Koeun, BX Designer at Melixir
[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 of 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, while the other part consists of 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 factor of product design for Melixir is to create high-quality products while minimizing 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 can't 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 criteria. 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 like post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR) and biodegradable plastics.
Do you have a set of principles or rules you imply when designing 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 that 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 colors 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 due to COVID, how are you finding your inspiration?
I used to go on long trips to places like New York or Europe. During these visits, I received a lot of inspiration from going to parks, print shops, and art galleries. Due to 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 corporations, like Kakao, to building his own branding agency. Furthermore, “That Will Never Work” chronicles the subscription streaming service and production company, 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 brand 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 even down to the button of clothing.
Putting Melixir aside, I also really like beauty brands like Aesop and Le Labo. Aesop's simplicity is particularly attractive. 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 like Le Labo also has a very "New York feel." I 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 launched as a brand. 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. 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 the 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 get to be 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 my teammates at Melixir are so open-minded and flexible motivates me a lot as well. The horizontal communication structure and the ability to listen to others’ ideas and opinions - however crazy they might be - help us make the best decisions for our brand.
On the other hand, 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 only have one-person teams. Consequently, in terms of the projects and aspects of the company I manage, I have to always be on top of my game and be proactive in 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 me to grow and evolve faster.
If you were to pick one thing Melixir is good at and one thing that it can do better as a brand, what would they 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 in the market. 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. That being said, we are looking to create more product lines so that we can cater to all aspects of our customers' lives.
Before the end of the year, do you have any personal goals or career goals you want to achieve at Melixir?
Personally, my goal is to become a 10% better person than last year's me. So, I’ve been exercising and going to my pilates classes regularly, reading, and practicing my English. I have also been keeping a log of everything so I can track my progress.
At Melixir, I want to more clearly establish Melixir's own design principles and brand guidelines so that our direction is crystal 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 our customers want. As we continue to 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 daily 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 I got him. Patagonia is another company that does a great job in putting eco-friendliness at the forefront, and my boyfriend said that once he tried the Patagonia fleece, it felt so good to him 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.