Over-invest in visual design

Visual design is the most immediate impression of a brand. Spend money on visual design not in proportion to what is appropriate right now, but to what is appropriate for where you want to go. Spend more on design than feels comfortable. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.


  • Look at it from the customer’s perspective: they don’t know what the quality of your product is, until they try it. They’ll make a decision after a few seconds, whether to say no to your website or not. What have they got to judge you by? The first impression. The headline. The logos. The feeling. The visual design. Don’t lose them there.
  • Quality design costs money, and everyone knows that. Therefore, it becomes a signal, just like a Rolls Royce becomes a signal about the owner. Only successful people can afford Rolls Royces, and only businesses that are successful and investing in the future will invest in quality design. Businesses that are investing in the future are unlikely to screw over their customers to make a quick buck.
  • In our experience, great designers can be found—at reasonable prices—in Eastern Europe and the former Eastern bloc. Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Georgia, Russia and many countries alike, each produce world-class design talent in spades.
  • Along with your website, also invest in quality photography, sales collateral, the onboarding experience, and all those other touch points. It’s about the whole, comprehensive experience of your brand.
  • Choose consistency and classy, over outrageous and differentiated. Same as with shopping clothes: if you’re going to buy that yellow-with-pink sweater instead of the dark blue one, you better be sure it’s the right thing to buy.
  • Pick quality over quantity. It’s better to have a website with a smaller footprint but better quality design, than a large website of mediocre quality.
  • We caution people to invest in video in the early days. While video can work wonders, it is hard to update videos, and they can quickly get outdated based on the pivots and changes a company makes. Static design assets are much easier to evolve or repurpose, at much lower costs.

In Practice

In 2017, the meditation app Calm was struggling to differentiate itself in a crowded market. The product had raving fans, but growth was slow.

Calm's CEO Chris Advogato felt the brand needed an upgrade. They invested heavily in uplifting the visual identity, redesigning the logo, app, website, and marketing materials. The results were transformational. Within months, Calm became the #1 app for sleep, meditation and relaxation.

How so? The refreshed minimalist aesthetic better reflected the mindful Calm experience. Solid colors and clean fonts exuded sophistication and modernity. This new look made the app seem more premium and credible.

Most importantly, it made it Instagrammable. Calm's pink logo on a white background popped on Instagram feeds. The sleek app screenshots were pretty enough to share, which sparked organic promotion of the brand.

The polished design quality also signaled that Calm was a successful and well-funded startup, reducing the perceived risk in buying digital subscriptions. Users felt more secure handing over their credit card details.

Calm's extreme design makeover ultimately helped drive a >600% increase in paying subscribers, within a year (!!). It propelled both acquisitions and conversions by crafting an inspiring brand image that caught the eye while also building trust through sheer aesthetic quality.

Pair with

Build a content mesh