Design in 2014: A year of startups and business apps



December 31st, 2014


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It’s been a year of craftsmanship.

This year we really focused on developing the design methodology that allows us to scale in 2015 and beyond. We have managed to go beyond the design language that I naturally inherited after working at Microsoft (Metro) and while honoring the same design principles, we have built a design language and method of our own, more scalable across platforms (Web, iOS, Android and Windows) and screens sizes. We are 5x more productive and consistent when producing user interfaces than a year ago.

It’s been a year of startups.

We invested nearly a third of our time this year collaborating with tech startups worldwide. There’s nothing more refreshing and inspiring that working with passionate groups of talented people. We learned so much and had tons of fun. Our contribution focused on storytelling, developing investor design pitches, user experience architecture and user interface design.

One of the startups we’d had been collaborating with since 2012, Revolv, was acquired by Google Nest a few weeks ago. Another startup, Heard has been getting a lot of good mentions and has been highlighted as one of the top startups to watch in 2015 by Forbes. In Norway, TrueGroups is a promising startup we are currently collaborating with. We had the opportunity to do some visualization for in Norway and Hootsuite in Canada as well as a few other startups in the US. We are looking forward to hearing more of their success in 2015.

We also helped Microsoft run the design track for their first Microsoft Ventures Internet of Things accelerator in Seattle. We consulted 10 startups – as part of this engagement we had the opportunity to work with incredibly talented and passionate entrepreneurs and tech innovators and helped them craft the user experience and user interface for their solutions. We dove deep into smart home, smart devices and ‘internet of things’ experience design. The work we did here is similar to the type of effort that Daniel Burka is doing at Google Ventures, helping startups by partnering to produce great design.

Between Revolv and the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator, we have definitely taken a strong foothold on designing experiences for smart devices and the world of internet of things.

It’s been a year of business and enterprise experience design.

About a third of the work opportunities in 2014 went into designing business and enterprise apps. Back in 2013 it was no more than 10%, now in 2014 up to 30% of our activities. We are expecting this will be our biggest area of work for 2015. Business apps and productivity experiences are by far the biggest area of growth, innovation and creative opportunities for designers now and in the next decade. It’s part of rebuilding 3 decades of legacy IT and business worker solutions.

The value of UX and design have made their way through consumer facing websites and apps. Now the CTOs and CMOs of the world as well as IT are finally starting to look for (and in many cases demand) good design for business apps. Tremendous potential for design innovation here. Just think about this – how many ugly, boring forms has the world created in the history of computing… never asking ourselves how to change the status quo, how to innovate, how to enhance the data capture experience? Oh my gosh, and data capture is just the tiny top of the iceberg.

We are thankful for the different software solution companies like DinERP in Norway, Nayamode and EventPoint in Seattle and Sitecore in the US, Canada and Denmark who gave us the opportunity to collaborate with them this year. Sitecore in particular has been going through incredible and well received UX changes this year. It’s fascinating to see a big corporation move so quickly toward better UX and design. We have learned tons from our partnership with the Sitecore product and UX teams this year.

Coming up in 2015

Our premiere goal is to continue to grow our presence as ‘an extension of your team, your design team’ for development shops. We will be growing our early investment and partnership with startups (including smart devices and internet of things startups) and consulting with UX and design. We will be obsessed with scaling our design methodology – We are working on a Design-in-a-box product that would allow hundreds of dev shops around the world to boost their design and UX capabilities and quality.

Thank You!

So many people to thank for this year. We were lucky to get the amazing contribution from super talented folks: Jane Park (rockstar Creative Director), Jonathan Hidalgo (UX/UI Designer), our sister Mariel who is now driving Operations for the Studio, Laurent Bugnion, Soomin and Minhye (Designers), Sandy Wu from LevelStory, Aaron Wroblewski and Iván Jiménez. Thank you everyone in Microsoft (Corrina, Albert Shum, Vikram, Mukund, Ben, Arif, Tommy, Steve, Larry, Giorgio, Dave Crawford, David Catuhe), Nokia (Arabella), Sitecore (Ryan Donovan, Jeff, Erlingur and the entire UX and product team in Sitecore), John Ballard, Mike Soucie and Jeff Mathews from Revolv, Yngve Tronstad and the couple dozen startup teams we had the opportunity to collaborate with during the year in addition to the 100+ developers that went through one of our design consultations.

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