MailChimp Design Fri, 12 Jun 2015 14:44:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Poster Child for Festival Sponsorship Mon, 08 Jun 2015 13:19:02 +0000 Music’s always been an important part of what we do here at MailChimp. Musicians were some of our earliest customers, and over the years they’ve been have been joined by a few other artists you may know, as well as some record labels, venues, and festivals.

Our love of music has also informed everything from our apparel to our coffee-making. Hell, our co-founder and design director once jointly hosted a Coffee Hour dedicated to celebrating turntables, electronic music, and classic hip-hop. (Percolator, anyone?) We’ve offered up our old rooftop for music video shoots and designed a giant Freddie balloon that Outkast used to capture aerial footage during some of their reunion tour.


When we were presented with the chance to partner with several music festivals across the U.S. and Canada during the past year, we knew we wanted to do something unique, but only if it aligned with our sponsorship philosophy.

One of the core values that guides all of our event sponsorships—music or not—is using our involvement to improve the experience for the event organizers and all the attendees, not to impose our brand and take away from the overall experience.

Most companies, when given this sort of opportunity, will ask for naming rights then slap their logo as large as possible on the stage. Or worse, they make their brand the stage. But we operate a little differently. We didn’t want to make uninspired, logo-stamped marketing handouts. Frankly, we didn’t want to make marketing collateral at all. We wanted something in particular—a limited edition keepsake we could hand out to the attendees.



So, we reached out to our fellow Atlantans at Methane Studios. Since 1998, Robert and Mark at Methane have been printing limited-edition posters for seemingly every band around. We told them we were sponsoring a series of music events over the next year, all of them a bit different in scope—one was a concert and BBQ, another 2 were opening parties, and the last was as a live podcast taping. Then we asked if they could conceptualize an individual poster for each event, printing 100 of each poster, and letting us distribute them at the festivals. Of course, they said.

Our only design guidelines were to not use the MailChimp logo or any other brand assets, and include certain text about the event itself: the basic who, what, when, and where.  With that, Methane first hand-sketched a few concepts for approval. Once we signed off, they sent the posters to production at their print shop in East Point, just south of Atlanta.


What you see here are the final prints. We carried them to the 4 events: NXNE in Toronto, Sled Island in Calgary, Pop Montréal in Montréal, and Noise Pop in San Francisco. The end result is a high-quality collectible for 100 attendees at each of these events, a small gift that we hope makes their experience a little better and a little more human.

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Data, Design, and Playing Cards Tue, 26 May 2015 15:51:23 +0000 MailChimp is really good at just one thing: we combine vast amounts of data with empathetic design to make useful products. It’s kind of our only trick, but it’s a helpful one.

Our job on the marketing team is to demonstrate that one trick to new audiences around the world, either through the product itself or the brand that represents our company. The challenge is to do it in a way that’s true to our core values and that’s inclusive of the folks who’ve joined us over the past 14 years.

Our best work should be global yet specific, fresh yet familiar, strong yet humble.

That’s not often easy. So we were thrilled when our friends at Fuzzco came to us with a great idea: MailChimp playing cards.


Universal design and emotional data
Playing cards are universal, and people of all ages and skill levels can play with them. Each deck of 52 contains multitudes of data, but games are easy to learn—and create!—with even just a little bit of specific literacy. Playing a new game can be exciting, but an old one is often just as good.

Cards contain important emotional data, too. For example, each time I learn a new card game, a memory from childhood inevitably arises. My grandfather leaning forward in his chair to lay his cards on the ottoman, for instance, while I sit on the floor getting schooled in Go Fish. He never let me win! Sure, we played together, but it seemed like he was playing a different game altogether.

We couldn’t resist making our own cards, especially once Fuzzco introduced us to Theory11—a magic company that designs, manufactures, and sells the best playing cards in the world.


A few months later and Theory11 had made two colorways of Fuzzco’s beautiful deck design. They’ve since resonated with a variety of audiences, whether it’s at a cutting edge web design conference in Barcelona, a sold-out run of performances celebrating the art of letter writing in London, a video game jam for female developers in New York, or an Italian card reviewing channel on YouTube.

These cards represent what MailChimp and our marketing team does best: a simple, useful gift made from immense amounts of data and empathetic design.

The cards were so much fun that we wanted to share them with a broader audience. Theory11 has a popular e-commerce site featuring their own cards, plus a terrific habit of distributing proceeds to effective nonprofit organizations. We asked them to do the same with our cards. But first, we needed to identify just the right nonprofit.



Community in conflict and play

We chose to help out with an organization in our own community: The Fugees Family.

Fugees Family began 10 years ago just outside of Atlanta. The organization’s original mission was to offer child survivors of war free access to organized soccer. It’s since grown from a ragtag, controversial sports team into one of the handful of schools in the U.S. dedicated to refugee education.

Most students arrive not speaking much English. Although they hail from different countries around the globe, each student must learn our universal language and specific kind of literacy to thrive here in their adopted home.

In a traditional public school setting, children survivors of war have often been neglected. Fugees Family, however, empowers their students through the beautiful game and a generous, rigorous learning environment. After a few years of accreditation they’re still just getting started, but are already an inspiration for other organizations. Their attitude is playful, but their business is serious. We can relate.

The Fugees effectively create change in our community through a specific kind of literacy and empathetic design. We’re honored to help support their mission, and we were delighted to find a harmonious way to do it through these handsome decks of cards.


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Book Club Thu, 14 May 2015 18:17:47 +0000 This image has no alt text

When MailChimp’s employee count stretched well past 100 with no signs of stopping, we realized a change was necessary. We needed to implement more structure around things like hiring, travel, and general office management. But the thought of overloading employees with written processes scared us. If expressing some sort of formal process was necessary, we wanted it to serve—not impede—innovation.

And maybe we could somehow include cheeseburgers? The question quickly became: “How can we create meaningful frameworks that feels authentic, fresh, and innovative while offering relevant and useful processes?”




So our HR and Marketing departments put their heads together to come up with a solution. Together, we created MailChimp Book Club. It’s since become the home for HR and office guides, as well as company, culture, and value guides for all MailChimp employees. It’s administrative in that it empowers employees to streamline routine tasks through simple, straightforward processes. And it helps chimps stay connected to the vision, purpose, and values that inspire us to do what we do and love what we do.



The handbook covers evolved as the guides were written. A flexible system allowed for expressive photography to take center stage.

A few books quickly became over a dozen, and visual representation became a fun challenge.

I saw each cover as an opportunity to experiment with lighting, colors, props, composition, and magic. I chose employees from different departments as models, using the themes of the books for photo inspiration.


While new hires use the Book Club from day one to learn more about their new employer, all of us return to it from time to time to be reminded of what keeps this company going strong: Independence, Humility, and Creativity.

Interested in joining the MailChimp Book Club? You’re in luck—we’re hiring.

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Making MailChimp for Apple Watch Mon, 04 May 2015 17:07:02 +0000 This post was originally published on the main MailChimp blog

Last month, when Apple unveiled their new watch to the world, my MailChimp mobile teammates and I immediately knew we wanted to build something for it. But we wanted to make it truly useful, not just an app for the sake of having one. New tech toys are fun, but we knew what we made needed utility and purpose. At first, we struggled to find a place in our mobile ecosystem for a wearable app. We set the idea aside, but it kept looming as we worked on other projects. And then, at long last, our path made itself clear.

Watch the widgets

A couple months ago, we released v3.4 of MailChimp’s iOS app that included our new Today widgets. The widgets appear right on your dashboard when you log in, and help you track your latest campaign stats or keep tabs on your list growth at a glance. At some point, it became obvious that it’d be even cooler if it was your wrist you were glancing at. So we got to work.

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

Schemas and sketches

Based on what we already knew about the Apple Watch, we understood there would be 2 navigation schemas available on its new platform. So we started planning our app there, with long discussions about the merit of each (and plenty of sketching, as you can see). We quickly fell in love with the idea of swiping through paged campaigns, but ultimately felt that limiting each campaign to a single watch face wasn’t feasible. In the end, we landed on a 3-view paged layout for each report and list. To navigate to a new item, you’ll simply bring up the force touch menu and select where you want to go.


Connect the apps

Our next challenge was figuring out how to link the watch app and its iPhone counterpart. At first, we wanted something active, perhaps an action that launched you straight into the iOS app. But we quickly came to understand why Apple suggests using Handoff instead.

As a user, you focus on one device at a time. Handoff takes advantage of this by providing a passive, seamless way to move your work from one device to another. So if you’re looking at your MailChimp account on your Apple Watch and you want to see more data on your campaign or jump into a list, you can simply grab your phone or tablet and swipe up on the small MailChimp icon in the bottom-left corner of the lock screen.

Never noticed that icon before? You’re not alone. Before building an app that implemented Handoff, I certainly hadn’t. Now I see it all the time. (An added bonus of us implementing this continuity is MailChimp users can now hand off between the iPhone and iPad, too—no Apple Watch needed!)

Uncharted waters

Here’s the craziest part about building MailChimp for Apple Watch: none of us on the mobile team have actually used the device yet. Now that it’s finally out, we can’t wait to take it for a spin. I’m sure we’ll spend the next few months tweaking and perfecting the app, so if you use it and have feedback, we’d love to hear from you.

Download MailChimp Mobile for iOS.

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What does it take to make a Freddie? Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:49:08 +0000 In a recent DesignLab post, Jane talked about our Reply All vinyl Freddie giveaways. The plan was to have a new video for each new vinyl Freddie, revealed at the beginning of each giveaway.

The first video and giveaway featured classic Freddie, which was a challenge. Weird is easy enough to do, but how do you bring new meaning to a mascot who’s been around for more than a decade


Initially we had a very Dada-esque non-sequitur idea that slowly evolved into someone making prototypes of Freddie, which parallels the actual creation of the first vinyl Freddie.


To get to any final product, it’s best to make iterations that lead to better options and ideas. Which is the same arc we followed with the video: taking a raw idea and figuring out where it might lead. A creative process video about the creative process, if you will.

Which makes this a creative process blog post about the idea of the process of creating a video about the process of creation. Yeesh.


Anyway, we tried to take a wide-eyed, childlike approach while producing something that was modest in scope and budget. We put a lot of time into storyboarding the video, which kept our brains from melting on the actual shoot day. While figuring out the conceptual phase, Troy and I tried to stay focused on 2 main ideas: 

 “What’s the silliest thing we can come up with?” and “What would make us laugh and have a good time?”


We storyboarded for a couple days and prepped different versions of Freddie. We casted Jane as the hand model, keeping everything internal. At the end of the day we ended up with a fun interpretation of how a vinyl Freddie is created. In doing so, we learned about ourselves and how we make things together.

So, what does it take to make a Freddie?
Snacks and power tools, mostly.


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Replying All With Freddie Thu, 19 Mar 2015 19:54:32 +0000 At MailChimp, we love partnering with people who are doing creative, interesting things. You may have seen one of our video spots at a conference recently or heard one of our podcast ads. One of those ads is for Reply All, a podcast about the internet. Given its audience of creative, engaged e-citizens, we thought it would be fun to use our ad space to…wait for it…reply all to listeners with vinyl Freddies.

The idea was pretty basic: Reply All’s hosts would announce vinyl Freddie giveaways on random episodes. Listeners would then visit, watch a video, and sign up to get a Freddie. Since they’re limited, listeners would have to make with the quickness. The goal was to create a fun experience while generating excitement for future giveaways.

The goal was to create a fun experience while generating excitement for future giveaways.

We kicked off the design with 3 components in mind: a video, a signup form, and the Freddies. Working with some of Ron’s illustrations, the layout explorations began.



An issue I ran into early on was balance. Plopping down every single design element cluttered the screen. Hiding the video and signup form from the landing page gave too minimal of a view. What to do? I did what I often do when I get stuck: bump up the type to an ungodly size.



This helped me move forward, but I was still lacking organization and a clear hierarchy. In a fit of frustration, I stretched out the Freddie illustration way more than I was comfortable with:


Who could resist that big ol’ toothy grin!? After throwing in buttons to sign up or preview the other Freddies, and adding some Cooper Black for good measure, we had our giveaway site. One of our developers, Alan, worked his magic with subtle transitions and animations.

“Everything about Jane’s design said ‘fun’ so I immediately set out to make the experience match with quick, fluid animations and changing color palettes,” says Alan. “We also wanted people to enjoy cycling through the Freddies on their touch devices. Using all SVGs also meant Freddie could be scaled, keeping him looking sharp on any screen.”

The simple pathways convey a simple message: either we have Freddies left or we don’t, and you can always browse the future Freddies to whet your appetite. Check out the site at, and make sure to watch Freddie’s origin video. Stay tuned for a post from Jason on how to make a Freddie.

Did you miss out on classic Freddie? Fear not! We have 7 more giveaways coming up, with Freddies in all different colors. Act fast when you hear about it on Reply All!

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MailChimp Series Two Thu, 12 Feb 2015 18:58:08 +0000 Growing up, I loved baseball cards. I even created my own using a 35mm camera and fragments of other cards. My dad used to frequent the trade shows, and we shared many weekends opening packs and collecting cards together. Recently at MailChimp, we were working on some assets for the recruiting team to hand out at job fairs, and we wanted to make something that would show potential recruits what kinds of jobs are available. 

Mark, our head of marketing, thought sports cards would be a lot more fun and memorable than a list of job descriptions. Naturally, I was overjoyed to hear that we were embarking on our version of trading cards.



1990 Score Jason Travis Rookie Card / Jason trying out all the sporting props


As we started discussing the project, I looked back through the card designs of the ‘80s and ‘90s—the time when I was collecting and when trading cards were at their peak. As a kid, I had no sense for design. I played baseball for 8 years, and I just liked what I liked. Looking at them now, I realize why I was drawn to certain kinds more than others. The photography, typography, and color choices played a huge part. I notice now that certain brands feel elevated. I sent a bunch of samples and references to one of our designers, Jane, and we discussed design components that would complement the photography and vice versa.



Early card designs


“I stepped up to the plate with a completely different perspective in that I had never in my life held a trading card in my hands,” Jane says of the process. “Luckily, I had Jason to give me a crash course on Topps and Upper Deck, and how their design changed over the decades. We played around with type and colors until we arrived at something we felt demonstrated the MailChimp spirit, while paying homage to the cards Jason knew and loved.”

After some classification I started casting our sportraits.

Moving along, I started connecting technology with athletics. We wanted to show employees from different departments and highlight the roles they play, strengths we encourage, and otherwise unique skills. After some classification I started casting our sportraits. I did some prop shopping and selected employees from around the office, doing my best to capture their winning attitudes.



Sportrait outtakes


Final design


The results were hilarious and informative. Jane finished up the design and layout with help from Austin, one of our writers. He adapted the descriptions on our jobs page into bite-sized qualifications on the backs of the cards, sprinkling some sports references on top.


Series Two


After the seventh inning stretch, Mattiel designed the packaging, and we had them printed up. The cards, along with The Chimpington Post, have gone a long way in our recruiting efforts. They were fun to make, and fun to give away—a real team effort. Here’s looking forward to the next round!


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Redesigning MailChimp’s Guide Covers Fri, 06 Feb 2015 19:25:25 +0000 One of our writers, Brandon, completely overhauled—rewrote, consolidated, eliminated, and generally updated—MailChimp’s guides recently. The guides have been a helpful tool for our users, and with these updates, they’re positioned to be even more helpful in the future.

In addition to the content, the guide covers were in need of a facelift. Some of them had been on our site for years, and were getting a little long in the tooth.

Instead of slowly designing a cover or 2 in between projects, our team tackled them all at once. We divided them up amongst 4 designers and set aside a week to work on them—each afternoon was DedicatedCoverTime™. Our creative director regaled us with stories about the old covers, we explored ideas and techniques, and by the end of the week, we had a whole set.

Below, our designers talk about a few of the covers we made.


Common Rookie Mistakes

For Common Rookie Mistakes, I was reminded that sometimes, the design process begins by throwing things together, pulling them apart, and crumbling them up again just to see what happens. To create the effect of a misused copy machine, I created a digital design and repeated a process of printing and scanning to roughen it up.

Mattiel Brown


MailChimp for Designers

The Designers cover was more difficult than I anticipated. I’m a designer—shouldn’t be too hard, right? But my ideas were all convoluted clichés, or illustrations too in line with current design trends. It needed to be something that would ideally last a few years. Once I simplified my assets down to basic colors, shapes, grids, and techniques, things quickly came together.

David Sizemore


MailChimp for Musicians

For the Musicians guide, I immediately thought of my friend Stephanie who’s been in a band and touring the globe for years. To me, she embodies the heart and soul of working musicians. We caught up at The EARL (Atlanta’s best rock ‘n’ roll venue) to snap some photos of her holding a cassette. The only thing missing from this guide is the audio version!

Jason Travis


Getting Started with MailChimp

Initially, I was stuck on journey imagery: maps, planes, packed bags, even a space shuttle. But then I thought more about how people use MailChimp—as a daily activity, rather than a single event—and it clicked. Why not connect it to the most important—and best—meal of the day?

If you’d like to make your own pancake Freddie, I roughly followed this method.

Jane Song

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The Chimpington Post Wed, 28 Jan 2015 16:04:11 +0000 Back in college, I attended a total of one career fair. I wandered around a room full of company reps standing behind tables and passing out glossy marketing materials, picked up a few business cards and pamphlets, and never gave them a second glance. I remember thinking the whole thing was a wasted opportunity. I didn’t find any jobs I was interested in applying for, and I doubt the companies—who all blurred together—were able to interest many applicants.

So, when I was tasked with designing MailChimp’s own collateral to hand out at career fairs, I really took it to heart. At MailChimp, we’re not only incredibly proud of what we do, but we also have a lot of fun doing it—and it was important to communicate that to any students who moseyed on over to our booth.


Luckily, our art director, David, was on the same page. No glossy, uninspired pamphlets would come from us. He had a better idea: We would create an entire newspaper ‘bout that MailChimp life. And we would make it awesome.

Our team brainstormed some ideas for content—everything from the lead news story to the back-page crossword puzzle—and then I hit the ground running. While I threw around typefaces and experimented with colors, one of our writers, Rachael, was busy writing out articles and periodically sending design inspiration my way.


This was not only the first newspaper I’d designed, it was also the first big project I worked on at MailChimp, so it was definitely a learning experience. Every few days, when Rachael sent me a draft of an article, I would drop it into the layout and send a screenshot back to her. I was also sending screenshots over to David, and we’d occasionally print pages and post them on the wall for all to see. It was like a productive game of Pong, but I can’t say I wasn’t nervous about it. I had to learn to be OK with letting people look at super rough drafts of my work, which usually freaks me out. But this is the way most things are done at MailChimp: We work quickly and collaboratively, keeping ourselves open to feedback from our teammates.

I had to learn to be OK with letting people look at super rough drafts of my work, which usually freaks me out.



Once all the stories were in and I’d made the last tweaks to the design, we used Newspaper Club to print 2,000 copies of The Chimpington Post. We scattered some around the office, and it brings me so much joy to see visitors in our waiting area reaching for the paper after they’ve looked at every app on their phones. I’ve even seen some of my coworkers (who, duh, already work here) flipping through the pages, too.

Most of the newspapers, though, went to our HR team. At career fairs, our recruiters talk as much as they can about MailChimp in the few precious minutes they have with students. They leave the rest up to The Chimpington Post, confident that whatever they couldn’t fit into the conversation, we’ve got it covered. If someone reads through and chuckles, we’ll consider that a win. If it makes them love MailChimp enough to join the team, even better.

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Reduce, reuse, recycle, re:loom Wed, 14 Jan 2015 15:56:34 +0000 As I was cleaning up MailChimp’s swag inventory, I noticed a spreadsheet tab called “Discontinued Items” with more than 1500 of our grey Freddie t-shirts in two sizes: unisex XXL and women’s medium. I asked around, and it became clear that a) there was no plan for the shirts, and b) no one even knew they were in storage.

Oof. I needed to get them out of inventory, but in a unique way.

Asking around, a colleague eventually put me in touch with Lisa Wise, the Executive Director of re:loom. It’s a program created by Atlanta’s Initiative for Affordable Housing that hires adults who are struggling to secure and maintain jobs and trains them to be weavers. The weavers design and produce handmade products out of all kinds of donated materials including plastic grocery bags, bedsheets, denim, and, of course, t-shirts. They can create anything from billfolds to area rugs.



Incidentally, MailChimp’s office is relocating soon, and an area rug made out of old Freddie tees sounded like the perfect piece to bring into a brand new space.

The shirts have to be cut into what the re:loom staff calls “hulas,” then wound into balls like yarn before they can be woven. A group of employees loaded their cars with 1000 of the shirts and drove them to the re:loom Weavehouse to meet the weavers and help with some of the initial shirt slicing.




A few weeks later, Damber, one of the re:loom weavers, completed our rug. We love how sketch Freddie turned into a lovely black abstract pattern. We’ve already unrolled it several times just to admire it! And yes, one time so I could wrap myself up like a burrito.


Lisa Wise, Executive Director of re:loom

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