Founder of Rally, Matthew Mayers, shares how his BrainStation experience bolstered his design-first entrepreneurial spirit and boosted his career in tech.
In less than four years, the online investment management service Wealthsimple has amassed 75,000 customers, raised $165 million in capital from the Power Financial Group, and opened offices in three countries. What’s the secret behind its success? Having a product users love.
We recently spoke with Gev Marotz, Wealthsimple’s Director of Product Design, to get his thoughts on product design, the importance of user experience, and how to adapt to a constantly changing industry.
BrainStation: What initially drew you to product design and product management?
Marotz: I worked at an agency for a while, and built an incredible design squad. This was a group of energized and multi-disciplinary people who solved complicated problems for tough clients. I really loved solving problems for people on the internet.
What’s it like working in a product-centric role?
Working in a product-centric role is like trying to predict the weather. You’ve got information coming at you and what you’re trying to do is make sense of it all. We never really know how our product designs are going to end up being interpreted until it’s in somebody’s hands. Then you make changes. That’s part of what I really enjoy about the work.
Product design and management seems to sit at the intersection of design, technology, and business. Do you need to have a mind for all three to really thrive?
Yes, but I’m not amazing at all three. I think the key thing to remember is that everything changes. If you keep that in mind, you’ll want to adapt to the latest technology, constantly improve the methods you use to design, and understand what the business is doing.
And if you do that, you can’t help but do well.
How would you describe Wealthsimple’s approach to product design?
We really focus on users and the user experience.
You want people to use your stuff, and they’re not going to use it if it’s not easy to use – if it’s not designed properly. It’s important to design with a specific group of people in mind; the people you want to use your product. If you take that out of the equation, you’re just guessing.
So, our approach to everything is to make things easier for people, whether it’s on the technological side, the design side, or how we write our copy. People already love us – we want to make sure they keep loving us and new people who come on feel the same way.
You’re a talented artist. To what extent do you see your role as director of product design as a creative one?
Being creative isn’t about being an artist. It’s bigger than that. Being creative is the act of solving problems. Some people solve problems visually. When I paint a picture, my job is to create harmony and balance. When I design products it’s very similar, but it involves way more people.
What’s your ideation process like? How do you come up with new ideas?
The best ideas come from other people. I start by getting a clear understanding of the deliverables, do a ton of research, come up with as many ideas as I can, and ask a bunch of people what they think. I try to do this quickly as it will take several iterations to get the idea in a place where you’re ready to act on it.
How crucial is ongoing education in your field?
Continually educating yourself is the only way to stay fresh in this field. You have to reinvent yourself every so often and pounce on new tech and industry trends.
Have any emerging design trends given you an idea of where the industry could be headed in the coming years?
With the globalization of product design, I think inclusion and accessibility are going to be the next big trends.
Do you have any advice for people in your field who want to really boost their skills and stand out?
Specialize. Pick something you care about and really want to do. Then go for it.