Designer Pages: Building a New Architecture for Design
The story of Designer Pages begins in 2007 with a student intern, one big problem he was looking to solve, and a crude sketch on the back of a napkin at a pizza restaurant. Nine years later, the result of that sketch is the leading product selection and product specification information management platform for architecture and design.
From a Napkin to the Cloud
The intern was Jacob Slevin, CEO and co-founder of Designer Pages. As an intern at a large architectural firm in New York City, Slevin was expected to manage and maintain the firm’s contact list of vendors and suppliers of goods and services for design and construction projects. This information, Slevin soon learned, was maintained on Excel spreadsheets consisting of thousands of rows. He quickly realized there had to be a better way to manage the information. And one night, over pizza with a good friend, Designer Pages was born.
In the coming months, Slevin worked out his vision of creating a cloud-based knowledge platform for product purchasing and specification—what an early investor called, “a Google for architectural products.” And two years later, in 2009, the first version of the platform was rolled out.
A Knowledge Platform for All Things Design
Since its first iteration, the Designer Pages platform has continued to grow and evolve. “That’s what we mean when we say, ‘Concept + Chronology = Conceptology’ on our website,” says Slevin. “It is always evolving. Our approach to market is to profile what designers and firms want.”
Today, Designer Pages offers designers and architectural firms direct access to more than 400,00 products from 6,000 different manufacturers, all in one easy-to-use solution. Twenty-five of the industry’s largest design firms, responsible for more than 40 percent of all products purchased in the global commercial interior design space, are all subscribers to Designer Pages. The firms’ fierce competitiveness with each other led the company to evolve the platform to include independent portals on the site that could be secured against rival firms. Slevin calls this innovation “micro-communities”—private, independent spaces that provide virtual team platforms inside each firm, where design teams can work securely together while still sharing the Designer Pages database of products.
Watch the video to hear more from Slevin on the genesis of Designer Pages, the challenges they were facing, and how VMware helped them overcome those challenges. Then read on to learn about the particular ways in which VMware’s technology helped Designer Pages to scale and grow.
A Partner You Can Trust
As Designer Pages continued to grow, it became clear that its cloud-based business model needed a better infrastructure, and just as important, better and far more responsive technology support. The company began experiencing periodic service problems as it tried to keep up with surging demand, particularly during time-intensive, industry showcase events. “You look for partners who are quick to resolve problems,” says Slevin. “Every minute you’re down, you’re refunding money.” Designer Pages found the partner it was looking for with VMware.
VMware vCloud Air gives the Designer Pages cloud-based knowledge platform the speed, scalability, and control the company needs to continue delivering the services its customers want. “We’re trying to build the largest data and analytics business in the architecture space,” says Slevin. “We’re collecting this enormous amount of data fairly quickly, and it’s just growing infinitely. That, in turn, is driving the product specification process.”
“We try to be responsive to the needs of our clients and the market,” says Rob Jenkins, VP of Technology at Designer Pages. “The freedom of the vCloud Air platform allows us to allocate resources as we see fit.” Jenkins says that this freedom is coupled with provisioning speed that was impossible prior to adopting the vCloud Air platform.
“A client wanted to do a one-off training event on our platform for their employees,” he says. “We tried insisting that the normal production environment would be both secure and fast enough for their purpose.” But the client insisted on a completely independent platform for the event. “This decision was made at the last minute,” Jenkins continues, “but we were able to get it working as a self-serve platform. With our previous provider, just getting the servers provisioned would have taken us days.”
But as important as the technology VMware provides, is the customer and strategic business support that VMware offers. “We’re not a tech company. We just happen to be online,” Slevin says. “Listening to designers and working with firms to help them do their jobs better is what we’re best at. Because of that, Designer Pages has deadlines for projects being built on the site that could each be hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s why having a really dependable networking partner is so valuable,” he concludes. “VMware allows me to sleep better at night.”