Kian Lavi Design

Clients: MakerSights, Boost Media, and more

Kian Lavi


  1. Partnered with MakerSights execs to build out a new design team and a design-centered strategy for the company
  2. Worked with MakerSights engineers to rebuild their app, leading to higher satisfaction amongst retailer clients


After moving to San Francisco in 2015, I left the first startup I joined to start my own freelance design business. I quickly found a niche designing for small SaaS startups who had no designers of their own, and made my way evangelizing design strategy and partnering with founders to make design a priority for their companies.

The goal of my business was not to stick around forever: my hope was to make my own role obsolete and empower these startups to learn how to design without me. For the sake of brevity, I’ll go into the work I did with one client, MakerSights, below.

The Future of MakerSights (2017)

Client: MakerSights • Role: Design Lead

MakerSights let brands and makers get rapid, predictive insights into future product demand from their customers. Retailers could test A/B product ideas with simple surveys (instead of launching into the market), measure demand across similar products, and communicate directly with real customers to see what they’re interested in buying.

After working with the talented team for over a year, launching their brand collateral, marketing sites, and rebuilding their product decision platform from the ground up, I partnered with the MakerSights CEO and COO to tackle their next big battle: how to scale their design efforts. Eventually I helped them from 1 engineer to a product team of 8 designers, engineers, and PMs.

A vision I worked on with the MakerSights C-Suite, envisioning an AI-led future for their product decision platform.

While I was originally responsible for all of their design work, I needed ways to scale my processes, so I began teaching their Sales and Marketing staff how to use Figma and build things like well-designed marketing campaigns and propose simple feature changes.

At the same time, I was working on a design strategy for the company, which was otherwise dictated by the explicit needs of their customers, traditional retailers. I began pulling aside the CEO and COO to do design sprints and reimagine large parts of their platform with a focus on AI and personalized recommendations for advertisers, instead of leaving analysts to comb through all of the recommendations their product was generating manually.

Eventually, the entire company began pitching in to design parts of the product, and the visioning work convinced their COO to prioritize their first full-time design hires. Design began having a seat at the table, and by the time I left, I saw engineering and design begin to dictate the direction of the company as much as their outbound time with clients.

Product Decision Platform, v2 (2016)

Client: MakerSights • Role: Design Lead

In 2016, my first project with the MakerSights team was to rebrand the company. Their product at the time was a data analysis tool for retail brands who wanted to survey customers with new product ideas they were considering. While the founding team imagined an editorial, fresh feel, the product itself felt very cold, quantitative, and data-centric.

After brainstorming ideas with the team, and sitting in on customer interviews, we landed on a more human, editorial style that better suited the future state the founders had in mind. Their lead engineer, Mike, and I began working on propagating the new brand and concurrently decided to refactor parts of the marketing site and product to make it feel more unified with the brand. Our simple rebranding exercise turned into rebuilding the entire product and marketing site, and we shipped a v2 brand + product within three weeks that not only improved the brand’s reputation with clients, but built a more stable and modern foundation for all of their future product work to be built on top of.

One example of a new marketing site we built for the new MakerSights brand.

As Mike and I investigated our simple refactor, we ran into tremendous technical debt that the company had accrued in its short time. Rather than spend our time mired in code, I offered to prototype new ideas in a new front-end we could build together. What started as us prototyping new ideas in an Angular interface quickly snowballed into rebuilding most of the technical architecture and front-end underpinning MakerSights products up until then.

Without realizing it, we had stumbled into a massive opportunity: rebrand the company AND redesign the products from the ground up. We began beta testing our code + designs with a select group of clients we ran continuous research and analysis on, and found that they used the product a significant amount more than on the legacy interface. We added simple ways to customize the UI and support for tablet and mobile devices, which allowed retail clients to more easily share work with their teammates and get buy-in from their executive leadership on campaigns they were running.

Optimizing our UI for tablets and mobile opened up an entirely new opportunity for retailers to share data across their teams.

Our new UIs were not only beloved by MakerSight’s clients, but they were also easier to build on top of and led to faster development cycles between design and engineering. Mike and I began iterating on the product on a weekly cadence, building out important but hard-to-reach features like personalized white-label dashboards and more ways to simply visualize clients data.

Examples of the redesigned dashboards we built, that let retailers get more at-a-glance views of how their products and surveys were performing, as opposed to digging into .csvs and tables of raw data or charts.

At the end of a month, we had completely redesigned and rebuilt all of MakerSight’s retailer-facing and customer-facing products, shipped a new marketing site, and were already making headway with more easily showing, not just telling customers about the value that MakerSights could bring them.

I’m forever thankful to Mike Mullins for partnering with me on this gargantuan endeavour, and Matt + Dan for advocating for us as we tore apart their product from floor up. It was worth it.




Kian Lavi

Designer and photographer, currently designing your privacy at Facebook.