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Read the full Seam story
Read the full Seam story
Read the full Seam story

Beyond product design: Supporting Seam’s launch strategy

The story of joining forces with Seam’s co-founder and CEO to create high-quality content to boost their public launch.

Nic Jablonski
Founder at Semiflat

The reality of doing innovative product work

Do you want to know one thing about doing deep product design work for complicated and innovative systems that absolutely sucks? It’s the fact that given how novel they are, showing off this work publicly is often impossible. Most companies we work with build tools in highly competitive markets where every advantage matters. Exposing their products “behind the scenes” is often simply too risky. Many of these companies also operate in stealth, working closely with a select group of strategic customers to improve their software over a prolonged period before they’re ready for a public launch. Often, the SaaS company will explicitly decide not to include any screenshots of their product in their marketing materials, even post-launch, for a combination of the reasons mentioned above. As a result, much of our work as product designers happens in secrecy, and in many cases, it never sees the light of day. 

As someone with a design background who has been in a strictly business role for several years now, I understand our customer’s concerns. At the same time, I sympathize with my design team, who are often quietly disappointed when a big project they’ve been working on needs to remain unseen indefinitely. Publicly sharing design work with the world (and, more specifically, the community of fellow designers) is an unspoken, climactic moment of every design project. Having hired and interacted with dozens of designers since starting Semiflat, I have never met one who didn’t emphasize the importance of sharing their work and getting recognition. It’s understandable. As creatives, our work is our pride, and it only seems natural that after spending many months shaping a digital product, we want to hold onto it as long as possible and preferably signal to the world our contributions. That’s why, for a very long time, I’ve been searching for a way that could help me reconcile both perspectives. I’m relieved to say I’ve found the key, but let’s start from the beginning.

To do what no one is doing

Be different but better

I’m a contrarian by nature. I can’t help it. Whenever I see a music artist become popular, my 

interest suddenly weakens; whenever I see everyone following a particular trend, my instinct is to run in the opposite direction. This sentiment has applications in different areas of my life - to varying degrees. As a business owner, the most time-consuming area of my life is running Semiflat, so it’s no surprise that I want the way I present my business to the world to be unique. 

Being different, though, takes time and mental capacity that, as a founder, I didn’t always have. Of course, when I say “different,” I implicitly mean “better.” In my understanding, differentiation assumes not only being “as good as” everyone else but ultimately exceeding what is considered the status quo. Between this ambitious vision and reality stands a never-ending list of urgent tasks, failures, delays, and unforeseen consequences that any business owner can surely relate to. Of course, you’re supposed to delegate, but to do that, you need to give chances, surrender absolute control over the output, and implement processes that will eventually start working in your favor instead of adding fuel to the fire. This is perhaps a clumsy way of saying that implementing an ambitious vision takes time and that an organization like Semiflat needed to go through cycles of experimentation and failures before finally being in a position to innovate and grow.

Why SaaS?

The “Think different” attitude (to use an Apple cliche) was with me when I started Semiflat. I saw what everyone in my vicinity was doing and decided to focus on the opposite. It seemed that all product designers I followed at the time mainly worked on heavily illustrated B2C mobile experiences. Growing frustrated with the popularity of concept work overly focused on visuals, I started researching real-life B2B SaaS tools. I’ve decided to build a business serving exclusively companies creating software that improves how humans work, despite having no previous experience in the sector (ironically, most of the products I’ve designed until that point were B2C mobile applications). Before building a team, I was lucky to work on early MVPs of products later acquired by giants like IBM and Cloudflare. Today, I can confidently say that diving into this niche was the best decision of my professional career.

I must stop myself here, but I believe this long-winded introduction was essential to explaining why it was so important to me to approach the way we at Semiflat talk about our work differently. After looking at what everyone is doing, I’ve asked myself: “What is no one doing?” And then it hit me.

Putting the client first

For a moment, I stopped thinking about Semiflat and focused on what our customers truly wanted. What is the value I can offer them that would strengthen our relationship while at the same time allowing us to show the value we’ve given them? In the past, I would view publishing the design work as a favor I would ask clients for. The experience was often clumsy, with multiple requests and follow-ups on my part and nothing to offer in return. This was reflected in our Client’s attitude. After the design phase was completed, their priorities shifted toward the launch and testing with users. Considering the fact that any content we would produce would have to be reviewed by their team, not only did it not create any perceived value, but to make matters worse, it required a potential time commitment in their already packed schedules.
A lot of time passed until it dawned on me that our incentives were not misaligned after all. As a design firm, what we want, above all else, is for our clients to be successful. Having a track record of designing successful products increases our reputation in the tech world. Helping our Clients grow would only improve their experience and how they view us as a company. I knew we delivered a lot of value in our core competency - product design. Still, I wasn’t sure how to communicate our willingness to help them further without it being interpreted as a pitch for more services. I wanted this to be a genuine partnership that will propel both companies further. 

Focusing on the product

At Semiflat, we’re really good at designing complex software. We weren’t always great at talking about it publicly (partly due to my deeply held belief that “The design work should speak for itself”). Still, at its core, our biggest competency happened to align with the biggest advantage most of our clients had while entering the market. The fact that their product is better than the competitors was typically linked to the research, iteration, and testing that we did for them at Semiflat. It suddenly became clear to me that we could tell a compelling story that compliments our client’s go-to-market strategy, putting their product at the center and emphasizing its advantages in user experience.

The new way we talk about our work

Of course, this approach could only work if executed parallel to the Client’s internal marketing efforts. Close collaboration and maximum transparency were key for maximum impact. I knew, however, that if implemented correctly, we would have a real chance at boosting the product and getting it in front of more users. This is something that all founders want which should make it far easier to get them on board. And so the plan was born:

  • Identify customers launching products in the coming months. At this point, I was confident I could help our clients tell their stories better. At the same time, I knew I needed to make sure that I only pitched this idea to customers who might genuinely need help with their launch. Trying to convince a stealth startup to engage in a joint public marketing effort simply wouldn’t work. 
  • Create a list of potential benefits to their business. I wanted to flip the scenario completely. Instead of asking clients for a favor, I approached them with a list of benefits that would make working with me on the product content a clear value-add. Fortunately, there were countless ways I could think of that would help them make more people interested in their product by utilizing our design skillset. There were a ton of product scenarios that we could show in our content that could also be incorporated into our Client’s website or social content. Not to mention, we could direct the traffic we generate from our ads, content, and website directly to our customer's “Sign up” or “Book a demo” page.
  • Align with the founders on expectations and possibilities. After pitching the initial idea, I needed to create a specific plan constrained by dates and deliverables. I was also uncertain about the client’s reaction. It sounded great in my head, but I’ve never done it before…
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Helping Seam prepare a powerful launch strategy

I was ecstatic when Nick, Seam’s Co-Founder and CEO, expressed his enthusiasm for working with us in a joint marketing effort for his big launch. Over the next few days, we’ve refined the list of deliverables that we will produce for the Semiflat website and social media channels to amplify their internal marketing. I decided to cancel all of my responsibilities (with the exception of sales calls) and focus exclusively on researching, writing, recording, designing, and animating high-impact content around the product we’ve created together. 

Video as the central pillar

We’ve agreed that video content has the highest potential to reach new people. In my plan, I’ve suggested scripting and producing three Seam-specific videos focusing on the product through the lens of our design approach. Seam is built on top of an LLM, so it was great to systematize my knowledge around AI and combine it with design insights and real-life examples from Seam. I’ve created three technical videos explaining core concepts behind the technology powering Seam considered from the product design perspective.

Additionally, I’ve suggested recording some of our Zoom conversations and turning them into interviews about Seam. Featuring Nick on Semiflat’s channel seemed natural as it shows some behind-the-scenes of our journey together. I wanted to give him a platform and recognized that sharing his thoughts and insights would be relatable to other founders interacting with our content. 

We’ve decided to film ourselves discussing two topics relevant to any early-stage founder. The importance of speed and the journey to product market fit. I hoped this content would resonate with Semiflat’s target audience, simultaneously providing Nick an opportunity to tell the world more about Seam, his personal journey, and its value to the user. I wanted to create something we could easily incorporate into our marketing efforts. These conversations provided our client with free, high-quality content focused on their product, and on the other hand, they increased the trust of potential customers interacting with Semiflat online. I appreciate that Nick was comfortable participating in our content, and I recognize that it speaks to the great partner relationship we’ve built between our companies throughout the process of working together.

Text content for support

My vision was to create valuable content across various mediums and platforms. I decided to write blog articles around each video topic. This way, people interacting with our content can consume it in their preferred format while getting the full context we’ve prepared. Every blog post would contain a linked YouTube video, and vice versa.

(LINK) Read more on the blog

Product snapshots

There would also be pieces of graphic content focused on showcasing Seam’s features in a more granular sense. I set out to create content that would introduce the product to the world through microlens, from interesting details and interactions, slowly building the bigger picture. Each piece of content would link to the full case study and the live demo of Seam, directly driving website visits and sign-ups.

New case study page to tie it all together

Although this paragraph could probably warrant its own separate article, I’m going to only focus on my critical thoughts about showing our work to the world. I absolutely loved the plan we devised and knew we needed a remarkable way to unveil Seam to the world. That meant coming up with a completely custom customer story page (formerly referred to as a case study page). The main ideas were consistent with the strategy up to this point - to make the product the main star. While most design case studies focus on the process and work designers did on the project, I’ve again opted for the opposite approach. My vision for the customer story was closer to a product page than a traditional case study. The page was supposed to be visually stunning, showing the product and benefits we’ve achieved for Seam. We wanted it to be easy to consume and engaging, with video and text content sprinkled in. Even though it took significantly longer to design and implement, I can confidently say that I absolutely love the result:

(LINK) to the case study

Never-ending, interlinked web of content

Each piece of content leads to another, creating an engaging loop with which readers or viewers can interact based on their interests. Since our content would be distributed in different forms across different platforms, I wanted to capture the attention of people who might resonate with particular pieces and enable them to learn more. For example - when sharing a product snapshot of the “Details” drill-down view (shown below) on Dribbble, I’ve linked an article covering the decisions we faced while designing it and the broader context of designing transparent artificial intelligence products. 

$5M funding

Redesigning Seam - the first AI-native data platform for maximum scalability, and supercharging their launch strategy.

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Nic Jablonski
Founder at Semiflat
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“Today, too many people view artificial intelligence (AI) as another magical technology that’s being put to work with little understanding of how it works. They view AI as special and relegated to experts who have mastered and dazzled us with it. In this environment, AI has taken on an air of mysticism with promises of grandeur, and out of the reach of mere mortals. The truth, of course, is there is no magic to AI.”

Rob Thomas
Senior VP, Software and CCO at IBM

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“Our customer journey is inconsistent”
Mayra
“We don’t know how to hire the right designers”
Mayra
“We struggling to attract more users”
Robert
“We’re not clear on our unique selling points”
Mossie
“Users choose our  competition over us”
Lyla
“Our design team is always overwhelmed”
Reggie
“We don’t have product-market fit”
Kenny
“Our growth had hit a plateau”
Bridget
“Users don’t convert to paid plan”
Louisa
“We don’t have time to design everything we need to”
Nasir
“We’re not as profitable as we should be”
Zack
“Our growth had hit a plateau”
Ebony
“We can’t get our product in front of the right users”
Brett
“We can’t get our product in front of the right users”
Stephen
“Our customer journey is inconsistent”
Mayra
“We struggling to attract more users”
Robert
“We’re not clear on our unique selling points”
Mossie
“Users choose our  competition over us”
Lyla
“Our design team is always overwhelmed”
Reggie
“We don’t have product-market fit”
Kenny
“Our growth had hit a plateau”
Bridget
“Users don’t convert to paid plan”
Louisa
“We don’t have time to design everything we need to”
Nasir
“We’re not as profitable as we should be”
Zack
“Our growth had hit a plateau”
Ebony
“We can’t get our product in front of the right users”
Brett
“We can’t get our product in front of the right users”
Stephen
“We don’t have time to design everything we need to”
Brett
“We don’t know how to hire the right designers”
Esta
“Our churn rate is too high”
Asher
Get value

Ready to solve big problems?

Let’s discuss how Semiflat can help boost your business with design.

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