Success Wears Sneakers Preview: Meet Andrew Lin, Caviar’s Creative Lead

hands holding cheeseburger

Last week, Vivaldi hosted an exciting panel discussion at our New York office titled, “Success Wears Sneakers: What big brands can learn from the city’s savviest startups.” We were honored to host a panel discussion with leaders from the city’s savviest startups, including Caviar, Indiegogo, Chartbeat, and Squarespace.

To give you  better insights on what we covered, we talked with Andrew Lin about his experience as Creative Lead at Caviar,  the gourmet food delivery service owned by Square.

From your experience working at companies of different sizes – from your own startup 80/20 to multi-national companies like Apple and Adobe –  do you think that a culture of innovation can be fostered in a company regardless of its size and reach? How does the way you go about doing that differ depending on company size?

I think one of the most important things about running a successful brand and design organization is communication – it’s of course easier to have at a small company where everyone knows what everyone is working on – and harder at a big one – but the key is the willingness to be transparent with your work and open to feedback. When my partners and I founded our agency 80/20, we always had open lines of communication across people on individual teams and within the entire company. What really drew us to Square was seeing that same openness and transparency.

At Square, people are very open to critique of their work without worrying about judgment – as we all have a shared investment in making the products and services we create even better. At both Square and Caviar – we very much believe that ideas can come from anywhere and we recognize and value everyone’s opinions – which is particularly great for gathering brand and design feedback. For example, we have designers in SF and NYC, so we can’t always meet in person. We use a host of tools to help us gather feedback – Google hangouts are one way we have discussions, plus we use a lot of shared docs and Basecamp as a way to have collaborative discussions on design online.

You have a really interesting background that brings together expertise in both design and technology. What are some surprising ways that technology has benefitted design in your view, especially for businesses and consumers?

We use technology to simplify the complex. Our goal is to take something that previously may have been complicated and cumbersome – like signing up for and processing credit card payments – to a simple and streamlined solution that is intuitive for everyone who touches it. With Caviar, for instance – there is an entire complex logistics infrastructure in place to ensure that the restaurant is preparing the food on time, a courier is being dispatched at the right time and the meal is delivered exactly as you order it — but all the customer experiences is seeing beautiful photos, tapping a button and having their food in their hands as fast as possible. That’s the magical experience we try to create.

Caviar’s interface, with the pictorial menus and GPS tracking feature, definitely seems more customer-friendly than that of others in the industry, and the pricing model is also unlike competitors’.

How does this help differentiate Caviar for both consumers and restaurant partners? What do you believe will be significant points of differentiation as the market grows and Caviar explores new growth opportunities?  

Caviar’s mission is to make delivery easy for customers and businesses everywhere – so we are always thinking about how we can leverage technology to add to the customer experience – whether that means reducing our delivery times, showcasing full photo menus or even the GPS feature that enables customers to follow along with their order while it’s out for delivery.

One way that we’re unique is that we partner directly with restaurants – which puts us in a unique position to bring a higher quality experience to the customer and to the restaurant. Whether someone is ordering for an individual, a couple, a group or even catering a large corporate event  – we have the logistical expertise and relationship with the restaurant to ensure that they’re prepared to offer the best meal, every meal.

What made the acquisition of Caviar so attractive to Square? Square’s philosophy of focusing on small businesses – aiding their development and enhancement of services, has been wildly successful. When your team is tackling a project for Caviar, how do you balance thinking of Caviar as both a tool for businesses (restaurants) as well as a consumer–oriented dining platform ?

Square is building a complete service for small businesses — whether that’s through our payment processing or services like Square Capital – we’re focused on offering tools that help business owners get started and grow their business. For restaurants in particular, delivery is a natural extension of services that enables businesses to grow their sales and expand their reach — without increasing their overhead.  Caviar has curated a great collection of restaurants and offers a delivery solution that is great for both the seller and buyer. We look forward to building on that experience and continuing to make the operations around delivery easier for both those ordering and those buying.

To what extent do other creative fields influence your work?

In my spare time, I’d say I’m most interested in photography – and just generally understanding what makes for a good photograph and a connection with the audience. This is something that of course influences my work, as we feature tons of beautiful photography on our site – of every dish at every restaurant – so we’re always thinking of ways to make the food look more enticing – whether that’s through marketing materials, e-mails or in-restaurant collateral. I’ve learned a lot just from going out to eat at all the amazing restaurants in NY and abroad – seeing the way that chefs present and prepare their food – there’s so much art that goes into each dish.

What career tips would you give to an aspiring product designer?

Having a strong understanding of the technology that you’re designing for helps you make better design decisions. By knowing the potential and possibility of what technology can do helps you stretch beyond the constraint of just doing your job.