Meg Robichaud is a designer and illustrator at Shopify. I began following her work via Twitter when she was still working freelance and wanted to ask her about the transition working in-house with a team. We talked about why she was drawn to the team at Shopify, some of her best habits and routines as an illustrator, the transition to leading a team and why she wishes illustration was seen as a more accessible career.
Tell me a little bit about your current role and what that looks like.
I’m a designer and illustrator at Shopify. Originally I came in under UX, leading the illustration team. I've since added the culture design team as well as a bit of work with the brand team. I would say that half of my time is spent managing versus being in the thick of it. Both teams are so full of talented people that they're largely self-sufficient, I only really get into the pixels with branding projects.
What were you doing previously? What was your path to your current role like?
Before Shopify, I was working freelance full-time. I’d work closely with new start-ups and focus on the product and marketing side with them. I’d do big explainers for the marketing side and then corresponding empty states for the product side.
When Shopify originally contacted me, they were just beginning to scrap their whole illustration style. I came in for a week-long sprint to help kick off the new illustration style and get some fresh eyes in there to help them make decisions. At the time, I was pretty stoked on freelance and had no interest in doing any sort of full-time thing. But, I came in for a week and everyone on the team was wonderful, they were fantastic to work with. Kyle messaged me after that week to ask if I wanted to finish what I had started. I really did. Even though I wasn’t looking for a full-time gig, just coming into the office and working with everyone won me over.
What were some of the biggest lessons that you took from working freelance that you bring into what you do now?
A large part of being a good freelancer is being able to get in and get caught up to speed as quickly as possible—deliver something and then get out. I think that’s a big thing that I bring to working project-based. It can be a double-edged sword though. It’s a great skill to have to be able to get caught up to speed and get out quickly, but it’s also not always the best way to work on every project.
Because I have six years of freelance projects I’ve also developed really good habits around how I approach a project and how I organize and name all my files. I know I always start with a certain four files, I always have my source files in there and exports—that systematic stuff came in handy.
With Shopify, I started by making a lot of guides, like our illustration guide. I had practice with those types of guides because when I was freelancing it would help define how a team should continue on once I was gone. So I know how to work so that anyone could pick up a file I’ve done and continue working on it if I go away on vacation or whatever it may be. Those habits have really carried over.