Brand marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast features designer Luis González of InVision discussing his creative process, staying inspired, and remote collaboration.
IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Brand marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast features Luis González. As Senior Brand Designer at InVision, Luis faces the challenge of branding a suite of products designed for designers. Luis shares his perspectives on remote teams, using InVision in his own workflow, and the products that support his own creative process. We talk about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and Luis’s personal project inspired by and dedicated to his young son.
Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. There’s a history of well-known artists and designers applying their skills to the branding of products and services that fall outside of their usual creative orbit. For example, surrealist artist Salvador Dalí helped a small Spanish confectionery brand in the late 1950s achieve global success. Dalí’s logo for Chupa Chups lollipops remains largely unchanged today. English musician and record producer Brian Eno, best known for his pioneering work in “ambient music,” was commissioned by Microsoft to develop the six-second startup sound of the Windows 95 operating system. And another fellow Brit, typographer and art director Neville Brody is probably best known for his work on The Face magazine, which strongly influenced fashion and music visuals during the 1980s. Brody was commissioned by Macromedia in the late nineties, prior to the company’s acquisition by Adobe, to create the identities of web design software including Flash and Shockwave. But how challenging is it as a designer to be responsible for the branding of products intended to serve other designers? To find out, we’re joined today by Luis Mark González Jr, an award-winning designer and art director. He is currently the senior brand designer at InVision App, the product design platform powering the world’s best user experiences. Over the past year and a half, Luis has been working on redefining the brand from the ground up. Previously, Luis was part of the creative team at Squarespace in New York City. For over five years, he worked on all aspects of the brand, including brand art direction, visual campaigns, web designs, and films and commercials. If you’ve seen the brand, then you’ve seen his work. Before all of this, Luis cut his teeth in advertising and design in both Tampa, Florida, and New York City. Luis is currently embarking on his newest journey into fatherhood. Born in California, raised in Puerto Rico, Luis attended Flagler College in St Augustine, Florida, where he graduated with a B.A. In graphic design. After seven years living in Brooklyn, Luis now calls St Petersburg, Florida, home – with his wife Erica, their son Leo, and dog Maple. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Luis!
Luis Mark González Jr: Thank you. I appreciate it. I’m excited to be here.
Adrian Tennant: Luis, as I mentioned in the introduction you’re currently at InVision. Before we discuss your role there, could you explain what InVision is?
Luis Mark González Jr: Yeah, so InVision is basically the end to end product design platform powering some of today’s most powerful and influential companies globally. Some of our customers are the Fortune 100 companies. So some of your favorite apps, your favorite brands, banks, travel companies, you name it. We really focus on every step of the way for the product design flow. And also we’re really big into the collaboration sphere within some of these companies. We’re really trying to reinvent how teams work together
Adrian Tennant: Hmm. So it supports agile development practices?
Luis Mark González Jr: Yeah. And it’s trying to take out any hiccups or any pain points that people feel and really since I’ve been here, that’s the goal, to refine it, reinvent it, rework it all to make it a smoother process between person and person, team to team, project to project.
Adrian Tennant: So at InVision you are Senior Brand Designer. What does your role entail?
Luis Mark González Jr: Yeah, so my role is basically reinventing the brand, redefining the brand. So that’s kind of what I’ve been doing at InVision so far. When I first came here, the biggest issue that we had was we didn’t have photography that we owned or that was bespoke to InVision. And that was one of the issues too with being remote is you don’t have that capability of just getting into the studio and shooting the photos. So the biggest thing was who are we, what do we look like, how do we show our products, how do the products look, how can we talk about them in not such a technical SaaS way? So that was the big one. Art directing it, coming up with the ideas, hiring the photographers and retouchers and, and the production crew that I’ve worked with in the past and really shooting this whole thing in like four days, getting like a hundred photos. Hopefully, soon enough we’ll be releasing a lot of this stuff to the world. Another project being like a brand refresh, I guess you could say of InVision. And then also working on InVision.com – so from all tent poles or all touchpoints within the brand. How do we look, how do we feel? How do we have consistency? How is it a person? When someone sees us in an email, they should get the same idea of the brand as when they see us online. Or if they get served an ad or if they see one of our videos.
Adrian Tennant: Even prior to COVID-19, was InVision a completely virtual company then, in terms of the team structure?
Luis Mark González Jr: Yeah. That was definitely one of the things that drew me to InVision was the opportunity to work and live remotely. I’d spoken to many people who literally don’t have homes. They just live in a different country or different state every month. They just travel around and they get to set up their home office, wherever that is. So yeah, 100 percent virtual. The CEO kind of thought it was a great idea way back in the day before anyone even considered it. I think it was in 2012 he saw that for a startup that he was competing with these bigger companies, the Googles in New York at that time, Foursquare, Squarespace, all these companies kind of fighting for the talent pool. And he was like, “Why do I need to keep everyone in New York? Why don’t I just open it up to people wherever they live and tap into that pool of creative talent?” The beauty of technology today, you have Slack, you have everything you need right then and there that it makes it seamless.
Adrian Tennant: As more people have been working from home over the last couple of months, have you seen either increased interest in or engagement with InVision’s platform?
Luis Mark González Jr: Yeah, actually, yes. We actually have other products that are part of this one workflow system. We’ve noticed a lot of people that have gone to this post-COVID remote world that they’re using one of our products, Freehand, which is this like giant whiteboard type of product where you can have the whole company jump in there and you’re writing out ideas, you’re scribbling, you’re doing Post-It Notes all over the board. And really that’s probably one of the products that I use most these days. And it’s great for me to like put images in there, layout wireframes, right. A lot of notes. It’s collaborative when I’m working with other people and we’re kind of seeing that happen and play out right now with COVID happening.
Adrian Tennant: Luis, immediately, prior to your current role at InVision, you were Senior Brand Designer at Squarespace in New York. Now the company grew really fast during the five years that you were there. What was it like being part of that growth trajectory?
Luis Mark González Jr: It was the Wild West at that time. It was a total adrenaline rush. When I decided to leave agency life and join in-house, at first I was really hesitant. In school you don’t really talk about in-house or the idea of in-house seemed almost like a dead end. Like you go here and you’re only working on this one brand and that’s it. But at that time, Squarespace just seemed like a really interesting opportunity. I had been job searching at the time I was working at an agency in New York. I wasn’t feeling satisfied. And I felt, “Hey, I moved to New York City. I want to work on fun things. I want to really just get my hands dirty in these projects.” And I didn’t feel like I was getting that. So I rebuilt my site after a few failed interviews, pushed it live on Squarespace, and literally the next day they had a job posting and I thought, “this has to be a sign.” So I put my resume together, sent it in, and I got the job. And at that time there was just the chief creative officer, a producer, another designer, and myself. So super small team. But we knew what we wanted to be and we knew that we were all there to win. So it was this mentality of “either get on board or step aside.” It was so all-hands-on-deck that my first day I walk in and the chief creative officer, this guy who is an industry legend – he’s cut his teeth working at some of the biggest agencies in the world – is heads down, jamming out to music, working on banner ads for the Super Bowl that they just finished shooting that they needed to send to the production company, to be aired that weekend for Super Bowl. It was just crazy. No project was below anyone. Everyone threw down. Everyone was eager to just work on whatever it was to benefit the brand. And we knew that we had competition. We were in our early stages of the company. But we knew we had this goal in mind. And you know, that excitement really made everyone really passionate about what they were working on.
Adrian Tennant: During your time at Squarespace, which projects were the most fun to work on?
Luis Mark González Jr: I feel very fortunate and lucky to have had my time at Squarespace where I worked on any number of things day to day. It all changed all the time. For a few that come to mind would be the first campaign that I worked on, it was so scrappy. We had the producer’s friend who’s a photographer. We’re shooting all this stuff and an empty office space. Uh, we have his friend who’s a retoucher retouching, all this stuff. And from all this, scrappiness, we created a
Adrian Tennant: Luis, you started your professional career working for agencies in the Tampa Bay area. Looking back, what, if anything, did you learn from those experiences that influenced the way you approach your work today?
Luis Mark González Jr: Some of the lessons that I learned in my time working in Tampa at some of the agencies are that you gotta have humility and you gotta be gracious with everyone because everyone knows everyone. It’s a close-knit community. We’re all working to make awesome work. So it’s like this friendly competition and you work with someone here and then you go to another agency and then they come with you too. We’re all in it together at the end of the day. So it was this fun camaraderie and fun group of people.
Adrian Tennant: Let’s talk about your creative process. Do you prefer to generate a lot of ideas and then edit them down to the best candidates or do you start from say a smaller number and then iterate on those?
Luis Mark González Jr: Yeah, I, I feel like I would do the former, when I first started out, you kind of cast a wide net and that’s what you’re taught in school. Like if we’re doing a rebrand project, right, you have to do a hundred logos before you actually find the right one. And we would have teachers kind of come by and look at your notebook and you would have to show that you did a hundred or 200 logo marks. And then you would kind of deviate from there and choose the right one and refine it. But over the years I’ve kind of moved my way towards working on a smaller number of ideas and then really iterating on them and really flushing them out. And typically coming to a meeting with like four to five ideas that are just really blown out, versus coming to the table with a ton that need to be refined.
Adrian Tennant: Staying with creative process, what are your surefire or go-to sources of inspiration?
Luis Mark González Jr: I think for me, a lot of it is culturally staying aware of what’s happening. I like to look at what other agencies are doing. You know, I’ll go on AdWeek or AdAge, I’ll follow what companies or design brands are doing and what design studios are doing all the time. But I also like seeing what’s happening culturally: fashion, movies, things in the news. If I’m looking for inspiration and images, my buddy that I used to work with, he created this web app called Savee.it. That’s S A V E E dot I T. And it’s this really awesome way to create mood boards. You can install the Chrome plugin grab whatever you want. It saves a tear, a page and then you can just customize your mood boards as you see fit. I’ll just spend hours on there just finding stuff that I like and love and saving it.
Adrian Tennant: Luis, do you prefer using physical notebooks and markers to capture ideas and sketches or do you have a digital process that works for you?
Luis Mark González Jr: I’m kind of a hybrid idea, a little bit of both. I always have a sketchbook with me. My old design manager taught me about using texture when I’m drawing. So I’ll have a sketchbook and I’m working with scale and the texture of these shapes and things. So, I’ll have a spread of just these rough drawings that look like chicken scratch to everyone. But to me, I look at it and I’m like, “this is, this is the spread, this is what these billboards are gonna look like. And this scribble over here is the copy and this right here is the photo.” And it all makes sense to me. And then I use the app Simplenote religiously. I am actually on it right now. Anything that I have, any thoughts that I have, I put on there any ideas that I have, I like to take the brief or whatever the ask is. I sit down, write my ideas, any thoughts, questions, a lot of rhetorical questions, things that kind of help break apart the ask and think about it, stew on it, and then put it back together to come up with an idea.
Adrian Tennant: Do you have any other creative interests or personal projects that you’re working on right now?
Luis Mark González Jr: Yeah, yeah. The one personal project that I’ve been working on every day actually is these posters for my son. You can check it out on my site, LuisGonzales.design. They’re called “Posters for Leo.” Leo’s my son. I had the idea when he was born, I was kind of sitting there in the hospital looking down at him. At that one moment, everything kind of stopped and I’m looking at him and I’m like, “You are the most important person in my life.” And I got this spark of excitement and I wanted to do something for him and it also got me excited to do something with design as well. So I started the idea of, alright, “I’m going to make a poster each day of his first year of life. And each poster is going to have like a little caption on there of what happened.” And then the design kind of emulates that it might be a little bit more abstract or a little bit more literal. I have a sketchbook that I carry around with me and each day I write down like, you know, the date, the date number and then I’ll write down quickly what happened. And it could be something as simple as like, “you blew me a kiss today,” or “you let our dog lick your hand,” or “you had a diaper blowout in the car…” So just to capture these little snippets of the day for his first entire year of life and then at the end of the year, kind of compile it all and make it into a book and then give that to him for his first birthday.
Adrian Tennant: I think that’s a lovely idea. Now you moved from Brooklyn, New York, back to the Tampa Bay area. Do you miss anything about life in New York?
Luis Mark González Jr: Yes. And this is something that my wife and I talk about every day. We kind of a, it will be making breakfast or we’re just walking the dog and there’s little things that come up and we’re like, “Man, you know what, I missed this or that.” We miss our old neighborhood. We lived in Cobble Hill which is just South of Brooklyn Heights, right on the water near the Brooklyn bridge. And it was just beautiful there to be out on a Fall day and go get coffee, go get breakfast. We miss the diversity of people, also like the diversity of food and things that you can do. It felt like any day of the week I would check my email and it’s like, “Oh my God, this comedian’s performing down the street. Why don’t we go?” Or “this band is playing,” or “this gallery exhibition is opening up,” and everything was just there at your fingertips at all times of the day. That’s where I drew a lot of inspiration. Living in New York, you’re right at the epicenter of design and innovation, fashion. Everything’s happening right there, that you just tap into it.
Adrian Tennant: Okay. So what do you like most about living in St Petersburg?
Luis Mark González Jr: The pace of life has been amazing. And the proximity to the beaches have been life-changing. We actually just went this morning before anything got too crowded. We took our son and it’s just this change of life. You kind of go from 200 miles per hour working late every night and working on the weekends and just this fast paced go, go, go hustle and bustle life too much slower, more intentional. And we got to enjoy our son more and we’re closer to family. So we love the community that St Pete has and all its potential.
Adrian Tennant: Now a couple of weeks ago we had brand strategist Darius Lana from Pearson on the podcast. He talked about some of the challenges that people of color face when considering a career in advertising. Luis, as a Hispanic man, have you ever experienced discrimination or been in situations that have made you feel uncomfortable because of your race or ethnicity?
Luis Mark González Jr: Yeah, actually, yeah. I can’t say I ever felt it in the workplace and that’s something that I’m definitely grateful for, but I’m also aware that it is something that happens all the time. I’m fortunate because some of the companies that I worked at, Squarespace, for example, they did a tremendous job at D and I – so diversity, equity and inclusion. Like, “How can we bring everyone to the table?” “How can we show representation?” “How can we make people feel welcomed?” without it being this forced idea of like, “Okay, we have to do this or that.” “How can everyone have a seat at the table, speak their mind, be included?” And it was truly amazing to experience it from the early days to what it’s become now. And InVision is doing the same thing. You have such an amazing group of people all coming together from all different walks of life and it’s truly amazing. It’s something great to witness.
Adrian Tennant: Well, the 135-year-old arts and crafts manufacturer Crayola has announced that it’s releasing new packs of crayons next month called, ‘Colors of the World,’ designed to represent global skin tones. Crayola’s CEO said, quote – “We want the new ‘Colors of the World,’ crayons to advance inclusion within creativity and impact how kids express themselves” – end quote. Each pack includes a color reference and each crayon label lists the color name in English, Spanish and French. Luis, what are your thoughts about Crayola’s strategy?
Luis Mark González Jr: I think this is awesome. I actually remember being a kid and you know, loving art and drawing and having like a pack of crayons and not really being able to like color in who I was or even having friends color in who they were. And you kind of just had like the generic colors so you’d have to resort to like peach and then shading in with like the lighter brown and getting like who you are, whatever it was. So it’s really an awesome thing that they’re doing to kinda bring this idea to the table and kind of be more inclusive in the color palettes that they’re providing. I think it’s great and I think it’s awesome to start young, like kids are the ones that are playing with Crayola so young, so it’s great to make them feel included and not feel like an outsider. That’s something as simple as a color that kind of matches your skin tone is just an awesome thing for them to do.
Adrian Tennant: Finally, Luis, if listeners would like to see your work, where can they find you?
Luis Mark González Jr: Yeah, you can find me at LuisGonzalez.design. You could see all my present, past work, my poster series for my son. You can reach out there if you want to collaborate or you have cool ideas and you want to work together, always down to talk to people. And you can also find me on Instagram – it’s Luis Mark Gonzales, if it’s all black and white, then you found the right account.
Adrian Tennant: And of course we’ll include a link to that on our website too. Luis, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.
Luis Mark González Jr: Thank you. It was an awesome experience. I appreciate it.
Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week, Luis Mark González Jr, Senior Brand Designer at InVision. You can find our show notes with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS web page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” To ensure you don’t miss an episode, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, stay safe. Goodbye.
Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.
Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Luis Mark González Jr about brand design and creative collaboration.