Excellence in Action

Emerson Taymor ’09

Emerson Taymor is the managing director and co-founder of Philosophie, a digital innovation firm with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. It helps large organizations validate and develop their promising ideas through agile design, rapid prototyping, and software craftsmanship. Whether it’s to reduce costs, explore emerging markets, or improve the customer experience, Philosophie applies a startup mentality and toolset to deliver meaningful, rapid progress. Emerson is a former instructor at General Assembly, where he helped craft its front-end web development and JavaScript curricula. Previously, he spent a decade as a freelance designer and worked at San Francisco and New York advertising agencies. He graduated cum laude from UCLA in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Design and Media Arts.

Describe your career path from UCLA to your current role.

I started Philosophie in my last year at UCLA. I was actually going into my fourth year and I started it with another gentleman, who graduated a few years before me, named Skot Carruth. He was in the class of 2006 and I was in the class of 2009. We both just said “Let’s team up and see what we can do.” We serviced some clients, developed a portfolio of work, and then the day I was set to graduate, he had put in his 2 month notice for his job at the time, we moved into a larger apartment, and we got straight to establishing the business. The front of the apartment was our office and the back was our living quarters. From there, we evolved the company. It’s hard to get a more direct path than mine from UCLA to where I am now since I met my cofounder while at UCLA and the company was in a field that I crafted my skill in while at UCLA, since my major was Design Media Arts.

Philosophie helps companies figure out how to survive the future by quickly making and validating their most promising and crazy ideas. So we call ourselves a design innovation firm and we take crazy ideas that big companies and small start ups have and we bring them to life as quickly as possible.

What inspired you to choose this career path?

I’ve been doing freelance design and development my whole life. All throughout middle school, high school and UCLA, I continued practicing this skill set. My cofounder felt the same way. We just decided that since we’re both interested in freelance, why don’t we team up and see what cool stuff we could build together. So it started off as being passionate about putting out good work and seeing where that passion would take us.

How did your UCLA experience help shape your success?

So I think in many ways, meeting my cofounder at UCLA was probably the biggest part of my UCLA experience that helped shape my success. I also think studying design at UCLA was a great opportunity for me to practice my craft and learn from great mentors and teachers who really pushed me. I just noticed yesterday as I was talking to my team in New York that not many people on our team have formal design training, and I think one thing that they miss out on is that ruthless critique and creative process that UCLA provides. In our early days, we worked with many Bruins. Early on, we had a lot of great contractors like Nick Fehr, Dru Bramlett, and Matthew Manos who worked for us straight out of school. Having small team of passionate people who loved to deliver execptional work really helped us get out of the gate.

In what ways have you utilized the UCLA alumni network?

My cofounder is a UCLA Bruin and we had a lot of early employees and contractors who were also UCLA Bruins. There is no way we would have made it to where we are now if we didn’t have those people. One of the things besides design that I was really into at UCLA was sports. I was on the leadership team of The Den and I formed great connections with some of my best friends today, not through business necessarily, but just through life. It is kind of cliché but there is absolutely no chance that I would be where I am today without UCLA. There were a couple clients that were Bruins or that found us through the Alumni Association, but really for me, the UCLA network has always been about the relationships that I built while at UCLA. Those relationships might turn into clients one day but I’m just passionate about being friendly and having a chat with people on different topics, and UCLA has been a great way to keep those connections alive.

What has been your greatest career challenge and how did you overcome it?

I think you always have challenges running any sort of company, especially a small business. For the past month, it’s been a little slow in the New York office and yesterday, I delivered the state of the office address to the team to rally them up and share some of the frustrations that I, along with the leadership team, are having. I gave them insight on how we started Philosophie and how we could get to the next level. I’m personally not very good at giving feedback and it was challenging for me to just come out to the team and put my foot down, but I think it was necessary to grow and move past our recent challenges.

What advice would you give to UCLA students and alumni interested in Computer Science/Entrepreneurship?

For alumni, really try to make as many awesome relationships as you can and be as nice and outgoing to people as possible because you never know when one of those people might turn into a really valuable contact or into one of your best friends. It could be someone that you think the you’re not going to like, but give them a chance and be willing to help. When you look at people specific to computer science or entrepreneurship within UCLA, you should be willing to help. When we started Philosophie, Skot and I were working 24 hours in coffee shops in LA and the reason we were doing it was to deliver awesome work. It didn’t matter what our hourly rate was, it was just about how we could deliver awesome work because then we would have references that could help take our business to the next level. The field right now is super competitive and it’s only going to get more competitive and I think the way people can set themselves apart is by working harder and by delivering unique services. One noteworthy aspect about the field of computer science is that technology and design are becoming more and more valuable in different professional industries. So I would say that if you are in those fields, be an expert in your craft, but then also see how you can solve problems from different angles. Always work hard, think about delivering value at every step of the way, have fun, do side projects, and be creative.

How do you support and participate in the UCLA community now?

I try to organize some UCLA events out here especially around sporting events. I’ve got a pretty good base of Bruin friends in New York and we’ve done a pretty good job of meeting up for the football and basketball games for watch parties. I still try to get back to campus at least once a year and visit the design school or just go to a basketball game. I’ve got a pretty wide network and good set of friends from UCLA, so I’m definitely passionate about the group there. That’s probably the best way I stay in contact.

What makes you most proud to be a Bruin?

To me, the most awesome part about UCLA is the alumni network – so many different types of people went and come from UCLA. It is so diverse and beyond that, you have so many super successful people across all walks of life and disciplines and I think that is a very inspiring thing and something that is pretty hard to beat. It’s cool that people have friends from all different parts of the country or the world and still make time to see them or visit them. That’s a very special thing about UCLA – the mix of culture, diversity and success of the alumni network and also how supportive and friendly people are amongst that world.

What’s next?

I’m working on a side project – a fashion brand, Boldly Different Threads, with clothes for the modern day gentlemen that scream “work hard, play hard.” They’re crazy shirts and pants that have weird cuffs, collars, and pocket sizes. So that’s one side project that’s just kind of fun. I think beyond that, my goal is to continue growing Philosophie. Right now, we’re at about 50 designers, developers and product strategists and we’re trying to grow that in both size and reputation. We’re really trying to make a name for ourselves in terms of the type of work that we do and the results that we have with clients, so I hope that 2 years from now, people see our work out there much more frequently than they do now.

Interviewed by Stephen Mendoza, Business Economics student (exp. ’18)