I've been a fan of Josh Hemsley's work from the time I first saw the Sevenly homepage years ago. I've followed his journey as the Creative Director at MyEnergy, the Creative Lead at NEST through to today where he's a Partner at ENVOY. I had the opportunity to sit down with him just outside ENVOY's beautiful offices in Orange County, CA to discuss his new position, lessons learned from his time at MyEnergy and what Dribbble fame means to him.
You recently became a partner at ENVOY, let’s talk a bit about moving in this position.
If you would have asked me even just five years ago, would you be working on apps or hardware? I would have said: are you crazy? Give me another marketing site, that’s all I’ll be really good at.
So this transition has been amazing. We’re building an incredible team that can handle these different avenues, and I’m challenged daily.
What’s the biggest difference coming over from MyEnergy?
I think one of the big differences is how I’ve changed and learned to trust my team more. For instance, when one of my ideas would be challenged before, I had the mindset of: I gave you an opinion and now let me fight for it because you don’t know what you’re talking about. Now I’m able to take a step back and make sure all my insights that I have are supportive and listen to what my team is saying. I’ve learned to trust them, and that I’m not always right.
At MyEnergy I went through a big reality check of: I should build something that everyone is a part of as opposed to just going off and doing my own thing.
It kind of went from there to really working a relationship with our co-founders a little better and figuring out that bigger strategy and that’s where I think I got a little more serious and you need to actually put some value behind what you’re building. I’ve definitely taken those lessons to Envoy.
So let’s talk a little about how Dribbble has affected your growth as a designer.
I’ve had this kind of privilege, I don’t know why but I got really popular in Dribbble for a while. I won’t beat around the bush, I designed a lot of things for the Dribbble audience. No sh*t I’m going to do that. Why would anyone use the site if they didn’t want to see people clicking that like button. I learned a few things that got likes and unfortunately that translated into me trying to design for Dribbble rather than for the problem I was actually solving. I was forcing that visual make up on something that probably should have gone a different way.
I saw a lot happening especially during my time in MyEnergy, but I eventually realized I can get so many likes on Dribbble for everything but the reality is it had no impact into what we’re actually doing, so I had to refocus my priorities.
It was one of those kind of humbling experiences. Let’s build with purpose here and it helped set the tone of what we were doing internally. It led to what you might call, management.
I'd like to hear your thoughts on culture, I know you went through some big challenges in this arena with MyEnergy.
The hiring process was really about just getting those hands on board as opposed to who are these people who are going to help define where we’re going in the future. The quick hiring was really just based on who can we get in the door and help us right now?
It was more about that immediate need. Then, we wanted to build culture but no one really knew what that was. It’s like, oh yeah we’re big on culture, we give burritos on Thursday. That was how we defined it.
It was quickly apparent that wasn’t working, that wasn’t culture. We weren’t looking at the person at all, it was more just like, oh look, they have this rad resume, he’s freaking MIT grad and he’s brilliant, of course he can help us, get him in the door and we end up learning from that. We kind of realized that people were getting frustrated internally, we weren’t coming together as a team and everyone was working in silos.
It kind of naturally just slowly started to, well actually quickly, to dissipate because no one was happy, we don’t want to build a company where no one is happy with what their doing, right?
We ended up hitting reset, skimming the team down to three from twelve and started the hiring process over again.
What did you do differently the second time?
We just came to a realization, hey, let’s focus on the people here first, and then if we enjoy working together, we’re going to enjoy building this together and do it and kind of go back to trusting, and start trusting the decisions we’re all making and things like that.
It was initially about building this product, this immediate need. Now it’s about just building a team where we enjoy working with each other every day. It’s kind of cheesy. Going into it I always have this super cliche thing but at ENVOY it’s literally like when I’m hiring I’m trying to build a family.
I’d like to hear a bit about who Josh Hemsley is offline.
I mean I have a life, I’m normal, I really don’t know what the heck I’m doing most of the time. The other day, I told the guys in my work, the type of text message I receive at work are from my wife informing me that my 2-year-old crapped all over the floor and things like that, that’s my life.
Then most likely those are the stuff I’m sharing on the social networks. There’s no philosophical things. It’s like great, today my 2-year-old crapped all over his bedroom. Lovely.
What are some of your biggest frustrations as a designer?
I think a lot of what I’ll say to you is probably more personal humility. It’s like Dribbble. It was a great thing for me, but at the same time it’s probably the worst thing that could happen to me as well.
There’s a lot of times I need to step back and ask: what are you doing? I mean it’s not even necessarily about the design process, it’s more about my mentality of what I’m trying to do and accomplish.
It’s also when I’m going in and kind of working with other people, what is my mentality in kind of working with them. Is it because I want to appear like a leader or appear like a great designer or is it really just because I’m sitting with them trying to solve a problem or help each other out. For me that’s where I want to get. I want to be aware of that because I think that has a lot of influence in the outcome of whatever you’re trying to do.
What has kept you in the game this long?
It’s challenging. It’s hard. I’m not that artistic, so I don’t come from an art background. There’s not this desire to see how colors and visuals come together. I like the design challenges.
Like with MyEnergy, I wanted it to be easy to understand, that’s what really attached me to it. That’s why I was there for so long. I felt like I hadn’t solved that yet.
I want to make things better, simpler, more beautiful, whatever it may be, and there’s a lot of different aspects into a lot of it, but that’s what really makes me tick. I guess is like seeing these difficult hurdles. Of course I want to make beautiful things but that’s a challenge for me as well.
I’m not the greatest visual designer in the world. There is some amazing talented people and I definitely want to strive in that way to get better.
If you just had all the time, is there an industry that you’re interested in going into and trying to bring some of that clarity too?
That’s a really fun question. A lot of things I’ve worked on have had somewhat of a bigger impact which is kind of cool, but to be honest, the one that I've had the most difficulty with is moving.
Well, so this may not be the answer most people are looking for but because I’ve done it so many times in the past three years, I want to pick this one. When I’m moving it is hard as heck to learn about an area you don’t know about, even if you have a few people there. I don't know if the move is right for my family. Also, the DMV sucks.
The DMV, now that’s a challenge I like. I think other states are doing it awesome. The California DMV sucks balls. This was something I probably think I’ve tweeted before. It’s after I’m done with this design thing, I’m going to literally spend the rest of my life trying to figure out a better solution for the damn DMV thing. It’s got to be better.
Have you considered founding your own company?
For me it’s like I don’t want to be a founder and just be a founder. It’s if there’s that problem, sure. If I feel strongly about it and if I feel like I have a movement towards a solution, then heck yeah, I’m all for going for it but at the right time.
What do you want your legacy to be?
A good dad and a good husband. That’s all I care about.
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