Saturday, February 22, 2014

Friend ventures:

Sushi by Matt Lehman

This story starts one very cold autumn afternoon when I've met Manuel - totally accidentally we started talking at the sushi bar while I was having lunch. Now I feel honor to call him not only a friend but inspiration as well. Manuel together with his colleagues created an application which was an outcome of Stanford university course, that's where they all met. The very early stage of was produced as an assignment for the course, but a bunch realized what an opportunity they've touched and decided to bring this venture outside of education institution walls. Its now end of February 2014, 6 months from initial start and the team has produced apps beta version.

I haven't had a chance to check it myself yet, but Manuel was kind enough to demonstrate how the service looks. And sure, the experience is breathtaking. Value proposition is as follows: it helps you sell all your stuff in less than a minute. Pretty impressive, right? Mainly app is targeted at mothers because every mother knows kids grow like weeds. What to do with outgrown clothes and toys? We all have items that we no longer use, collecting dust in our garage or closet. Because selling unwanted items is a long and tedious process, sites like eBay are built for professional sellers. Manuel thinks that everyone should be able to sell their items quickly and easily! With all you need is your smartphone.

I'm also very interested in behind the scenes of Because all the team is scattered around the globe the way they work represents already established trend - distance is not an obstacle. 4 People with average age of 32, live in 3 different time zones, truly international team consists of professionals from St Petersburg, London, Rio de Janeiro and Los Angeles. It is merely impossible to have everyone online at the same time hence BaseCamp is essential for workflow. 90% of communication is happening there. It makes you prepare and think thoroughly your questions and answers, because the next chance you'll have is in 24 hours".

Guys integrated testing deeply into their development process. Number of interviews were conducted with friends and strangers at the Starbucks and similar places. A lot of valuable realizations came from those interviews, for example old web page was changed to a new, a lot of people did not understand that they had to scroll down. Also message was not clear enough, a lot of text made it look confusing. Website was changed into conventional segmented website with navigation bar at the top, homepage now consists of one clear message and 3 bullet points and call for action. In first 10 sec you understand what's the service about.

I have some early shots of the app, but my understanding is that in final version it'll look a bit differently.


Manuel said that the app is not about features, want to change the way people sell. They want to reduce waste and the app is just a tool to accomplish that mission. 

In upcoming weeks beta testing will take place with pre-selected users, after this test, final adjustments will be made and is going live. I can't wait to try it and see if I can sell my old printer using it. I'll come back with my impressions when the app is published. I'm very keen to see how they solved all of the UI and UX problems.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Graphically powerful names that won't let you sleep at night

Good friend of my better half has a photography studio which she runs with her boyfriend. They're focusing mainly on wedding photography but also do some really nice personal projects. I had a honor of designing a logo for them, which they're using till this day. Their venture is called AA Studio, two As stand for their first names Aušra and Aleksandras, this is one of those names which have a huge geometric power behind it. "A" is one of the vertical symmetrical letters, which by itself hides an enormous compositional opportunities. In this case there are two of them which makes all the possibilities even more endless, if one could say so of course :)

First iteration for the logo was done more than two years ago, but to be honest, I wasn't completely happy with it. However guys adopted no3 (good choice from the selection btw) and were using it happily ever since.

When project like this comes a long one can't just simply forget it, especially when you're not absolutely happy wit the outcome. It is one of those things that keeps coming back to your mind because you feel the job hasn't been completed fully yet. So eventually when the stars were in correct alignment and wind was blowing frenzy behind the window I've eventually laid the ideas down on paper.

My favorite is this:

I chose to keep the top alignment of the "studio" letters as I believe it can serve as a natural bridge between first and second logo versions. I also like the relation that is being represented by the placement of the two A letters, they're similar in size and shape but also unique in the form they're created. The distinctive element of the logo is that both letters are dominant - just in different dimensions. The "A" that's being displayed in front is more coherent and defined, while the other "A" might look as its behind but it is on higher Z axis, hence on top of the first one. The relation between the letters show how two individuals can connect and and in pair form an iconic, rememberable union and symbol.

In the case of "AA Studio" I was focusing on creating an iconic symbol which shows the conjunction of two individuals rather than displaying a label of camera or something similar. Not to dwell to much but just in general I believe logos should be more than a literal labels displaying the industry that company is representing, anyway this requires completely separate blog post.

Logos aren't something that I do usually and are more of a hobby for me, but if the entity behind it stands for the values I believe in I'm more than happy to help communicate them through the visual medium. There are a few other my created logos that I'm happy about, I'll post them in following posts.

A few of my favorite AA Studio pictures:

Like and follow AA Studio on their Facebook page.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Noahs conference 2013

Not so long ago in November 2013 NOAH conference took place in London. Together with the team we had a booth there and showcased Flick a Trade. Noah, according to their website is
The preeminent European event where Internet CEOs, executives and investors gain deep insights into the latest proven concepts, network with senior executives and establish new business relationships.
And sure it is one of the highest profile events, we had our app running on iPads so anyone interested could have a try. It was a pleasure hearing all the compliments, people were just wowing and it was a hit, everybody wanted to try.

I was fortunate enough to meet some of the highest profile VCs and people who are at the edge of innovation and are C level decision makers.

Our CEO, Kerem Ozelli was presenting app during Pitch session, you can check the video here:

he covers almost all of the main topics that we stand for.

Conference also had some other very interesting talks out of which I enjoyed mostly interview with Oliver Samwer from European Founders

some pictures to illustrate it:

Thats the iPad version of the app that everyone tried 

thats happy me next to our fantasy markets, fine example of Galvorn, Kryptonite and such

The conference was a blast and I can't wait until next year.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Exciting times ahead and Good UX is Unique Solution to a Unique Problem

It's a becoming a norm for me to have enormous gaps between my posts here, its like as if I'm accumulating all my ideas and have a burst of them in one go every six months or so. I should try posting something at least each month because current technique does not work really well. I end up with just a few random news and they're not that exciting. Aaand I should stop writing about how I write... Lets go down to real business.

In recent months I've been highly involved into working on UX and UI. Our company in addition to our London crew has two other offices in Dresden, and Vienna. Just after Christmas holidays we had a big workshop in Vienna for a whole week, teammates from all over Europe flew to Vienna. I can not stress enough how important it is for all team members to have a common understanding on where the product is heading and share the same belief about our mission. 

St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna
St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

Before going into details about my personal realizations I'd like to remind to those who are not aware, that before Christmas we've released v3 of the app which included new, very exciting segment - multi player mode. People still can trade against the market but scores that they acquire are not their final profit - at the end of every day we distribute the winnings to the top best players with best scores. That way, even if the market was playing against you, you still have a chance to go back home with sizable prize. It works like this: you pay $10 as an entry fee and we grant you access to trading floor for 5 minutes, you can enter the game whenever you want and play how many times you want, the only limitation is that you can trade for 5 minutes at a time. Every time you enter a game $10 fee is deducted from your account and added to the pool which is then distributed to the top players, so in some days you can still win even with negative score. Anyway that was the v3 its currently out on iOS so if you haven't tried it yet, go ahead link is here (ps. don't forget markets are closed on weekends) also updated video trailer here:

Six months ago we knew where we were going and its super satisfying to see ourselves here, but it is much more exciting whats planned for the future. For apparent reasons I can not disclose how much app will be changed in upcoming months but I can assure that it is worth waiting. What we've came up together is truly lifting personal financing and trading to a new level. Working with people who are specializing in different domains empowers birth of amazing ideas and even more amazing and engaging discussions. It is very interesting to see how user experience is comprehended by front end developers and system programmers. Working together in design sessions, consensus on essential topics are met way easier than in waterfall structure, iteration and feedback we got from each other was priceless.

Some people treat UX as a new trending topic and characterize it with traits such as objectification or staticness the truth is that it's not a subject of trend, strong UX is always a unique solution to a unique problem. It shouldn't and just can not be compared to a trending colour that you apply for a dress which makes it sell this season. It is way more than that. User Expierence is a path that users take on their journey together with the product, it is the exciting momentum that is being captured by every person, it is the most intimate moment that we User Experience designers have honor working on. 

I learn a lot from my colleagues, I'm very happy to see such professionals surrounding me every day, it is them who create environment where personal growth is unavoidable. Well that and books, God I can't tell you how much I love books. All the knowledge of humankind is captured in those lovely collections of words, sentences paragraphs pages and ideas, my recent books that I've read: Lean Startup - this one was on my list for quite some time. Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a must for every one involved in technology development, weather its your job passion or just something you're interested in. As the boxer Mike Tyson once said about his opponents’ prefight strategies: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” the book is exactly about how not to get punched. Lean UX - a natural second step after Lean Startup, this one is about application of Lean Principles on User Experience. It touches a few interesting points and focuses mainly on integration of lean ux into already existing organisation, could be handy. I'm currently reading The Tipping Point, it compares ideas to viruses and analyses how they spread and what traits are shared. Absolutly amazing book, I'm enjoying reading this a lot. After I'm done with Tipping Point and it looks I should be done with it pretty soon cause its just melting in my hands I'll immerse into "Start with why" by Simon Sinek recommended by @Tomaslau. Tomas is a great person and product guy whom I've met not so long ago, I guess he wouldn't be angry if I'd also call him a Despreneur - a mix between designer and entrepreneur it is he who came up with the term and as a matter of fact is writing an amazing magazine just on that topic (design, technology and entrepreneurship) which can be found at

Well this came up a bit dispersed but I'm gonna come back to this post and give it some more structure later. Over and out.