Q&A :: Eric Freedman of Mass Relevance

A few weeks ago Mass Relevance announced that design veteran Eric Freedman had left Frog Design in order to join the company. We decided to ask him a few questions about design, the change, and what he’ll be doing.

After 12 years at one of the most respected agencies in the world, why did you decide to join Mass Relevance?
I really enjoyed my time at frog. I think that for a designer to stay somewhere for that long of a time says a lot about the company and the work. I really enjoyed the variety and complexity of the design challenges. I was always learning about new subjects areas, technologies and approaches to design. As a service company, everything was client and project driven. Ultimately, after 12 years, I decided that I wanted to use my experience on the product side. Clients will still be part of my world, but just in a different capacity.

What are some of the interesting challenges you’re excited to face in this new role?
I am looking forward to being able to focus on our core product, evolving and adapting it to include our growing set of features and to meet the needs of the industry and our clients. I am excited to be able to take short-term (tactical) and long-term (strategic) approaches to the user experience of our product and what it can produce. I am also looking forward to working with the current Mass Relevance entertainment and media related client base. The subject matter is interesting and always changing.

As Mass Relevance grows and evolves, I think it will be an interesting challenge to manage our brand and all of our customer touch points. As a social curation company, I think we are in a good position to use the social web to help communicate who we are and what we do.

What are some of the things you’ve learned over the years in the agency world that will apply to a tech startup?
Flexibility is extremely valuable. At frog, each client was different. Each had a different problem to solve and unique corporate cultures. I have learned over the years how to stay true to good design while meeting the individual needs of our clients. Each design solution has many factors to determine if it is successful or not. Good design finds the right balance between Ease of Use, Aesthetics, Functionality, Practicality, and Novelty. Because Mass Relevance is a start-up and the product is evolving and growing quickly, a designer needs a flexible approach to design.

How have attitudes about design changed over the last 5 years, and why?
In the past, design-centric companies were a specific and separate breed usually associated only with luxury brands. It wasn’t until the last 5-10 years that great design and exceptional user experiences became buzz words and ideals most companies to strive for. Some companies embraced design as a way to differentiate itself from its competitors while others made it a key tenet of its brand. But at this point, good design is expected across the board. It has become a necessity… a baseline. Consumers are more informed and opinionated. With so many venues for consumers to voice their opinions, many products don’t get a second chance. Because of this, design is more valuable than ever before… and current attitudes reflect this. People understand that design has a seat at the table.

People understand that good design can…

  • simplify something complex
  • appropriately¬†communicate messages
  • make painful tasks more enjoyable
  • make products more accessible
  • adapt to different user expectations and needs
  • convince users to change behaviors
  • enhance an existing experience
  • differentiate a company from its competitors
  • help¬†establish a loyal customer base
  • attract attention (so can bad design)
  • save/make money while reinforcing a brand

What advice would you give a young designer who one day wants to be in your shoes?
Good design starts with understanding the problem. Spend the time to learn what will make it successful. Use that knowledge to shape the process. Keep your eyes and ears open. Be accepting and flexible, but all the while understanding that design is a core component of value.

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About Bryan Menell

Bryan is the Managing Editor for AustinStartup and the CEO of Mahana. He is a co-founder of Capital Factory, an investor and advisor, and runs the popular Austin Tech Happy Hour with his wife.

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