Benjamin De Cock — Stripe

Belgium-based all round designer who loves coding as well as making things beautiful. Desperately seeks peace and quiet when designing.

What do you do?

In theory, I’m supposed to be a User Interface Designer. In practice, I constantly switch between UI design, front-end development, good ol’ web design, information architecture, prototyping, motion design, and even some 3D lately!

What led you into design?

Microsoft FrontPage! Joking aside, the ability to produce something and make it instantly available to everyone across the globe was fascinating to me back then, and still is today! It took me a while to realize rotating skulls and “under construction” gifs were not a thing though, as my interest was pretty much exclusively on the technical side of building websites. But, it did happen eventually, and I realized my 100% red page background could probably be toned down a little bit. I’ve never stop caring about how to present things since then.

Describe your working environment

I have a fairly standard setup: 13" MacBook Pro hooked up to a 27" Thunderbolt Display and the usual Apple accessories. My working environment is slightly less conventional though, as the landscape surrounding my home office involves cows, fields and basically all things nature.

What does your iOS screen look like?

What does your dock look like?

What’s your design process?

I always start by drawing some rough wireframes. It helps me to visually understand the problem I’m trying to solve, the requirements, the limitations, etc. This step is crucial in my process, but it’s also very short: I ⌘N in Sketch as soon as possible, and I iterate a lot. Iteration is a long and irritating process, but in my experience, it’s the only one that leads to meaningful results.

What do you use to plan initial designs?

Not much aside from some quick drawings (and I’m very liberal in calling these things “drawings”). The value I get from seeing actual pixels on the screen beats any meticulous planning, even if it involves throwing away many visual explorations.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

Stripe's home page

Where do you go to get inspired?

I stay isolated as much as I can. I admire and envy people who work better in a lively environment surrounded by other people, but that’s not my case. I need long periods of quiet, undisturbed time in order to focus on what I do.

What apps do you use when designing?

Exclusively Sketch. https://www.sketchapp.com/

How do you go about testing your design?

We have weekly design critiques at Stripe where we’re encouraged to share our work and discuss the potential issues. I’m extremely lucky to be working with some of the best designers in the world, so I’m admittedly in a fortunate position to receive insightful feedback!

What music do you listen to when designing?

I mostly listen to microhouse (i.e. minimal electronic music), from labels like Kompakt to artists like The Field.

(https://soundcloud.com/kompakt/ambivalent-whyou-snippet-2)

(https://soundcloud.com/garmonbozia-2/the-field-the-follower-live-in-berlin)

What’s a great website for inspiration?

It’s easy to mock Dribbble, but in my opinion, it’s still a fantastic place for a daily dose of visual niceties. Lots of UI mockups completely ignore the real problems, some gesture- based animations would take five years to implement and most dashboard graphs don’t make any sense, but that’s completely fine as soon as you take it for what it is: a source of purely visual inspiration.

How do you keep improving yourself?

I try to keep learning and, most importantly, to get out of my comfort zone. It’s easy to repeat the same recipe over and over again, but it’s neither gratifying nor empowering. Trying new things, exploring new styles, and learning new techniques are, in my opinion, the only ways to stay relevant.

Why did you join Stripe?

It’s hard to pick just one thing, really. It’s a mix between a fascinating culture, my personal interest in joining a startup in its early days, the amazing people and, obviously, a great product solving a real problem.

What’s it like working at Stripe?

From a designer’s perspective, it’s ridiculously good. The founders understand and care about design to an unreasonable degree, which is remarkable considering the very nature of our product (basically a payments API). More generally, I feel like there’s a culture of excellence, of naturally going the extra mile, which is inspiring and motivating for everyone. And on a more fundamental level, Stripe’s humble and honest attitude just perfectly aligns with the values I care about.

https://officesnapshots.com/2014/01/27/inside-stripes-san-francisco-headquarters/

What design challenge do you face at Stripe?

I think making all the information clear, engaging and easy to digest for everyone is still the biggest challenge. We now have a fairly wide range of products, each of them offering many integration options. We need to talk to developers in their language without omitting any details, and yet keep the overall message succinct and crystal clear for the rest of us. Last but not least, most of our products rely on abstract technical concepts, which makes for some interesting illustration challenges!

How do you handle design disagreements?

Design critiques are hard for every designer in every company. We as designers care so much about what we do it’s hard not to take harsh comments personally. The key is to keep the feedback as objective as possible (legibility, structure, coherence, …) and minimize subjective opinions on specific styles or execution.

Is Stripe currently hiring designers?

Absolutely! http://panda.jobs/744/designer

Any tips on getting a job at Stripe?

Understand your main area of expertise. Listing all apps and programming languages that have ever existed isn’t exactly the right approach.

What product blew you away?

watchOS 3. I find it remarkable how Apple went back to the drawing board and reconsidered many fundamental design choices.

Do you have a cool design trick?

Command + Control + Spacebar to open the emoji palette — the only way to succeed in this world!

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Work more. Practicing your design skills will always be worth a lot more than attending conferences, surfing Dribbble and basically all those things that look like work but aren’t.

Where can folks follow you?

Folks can follow me Twitter or check out my Dribbble.

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