Houzzer Profile: Kelvin Young, Design
Kelvin leads our Industry Solutions design team, which develops the user experience for home professionals in the Houzz community to build their brands and connect with homeowners. Outside of work, he enjoys gardening, working on his camper and hanging out with his dog, Gibson.
Why did you become a designer?
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in college. Originally, I was leaning towards the sciences but during my sophomore year, a friend installed Photoshop on my computer so they could do their homework and it piqued my interest. Digital arts was a new medium, and it completely grabbed my attention. The next day, I declared studio arts as my major so that I could do the digital arts minor. From there, I learned how to use basic design software and how to code in HTML. I haven’t looked back since.
What is it about product design that you like the most?
I love to make things, especially things that make a difference in people’s lives. I’ve been very fortunate to work on products, like Houzz, that my friends and family use. When I work with home professionals, it’s exciting to see all the ways that design and technology can streamline workflows and help modernize the industry.
Outside of design, I enjoy woodworking and I’m currently building a camper, which has been a really interesting mix of carpentry and electrical work. In a way, it’s like the work I do at Houzz because it’s all about identifying needs, iterating, and designing for usability and delight.
What brought you to Houzz?
After buying a home five years ago, a friend recommended that I download the Houzz app. I immediately saw the value that Houzz brings to professionals and homeowners looking to design their dream homes. I was already familiar with the home remodeling industry, so when I passed the office in Palo Alto one day, I decided to apply for a job. Four years later, I’m still happy to be a Houzzer.
What do you like most about working here?
The people, hands down. They are super smart and really talented collaborators. I also like working in an industry that I feel personally connected to. Having friends who are home professionals and having worked with pros myself, it’s exciting to work on products where I can actually see our solutions make a difference in their day-to-day lives.
What is a day in the life like for you, as a team leader?
I enjoy mornings, so I usually try to get in a little earlier, especially if it’s Monday and I know there will be bacon served for breakfast. It’s also the best time to catch up and sync with team members in Tel Aviv. From there, it’s a mix of meetings, making sure my team’s needs are being met, and having my own time to design. There are also periodic walks to the window to check the line for Ramen Nagi, which is my favorite place to eat in Downtown Palo Alto.
What project are you most proud of?
One of the projects that I’m most proud of is actually a comparatively small test to our directory for home professionals that I proposed when I originally joined the company. The project was to simplify the category and location filters at the top of the page for our mobile web experience. While designing, I noticed that it might also be helpful for users if we surfaced our “Call” and “Contact” buttons for the professionals on their directory listings. I proposed the idea and got the green light for testing. It actually led to an increase in contacts. For me, that project was a great example of why I joined the company – people’s voices at Houzz are always heard and have the ability to make an impact. Now as a design lead, I encourage the same level of proactivity within my team and across the organization.
Where do you get inspiration?
When it comes to visual trends, my go to is Muzli. They’ve got a treasure trove of eye candy, micro-interactions, and references to other inspiring sites. When it comes to UX, I like to re-contextualize the problem at hand. For example, I once asked myself, “what if finding a professional on Houzz was like finding a romantic match on an online dating site?” That led to a lot of fresh and interesting ideas.
Do you have any advice for someone getting started in design?
Practice, practice, practice. There’s no better school than experience. I found that nothing I’ve ever done was “throwaway.” Even if an idea didn’t make it into the final design, I still learned what worked and what didn’t work, which just adds to your toolkit of design solutions. I’ve also found that by putting hours into your designs, you get a chance to sharpen your skills and you naturally get faster at iterating through your ideas over time.
Just as important as practice is feedback. Seek feedback from your peers and be open to seeing your designs from a perspective you haven’t seen before.
Do you have any tips for designers looking to interview at Houzz?
Design is about iteration and learning along the way. Don’t be afraid to share examples of a time when something didn’t go the way you’d expected it. What did you learn from it and what would you do differently? Focus on the lesson.