Whether or not you’re an avid user of the platform, it’s likely you’ve heard about the power of Pinterest to share and explore content. Founded in 2010, Pinterest has exploded in size, and now serves more than 150 million users and expects more than $500 million in revenue this year.

We spoke to senior brand designer Tim Belonax about Pinterest’s brand team and design culture, as well as collaboration and the importance of sharing work.

Tell us a little about your role at Pinterest.

I’m a brand designer. I try to help people understand what Pinterest is and what it means to them. Some projects I’ve worked on this year include our SXSW activation, the What if campaign, and our brand guidelines.

How big is your design team at Pinterest?

The brand creative team is about 20 people. We’re a small but feisty bunch of designers, writers, and producers working across the company.

How have things on the team changed since you joined?

I joined the team a little over a year ago during a bit of a hiring spike. About a third of our team was hired within a month. On top of that, we had to move to a different office—typical start-up stuff.

What challenges were you having that led you to Wake?

At a certain scale, it becomes difficult to review all of the design a team is working on without eating into a ton of time. Having a general understanding of what the team is designing is helpful in creating a sense of cohesion among members. It helps you feel like you’re on a team of people working towards something, not just a lone contributor.

I’d used Wake at other companies before and found it helpful for teams of our size doing this kind of work. I suggested the team give it a try and we’ve been using the service ever since then.

How would you describe the communication among your team before and after Wake?

Wake allows our team to see the sketches and iterations that might not make it to presentations. It’s a way of making a person’s design process more visible to the overall team. It helps us lean on each other for input and guidance when shaping projects and gaining a sense of how a fellow team member works and thinks.

Tim Belonax, Senior Brand Designer at Pinterest


Why is sharing work in progress so important?

There are a few benefits to sharing work. One is that it creates a greater understanding of what the team is making and how they are doing it. This can uncover new processes or methods that might go unnoticed. It can also present opportunities for designers to reuse assets or approaches in their own projects. Seeing someone else’s process can help others think through their own challenges.

It can also bring a sense of cohesion to the team in terms of understanding what the overall group is creating. This is important for a brand team because their job is both detail oriented and holistic. But fundamentally, sharing work in progress is important because it invites feedback—a core principle of design.

What have you been able to accomplish with Wake?

Wake has enabled the team to be more connected to each other’s work. Projects can move incredibly quickly and Wake is an easy, light weight way of sharing and gaining feedback. It’s also a safe space for the team to try out new ideas and see what works.

In what ways do you try to motivate and empower designers?

In addition to my job at Pinterest, I’m fortunate to be able to teach in the Graphic Design department at CCA, where I’ve also used Wake. I try to motivate my design students through a variety of methods like highlighting the positive, sharing examples, and group discussions. A lack of motivation often comes from self-doubt. I try to lift my students up be focusing on what they’ve done well and how they overcame obstacles to succeed. I also bring a lot of books to class to share examples and spur discussions that help get students unstuck and believing in themselves again.

I believe that empowerment comes from a combination of trust and resources. I try to run my classes like a studio, entrusting my students with a lot of autonomy while providing input and information to advance their projects and thinking.

Thanks to Tim Belonax for sharing his insights about design at Pinterest. You can follow him on Twitter, and see what he and the Pinterest team have been building at pinterest.com.