As someone who's done just this—and looking to replicate in the near future with a new startup (hit me up)—I agree with these sentiments.
TLDR; it's super rewarding, exhausting and annoying all at once. You have to be prepared to have your own opinions and stand up for them, but also be a team player and learn how to coach both other designers as the company grows, and non-designers too.
Oh sick, I love your retrospective on Medium. I've had a hard time making myself more available. It feels like I'm reducing my amount of time being productive, but being open to those one-off "Hey, do you have a second...?" comments is incredibly productive in its own way.
Really good points made here - I can Imagine working at a start up would be a great experience for a young designer looking to gain a wide variety of experience before finding their creative niche.
Love this article. I went through the same thing at @olark. It's a wild ride being the only designer.
Awesome write-up, Emelyn! As someone who's currently going through the interview process at a few startups to be their first designer, this is super valuable.
Great write up! It's spot on. It's very challenging but very rewarding. Though it does require a certain personality and drive to be successful.
Hey DN! I wrote a little bit about what it's like being the first designer at a start-up.
If any of y'all are in a similar position — maybe founders, or solo designers — I'd love to hear if this resonates with you at all!
Took a look at your site and saw your Ninth Letter work. Hey fellow alumni!
Whoa surreal! Hi fellow alum!
A clean slate to start with sounds wonderful. I was the first designer at my company, but six years and lots of legacy product later :-/