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Meet Irin — Leader of Design System and Brand Experience

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Coupang’s unique designs reflect a sophistically structured design system, brand assets and customer-oriented culture. We met with Irin, who leads Design System operations tailored to Coupang’s e-commerce environment, and Brand Experience, to listen to her work and goals going forward.


Could you briefly tell us about you and the work you do?

Hello, I’m Irin and I lead Coupang’s Design System and Brand Experience.

Design System team is responsible for creating essential design assets, policies, and guidelines to support work efficiency of product designers, engineers and PMs who create and improve Coupang’s app features and UI.

The BX team explores elements of customer experience that can inspire customers throughout their shopping on Coupang: from the moment they open the app until receiving products on their doorstep. We build various brand assets to maximize their experience.


Tell us more about the projects your teams are running.

The Design System Team builds Rocket Design System (RDS) which is tailored to the e-commerce business and Coupang’s working environment. As done by many tech companies, we analyze existing design deliverables to identify which designs can be easily replicated on any service and feature and refine the designs to create optimized components. This process is a basic component of design system building, but RDS takes this a step further by introducing the product building culture based on customer response and data in building design systems.

The design assets proposed by RDS, which includes elements and components, are not finalized simply by shape, feel or intuition. We take a hard look at usability of each factor and run A/B tests to deep dive on whether customer behavior has been aptly induced and ensure that impact has not negatively impacted business metrics in any way. When defining components such as buttons, we propose several design plans and run tests to identify which design component acquired the best customer response and incorporate the most effective design in RDS. Thus, when product designers, engineers and PMs use RDS, they need not worry about whether the design would affect business metrics. This allows our colleagues working on projects to focus more on tackling the customer’s immediate problem rather than design component exterior and consistency.

Also, we compile and analyze success cases of existing product designs, UX principles and rules that we consider meaningful so that they are defined as design patterns. These are leveraged so that product designers and PMs can make quick and easy decisions on what would be the ‘most effective customer approach’ in leading new projects.

BX team also builds various brand assets. I’d like to share two examples: the short cut icon design project exposed on the first page of the Coupang app and the Coupang Sans Display production journey. The short cut located on the first page of the Coupang app allows quick access to frequently visited services or events. The BX team creates short cut icons based on product category, holiday promotions and events.

Of course, these icons go through A/B tests to check customer response, which are incorporated in the final design. Graphic components, though as simple as they may seem, are used to determine the overall direction as well as final decision making of the design.  Brand designers at the BX team strive to apply optimal design approach based on quantitative data and monitor how customers respond to their designs in real-time.

What would have been the success factor of the projects you mentioned?

There are many factors involved, but I believe ‘flexibility’ is the key. We were able to expand our horizons by working on various projects, which helped us respond with flexibility to ceaseless changes. This was a key success factor for our team.


How do Design System and BX respond flexibly?

We apply different design approach based on the nature or characteristics of different projects.

As mentioned earlier, in building RD components, we run A/B tests to determine final design to effectively induce customer response while boosting business metrics. We quickly run design iteration of each component as well. This is because providing versatile design assets is crucial to enabling easy and convenient use of the assets in product building process.

On the contrary, there are projects that need to be observed and handled from a long-term perspective. This was when we worked on creating Coupang’s brand font, “Coupang Sans”. Once a font is created, it is used over time in many different areas. As such, a meticulous approach as well as deep dive is crucial. Instead of quickly delivering, we invested much time in trying out different design variations and reflecting sophisticated modeling and proportion in each letter.

So, you can see that various approaches and processes are tailored to fit different projects rather than applying a one-size-fits-all solution across projects. That helps us respond with flexibility to changes or issues that we haven’t experienced before.

From your viewpoint, what is the difference in Coupang’s own way of working?

I believe ‘Influence without Authority’ stands out. In an environment where knowledge triumphs position, we drive alignment through data and insights. This principle is applied in any problem-solving process, so as designers, we can experience first-hand decision-making process based on data and logical thinking. This helps us communicate effectively with engineers and PMs and facilitate collaboration.


Your team members are composed of various people such as platform designers, brand designers, content strategists, etc. What is the ultimate user experience your team is aiming to achieve?

The most important objective for Design System Team and BX Team is to think from a customer-oriented perspective and create optimal user experience.

We define customers into internal customers and end-users. Since we create various design resources for the company, we view our colleagues, which includes designers, engineers and PMs, as main customers who use our design system and brand assets. We also view end-users, those who use Coupang’s app and services, as key customers. We work very hard to provide meaningful experience to both internal and external users instead of focusing on one segment.

This is why everyone on our team, whether they are designers or content strategists, are aligned in our goal to satisfy both customers. We ceaselessly challenge ourselves to thoroughly understand what customers’ needs are and what we need to prepare to build top-quality solutions. In other words, we strive to build designs considering the end-user as well, providing the optimal brand experience to both customer segments.


What would be the goal you would like to accomplish as a must at Coupang?

I would like to build the most sophisticated and professional Design System and BX Team in Korea’s e-commerce industry.

Design system work is often viewed as one-time operations that simply design component sets such as UI buttons, toggles, or snack bars, but RDS targets building overall user experience and the optimal product building environment combining the work of UI/UX/motion designers, content strategists, engineers, and PMs.

As we work with team members with varying strengths learning from each other to build on expertise, my goal is to help develop irreplaceable and exceptional talent in design system business in Korea, which has potential for further maturity.

The way you described what you would like to do with your team members — help develop them to be irreplaceable and exceptional in the Korean market — is very impressive. Would you like to send out a message to those who are interested in Coupang’s Design team?

I believe there are many designers that have concerns or difficulties coming from work environments where design is determined by the decision maker’s preference. There are probably many research teams that lack A/B testing environments or ability to perform detailed research.

At Coupang, such inadequacy can be addressed because we work with research teams that run thorough quantitative and qualitative search to perform A/B tests to design data-backed user experience and work through precise and reasonable communication. If you are looking for this type of business environment and culture, I strongly advise you to apply Coupang.

We look forward to applications from those who wish to share Irin’s vision to create the most sophisticated Design System Team and BX team in Korea’s e-commerce market.