[Interview] Melixir’s Designer Koeun talks about the gratification, challenges, and work that goes into being a BX designer at a growing startup
Hello Koeun! Tell me a little bit about your role at Melixir?
As a BX designer, I design all the brand touchpoints. So essentially, I design all the ways that our customers interact with our brand. Part of this role is designing packaging and containers, and working closely with the marketing and sales team on the overall direction of our product designs.
As a designer what is the biggest challenge you face?
Given how important sustainability is to us, the most important part of product design, for us at Melixir, is to create a high-quality product while minimizing its impact on the environment. A lot of eco-friendly materials used for containers and packaging are relatively new and less durable than the traditional ones widely used in the industry. So, we are constantly facing a dilemma between quality and sustainability. We cannot compromise the quality of our product, but we also want to be as eco-friendly as possible. Therefore, it takes a lot of research and trials to release a product that satisfies both. In hopes to make our brand more sustainable, the majority of our skincare products come in glass packaging. However, since the use of plastic is unavoidable in some containers, we’re trying to use more sustainable materials including post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR) and biodegradable plastics.
Do you have a set of principles or rules you use when you design different components?
When designing different components for the brand, my goal is to be simple yet effective. Sometimes too many elements in a design can be confusing and the product can lose its essence. I believe it is important to make a design simple, transparent, and precise so everyone knows exactly what they are buying. For example, our design for our containers and packaging consists of just our logo, and we don’t use a lot of color in the design. In fact, we print in only one color. I really try to get rid of everything that might hinder balance and transparency and only deliver the essentials.
Koeun, I know that you like to travel. Do you get a lot of inspiration from your travels? Now that traveling is difficult, how are you finding your inspiration?
I used to go on long trips to New York or Europe. During these visits, I received a lot of inspiration from visiting parks, print shops and art galleries. After COVID, given that I cannot travel as much, I’ve found inspiration from reading and being part of reading groups with close friends. In terms of what books I’ve read, I’ve actually been really touched and inspired by Tae Soo Lim’s books on branding. I also think it’s impressive that he went from working at large companies like Kakao to building his own branding agency. “That Will Never Work” chronicles Netflix’s journey from its inception, and it’s really helped instill the “start-up spirit” for me.
What are your favorite brands?
Among the bigger brands, I like Apple, COS and A.P.C. I like how these brands are not flashy and instead allow for the products to speak for themselves.
I also like Written, Brillpiece and Outdoor Voices because each has such a unique style. I especially like Outdoor Voices because I think the company did a good job of designing athletic clothing that also accurately reflects their motto: “Endorphins Make You Happy”.
Nothing Written is another great brand. Fashion is a fast-paced industry, and Nothing Written gives the impression of making clothes that will last a long time. Even from following the founder’s social media account, I could tell how much importance she places on the quality of the material, finish and button of a clothing.
Putting Melixir aside, I also really like beauty brands like Aesop and Le Labo. Aesop's simplicity is particularly attractive. And with Le Labo, I think they do a great job of making its customers feel special by customizing the packaging with the customer’s name. Personally, I like New York, and I feel Le Labo also has a very New York feel. I also really like that both these brands are gender neutral.
Why Did You Start Working at Melixir?
In college, I saw a recruiting posting for Melixir intern designers - it had only been four months since Melixir came out. There was no official website, only an English website made with Wix. But, even then, the messaging and feel of Melixir really resonated with me, despite how new the concept of vegan cosmetics was at that time. So I decided to interview with Melixir and have been working here since starting the following Monday after my interview!
What are the pros and cons of working at Melixir?
One of the biggest perks of working at Melixir is that employees are given a lot of responsibility and autonomy over their work. Along with that, I get to work with great people who always want to improve and grow. I also love how involved I am in the process of releasing a new product. I get to create everything our customers get from beginning to end, even the smallest details such as the labels and paper cartons included in the packaging. There’s a great sense of accomplishment since I can directly see how my work is received by the customers. The fact that employees at Melixir are all open-minded and flexible motivates me a lot as well. The horizontal communication structure and the ability to be open to others’ ideas and opinions - however crazy they might be - help us make the best decisions for the brand. However, even with all the benefits, startup culture can be difficult for people who prefer working with hard-and-fast rules since fast-growing startups evolve rapidly.
One of the hardest parts about working at Melixir is that there is a lot of pressure that comes from having so much responsibility. We’re still a young company insofar as startups go, so our teams are small. In fact, we basically have one-person teams. So, in terms of the projects and aspects of the company I manage, I have to always be on top of things and be proactive on executing to make sure things get done. Ultimately though, I still think that having a lot of responsibility at this stage in our company is an advantage because it pushes you to grow and evolve faster.
If you were to pick one thing Melixir is good at and can do better as a brand, what would it be?
I think Melixir has done a really incredible job at catering to customers who are looking for a truly eco-friendly brand. Many of our customers do not want to have even one piece of plastic in the products that they are using, and they really view us as the most sustainable brand out there. They are willing to wait for our new products no matter how long the wait is.
What we are working on right now is becoming a true lifestyle brand. So, we are looking to create more product lines so that we can cater to all aspects of our customer’s lives.
Before the end of the year, do you have any personal goals or goals you want to achieve in Melixir?
Personally, my goal is to become a 10% better person than last year. So, I’ve been exercising and doing Pilates, reading and practicing my English. I have also been keeping a log of everything so I can track my progress.
For Melixir, I want to more clearly establish Melixir's own design principles and design guides so that our direction is clear as we grow and onboard new people. Although I may not have the most experience as a designer, I have been with Melixir since its beginning so I know what customers want. So, as we launch new products and grow the company, I want to have a foundation in place that makes it easy for anyone who joins the company to easily understand our tenets around sustainability.
Finally, tell me about the future of Melixir that Koeun wants to create.
I know for a fact that I want to see Melixir continue to be an impactful brand. Products people use can heavily influence their lifestyle choices, and I want to see Melixir doing that for the better. Speaking from personal experience, I once asked my boyfriend what was the best gift he received from me. He said that it was the Patagonia fleece pullover. Patagonia is another company that does a great job at putting eco-friendliness at the forefront, and my boyfriend said that once he tried the Patagonia fleece, it felt so good that he became inspired to use less plastic. After hearing that, I thought that we should become such a brand that can also positively influence people’s lives. It would be a pity if we just stopped with cosmetics that are good for the skin.