For early stage
I take founders’ big visions and turn them into simple products customers love
A lean design process makes finding product-market radically faster than the standard startup product development process.
I help founders distill and illustrate their product vision, get to the root of what motivates customers, rapidly prototype ideas, and get them in front of real users.
Everything starts with a deep dive into who your customers are and what they want. We define our goals and rapidly iterate on solutions.
Key partners: founders, customers, and domain experts
Goal: guide the design and development phases; surface assumptions and risks early; discover the root motivations behind your target market
Deliverable: customer archetypes and journey map
Once we’ve done a first-pass at modelling the business, we lean on our educated guesses and start building.
Key partners: founders and customers
Goals: validate our assumptions with real customers before we spend more money; narrow our scope to the most impactful features; design an experience that people want to use and share
Deliverable: low-fidelity interactive design prototypes
Pair with engineers to build products
Key partner: engineering
Goal: build an incredible product that gets real-world traction with customers
Deliverable: real code shipped to your beta users
Usually the last step is to help founders to raise more money.
I use the deck format I’ve used time and again with other clients to craft a great pitck. The deck is designed to establish the value of the opportunity, demonstrate product progress, and cover standard questions from investors like team and next steps.
Key partners: founders and advisors
Goal: raise money on founder-favorable terms so you can scale your business
Deliverable: pitch deck in Google Slides
I design broad, high-level concepts for experimental features. These are great for exploring new products, testing with users, presenting at board meetings, and using in pitch decks.
How to focus roadmaps, energize teams, improve quality, and innovate quickly on request
Avoid vanity features by prioritizing your roadmap the right way on request
I work as the designer on feature teams, distilling complex problems into simple UIs that users love. I specialize in working quickly and making life easy for engineers and PMs.
11 ways to make the important parts of your design stand out on request
I create beautiful, functional visual brands for startups that aren't ready for big, expensive brand projects.
How to get a 'good enough' visual brand for a fraction of the time and cost on request
I love CSS (yes, really) and pairing with engineers code features with simple, maintainable code.
I built a Firefly and React boilerplate for front-end developers
What parts of your product are blocking engagement? I help teams find (and fix) problems using design critiques and usability tests with real users.
I help my clients raise money with pitch decks that look great and tell the company's story as a compelling narrative.
|How I work||Design agencies||Full-time designers|
Ship on day one, then iterate; engineering is unblocked early, design research happens in parallel
Big upfront research phase, then a separate design phase; engineering often blocked until after design
It depends on their startup experience—most just deliver work at their own pace
I book time in small blocks so I can quickly scale up or down as we go
Agencies need high utilization, so they schedule big projects up-front
Staff designers work 40 hours/week, regardless of need
I use design to validate hypotheses and find value for the business
|Low strategic ability|
Focused on “how can we build this”, not “what should we build”
|Low strategic ability|
Focused on making things look good and polishing details
|High startup experience|
I've done this before and made all the mistakes already. I tailor my work to your growth stage.
|Low startup experience|
Many agency designers come right out of school with no work experience
|Low startup experience|
Designers who haven't worked at startups learn by making mistakes on the job
|Embedded in your team|
I work alongside your team; customer insights and new skills stay in-house
|Behind a wall|
Isolated from your team, lessons stay with the agency and die when they leave
|On your team|
In-house designers focus on building features over growing the team
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.
When kicking off my flagship UX strategic initiative as a new VP, I needed someone who understood customer storytelling deeply, yet could manage VP and product stakeholders in a large organization. Our project was a huge success, shared with the entire organization and set forth our platform strategy from the point of view of happy customers. As a result, all the OKRs for our entire 300-person org were driven in large part from the story Sam wrote and illustrated with us.
Sam’s more than a great designer, he’s an expert in coaxing out product strategy and prioritization. He never ends a phase without asking if I’m completely satisfied with the work. I’m regularly looking for more ways to bring him back to support our team!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
I'm well practiced in sizing my work to most budgets, and usually start with a small engagement. I bill with a mix of flat rate and per diem depending on project size.
I only work with a couple companies at a time, so availability can be limited.Contact for rates and availability