Verified Expert Brand Designer: Phil Weiner

As a former entrepreneur turned independent designer, Phil Weiner gets the startup life. He often describes himself as a second co-founder for his clients, unafraid of 2AM phone calls and prepping pitch decks for investors. He’s a “full stack” creative director based in Oakland, CA with a passion for tackling cultural tension. Learn more about why design runs in his blood, his branding philosophy, and more.

On his ideal client:

“There are certain values that we have to have in line. The number one value is that they don’t view their people as resources, they view them as people. If I start to get the inkling that a founder isn’t necessarily great at managing their teams and their people, empowering them or removing obstacles, it’s probably going to be difficult for us to figure out customer empathy. Number two, design is an investment, not an expense.”

“Phil has worked with us to create and shape a number of impact brands like 100% Human at Work – and hundreds of visual presentations that have inspired hundreds of entrepreneurs to do something bigger in their lives.” Jean Oelwang, London, UK, CEO, Virgin Unite

On the power of branding:

“I get to be able to shape culture because that’s what brands are able to do. You can build a really great product and introduce it into the market and that’ll have it’s own life cycle until trends change. Brands can last a lifetime. I think that’s the only way that I can make a mark on the world, even if my name isn’t on the company. If it’s contributing to the brand, I’ve scaled my potential impact in the world.”

Below, you’ll find the rest of the founder reviews, the full interview, and more details like pricing and fee structures. This profile is part of our ongoing series covering startup brand designers and agencies with whom founders love to work, based on this survey and our own research. The survey is open indefinitely, so please fill it out if you haven’t already.

The Interview

Yvonne Leow: Tell me about your background. How did you get into design and branding?

Phil Weiner: So I actually didn’t study design. I’m self-taught designer. I come from a pretty cool line of designers. My grandfather drew the “I Love Lucy” heart and did album artwork for Motown Records, and typography. My mom’s also a graphic designer. She’s been with The Washington Post and The NY Daily News for years. She just retired.

The first thing they actually told me was “Don’t go to school for design. Go to school for business. Because if you don’t understand business, you don’t understand design.” So I went to school for econ and math. I studied design in “the streets”. I started my first company when I was 21 years old. It was an early version of When you don’t have any money, you have to do things yourself and be creative so I learned everything from basically failing. I know a lot about what startups are going through, whether it’s designing a pitch deck, selling a product, A/B testing, or trying to convert traffic on a webpage. I ended up selling that first company, which was a recruiting business that was based on scraping Linkedin for what we call, “The most placeable candidate.”