Long Cao — EPIC Agency
Long is a designer & photographer at EPIC agency in Belgium. He also has a print and front-end developer background …
It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly, but between drawing (soccer players and DragonBall Z characters) badly and even worse in Microsoft Paint, I found myself wanting to be a web designer of sorts when it came to going to university. The course I studied involved very little Photoshop and even less Illustrator, and a lot more psychology, sociology, programming, and research. At the time, I didn’t really understand why I was studying these, but now I’m glad for it given the space we work in.
Dublin, Ireland, was a great place to grow in product and design. There was such a buzz from 2012 to 2014. I then spent a few years in San Francisco. And ooh wee! I was a young designer meeting people I looked up to every other week for a coffee or beer. Cheers to those I crossed paths with during that time. I hope some are reading 👋
My alarm has been set for 7:17am for a few months now, so I stumble out of bed around then. Fresh air, movement, and coffee, in that order, happen before opening my laptop.
The team and I kick off our day with a 15-minute standup, which always goes over. As we catch up on what we did the evening before. Nobody complains, and we appreciate these moments to connect while working apart 💜
We try to have as few meetings as possible, but some of my favorites are Design Sync and Product Weekly, an opportunity to think big about defined problems. We’re very close with our customers, we invite them to our Slack workspace, so every other day we have calls to connect and collect feedback.
Depending on what we’re working on and where I’m at with each project, the day varies. However, it usually involves reviewing metrics in June, who is adopting (and not) features, who is struggling to activate, etc. This info serves me to know who to reach out to and what to discuss internally. Defining problems, project scopes, and exploring in Figma play big parts too.
Dribbble served me well for years. More recently, I enjoy exploring great products to learn how they approach problems, patterns, etc. This can be more tangible in terms of understanding how to execute experiences end-to-end. And more so, I’m inspired by the team I work with. They're really good at what they do and I’m constantly learning from them, be it product, design, customer success and support, go-to-market, etc.
We have a #cool-product channel in our Slack workspace. I love to see what the team loves, and why they love it.
I also appreciate what Greyson MacAlpine says about nature’s role in inspiration, “recognizing that inspiration comes best when the mind is allowed space to be present at the moment”
Leading up to a period of burnout, I was productive but the work lacked creativity. Moments of inspiration never came. There was no headspace left to be inspired. That was sad. Take a break, bathe in the forest, sea, or wherever you feel called to. Give your mind a chance to relax, so it can again be aware of the inspiration around us 🌱
I love to run, and Strava helped me to level up my runs. But recently, I’ve been running with AnyDistance, mostly because of its design. The animated map it produces of your route after your run feels like something new, and its overall brand looks great 🤤
Arc Browser is also doing some refreshing work. The team looks like they’re having fun and it shines in their design.
Right now I’m proud of the work we’re doing in June. I’ve never worked with a team that ships so fast. The heartbeat of our company beats weekly, and so with every weekly changelog, we mini-launch to the world a little bit more of our vision. We recently won Product of the Day on Product Hunt for June 3.0 and June AI, and a Golden Kitty award 😻
For our June AI feature, the team worked on it over a weekend, I jammed on design during the week, and after some iterations, we launched it together during our company retreat. It was a great experience focused on the same one thing together, launching, collecting feedback, and iterating side-by-side.
Some of my closest friends work in design and technology and I love working with them on side projects, namely Fallcha and HireVibes. Both projects brought me closer to those people, and I’m proud we built something from nothing to having paying customers.
Right now we’re trying to level up our designs, be it product design, or designs for brand, marketing and acquisition. As the only designer in our small, fast-paced startup, this is one of my challenges.
To help, I enrolled in Fons Mans’ course, to learn how to create visual languages and push my own limits of Figma.
I’m grateful the team get good design and great taste. When I need time to explore more marketing and brand designs, I can completely trust them when it comes to making product design decisions.
As of this writing, we’re a small startup that is growing and so our customer base has grown, and naturally, so has our support requests. As a designer, this affects me in terms of responding to customer questions on product confusion, as well as feeding these into what we build next, so we reduce product confusion and automate the most time-consuming support tasks.
Inspiration is perishable. When you feel inspired, act on it sooner rather than later, or at least jot it down so it’s captured to explore later.
Capture inspiration as you go. It’s great to search for inspiration at the start of a project. It’s greater to have a collection of pieces already at hand.
And more importantly, balance work and your life. Know what gives you energy and make time for those things. Be aware of when you’re stressed, and feel comfortable to rest. Make love with life.