan: Yeah, it is and that sounds very familiar with Dribbble in the early days especially. I think it’s … That was our goal, was just getting out of the way, having UI and the brand sink to the background, while you’ve got the user generated stuff. It is difficult though and you guys have done an awesome job with that too though, in creating like … there’s just enough personality where it’s not overbearing. Right? You’re right. It is really super difficult.
Gerren: Yeah. Let me ask you a question.
Gerren: I mean how do y’all steward … ‘Cause a brand is sort of what your users and customers talk about and think it is and tell each other what it is-
Gerren: Maybe what you’re able to put out there and influence them to think about it as a real push and pull there-
Gerren: Yeah. So like how have you stewarded how people perceive and think of Dribbble, ‘cause I know there’ve been lots of different articles and conversations about it over the different phases and chapters you’ve had?
Dan: Yeah. That’s a really good question ‘cause we’ve had some … Over the years, we’ve had different opinions, things written … We’re killing the design industry, for instance.
Gerren: I think we’ve had that one too, over here.
Dan: Oh, you have? Oh, good. Oh, so we’re not alone. So we could … We should … Man, if we banded together, imagine what we could destroy. But that’s the thing, I think is you have to remember that no website or brand or company is gonna please everybody and you kinda just have to stick to your guns and believe in what you’re doing, and know that not everyone’s gonna be happy, but that’s okay. I think … Yeah. To answer your question though, I don’t … I think it’s just continually trying to be restrained in terms of visually the brand, anyway. You’re in that the brand is bigger than just what you think it is or what you’re projecting out visually and it’s what people think and say and that really comes down to people, I think and the team that we’ve assembled and how they … how we’re all kind of community stewards, really no matter what you’re doing at the company. I imagine that’s similar at Creative Market, right?
Gerren: Yeah. I mean what you’re talking to is like one of my favorite things these days, to build and invest in and grow here. Is just company culture—because when you think about it too, I mean Creative Market’s got a strong community, Dribbble has a really strong community. Like the sorts of best parts of those communities that you see externally, you … And to certain degree, at least from my perspective, you want those things, the spirit of those things to line up with how people operate and think internally too on the team.
Gerren: So when those things line up and both sides know what those things are, I think something really meaningful and powerful can happen.
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Gerren: Yeah. There’s seven of us. So one of the things that we saw with Creative Market early on and even through the last three years … few years, has just been that it’s into being a catch all bucket for a lot of different types of users. There are a lot of different creators and shops making all kinds of different things and there’s even a wider pool of customers across industries, locations and different skill levels doing different types of creative projects. It’s really, really wide and so one of the things that we started hearing and seeing was that while we’re serving kinda the greater community fairly well, on the professional side, there’s a lot of problems. Right? When you think about how people operate in agencies and in house teams, there’s levels of payment permissions going up, the org structure for what you can use and when. There are stipulations on licensing for clients, there’s all kinds of things that Creative Market … the market place really wasn’t serving well. And so, we wanted to try to create a product that served those needs that we were hearing and seeing and so we made it a curated design asset subscription, really built to help creative professionals and teams do great design work fast. And so it has a lot of the same-
Gerren: Spirit of the market place, but we changed a bunch of things and it has extra layers of curation in it as well, in the hopes of better serving that group of people that we weren’t serving and reaching very well today.
Dan: Oh, that’s great. So I … I’m looking at it right now and it is amazing stuff on here actually, of course and … So is the idea that you can … It’s sort of subscription based, where I could go in and say I wanna … I want Creative Market Pro and that gives me unlimited access to stuff that Creative Market community folks have said, “Okay, yeah. Let’s let Creative Market people also access this.”
Gerren: Yeah. I mean all of the great work that you see, it’s not us. It’s just … we have an amazing group of creators and designers making beautiful, affordable, easy to use work across a lot of different asset types. But really we wanted to build this with a fresh perspective on the sort of old school stock industry, that really hasn’t changed a lot in years. It doesn’t even … When you look at this and you compare it to things like iStock and Shutter Stock and some of these other places, it doesn’t feel like that at all, because a lot of those platforms ended up being equated with common, ordinary content. Things that don’t feel progressive and able to really enhance what you’re doing and so the brand and the product UI that we wanted to build here was to compliment and serve and enhance all of that side of it. But yeah, there’s different tiers that you can get, different amounts of downloads, 10, 25 unlimited. There’s features in it that really support teams. There’s team accounts, you can have an admin and a bunch of team members. You can organize assets by projects, you can bring in clients to look at those projects and say like yay or nay, don’t use these things. There’s different levels of licenses now that are targeted more on the commercial side with up to 250,000 legal indemnification. So there’s a lot of things we put in place that I think teams and-
Gerren: In house teams would find really useful. Yep.
Dan: Yeah and that’s like great for pushing the stock stuff, the stock industry forward. Right? I mean there’s … I won’t mention the competitors names again. You actually were nice to mention them. I’ve never heard of them before, so. But I mean I imagine it’s a competitive landscape.
Gerren: It is and it’s a bit fragmented too. We’ve looked at the history of things and the industry really kind of all know this started around photos, and sort of fonts became a big part and then video and then illustrations. So they’ve been ramping up into these different categories, which we see in demand, and so coming out of the gate, we wanted to have all these categories in the market place. With Creative Market Pro, we also wanna have that same approach and try to give that one central place for people to use, one product instead of having accounts strewn across a couple of them.
Gerren: But we started a lot with user and market research, going back to your original question, the build and we even saw that like more than half of the Fortune 500 companies have users on the market place. But we found a lot of people were using Creative Market for side projects and freelance works and different things like that, that wasn’t really the day to day, sort of B to C, B to B, like big org and team project level work, and so we had a big solve to make there with Creative Market Pro. And where it goes from here, there’s still … Research is never done. Right?
Gerren: You’re always evaluating and learning what’s happening and what people actually need versus what you perceive that they need. So there’s even more we have to learn but we put our best foot forward and the build was about again, sort of a six month timeline. It was good bit of research and discovery upfront and some stuff that happened along the way. It engaged the whole team. This was an entire team effort, a team of over 25 people, different people worked on different specifics. We had groups working on licensing, to shop owner split, to the product build itself, to branding, to brand positioning, market research, all of it. So yeah, it really took the whole team to get this off the ground, was super exciting that everyone got to touch it and see it through, and get it out the door.
Dan: Yeah, totally. It shows. Totally. You mentioned earlier when you were doing agency worked, you built stuff without talking to users and it sounds like you’re doing a lot of that now. Right? That … I assume that’s been super helpful with creating new products for Creative Market.
Gerren: Yeah and there’s also people that we need to talk to that we’re not yet. Right?
Dan: Yeah, yeah.
Gerren: Design and creativity, but design in particular has been continually decentralized and democratized and more and more people are being brought into the fold at a certain level of design thinking and execution, even if it’s not their formal day job to do that work. And so we’re having to look at that and we’re having to find those people to talk to, to see how we can help them and serve their needs too, which is really exciting to be a part of that whole movement. That’s been really exciting to sort of stumble into it and be a part of that as it’s grown over time.
Dan: I bet. That’s awesome. Star Trek or Star Wars? Sorry. There was like no segue there at all. I just kinda went into it.
Gerren: That’s good. I think no segues are good jokes.
Gerren: That’s a good question. So I had a buddy of mine in grade school that super Trekkie and I watched Star Wars. I think I was in third or fourth grade. I don’t know if that’s too young, but for the next couple of years we had arguments about what would win, a star destroyer or a board cube or the enterprise and stuff like that. So for everything like science based, I really appreciated Star Trek, but I’ve always leaned Star Wars ‘cause it just has a different … It kinda gets you at your gut, which isn’t science, but yeah.
Dan: Good answer. That’s a great answer. I agree, science wise certainly Star Trek has a leg up there, but yeah, Star Wars I’ve always … That’s good. Okay, good. Are you still friends or?
Gerren: We are. It’s been awhile since we’ve talked. Yeah, but-
Gerren: I ended up drawing a bunch of Star Wars stuff and giving it to him and even bought him like Star Trek figurines as like … All right, like I’ll capitulate-
Gerren: And entertain these debates even though I know Star Trek’s better. So it made for a great friendship.
Dan: That’s awesome. All right and one last question. What’s a favorite font you’ve used lately?
Gerren: Ooh, that’s tough.
Dan: Yeah, I know. It’s a tough one. If someone asked me that, I probably would be angry, but …
Gerren: So something that we did about a year, a year and a half ago was reevaluate everything we’re doing type wise here at Creative Market.
Dan: Yeah, yeah.
Gerren: For the longest time, we inherited and used museo sans and as you keep using things, the debt of changing them sort of grows. Right?
Dan: Yeah. Definitely.
Gerren: To replace everything. But we did a big audit and we looked at so many different sans-serif faces and we ended up finding this type family called averta, which I think is really, really well done that’s even sold on Creative Market, which was extra special-
Dan: Oh, wow. Oh, that’s great.
Gerren: And rolled that into both Creative Market and it’s used on market … Creative Market Pro. So I’m still really fond of that. That might be an easy answer, but it’s the [crosstalk 00:42:28].
Dan: No, no. That’s a great answer though actually, ‘cause the type on Creative Market and Pro is great, and I was kinda wondering what it was. So I’m glad you let us in on the secret.
Dan: And is it only available … So it’s on Creative Market, available-
Gerren: Yeah and it’s available other places too. The other serif type face is called lions or leon’s bold. I don’t know if it’s French.
Gerren: We did a whole other audit and exploration around what could we bring to the table, that isn’t sans-serif ‘cause I’m sure a lot of people are exploring that too and we landed on-
Dan: Yeah. Yeah, sure.
Gerren: That for various reasons too. I thought it was working pretty well.
Dan: It’s a great pairing. Yeah, it looks fantastic.
Gerren: Oh, thanks.
Dan: Yeah, averta is beautiful. The page on Creative Market, the italics of averta are gorgeous. Good choice.
Gerren: Yeah. I’d have to say the mirroring of our brand work and the product work … I mean that … I just have to say that so much of that goes to [inaudible 00:43:26]. They worked so collaboratively over the last few months and to have two people working on two sides of the same system, the brand versus product and really find that strong combination. They just did phenomenal work. I was really appreciative of how deep they went, how hard they worked on it.
Dan: Yeah. Kudos to them, they nailed it. That’s great. Gerren, thanks so much for chatting today. It was awesome to hear your story and what’s going on at Creative Market, and we really appreciate you being here.
Gerren: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. I’m still excited about everything y’all are doing at Dribbble too and happy to stay in touch and keep moving forward together.
Dan: Yeah. Sounds good, will do. Thanks again, Gerren.
Gerren: All right. Thank you.
Dan: This has been Overtime, Dribbble’s office podcast. I’m Dan Cederholm and thanks for listening to this week’s episode. Please subscribe to us on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts and we’ll see you next time. Thanks again.