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How Shopify Built a “Growth Workshop” Team to Unlock Rapid Experimentation

How Shopify Built a “Growth Workshop” Team to Unlock Rapid Experimentation

While Shopify's growth is unprecedented, they didn't do it alone. Knowing they needed ads to expand into more countries, launch new products and offer more services required more than a team—they needed a system. Growth Workshop is Amir Jaffari's solution to getting high-quality creative assets at speed and scale, keeping their growth aimed sky-high.




Software Development



End-to-End Creative



A Culture of Resilience Breeds Growth

The first Shopify store sold snowboards. Tobias Lütke, a programmer from a small town in Germany, couldn’t find the software to power his online store, so he wrote his own.

That was in 2004. Fast forward to today, and Shopify powers over 1.5 million online and in-store merchants in 175 countries worldwide. Now with over 7,000 employees, the company is on a mission to “make commerce better for everyone”—including small businesses, global eCommerce brands, and the millions who shop with them daily.

To give you an idea of the pace of its growth, Shopify had 1 million merchants only three years ago. In 2021, they reported a cumulative gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $400 billion—double what they reported 16 months earlier.

The secret? The culture of tinkering and experimentation ingrained in its employees encourages trial and learning.


Build a System to Support Growth Teams and a Teams Growth

Typically, rapid growth means hiring more talent to build more teams to provide more support to ship more ambitious ideas.

But Shopify’s growth wasn’t typical.

It wasn’t just more merchants. Shopify was offering more services, expanding into more countries, and launching more products. All of that added up to more complexity.

With so many moving parts, from producing educational content for entrepreneurs to experimenting with new marketing channels to launching new features, their in-house designers always had their hands full.


Amir Jaffari, leading the Growth Workshop at Shopify, has been with the company for five years and has witnessed different stages of its growth. He wondered how he could preserve the culture of experimentation as the company grew in complexity.

So Jaffari proposed an experiment of his own and started “workshopping” the idea.

It’d be good to have a multidisciplinary team of people embedded with these teams to discover new ideas and identify missing opportunities because they’re so busy just maintaining what they do. We could build a whole new team to help these teams prioritize the biggest opportunities, unblock their challenges, and leave them better than they were before.

- Amir Jaffari, Growth Workshop at Shopify

A multidisciplinary team of media buyers at Shopify helped Jaffari realize his vision, including Dana Pizzolato, a growth manager with six years of experience.


Any system is only as good as its parts and, ultimately, the outputs it produces.

Before building the system, they needed to sell the idea to their creative design team.

As a designer, If someone tells you they have a better way to produce creative assets and want to implement a system that will produce creative for you, you fear losing your job.

Poor designs weren’t the problem, though. The challenge was mass-producing fantastic creative assets— especially for paid marketing programs, where you must:  

  • Be on all channels. From Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and more, Shopify needs a version of each ad in the required dimensions for each platform.
  • Be in multiple countries. Each version needs localization in various languages for all the countries where Shopify is advertising.
  • Be forever testing. Any asset created requires iterating and optimizing design, copy variants, CTAs, and regional targeting, keeping ads fresh and people clicking.

Simply put, the math looks like this:


That’s a lot of creative assets to produce and little room for Shopify’s designers to flex their creativity.

After a while, the design team was excited for us to take away the most boring part of their job. Our designers would still develop the concept using their skills to solve a design problem, but once they found a solution, they delegated the iterative work of mass-producing the assets to Celtra.

- Amir Jaffari, Growth Workshop at Shopify

Celtra, a creative automation platform to scale and test ad variations,  was a great solution but exposed other problems.

While Celtra was solving for variations in background colors, image swaps, sizes, and distribution, the design requests kept piling up. At any time, any vertical within growth could submit a creative brief. Dana Pizzolato would prioritize which one gets done on top of all the other requests.

For their multiple growth teams, by the time the designs were ready, those teams may already be exploring a new concept. The brief, and the asset that went unused, represented an ongoing problem.

Another concern was that designers weren’t building strong competencies with specific creative types across channels. They could be designing creative for a social media ad, billboard, direct mailer, or YouTube thumbnail. Briefs come in, designs go out, and designers have no idea whether or not they made an impact. The idea of exploring new opportunities was a mirage.

The design team wasn’t part of the process—they were integral to the system but not fully integrated, which often leads to burnout, frustration, or worse, employee churn.


Embedding Superside Into the System For Fast Turnarounds and Fresh Perspectives

Even with the creative management platform, both Jaffari and Pizzolato knew they needed more design support so the team could increase its bandwidth, focus on higher-impact projects, and become more strategic. Bringing on Superside was the final piece they needed to solve the puzzle.

It was more organized than using freelancers where we have to onboard each individual. And with Superside, we got a project manager who helped communicate our brand to all the specialists, and now it feels like our own external agency composed of multiple freelancers with the project manager bridging us together.

- Dana Pizzolato - Growth Marketing Manager, Shopify


For Jaffari, choosing Superside was about getting work off his plate quickly. He had looked at other vendors, but Superside provided him with easy onboarding and a simple messaging platform to quickly submit briefs and have designs within 24 hours. He didn’t need a bunch of designers. He needed the ability to scale and access a diverse range of talent.

Every time we put a project on Superside’s platform, multiple designers work on them, each with their style and take on things. We get a divergent set of ideas which is great because our internal team has thought about the same problems forever, so there are many similarities. Superside gives us a fresh perspective.

- Amir Jaffari - Growth Workshop at Shopify


The platform ensures designs are in the Shopify style regardless of the designer’s location. If they need a design in 12 hours, the project manager can access a designer in a different timezone, and Shopify can have the design done while they sleep.


Breaking Through Bottlenecks and Unlocking Growth Opportunities

In 2021, Superside delivered 1,259 hours (~105 hours per month) with 67 completed projects.


Currently, 33 people (from different teams) submit projects using the portal, accessing different capabilities, including animated social media creative, banner ads, and landing page design.

With a strengthened bond and a high level of trust, Superside’s designers now upload directly to Celtra, the creative management platform, making their system even more efficient.

Working with Superside allows the growth team to frequently and incrementally experiment with different channels and strategies to determine the best optimizations and see which experiments work and which fail.


They can take riskier bets. “The cost of failure is much cheaper now,” says Jaffari, “so we can do a lot of experiments because we get assets quickly without spending too much of our own time on it,” which translates into a pipeline full of new ideas.

Jaffari and Pizzolato’s system had turned design into a product with its own tool stack and processes—they call it “The Growth Workshop.”

Now that we’ve justified that growth marketing needs its own design team, rather than a shared team,” Jaffari says, “our creative team has blossomed into double-digit employees with their own operations manager.

- Amir Jaffari, Growth Workshop at Shopify

This team can experiment with creative-heavy channels like YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest, which they couldn’t have before due to the creative bottleneck they’ve now broken through.




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Hours Used

Creative-as-a-Subscription for Growth Marketers Like You

Unlock all the creative ideas sitting in your team's queue (and in your head). Type it into Superside's platform and watch your words become on-brand beautiful ads on any platform within 24 hours. From static, animation, and motion design, Superside gives you access to a breadth of services from ex-agency creatives from around the world (so you wake up to the designs you submitted last night). Discover the potential when design is no longer a bottleneck.


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Superside is a revolutionary way for businesses to get good design done at scale.Trusted by 450+ ambitious companies, Superside makes design hassle-free for marketing and creative teams. By combining the top 1% of creative talent from around the world with purpose-built technology and the rigor of design ops, Superside helps ambitious brands grow faster. Since inception, Superside has been a fully remote company, with more than 700 team members working across 57 countries and 13 timezones.
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