Pili Laviolette

My name is Pili. I'm a UX/UI and brand designer located in Ontario, Canada. I've been working as a designer for over 15 years. I currently own and run a boutique design studio called Random Pattern. We specialize in brand, web, and UX/UI design, and we primarily work with early-stage tech startups around the world.


What is your creative Journey?

I studied advertising in university about 20 years ago, but when I did my first internship, I realized that graphic and web design were much more enjoyable and aligned with my skills. I started working in design for advertising campaigns as an in-house designer for companies and agencies. Eventually, I started getting clients on my own and decided to build my first design agency. I ran my agency full-time for 5 years until I decided to move to Canada to pursue a master's degree in design. This was also a decision I made because I wasn't happy with the way my agency was growing. 90% of my day-to-day work focused on admin and management work, and not so much on the creative hands-on design work. After obtaining my postgraduate degree, I worked as the head of product design for a couple of tech startups. In 2019, I decided to open my current business, a boutique design studio called Random Pattern Studio, which specializes in brand, web, and UX/UI design. Today, I run the business full-time. We are still a very small team (and we intend to stay that way), primarily working with early-stage tech startups around the world.

What are Your future business plans?

I'm starting to explore the educational side of my business. After 15+ years working as a designer, I feel like it's time to give back to the community by sharing my experience and expertise. I got a sense of this when I started teaching design at a university, but I want to create something more accessible for design entrepreneurs like myself. My first educational project, which I'm still working on, is a Figma course to help designers work more efficiently and collaborate better with clients using Figma.

What piece of advice would you offer creatives entering the field?

Don't feel like you have to have it all figured out from the get-go, especially as a creative entrepreneur. I used to stress out a lot about having a niche and finding my ideal client. Instead, I would suggest doing little experiments and trying different things so you can see what converts best and what you enjoy doing.

How do balance your personal and professional life?

This has been the hardest part for me. When I opened Random Pattern, I used to work 12+ hours a day, including weekends. It was insane. Eventually, I realized the hustle wasn't sustainable in the long run. I tried different "productivity" techniques to help me be more efficient, and some definitely helped, but over time, I realized it was more of a mindset issue than an operational one. This has been a long process that I'm still working on, but there are three changes I made this year to help me have a better work-life balance: 1) I reduced my workload and started charging more instead. I didn't raise my prices overnight, though; I did it little by little as long as I felt comfortable. 2) I started delegating or outsourcing some work. However, I don't want to stop designing, so I make sure I still do the work I enjoy doing and am good at, and try to delegate the tasks I enjoy the least. And 3) I try to have creative projects that are not client-related. This can be artsy or even design projects, either way, the end goal is to have fun. These projects help me stay creative and explore new techniques. These creative projects are a good reminder of why I have a creative business in the first place. It's hard to give yourself a break when you enjoy what you are doing but when you take breaks and explore other areas of your life along with your creative work, it leads you to more creative outcomes.

How do you think you stand apart from other creatives?

I would say two things: 1) Unlike a lot of designers, I'm half analytical and half creative. This allows me to not only be good at creative tasks and projects but also very strategic; and 2) My design background is very multidisciplinary, and my experience has touched on different areas of design and other creative fields (from advertising to coding, from print to user research). This has allowed me to offer a unique perspective on projects and have a bigger picture of what can be done and how design problems can be solved. That's why most of my clients, especially my retainer clients, treat me as their in-house creative director who can oversee all areas of design.

Can you share some lessons you've learned through your creative career?

These are some of the things I've learned in my creative career (in no particular order): 1) If you really want to build a successful service-based creative business, you must care about your clients. We often tend to blame people for sending things late or providing poor feedback, but if we create a workflow that communicates things clearly and invites them to collaborate, the results will be much more positive, not only for you but also for them. Happy clients, happy business! 2) There are different ways of niching down as a designer. It's not just by industry or type of design; it's about solving a problem (or a set of problems) for a specific group of people. It shouldn't limit you but help you be more focused. Switching my mindset around this gave me freedom instead of anxiety. 3) Not everybody understands design lingo. You have to be able to explain your work in plain English. Using design jargon that non-designers don't understand will make the bridge between you and the client much bigger.

How does tools like Webflow and Figma help your business process?

They are essential to my business and day-to-day work. They have made my workflow much more efficient and effective. Webflow allows me to create websites much faster, and my customers love it! They no longer have to worry about plugins expiring or dealing with a clunky interface. As for Figma, well, I use it for pretty much every type of design, from designing interfaces to creating proposals and client guides. My clients love how easy it is to provide design feedback and collaborate.

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