Anchor List: Teresa Man, Lead Designer at Superhuman

The Anchor List recognizes extraordinary operators in the startup ecosystem. Learn more at anchorlist.com

In our highlight reel of Anchor List honorees, Teresa Man deserves special mention for her impressive achievements leading design for Superhuman.

“Every product occupies a different space and tailors to a different market, so it’s important to create a unique design standpoint for the audience through the product. Compared with other approaches (such as adopting established design paradigms), this kind of methodology can draw criticisms for not being immediately intuitive or posing a steep learning curve, and this is a trade-off I consciously make in order to stand by my products’ principles.”

Originally interested in photography, print media, and advertising, Teresa’s success leading Superhuman’s design stems from her ability to evoke emotional responses through precise, nuanced, and artful subtleties. As Superhuman’s only designer, she has led the entirety of the email expediter’s design work, from its desktop and mobile product experience to its marketing design. 

Reflecting on her experience in transforming the typical drudgery of email into a satisfying, Zen, and game-like experience filled with speed, flow, and beauty, Teresa highlights the value of diving deep into the customer’s perspective. In addition to her habit of shadowing customer onboarding calls (to gather implicit information that customers wouldn’t otherwise provide), Teresa always ensures she fully understands the customer’s perspective before leaping to action. As she puts it: 

“Before designing a solution based on customer feedback, my process is to reverse-engineer how they arrive at their conclusions by understanding, truly, what it is they are looking for. This strategy often involves reflecting on previous communication or further reach outs, but those are a necessity.”

Paralleling Teresa’s devotion in customer experience is her ability to design a thriving company culture. In her collaboration with colleagues, Teresa promotes retrospectives, leads company-wide design lunch & learns, and spearheads diversity-related initiatives and events. This cultural focus has inspired Superhuman’s design culture to be full of healthy, open, and honest relationships.

Thanks to this cultural focus, Teresa has been able to overcome many of the challenges that would have stymied other designers. Despite being the only designer, for example, Teresa treats her colleagues as though they are her direct design peers by brainstorming with them and bouncing ideas off them. Her openness and honesty have also helped her overcome some of her personal weaknesses, such as her lack of a technical background. As she describes: “By being forthright with my inabilities, open to feedback, and engaging in early communications with engineering, transparency can promote healthy collaboration.”

By focusing on the human experiences of relationships, culture, and product design Teresa has transformed the drudgery of email into an enjoyable act of flow. In including Teresa on the Anchor List, we are especially impressed by her empathetic design abilities and her self-effacing focus on others, working tirelessly to create an environment in which customers and colleagues experience Zen-like success.