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Crafting the Design Culture at Buffer

7 min read Workplace of the future
Steve Dixon Team Buffer
Crafting the Design Culture at Buffer

At Buffer, we’re incredibly fortunate to have such strong and encouraging values — not only for business but for life, too. When we first started to talk about how we might craft the design culture at Buffer, we looked at our values and how they might be interpreted from a Product Design perspective. We started to think about which values felt particularly close to us and began thinking about how we came to feel this way and why. In a conversation with Joel, our CEO, at our last retreat, he mentioned how interesting it might be to see a “designer’s interpretation” of these values.

With writing and sharing design at Buffer being a priority for us, we felt it might be great to kick-start our publication with exactly that!


Often as a designer, we might be quick to criticise design, whether individual elements don’t quite make sense or perhaps particular choices of typefaces aren’t to our preference. Unnecessarily, we can become very critical over the slightest things and often quick to condemn design we don’t fully understand.

You gain no good from criticizing design.

Instead, if presented with concepts we don’t fully understand; we begin by asking a lot of questions; “What problem are we trying to solve?”, “What’s the context behind X or Y?” Before long, our initial assumptions and presumptions have been forgotten, and we now have the information we need to understand the intentions of the design fully. This feels incredibly positive and helps guide us with truly targeted feedback! We’re also exploring our tone through design reviews to get that sometimes much-needed feedback while maintaining and cultivating positivity.


We feel that this value goes hand-in-hand with “Communicating with Clarity” and “Being a No-Ego Doer”.

We’ve been exploring how transparency looks for the design team and how we can improve on it.

We use Wake to share work that we’re looking for feedback on. With inclusivity in mind, we don’t limit feedback to come just from the design team but from entire company. We’re eager to explore how we can make this process even more transparent!


We’re so incredibly passionate on many areas of design, how we can make design at Buffer better, and how the team can bring more and do more in the areas that we work on within the company. With that in mind, we’re conscious of our current level of productivity and happiness. We have regular 1:1 syncs that give us an opportunity to analyse, discuss and see how we can make continual changes to grow within our roles and as a team.

We feel so grateful that this focus on self-improvement goes beyond our work and applies to our personal lives, too. Whether it’s guided meditation, getting into a better sleeping routine, taking regular breaks, or any other ways that we can improve our minds and our bodies, we feel we’re able to bring our whole selves to work.


We feel that this is one of the most important values for being a Product Designer at Buffer. Being a no-ego doer is crucial to allow us to strengthen as a team and gives us pinpoint focus on the direction of our team and how we represent Buffer.

When we look at the meaning of design, by definition, it’s an act of self-expression and is not limited to anyone with “designer” in their title or job description. So whether you’re an engineer or a teacher, an artist, anything, you are by definition, expressing yourself in the way you do those jobs. You are, by definition, designing.

With designing being an act of self-expression, how then do we not attach ourselves to personal ideas and why do we do this?

We start by creating a handful of concepts to solve any given design problem.

Sometimes, these concepts might not work. With design being incredibly personal, our ego might get in the way of us seeing certain ideas not working.

Being a no-ego doer puts design in service of the problem at hand regardless of whose idea it may have been, which gives us an excellent foundation to be adaptable and comfortable with making decisions and working in situations of uncertainty.

In doing this, we feel it sets us up for great success with a bias towards action.


“Listen First, then Listen More” is such an incredible value that we all strive to adhere too. As we converse with others in life, naturally we love to add to the conversation.

During a sync, there might be the urge to add to a conversation and perhaps try and find a point to at which we can talk. It feels like a great reminder that when this happens, we reflect on this value.

This value serves as a wonderful reminder when there’s a group of us in a sync. Listening helps us mitigate those urges to interrupt and gives others the opportunity add to the conversation. It also allows you to see if anyone else is thinking the same thing as you. If what we were going to interrupt with and say is still valid, we then might go ahead and share with the rest of the group.

We’ve found this value helps encourage our tone and the overall approach to the language that we use.

Often, it might be easier to say something instructive whereas we opt for being suggestive. Rather than saying, “This will undoubtedly lead to confusion”, we might say, “I think this might lead to confusion.” We’re getting the same message across and rather than sounding instructive and definitive. We hope this allows anyone to contribute to the discussion rather than stopping trains of thought short by being particularly definitive and final.


Communicating with clarity is important for us being a fully distributed team. What might take a handful of words to say, we instead elaborate on to ensure that we’re being super clear and giving as much context as possible! We also ask as many questions as possible to try and gain that context as we avoid making assumptions.

This value also applies to our craft. We code, design and write in a clear and concise way and opt for that super clarity instead of being clever. We try and be mindful of people’s time and by being clear our communication, we feel helps others gather full context.


There are many times that as designers, we’re deep-diving into concept explorations and navigating through many different ideas. It’s so important for us to make time to reflect not only on the finer details but also the bigger picture.

Reflection is an incredible process that serves as our own internal guide as well as a guide to others.

To to help kickstart that reflection, we might ask ourselves, “What problem are we trying to solve?” In doing this, we can analyse where the team is at on our journey and see how we’ve got to this place. What goals we’ve achieved on past design explorations and how we can add to that moving forward.


With the many areas we may be working in at any given time, we follow a familiar programming concept of singular responsibility, which means we single-task our way through the day. There are times, however, where we might need that little bit of resting time. We’d rather opt for an afternoon nap or that longer lunch if that means it’ll help us to balance those energy levels.

Living smarter allows us to have full-focus our well-being both mentally and physically. There might be times when we’re not feeling well, and during these times, we’re always encouraged to rest up and take as much time as needed to be back to our full, healthy selves.

With our approach to living smarter as well as being a fully distributed team, we’re given the opportunity to explore our world. We can choose to be at the single place on Earth where we’re the most happiest and productive and we’re often encouraged to find out where that is!


There’s something truly special about being able to do the work that you love, earn a living from that work and have that beautiful life/work balance. These are circumstances that continually drive us to show our gratitude. We also get to work with an incredible team of people, each doing such awesome work that pushes the company forward, which in turn helps us to move faster. We also feel it’s the greatest privilege to serve people who we’re so grateful to call our customers.

One quote, in particular, is super-powerful with how we practice gratitude:

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants — Isaac Newton

We’re here today, doing the work that we love to do with the tools that we love to use because we’re standing on the shoulders of giants.


When practicing our “Do the Right Thing” value, we always choose what is best for customers and the company as a whole in the long-term. Whether that’s designing an extra screen for a prototype, or keeping our files neatly organised so that when the another designer picks up the file, everything is super clear and sets them up for success. We also correct any mistakes even when no one would notice.

We’re always striving to provide the best solution, which might lead to certain aspects of our design omitted or change completely.

In summary

Our values are so incredibly important to us. We’re deeply passionate about how they help us become better at what we do, grow as a team and serve our customers in the best way that we can.

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