Lyft hires Katie Dill as VP of Design

Lyft has hired Katie Dill as its new Vice President of Design, overseeing design in a broad sense across the company, covering user experience, product and more. Dill joins from Airbnb, where she was Director of Experience and helped usher in the peer-to-peer rental business’s new brand identity.

Prior to her time at Airbnb, Dill was a Creative Director at renowned firm frog design in San Francisco. She came to design in a somewhat roundabout way, she told me in an interview, having started off in college with a Bachelor’s degree in History.

“I grew up on the East coast knowing very little about design, and graduated from college still not having even heard of it,“ Dill told me in an interview. “I learned about the actual practices of design, and it being a profession through the IDEO ‘making a shopping cart’ video. A good friend of mine knew about the little inventions I wold make around the house, saw the video and thought ‘hey this might be a good fit for your.’”

Dill’s background might not have been in design, but she was naturally driven to create solutions to problems by inventing or modifying her own tools and devices – she realized this could be a career path and moved across the country to study industrial design to make it happen.

Eventually, she ended up at Airbnb at a pivotal time for the company. The peer-to-peer lodging startup was just coming in to its own, moving from a period of hyper growth to one of maturation as a brand and as a business, and part of that maturation process was developing a new brand ID and guiding design principles to move it into its next phase.

Dill thinks that her experience at Airbnb should offer a lot of crossover for her role at Lyft. Both are hospitality businesses, she says (and Lyft co-founder John Zimmer’s background in hospitality truly shows in Lyft’s approach, according to Dill), and. both are double-sided marketplaces where the key to good design is balancing the experience of both service providers and service users.

“The similarities are that Lyft is working at building a service that goes into the online and the offline worlds, it develops a community, and it’s helping to leverage hospitality to make an experience great,” she explained. “It’s growing rapidly, too – earlier this year, only half the U.S. had access to Lyft and now it’s 95 percent. That kind of rapid growth certainly has lots of potential, but also has lots of challenges.”

Ultimately, the carry-over skills and experience from her time at Airbnb are core to what she’ll be doing at Lyft, as well.

“I’m familiar with building a community between strangers and developing trust between strangers,” Dill said. “I’m familiar with developing a service that in many ways equipped a community to deliver that service, as opposed to it being delivered first and foremost by employees.”

I asked Dill about how she views Lyft’s autonomous driving ambitions, and whether that will impact her job from a design perspective. She said that it all ties in to the core hospitality goals of the company, as a service provider and a platform on which others can offer their own services.

“John Zimmer’s background in hospitality is one of the things that inspired me most about Lyft in chatting with the team. Seeing how the company has brought that into everything they’ve done has been really inspiring. It’s more than just a ride, it’s more than transportation – they really are building a community and ensuring that experiences are great through that lens and that absolutely will hold true with autonomous as well.”