Meet Zendesk Design: The teams bringing helpful business software to life

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Zendesk is all about building better customer relationships. Founded in 2007, the CRM (customer relationship management) company helps businesses provide great customer services used by more than 100,000 brands. While its headquarters are in San Francisco, the team are spread across the globe, in offices and remote locations including Montreal, London, Copenhagen, Dublin, Krakow and Singapore. Among its workforce is Zendesk Design – a group of nearly 200 people responsible for bringing the brand and its product to life, working across teams including product design, brand design and design operations. Here, design programme manager Alexa Herasimchuk gives us the lowdown on what it’s really like to work at Zendesk, before we get to know more of the team.

Company


Based

Zendesk has offices in: San Francisco, Montreal, Singapore, Melbourne, London, Copenhagen, Dublin, Montpellier, Krakow, Bangalore, Berlin, Madison, Manila, Mexico City, New York, Paris, São Paulo and Tokyo.

Founded

2007

Team Size

Zendesk: 5,000+
Zendesk Design: 150+

Working Hours

9am–5pm, with flexibility

Links

Website
Zendesk Design Website
Zendesk Design Instagram
Zendesk Design Twitter
Brandland
Garden Design System
LinkedIn

Overview

How would you describe what Zendesk does, and specifically Zendesk Design?
Zendesk Design is a group of multidisciplinary designers spanning North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, who all help Zendesk to build the best customer experiences. This group is made up of product designers, brand designers, copywriters, content designers, UX researchers, animators, videographers and so much more.

Our work can be seen all over the Zendesk product, from the design systems it’s built upon, to the words used in a pop-up. This group works on campaigns that help businesses understand what Zendesk does and why it’s an important ingredient for building better customer relationships.

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Inside the Zendesk San Francisco workspace

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Zendesk creative lives in progress workplace 01

How has Zendesk evolved since launching?
Zendesk has always been a design-centric company. Our look, feel and voice are an integral part of our brand and the products we make. Zendesk Design has grown in size over the years, but what has always remained the same is that the design work is valued and supported.

“Our work can be seen all over the Zendesk product, from the design systems to the words used in a pop-up.”

The Zendesk homepage
Zendesk provide tools and support for businesses of all sizes to enable them to provide great customer services

The Work

In terms of projects, what have been the highlights from the past year?
Zendesk’s Brand team has been recognised in a number of industry awards this year. This includes Webby Awards 2021 for ‘Thank You Machine’, which won Webby Winner and People’s Voice Winner for Best Mobile User Interface. ‘Stories About Helpful People’ was nominated for Best Branded Editorial Experience and Best Corporate Social Responsibility; while ‘Golden Age Karate’ was an honoree for Best Branded Entertainment Documentary.

‘Golden Age Karate’ by Zendesk Design

Elsewhere, ‘Thank You Machine’ was awarded Merit Winner for Digital Design at The One Show Awards 2021, and ‘Stories About Helpful People’ was shortlisted in the same category. ‘Golden Age Karate’ won the Animation category at Brand Film Awards 2021, and ‘Stories About Helpful People’ was a double winner for Best Branded Content Series and Use of Long Form Video at Short Awards 2021. Plus, the Zendesk Product Design team became a finalist this past year in the IxD Awards for redesigning the conversation interface for customer support agents.

Zendesk ITSW creative lives in progress header project

‘Thank You Machine’ by Zendesk Design

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Are there any projects that have been fun to work on that don't get publicised?
Every other week we host an internal event called Show ‘n’ Tell, which becomes an opportunity for the members of Zendesk Design to come together, connect and share stories. Sometimes this will be a new hire introducing themselves, someone teaching a new skill they learned, or others sharing unique side projects and hobbies – whatever it is, the group leaves fresh and inspired for the rest of the day.

Where’s the best place to learn more about Zendesk Design’s work?
I recommend looking at our website and Instagram, which features work we're proud of, going behind the scenes on our process, as well as the people who make it happen. We also have a Zendesk original series championing stories of helpfulness, with a dedicated website and video series.

The Zendesk Design team have their own website, full of resources, advice and insight.

Team and Culture

What would you say the culture is like at Zendesk, and Zendesk Design in particular?
At Zendesk, we have three core values: Practice empathy, focus on relationships and be “humblident” – a word we’ve made up at Zendesk which is a blend of humble and confident. For a bit more insight into the company’s history, the way we work as a team and the culture, I really recommend giving this video a watch.

Then within Zendesk Design we have a few more guiding principles that help us stay on the same page and united in our thinking. These are: Push for greatness, be accountable, care for one another and keep it creative. These ideas also help us in becoming better partners to one another, our peers and our customers.

What is the office and location like?
We have various offices where our designers typically work, and each office has its own unique culture, flair and is always stocked with yummy local snacks. What is awesome about our offices is that they were also designed by Zendesk Design! As an example, in this article you can read all about the design process behind our Singapore office, which also touches on the approach to how our offices are designed globally.

“We have four values: push for greatness; be accountable; care for one another; and keep it creative.”

Some of Zendesk’s designers based in Melbourne, Australia
A Zendesk Design workshop session
Work in progress

How did the teams adjust to remote working last year?
Before working from home during 2020, Zendesk as a company was already very distributed. As we all transitioned to working from home, this meant we already had a good baseline for how best to collaborate while working far apart. This is something our Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Mechele Neeley-Scholis expanded on in this blog post about our shift to remote and digital-first work.

That being said, one thing that comes to mind is the importance of providing teams with the right collaborative digital tools, like Zoom, Miro and Figma – while always being aware and understanding of the various challenges that different people may be facing with unique work from home and living arrangements. We are all just human and trying our best after all.

The teams work hard to build an inclusive Zendesk culture

How often do you add to the teams, and is there something you always look for in new applicants?
New designers join Zendesk every month as we are a growing tech company with lots of design needs! Besides looking for candidates whose work experience matches the needs listed in our open roles, we look for people who are just wholeheartedly themselves. Zendesk Design is made up of unique individuals with unique interests, educational backgrounds and countries of origin – we enjoy learning and growing from each other and that’s most important.

Do you ever take on interns? And if so, how can we stay in the loop on how to apply?
Yes! We started an intern programme last year. The best way to stay up to date is to keep track of new, open roles through zendesk.com/careers and follow us on Instagram.

Meet Some of the Team

Here we get to know some of the amazing team members working at Zendesk.

Audrey

Audrey Quek, product designer

What recent project work at Zendesk Design are you most proud of?
I’ve recently paired up with another designer to work on a project that is still in its early phase – it’s a way to enable richer and more engaging messaging conversations. It was a pretty open-ended problem to solve, and it was fun to collaborate on how this piece of work would fit into other aspects of our existing software.

What’s your favourite thing on your desk right now?
I have a tub of Playdough on my desk, and I often take bits out to squash and roll while I’m processing my thoughts.

Did you complete a degree, and has this been helpful to your work?
I didn’t graduate with a design-related degree – it was in accountancy – although I did complete a UX bootcamp, which was useful in getting an overview of the fundamentals.

While it helps to have a good design eye and intuition, a big aspect of design is the process versus the destination – about how you tell a story so others understand, having a point of view but being open to feedback. These are things that can be learned from real experiences over a formal training.

Carlo

Carlo Andrea Giorgi, product designer

What recent project at Zendesk Design are you most proud of?
A project called ‘Multilingual Content Cues’, which uses machine learning technology and article usage data to help the admin discover opportunities and tasks that will improve their knowledge base. As this was in the beginning of lockdown, we lost the ability to meet and collaborate in person. But together with the project manager and engineers, we worked towards a new process for our new normal, while not compromising on Zendesk’s high standards. For us everything came together while doing it; we kept revising on the process until we learned new ways of working together.

What advice would you give an emerging creative wanting to do the same kind of work?
Find a company with a design process you like and where there are people you believe that you can learn from – and seem nice. When you find the right fit for you, in every project, make sure you allow yourself the time to find the right solution for the problem you are solving before presenting it to the team.

Elias

Elias Rabeh, presentation designer

How would you describe what you do?
As a presentation designer, I work as a part of the Story Design team. I spend my days designing internal and external materials for presentations, social media, campaigns, and other communications touchpoints.

How did you land the job?
Presentation designer jobs are hard to come by, especially at companies like Zendesk, so I actually applied for a less senior position, to take on a new role. I interviewed with my now manager to showcase my portfolio and discuss what I could bring to the role. The associate level position was offered to someone in-house but the team opened up a position for me specifically!

Did you complete a degree, and has this been helpful to your work?
I did complete a degree, but not in something fully related to design. I will say that the weird collection of art and business classes have been very beneficial to the type of work I do on a daily basis. I don’t necessarily feel formal training is required though, considering I taught myself the Adobe Suite via Youtube.

Giuseppe

Giuseppe Cariello, brand experience designer

How would you describe what you do?
My role is to translate brand values into Zendesk physical spaces such as offices, events, trade show and more. I am globally leading the effort from the brand team when it comes to spatial design tasks. Part of my job is engaging local architects or production agencies to apply the design guidelines we define internally beforehand, with the aim to build inspiring Zendesk experiences.

What advice would you give an emerging creative wanting to do the same kind of work?
Doing good work while keeping creatively satisfied is, in my opinion, the main goal for a designer. A good tip is to always keep curious and not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Having the right mindset of exploring new disciplines, projects, languages and countries is a great way to keep yourself inspired, productive and most of all… happy.

Raven

Raven Wadley-Wright, brand copywriter

How did you land the job?
I ended up in this role by chance; I used to be the front desk coordinator at headquarters and we were hosting an event, Swag Day. Olivia Kingsley, who is now my boss, read my signage and asked who wrote the copy. I did. She asked if I was a writer and mentioned that creative was looking for another copywriter to join the team. I didn’t know a single thing about copywriting. In fact, I’d never heard of it.

I expressed my interest in the role despite having zero experience. We went to lunch, connected; she pulled some strings, I talked to a few folks, and I made the big move over to creative as a junior copywriter.

Did you complete a degree, and has this been helpful to your work?
I graduated with a degree in English Literature, but my craft is completely different from analysing a Chaucer poem. My passion for writing is what helped me the most. I love what I do. The cool thing about writing is that you can always improve or change your work. Nothing is permanent. You can explore new angles, narratives and quirky ideas. It’s actually pretty fun.



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