I’ve had the privilege of working with Accomplice from day one. Over the last two years our studio has seen tremendous growth. We’ve worked alongside our clients to develop incredible products, establish and evolve brands, and develop opportunity to scale. No doubt, it’s been a fun two years..a busy two years, but definitely two for the books. I caught up with Ben McCraw, the Cofounder of Accomplice to talk about where we’ve been, where we are heading, and how Accomplice is poised to disrupt the way we think about business.
For our readers who are just being introduced to Accomplice, let’s begin with introductions. Tell me a little bit about who you are? (Background, qualifications, history, etc.)
My path originated with a passion for fine art and architecture that has honed my career to design and building business.
Professionally, I’ve worked I in many entrepreneurial startup environments that have evolved and grown to be a more corporate environment. Many call that success. My path to leadership has been very organic and less intentional; being very involved in production and in the trenches with teams as well as participating at the executive level. Being born of both environments affords me the comfort level in corporate with the ability to think and work like a startup.
You started Accomplice in 2015. Why did you choose the name, “Accomplice”?
I think it’s a perfect name to explain our philosophy and approach to working with our clients. We aren’t trying to come in and dictate everything and we aren’t coming in to just ask surface questions: “what do you want, how do you want it?” We are there to partner with our clients, to see the job through to the end.
And there’s something rugged and real about the name. We aren’t some fancy suits, we are in the trenches building alongside our clients. We celebrate their successes and count them as our own.
You are known for your ability to build all star teams. How did you apply that to building Accomplice?
I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years and those relationships have stayed. I’ve grabbed the best of the best of the ones I’ve worked with and brought them in. People always say how important a quality team is to the culture and the outcome — I know the next 6 people I’m going to hire and how I’m going to hire them. I consider every hire, “does this individual hire makes us a stronger team?” If no, then I don’t want them. In terms of qualifications and characteristics, I know what makes a good team. Your talent makes up 10% of the equation. I’m more concerned with personal pride, work ethic, and taking initiative. Our team is made up of management quality self-starters regardless of role. Those are the qualities we look for. On my team, the work any one individual is doing is way beyond their job role — because my team members find a need and they fill it.
Accomplice is focused on rethinking the way companies think about design. How does Accomplice design differently than other agencies?
There is a whole plethora of companies that are a lot like Accomplice, do a lot of the same things, and market themselves very similar to us. The honest answer is that the business model of Accomplice is one that removes the red tape bureaucracies and the extraneous weight that prevents good work from becoming great work.
Time and time again agencies require deposits, milestones tied to payment, and extraneous spending that actually work against the creative process and practical realities of the work. We’ve stripped all of those things. We are outcome based above all else.
From a capabilities perspective, we see ourselves as leaders in this movement where designers are in the C-suite and influencing business strategy. Our entire team has the mindset — we aren’t just banging out designs, we are building businesses. We utilize data science and research to guide our designs and decisions. We consider the entire consumer journey, versus only the product we are producing.
What are the capabilities of the Accomplice team?
We design and build digital products. That’s a simplistic answer. As a team, we use data science, research, and strategy to guide our decisions. We know what it’s like to sit around the table and discuss everyone’s opinions, the designer, the CEO, the sales team, and you end up with a product that has a bunch of features that has no rhyme or reason.
The best products do one thing properly. Design by committee is the quickest way to deliver mediocrity. We build based on research, data and experience. We focus on UX/UI, digital design, research, data science, strategy, product strategy and we line those things up with business outcomes and strategy.
How does Accomplice integrate data science into the design process?
At the core, it’s the foundation from which we make all our decisions and the benchmark from which we measure how successfully we hit the target. One of Accomplices’ core tenants is: Create, Evaluate, Iterate. Data science is the underlying thread in each of those.
In terms of capabilities, we do not restrict ourselves in methodology — we link together the human aspect of qualitative and user research, with the business metrics of traditional quantitative research, and the reach of data science and predictive analytics. The insight we gather serves to inform the touch-points across the organization as well as the product development — giving us actionable perimeters to create.
In the last year, Accomplice has seen a ton of growth. As a founder, what have you been most proud of?
No matter what, I am always most proud of our teams. Our teams’ resilience and focus, projects can be crazy — but the way our teams respond to challenges is always what I am most proud of.
Looking ahead, what growth do you see ahead for Accomplice?
I think our growth will be visible through the the work. I think I’d rather not brag about anything other than the work. We’ve got some great opportunities with some great brands in the works. In these opportunities, I think our work will speak for itself.
Looking to the future, how do you see the design industry evolving?
I think ultimately, it will be commoditized. Right now, we are seeing an industry that is just realizing the power shift of how we think about design. Design is no longer an aspect of building a product, it is the product. Design is taking a seat in the leadership circle across corporations, this has been an increasing trend over the last years. We are going to see it intensify.
There is a lot of talk about the consumer journey in the industry. How does Accomplice conceptualize the consumer journey?
Short answer: it’s at the core of everything we do. We don’t consider the touchpoint between where our job begins and ends, we consider the touchpoints throughout the entire journey. We understand that our contribution is likely just a specific piece.
Our research team focuses on the entire consumer journey and experience. The product we build influences that consumer journey and provides a touchpoint and feedback loop. We look to provide data and insight to improving the consumer experience far beyond the product we build.
From your experience, how does the consumer journey impact a company’s business strategy?
It should impact it almost everywhere. It should impact your product feature set, price points, design, product flow — you should treat the consumer journey like the user experience. It should be something that is always considered, it should be iterative, it should be constantly improved. We should be focused on understanding how to convert our consumers from curious buyer to active evangelists. When we consider products, we look for answers to the question, “how can we create such a positive experience that your customer becomes your sales person?”
What should companies expect when working with Accomplice?
A very active and opinionated partner. Someone who will put as much time and and energy into their success as they will. Someone who will put in extra hours. Someone who will treat you the way we want to be treated. We partner with our clients and celebrate their success.