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CityPantry: Five Minutes with their First Designer

Posted 4 years ago by Naomi Francis

Lunch. One of the more important times of the day. Finding food can sometimes be a nightmare when at the centre of such a buzzing city with an incredible scene when it comes to cuisine. We spoke to CityPantry’s Designer, Nicoletta Donadio, to hear about how she helps the city make lunch better by staying on top of both product design and company promotional collateral.

Could you give me a brief overview of what CityPantry does and how it got started?

Sure! CityPantry work with the best independent chefs, street vendors, specialist caterers, restaurants and supper clubs in London - making it easy to cater for office lunches, meetings and events.

"Making lunch better! Our mission is to help the world’s best companies work better by eating together."

What is the company mission?

Making lunch better! Our mission is to help the world’s best companies work better by eating together. We believe that good food makes a great company. Sharing a meal isn’t just a perk – it creates an atmosphere where better communication, productivity and health are nourished.

How big is CityPantry and what is the culture like?

We are around 15 people now. We’re a friendly group, passionate about our work and about food (really obsessed). We try our service for lunch 3 times per week, it's a benefit for both the employees and the company. We have a work environment that encourages creativity, risk-taking and autonomy.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into design.

Well, I'm a self-taught designer. At university I studied computer science and when I got stuck into one of my first projects, I got more and more excited with the design side of things. So I just decided to follow that passion and started to learn how to use photoshop. Since then I've continued to learn by finding new projects. Now, I’m here! I joined CityPantry around 3 months ago.

You mentioned you are the only designer, who do you work most closely with in the business?

The product owner. We discuss designs together, have daily conversations about what comes next and how to approach certain problems. I also have a close relationship with the developers, we sit together and discuss issues and design daily. The good thing about working in a startup is that everyone is happy to help and give feedback because they are all passionate about their work. Depending on the project I'm working on I get feedback from different area of the business.

What are the challenges or benefits of being the only designer?

I know it sounds crazy but actually the challenges and benefits are the same things for me. You need to be able to improve your design work without having someone there giving you feedback all the time. So you are forced to ask a non-designer or to talk directly with users.

In this role I have found I need to wear so many hats and become both a visual designer and a UX designer, whilst also preparing flyers and marketing materials. I improved my visual skills quite a lot in the last year working as "solo" designer.

"Making decisions on your own is also a skill you need to learn pretty quickly - but it does make things go faster as a result."

Could you describe one of your larger projects and your design process?

The biggest project I've done so far at City Pantry was the "Search Page" where customers look for the food. First of all, I organised user research sessions with some existing customers and with some of our users who had signed up but never placed an order. This phase is what is usually called the "Discovery phase". The feedback I got led me into a specific direction: that we had to introduce filters on the page.

I then ran more tests specifically to learn which type of filters we needed and also researched what other companies in the market do. This is the "Ideation phase". I went back to some of the users we originally interviewed to show them some prototypes and based on that feedback, we built what you now see on that page.

“1:1 tests normally give you a lot of feedback not just about what your testing, but the product as a whole.”

Right now, we are in the "Iteration phase" where we look at the results and add or change features based on quantitative feedback and what was not needed for the first release. For example, one of the tasks we didn't do at the beginning was creating specific error messages when the search doesn't return any results. Obviously this process changes slightly per each project but more or less, it's what I follow.

How did you hear about Marvel and who uses it in the business?

I actually don't remember how I found Marvel but I've been using it for a couple of years now. I’m a big fan of the stickers. Mostly, I use it to prepare prototypes for user testing but lately as well to handover designs to developers. It’s a great collaborative tool and the comments feature has really changed our process.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced?

In the case of City Pantry, a big challenge has been joining a company where I am the first full time designer and trying to push for better designed interfaces. It's an ongoing struggle, but thanks to the support of my colleagues it's improving all the time. Dealing with "legacy" design components, like modal, buttons, and so on is quite difficult because changing that always has low priority. We are now building a styleguide and while we do it I'm replacing old components.

Where do you find inspiration for the design?

I use "Panda", an extension for Chrome that you can customise based on what you are looking for. Pinterest is also a great place to store visual inspiration and create boards dedicated to specific design pages, for example sign up/log in or Landing pages. I also try to follow design patterns people are used to.

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