Meet the Designers at Acre
Ever wondered who sits behind Acre’s beautiful and user-friendly designs? At Acre, design is more than just a pretty interface - it’s a fundamental part of our approach to creating a seamless mortgage and protection experience.
At Acre, Product Design was the first function we hired on the founding team. It was a strategic decision, as we recognised how integral it was for us to understand our users and their needs in order to create the best product possible. By including design thinking from the very beginning, we were able to quickly define the first iterations of our CRM and ensure that our product was built with our users in mind.
Meet the Design team:
Alex – Head of Design
Alex was the first person along with CEO, Justus, in founding Acre at Founders Factory, after designing digital experiences for web and mobile for years. Alex is involved in overseeing (and advocating for) the User Experience (UX) of Acre’s products and services. If it’s something you can see or interact with, chances are he’s been involved.
Rhys – Product Designer
Rhys joined 1 year ago to help take our Client Portal to the next level, as well as bring even more Design firepower to Acre. Rhys has worked in a range of roles in the past and you can see his expertise shining through our constantly improving home buyer products and services.
What made you want to join Acre?
Alex: I was freelancing at another startup in Founders Factory and really loved the startup environment, seeing all the teams building their products from day zero and launching them to market, there was something intoxicating about it. So I was already considering what sort of startup idea I would be willing to give up freelancing for to join full-time. Around the time my contract with the previous company was up, I was speaking to the then Head of Product at Founders Factory (Justus Brown) about a project he was working on developing into a startup in an area he was passionate about (mortgages and home ownership). After some discussion about the industry, the vision, the use-case for blockchain technology, the fact that Aviva were going to back us, I knew this was the one.
Rhys: I've always been fascinated by the startup environment. The ability to move and execute quickly and take complete ownership over features is very appealing to me. However, I have never worked for a startup before. In my free time, I was working on side projects which taught me the business side of my role, designing features which benefit not only the product and its users, but also the business. The job posting at Acre stood out to me because of the industry, Fintech and specifically the mortgage industry are typically old school and traditional, I wanted the chance to help modernise the industry.
What does a typical day look like for your team?
Alex: I sit across several different areas of the business, so days can be pretty varied. Primarily I’m involved with our B2B side of product design, but I also work on marketing, manage our website, help teams like Customer Success and Sales, as well as other visual comms work like pitches. Usually I’ll start my day catching up with whoever I need to move a project along, and making sure product managers aren’t waiting on me for any designs, then I can get stuck into whichever project is the most pressing.
Rhys: I start every morning with my teams standup where I can see how the works moving along and answer any design questions if there are any. Apart from standup, I don’t have any other recurring meetings which is nice as I can really get into a deep flow of work for the remainder of my day. Most of the time, I’m working on 2 projects so I’ll split my day across those which helps keep me creatively engaged. If I have time, for the last half hour or so of the day I like to explore with work which isn’t necessarily in the pipeline at Acre as a nice way to end my day.
What do you like most about your role?
Alex: I love the sense of ownership and skin in the game we all have at a startup like Acre. We can have as much impact as we want in the quality of the product and the impact of the company on our industry. One of the best parts of my role is that I can work with pretty much every team in the company and involve all those great people in the design process. We have some amazingly smart people here and I get to work alongside them all every day.
Rhys: When I first joined Acre, the redesign of the Client Portal had just begun. The team had already redesigned the dashboard and fact-find pages, which I took over from there. It's been really cool to complete work on those two pages, as well as take ownership of the remaining changes to the Client Portal. Users are now starting to see these changes go live, which is exciting!
Do you work closely with other teams in Acre?
Alex: Yes, depending on what other teams needs are I can work on some big projects with teams like Sales for pitch decks and sales collateral, or Customer Success to find ways of improving our customers self-helping and training materials. Lately I’ve been redesigning our marketing site, which is wholly owned by Design, so we work with other teams to find out how projects like that can add value, such as with hiring.
Rhys: With the redesign of the Client Portal, we wanted to make sure that we’re not only making it more visually appealing, but also solving any problems there may be with the existing solution. To make sure this happens, we work with Customer Success to review any feedback that brokers might have, but we also speak directly to our brokers! At times we also collaborate with the CRM team, some features on the Client Portal require configuration in the CRM or just need to work alongside a CRM feature.
What were you doing before?
Alex: Before Acre I was freelancing at various agencies and companies. I had previously spent about 8 years working at a digital product agency in Shoreditch so I had taken the freelance route to broaden my experience with a wide range of other business types. It’s felt like an evolution in terms of how much skin in the game you have with your work and its impact, from agency client services (not much skin in the game), to freelancing (way more skin in the game), to helping found a startup (ultimate skin the game, your company lives or dies by your decisions regularly)
Rhys: My career hasn’t exactly followed the typical path that others might’ve taken. As soon as I finished high school I started an apprenticeship as a web designer & developer rather than attending university. I worked at 2 different agencies but ultimately decided I wanted to work in-house as a product designer, I didn’t like the constant change of clients and projects. If anybody is considering an apprenticeship, I 100% recommend it. Gaining those couple of years industry experience is definitely the reason where I am today!
What superhero power do you bring to the team?
Alex: Fabulous hair
Want to read more about the importance of Design in startups?
Founders Factory’s article “Design led startup: A guide for founders” dives into more details of the importance of implementing design thinking at your company and how this ultimately creates a better experience for your users. Alex was interviewed for the article and shared his thought about how shared design thinking techniques improve the quality of Acre’s platform.