Playing to a standard: How product design lives out the carwow values

Brent Palmer
4 min readSep 19, 2018


© getty images

As difficult as it is for a Texas football fan to acknowledge SEC greatness, Nick Saban is undeniably one of the greatest football coaches ever lived. Nick Saban has become the standard for how University programs recruit, operate, and play at a championship level. When asked how he motivates his players week in, week out, Saban responds, “We play to a standard. And it’s always under construction.

“We play to a standard. And it’s always under construction.” – Nick Saban

On Thursday, 30 August, carwow product designers gathered at Balderton Capital to clarify and improve our standards. Monthly updates highlighted the morning. We reviewed significant launches and achievements, learnings, and targets for the next 1–2 months. The afternoon’s focus was around improvements to tooling and process, including establishing a “standard.” We wanted to co-author this hymnal together, with input from the entire team.

We set out to answer the following:

  • How do we live out carwow values?
  • What’s our standard?
  • Which values are under construction or need polishing?
  • Which values are evident in the way we work today?
  • What can other teams expect from us?
Design Days @ carwow

Through post-its and clustering, we had a very spirited dialogue around what is (and isn’t) working. Application of our company values fell into two categories: Conduct and Output, i.e. the things we make vs. how we make them. A lens began to take shape in which we could view everything from recruiting talent, producing designs, to crafting 360 feedback. Some implications were immediate and practical, while others were long-term and theoretical. Like most projects, this discussion is ongoing and iterative.

Brain rain: green post-its for aspirational, orange for existing


Confident and Humble

  • Strong opinions, weakly held. Humbilident. Our professional experience is an excellent place to start, but we’re open-minded and willing to change direction if the data says otherwise.
  • We’re sought out by our peers because we’re a delight to work with and our perspectives are helpful


  • We ship to learn. This may be an A/B test or from other forms of user feedback.
  • We practice empathy with our teammates and have an appetite to improve our work, process, and tools through dialogue.
  • We believe general knowledge helps topical learning, whether taking language lessons or reading books. We’re lifelong learners.

Force for Good

  • We support each other through services like Sanctus because we know bringing the best version of ourselves to work is not just good for carwow, but for good for life.
  • We seek to build a diverse and inclusive team because different perspectives equals better outcomes.
  • We care about accessibility when others don’t because we believe the disabled should be able to use carwow.
  • We believe design is a team sport and aim to promote collaboration at every turn.



  • We aim to delight our users with great experiences. As designers, we should own this.
  • Buying a car is an emotional one. We aim to give users moments that make them smile, whether via great copy or micro-interactions
  • Our work should be visually stunning. We apply rigor where it’s needed and take full advantage of our style guide.


  • We have design investments in both “mutual funds” and “stocks.” We place big bets whilst managing the tactical because we want to make a difference
  • Good things take time, so we aim to be ruthlessly focused, working on what’s essential and stripping away everything else. If a meeting invite doesn’t include an agenda, we don’t accept.
  • We think globally and design locally. Even though we’re based in London, we consider all of our markets when solving a problem.


  • Our UI should be dead simple. Buying a car is really stressful. We want to remove frustration, not add to it.
  • Our design work is uncluttered and orderly. We don’t build three screens when one will do.
  • We say what we mean with our feedback. We seek out hard conversations and don’t tolerate gossip.
  • We work in plain sight. We believe the best way to spread the design love is to collaborate in the open.
  • We have a clear definition of success for a project; aspirational, realistic, or quantifiable.

We’re really excited about the team’s future and nailing these values at this point gives us a platform for scaling up in 2019. If you’d like to come along on this journey, send me your CV or visit our jobs page. Roll Tide.



Brent Palmer

Design leader and manager @Mixpanel. Previously @Fast @Zendesk @PayPal @TrendKite @Spredfast.