A Designer's Experience at LSM

Posted by Adam Saynuk on

Adam Saynuk is an alumnus of the October 2011 Lean Startup Machine held at Grind Space in New York. He is the founder of creative studio, BAKERY.

Adam SaynukFirst, I'll start with some observations as a graphic designer. As an artist, I'm supposed to go with my gut. And I do, often. As a graphic designer, I'm often asked to "just make this pretty," which I can do. However, in my experience, "because it's pretty" has never been a very convincing argument when presenting my concepts to clients. And I think many of my designer colleagues get frustrated when asked to "just make it pretty." Because we know there's more to good design than just visual aesthetics. We invest extra time with clients to understand their challenges, to conceive unique solutions tailored to their needs, and to create engaging communications materials to express these messages. None of that sounds like just making it pretty. And having the above conversation with clients is how I convince them of the full value that I can offer them as a designer. So what's this got to do with Lean Startup Machine? When I arrived at Lean Startup Machine, I was expecting and hoping for a fun weekend of networking, pulling together a project quickly, and fighting for first prize bragging rights at the end. What I got was more than that. Don't get me wrong, I did get to network, I worked hard and late on our project, and hoped to whup the other projects. And it was a ton of fun. And in the process, I learned the value of the Lean method and the elements and structure of the Lean way. Being exposed to the Tao of Lean offers me a valuable framework in which to test ideas before executing them. It's a particularly helpful method for ideas which will be costly in time to execute, which matters a lot to my clients. Let me put it this way: I always like to have a good reason for the stuff I make ending up the way it does. This makes it defensible to criticism, and gives it strength when pitching to clients. The Lean Startup principle of creating a Minimum Viable Product, and using the scientific method to hypothesize, test, and revise my assumptions, will add more power to my arguments when convincing clients of the validity of my ideas. I think it will also offer me a way to manage my clients' ideas when I may not necessarily agree with them. Submitting a client idea to the Lean process will either give it a chance to prove its value and convince me it will work, or show the faults of the idea and prove to the client why it won't. I think this will go some way to toward limiting my ibuprofen consumption, but I have yet to test that hypothesis. The Lean Startup Machine offered me an entrepreneurial and energizing atmosphere in which to learn about Lean Startup. I was surrounded by others who were similarly engaged, mentors who understand Lean Startup, and a fun atmosphere in which to synthesize them as a memorable experience. Perhaps I'm just kind of a geeky designer, not plugged into the design culture enough. And maybe I've just got too much left brain for my own good. But the Lean Startup Machine really resonated with me. As a businessperson, it makes sense to test ideas quickly and cheaply before implementing them. And I want to do anything I can to make my business more competitive in an increasingly hostile business environment. I believe the Lean Startup Machine has set me on the path to do this. I'll be working hard to become more natural using the Tao of Lean in my work, and educate my clients in its use. But I'll have to test that hypothesis first.
About the author: Adam launched the creative studio, BAKERY, in January 2011, the next step in his creative career of more than fifteen years. Prior to founding BAKERY, Adam has worked as head of marketing and creative head at RiskMetrics Group through many acquisitions, a major rebrand, and an IPO; led creative brand and identity development at MSCI; designed for Low+Associates; and consulted on selected projects all along.
Adam also has an active art career, as the energy behind Morning Macro—a macro/microphotography art site, various other art projects, photography for hire in the New York metro area, as well as several art shows from time to time as a photographer, drawer, painter and digital artist.
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