Expert product design & UX for startups

Hi, I'm Sam. I design simple, beautiful apps that customers love. But what makes me unique is my expertise working with founders at early-stage startups.

If you're a founder looking for a design partner, read on. You can also sign up for my newsletter or book a free consulting call with me.

1

My background

In addition to working with clients, I’m the founder and sole developer of Shuffleboard, a brainstorming tool for remote teams.

I was the first hire and design director at Y-Combinator-backed FarmLogs, which grew to 80 people, raised $40MM, and was downloaded by ⅓ of American farmers.

I also taught design at the University of Michigan, and I've worked as an engineer, product manager, and startup mentor. I have a degree in Human-Computer Interaction.

Headshot of Sam's face
2

Why work with me?

Sam and collaborators working around a table

I work exclusively designing digital products at early-stage technology companies. My focus is marrying founders' big visions with practical designs.

I often act as a strategic partner, helping teams navigate the process of innovation with speed, clarity, and calm.

I believe great design is more than just form, function, or ease-of-use. Great design resonates with the emotional root of people, and reduces complexity down into something astonishingly simple—and yet totally unique.

3

My process

Over many years, I've developed a unique design process specifically for building innovative new digital products.

I include founders, engineers, marketers, and real customers throughout the entire process. I work fast, with a big emphasis on prototyping, iteration, experimentation, and testing.

The result is a product that your customers love, your engineers are excited to build, and that founders can use to grow the business.

A sketch of a design workflow

Step 1: UX strategy workshop

Instead of a long research phase, I start every project with a rapid-fire workshop with founders.

First we describe your customer and map their entire journey through your product. Then we dive deeper into each stage of the journey, uncovering pain points and opportunities to surprise and delight.

Finally, we'll synthesize it all into a laser-focused UX strategy.

Step 2: Design phases

After the workshop, I break the design work into multiple phases, each tied to a business goal.

Each phase starts with a team sketching brainstorm. Then I build prototypes, test multiple directions, polish details, and iterate based on feedback from real customers.

Finally, I'll create a unique visual language for your brand and work with engineers to ship your product to the world.

4

Work examples

I've worked in agriculture, hospitals, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, food systems, higher education, B2B SaaS, and more.

Most of my work is behind NDA. Book a call with me for detailed examples.

Featured

Shuffleboard

I am the founder, designer, and developer of Shuffleboard, a brainstorming tool for remote teams.

The entire development was recorded and published to YouTube.

Try Shuffleboard

5

Writing

Some articles for founders:

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Clients

I'm Frodo, and Sam's my Gandalf.

I’m so grateful to have Sam on this project, I don’t know where I would be without him (probably pulling my hair out).

If you're struggling with a big design project, my advice is this: get yourself a Sam.

Liza Pagano
Liza Pagano
Art Director, Ithaka/JSTOR

I've hired Sam for design and executive level storytelling projects at JSTOR twice. He was my first choice because he focuses on organizational impact and hard work, never about his own ego. He’s the only consultant I've ever been completely comfortable bringing onto my team, and working daily with our executive team when called for.

Sam’s more than a great designer, he’s an expert in coaxing out product strategy and prioritization. I’m regularly looking for more ways to bring him back to support our team!

Matt MacQueen
Matt MacQueen
VP Product at ITHAKA/JSTOR; prev Google & Coursera

Sam is a UX god. We were blown away by how quickly he broke down our complex goals into a simple, beautiful, intuitive design.

Not only did we launch an awesome product on time, but the work went way above and beyond our expectations. He taught us a ton about building great products, and he laid the foundation for our engineers to keep building great designs. Our only regret is that we didn't book more of his time!

Jason Corso
Jason Corso
CEO and co-founder, Voxel51 A.I. Platform

We needed that je ne sais quoi that would take our product from functional to fabulous. Turns out, it was Sam.

I initially contacted Sam because I admired his work at Farmlogs, and we needed a similar level of design polish. But what we got was so much more: a better understanding of the journey our prospects take before they become customers, a documented design language that we are applying not just in our product but across our marketing materials, and an appreciation for what is needed at our business's stage of growth. I could not recommend Sam more highly.

Dawn Verbrigghe
Dawn Verbrigghe
Founder and CEO, Jottful

Sam is an incredibly talented product designer and coach.

He was instrumental in helping FarmLogs design a product and brand that quickly became recognized for our ease of use, igniting years of rapid growth for our company.

Jesse Vollmar
Jesse Vollmar
CEO and Co-Founder, FarmLogs

When you are ready to transform a big idea into a new product, Sam is an outstanding design and thought partner. He will help you navigate the ambiguity of invention, and he helps to translate your ideas into tangible user experiences that people can see and interact with.

Sam is uniquely able to help navigate the uncertainty of creation, and the “putting pencil to paper” in terms of UX design and product development. Oh, and he’s efficient and works fast!

Shawn Hardin
Shawn Hardin
President, Kitchentown

Sam's work was simple, concise, and elegant—I can tell that he loves his work. He was super calm, knowledgable, and patient, and his ability to jump and quickly understand a business and its issues was awesome. Definitely recommended.

David Kennedy
David Kennedy
CEO, Kennedy Care
7

Packages & pricing

I price very differently from most agencies. All my work comes with a fixed price and guaranteed outcome. I do not track hours. My confidence in my process lets me guarantee an amazing result at the right price.

Strategy call

For any company

I offer a free design strategy consultation to all founders.

We'll talk about your business, then I'll make some design recommendations that suit your goals and budget.

Free · Book now

Concept deck

Pre-seed to seed

A one-week design sprint for testing new product ideas.

The result is a concept design, perfect for taking to early customers and investors.

$15,000 · Contact for availability

Product design

Seed to series A

This is for startups ready to invest in a world-class product.

It starts with my UX strategy workshop. Then I design prototypes, gather feedback, iterate until the details are right, and work with engineers to bring your complete vision to life.

Price varies · Contact for availability

Fractional leadership

Later stage

Get the benefits of a design director without having to hire. Best for companies scaling design teams.

This is a highly-customized service. Past projects have included designer coaching, product management, hiring, brand strategy, and special projects.

Price varies · Contact for availability

8

Contact

Curious about working together? Have a question about product or design?

Grab some time with me—I love meeting founders.

You can book a call with me directly, or email sam@directedworks.com.