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Intel and inspiration for the world's best marketers.

What We’re Up To At Crayon

Posted by Jonah Lopin on September 11, 2014.

Crayon is the most massive collection of marketing designs on the web. It’s an inspiration tool for anyone who builds stuff for the web.

But let’s back up.

We’re building Crayon because there’s a massive disconnect between the amount of time and money spent building stuff for the web, and the fact that there’s no great way to figure out what to build.

First, a disclaimer.

We’re going to talk about “marketers” in this article because professional marketers happen to have an acute version of the problem Crayon solves. But when we say “marketers”, what we really mean is “anyone who builds stuff for the web and cares how it performs”. So when we talk about how Crayon helps “marketers”, we really mean “marketers, designers, entrepreneurs, business owners, executives, growth hackers, bloggers, educators, activists, politicians, and cute little puppies”. (Yup, even puppies.)

Back to the story.

Marketers spend tens of billions of dollars and countless cycles each year building websites, blogs, emails, and landing pages. More than a hundred million of these “marketing assets” are built or redesigned each year. The investment is huge and the stakes are high.

But the process most marketers use to plan these projects is broken: it’s tedious, manual, and rarely yields useful insights. There’s no great way for marketers to craft their vision and get good ideas about what to build! There’s no platform for marketers to appreciate relevant work and draw useful insights for their current project.

Until now. This is what Crayon aims to solve.

Crayon enables you to appreciate and learn from the most relevant designs of the past, so you can craft an inspired vision for your next project.

Who cares? We all should.

Marketing isn’t about arts & crafts. The results matter. The marketing assets we build drive traffic, conversions, brand equity, and enterprise value. And considering that we spend tens of billions of dollars building these assets each year, we have a responsibility to maximize the return.

Beyond ROI, at the risk of sounding fluffy, we believe the assets we build matter because the more inspiring stuff we (marketers) add to the digital ecosystem, the more we (humans) will regularly come in contact with inspiring things. That feels like a good direction for the web to be heading.

What’s the broken design inspiration process of today, and how does Crayon improve it?

In as few words as possible, the problem with what most folks do today is: too much sausage making, not enough insights.

Problem #1: Too much sausage making.

Sausage making is our affectionate term for unpleasant, tedious, manual work.

Many marketers today save & discuss design ideas by copying links into emails and Excel, and pasting screenshots into PowerPoint. The problem with saving links is the designs are often gone when you go back to look for them! The problem with PowerPoint screenshots is it’s a pain to get everything cropped, files get huge, and it’s hard to search and share. Ugh.

Crayon re-focuses your precious mental energy into appreciating great design, not making sausage. Crayon enables you to easily create Collections and save high-fidelity designs forever. You can add comments, share with colleagues, your boss, or your design agency, and have a rich discussion about what you’re seeing.

We want you to spend time learning from great designs, not cropping screenshots and pasting them into PowerPoint.

Problem #2: Not enough insights.

Many design projects start with a look at “the list” to get ideas and benchmarks. This list is usually made up of some competitors, a few industry sites, a few sites that happen to be top-of-mind, and some suggestions from a design agency.

Sadly, “the list” is lame. The odds that “the list” includes a design you can draw good insights from is pretty low, while the chances it excludes the relevant designs that might give you good ideas is pretty high.

With Crayon, “the list” is finally what it should be: a superset of designs that are very relevant to what you’re building, and are likely to contain valuable insights you otherwise wouldn’t have found. You can still include your competitors and other specific sites in your consideration set, but you can also find designs that might be far more illuminating.

Let’s say you’re building a team page for a B2B website. How are you going to decide what it should look like? With Crayon, you might browse Team Pages in the B2B Services Industry or Team Pages that get a lot of traffic.

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You might browse through a few hundred or a few thousand pages and create a Collection of some of your favorites. Here’s a collection we created recently that was invaluable in building our very own Crayon team page. These are all pages that wouldn’t have been on “the list” – they’re pages we never would have thought to look at, but learned a great deal from.

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Or maybe you’re looking for Pricing Pages in the Software Industry, Home Pages on Squarespace, or Free Trial Pages? Whatever you’re setting out to build, this process helps you craft your vision.

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It’s worth noting that without Crayon, this process would be prohibitively time-consuming. Only about 1 in 10 designs rise to the top in Crayon, and only about 1 in 20 domains have any given page type. So if you set out to browse the web randomly in search of design ideas, you might have to look at 20,000 random sites just to find 100 inspiring pricing pages! Trust us, that’s not a fun way to spend a couple days.

A final thought.

You don’t have to go to the National Bottle Museum to appreciate bottles. There are bottles everywhere. Just pick one up.

You don’t have to go to the World Kite Museum to appreciate kites, and you don’t have to go to the Fashion Museum to appreciate fashion.

But there is something special about the ability of these museums to help us appreciate and learn from things.

You’ve seen stereos and chairs before, but if you visited the SFMOMA to see the work of Dieter Rams, you likely took something away that you would have missed if you’d seen those same works in an every-day context.

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Dieter Rams, Vitsœ 620, 1962; photo Koichi Okuwaki, source

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Dieter Rams, Braun phonosuper (SK 4), 1956; design: Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams, photo: Koichi Okuwaki, source

This is what Crayon is out to do for the web. We want to showcase great marketing designs in a way that helps professional builders appreciate and learn from them, so they can be inspired in their own great works.

Please give Crayon a try.

People (including us) are getting value from Crayon every day, so please give Crayon a try and share it with anyone you think might enjoy it.

If you have feedback on Crayon, please send us a note at founders at crayon dot co. We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading. We are in the early days of a long journey, and we hope you’ll come along for the ride!

– Jonah & John