Mobile Inc

Mobile and Web Product Designer from London


Designers Making Moves To Disrupt Recruitment Agencies

A couple of years ago I made the decision to switch from full-time employment to working freelance. I’d spent a lot of time hiring freelancers to help deliver projects whilst at agencies (via recruiters) and it seemed like they had all the fun bits of being a designer but none of the crap, so I made the jump and have been here ever since.

Working with recruiters as the client was never easy, I always seemed to spend a lot of time and effort filtering out candidates with the wrong skills or being told candidates had ‘mobile experience’ when the only thing they had done was a few iPhone mockups for a pitch. Recruiters are suppose to reduce pain, not increase it, I eventually saw it as a necessary evil.

Now I’m the one looking for freelance work it’s not a surprise to find out the experience is the same. I get dozens of time consuming emails, phone calls and LinkedIn requests each week which amazingly amount to nothing.

Recruiters misreading my profile and skill set matching me with unsuitable jobs, contacting me with hardly any details on the role or they shroud the whole thing in secrecy assuming that I would just take their word for it that the client and project are ‘industry leading’. The lack of transparency is infuriating.

Recruitment agencies feel broken and in need of disrupting.

I was once looking through some CVs with a colleague and had a discussion about how great it would be if talented designers started their own recruitment agencies.

Rather than just matching words from a brief to words on a CV or LinkedIn profile, they would really understand your needs or skillset and you could trust their judgement when they suggested a candidate or project. They would be honest and up-front with commision rates and cut through the bullshit and get you great projects to work on.

As it turns out that’s exactly what is happening.

I’ve been noticing more and more designers are making moves to replace recruitment agencies with their own solutions. What’s interesting is the different approaches each has taken. I’ve listed the ones I’ve found over the last few months:


Yuno Juno

“We ain’t recruiters. Just a few creative and tech folk who want to build a decent community of people hungry to do good work.”

Yuno Juno was set up to let talented freelancers connect directly with the companies that want to hire them and take the pain (and middlemen) out of the process. They are transparent about their costs (5% for employers, free for freelancers)




Folyo is a private designer community. Post your project, and we’ll send it to a list of hand-picked designers all over the world.”

To keep the quality high, the designers on Folyo must be accepted by the guy who runs it, a top designer called @SachaGreif.

It costs $100 to post a job and designers are the ones get in touch if they are interested and available. If not designer is found, the fee is refunded.

I recently signed up and the first email I got had a couple of good product design projects with respectable budgets.




Ooomf is similar to Folyo in many ways in that it’s a handpicked private community and members get in touch if they are interested in the job posted.

Here’s the story behind Ooomf

“Before starting ooomf, most of our founding team worked as independent developers and designers.
Too often, however, our time was spent searching for high quality projects to work on. Filtering through project proposals and identifying those that had respectable budgets, briefs, and timelines was all-too-painful and the not knowing where your next project would come from was a fear that we regularly lived with.
Once we founded ooomf, we also noticed issues on the other side of the table – where to find quality talent to work on our projects?  We started ooomf to solve these problems.”
And here’s how it works:

“You can post a project on ooomf and if you’re project is approved, you’ll gain access to our handpicked community of 1,000+ developers, designers, and copywriters.

Each project that is submitted is reviewed by us and the ones that meet our guidelines are sent out by email weekly or bi-weekly (based on the quality of the supply) to our curated community of web and mobile professionals.

Acceptance to our community as a developer, designer, or copywriter is by invite-only to ensure that we build it right from the start.”



Juiicy is a completely different approach where designers who are too busy to take on work post the job they can’t take on and get a cut if someone else does it, effectively turning designers into recruiters. (Read more here)

Juiiicy will be a private community. Only invited designers will be able to post jobs and apply to them. Once the designer post a job, the client receives an email with a link to Juiiicy where he can see all the activity about the job (who applied, how much the designer that got hired charged the client, and so on…). Once a client hires one of the designers that applied to his job, he will pay the invoice at Juiiicy. Then Juiiicy will split the money between the designer that got hired(80%) and the one that spread the word(10%).

Created by Julian Renvoye, a fantastic designer from San Diego, Juiiicy could be the most disruptive out of the bunch. I have to turn down several projects a week, if I could make 10% off each one, then why wouldn’t I use Juiiicy instead of turning them away?

I’ve no doubt we’re just seeing the beginning of job sites for designers by designers. Let me know if you’ve tried any of the above or know of anymore sites to add to the list.

I’m currently using Dribbble (also started by a designer) as my primary source of freelance work, signing up for the Pro account is the best $20 I’ve ever spent so I recommend trying that out too.


A couple of great looking additions in the comments and other places,

– @mutlu82


Maybe It’s Our Expectations That Need To Change, Not Ad Agencies

The following post is written by mobile strategist Tim Dunn. Tim and I have worked together in the past and often discuss whether agencies could (or should) make products. Tim follows up the great post by Jules Ehrhardt and is part of a series of articles on the subject. You can follow Tim on Twitter here: @timmcdunn

I’m intrigued to see another round of opinion pieces circulating along the lines of ‘Why Are Agencies Not Innovative’ and ‘Can Agencies Ever Make Products Successfully’, in particular, Jules Ehrhardt’s piece from early last week.

The reason I felt moved to reply this week in particular is not because I particularly disagree with much of what is written. For sure, many agencies pay lip-service to the notion of innovation, and declare they are becoming products-and-services businesses without really making any steps to take on that competence.

All this is true. But the question we should be asking really is not whether we as agencies are failing to fulfil this role, but whether it’s realistic for us to do so in the first place. Why should ad agencies with both history and skills in ‘comms’ need to expand out of what they do best? And even if agencies were to try and do this – is it even possible?

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Will Ad Agencies Ever Make Products Successfully?

The following post is by Jules Ehrhardt, partner of design studio ustwo. It was originally written as a comment on a excellent post by Matt Edgar about agencies building products, republished here raw without edits and with his permission. I thought it was a great follow up to Josie’s post about ‘saving the agency’ and another perspective on the hot topic. You can follow Jules on Twitter here: @ezyjules.

There is close to zero chance to any of the big guns pulling ‘product’ off without completely gutting and refitting themselves, which would take till 2020 if it was even possible, by which time their model will begin its extinction cycle. Ad agencies are dinosaurs in terms of size, agility and long term prospects. They had a blast in the Triassic (50′s to 80′s), a boom in the Jurassic (90′s to 00′s) and now we are at the start of the Cretaceous (2010 to 20??). We are witnessing them lumbering towards extinction as the environment around them changes and slowly starves them of food.

Your choice of the words ‘lip service’ are apt as I believe in 2013 we are going to be seeing a whole lot of posturing from Ad and marketing agencies pretending they are anything other than ad and marketing agencies. We will be seeing, incubators, product, experience, UX whatever pose they feel they need to strike to stay relevant in the next age, whilst nothing will in essence change. Regarding the inevitable in-agency incubator trend, personally, I wouldn’t trust an ad agency to design the product or service of my startup, maybe maybe to sell it later, but not to design it.

Nike Plus is heralded as the future of the brand / agency model. It is truly a wonderful fusion of product, brand and lifestyle. However, name another example of something of its calibre, just one. Ad agencies simply cannot do it. Having just about gotten their heads around building websites (in the context of useful product, let us ignore Facebook fan pages, micro sites and pointless branded apps – (see they can’t even ‘do’ mobile without screwing it up.

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Curation And Incubation: The Evolution Of ‘Saving’ The Agency

The following post is by Josie Brown and quite possibly the first of a series by guest writers. Josie is a good friend of mine and having previously worked at Iris, McCann, RKCR Y&R I thought it would great to see her point of view on the blog as we often find ourselves debating the whole ‘future of the agency’ topic. You can follow Josie on Twitter here @josiedbrown. Discussion welcome.

I remember when I persuaded my first boss to hire me. Back then, at a small agency, the brainstorming was done over a few nights with a bottle of wine, the timings had some breathing space and the clients didn’t expect an answer until the end of the day. Life was ‘fast’, we were nimble and our clients were still on broadband. That was eleven years ago and agencies have changed you’ve probably heard the same rumors I have “the agency model is done for”; agencies are sluggish and redundant and their ideas don’t seem to be that big or new by the time they go live. Tech companies, start-ups and web-entrepreneurs are the real leaders of the pack and attracting the top talent whilst creative agencies are finding it hard to be the cultural innovators they once were.

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Making A Useless Viral –

I’m a big fan of the growing trend of single function (or zero function) useless viral websites, everything from OMFGDOGS (307,000 likes) to Cat-Bounce (456,000 likes) will always get a smile and a retweet out of me.

I’ve been meaning to build my own one for quite some time, it wasn’t until I saw The Useless Web that I decided I needed to hurry up and make something before the buzz stops. If you haven’t checked out The Useless Web, it’s a site which has collects all these viral sites in one place and shows one at random each time you visit. Genius really.

I liked something that @frasiocht said to me recently about how popular memes and content on Reddit “almost has its own tone of voice”. I think that there’s definitely a truth to that and it can be applied to these useless sites to, tho I can’t quite explain it yet.

So it was time to crack on and create my own useless viral. I decided to make a infinite video loop of Alan Partridge shouting “Dan!” in probably the most popular episode of the I’m Alan Partridge series . I thought it ticked all the boxes of something that would be shared by people, mainly it evoked strong emotion. Nostalgic, geeky, funny and very British. Plus it was very likely to be shared by some of the 1.5 million people called Dan.

I had some time free one Sunday evening and decided to get started. Being a terrible coder, I looked around for a easy to edit open-sourced script that could play HTML5 video full screen and stumbled across Jquery Video BG and basically hacked the crap out of it.

Two hours later was made, ready to share with the world on Monday morning. I submitted the site to The Useless Web and shared it on Twitter and Facebook, then waited to see what would happen. It gradually spread across networks, peaking on Thursday and Friday with 10,000 views and 2,000 likes. When the weekend arrives the traffic more or less stopped, picking up again on Monday with 8,000 views.

On Tuesday The Useless Web accepted the submission and started sending a huge amount of traffic, around 30,000 views per day, at this point it was getting 1000 likes every 24 hours on Facebook, however not much activity on Twitter in comparison which tells you something about what kind of content people are more likely to share with friends. For some reason it was really popular in Brazil.

As the buzz for The Useless Web declined as did the traffic to the site, it currently stands at 18,000 and 1,200 retweets after 22 days, with 286,000 views (click on graph to enlarge). This gives you a indication of what kind of traffic Cat-Bounce must have seen to get to 456,000 likes.

The mobile traffic is pretty interesting too (and very familiar):

There was some good banter on Twitter:

And naturally it’s being shared by thousands of Dans:

If you work in advertising you’ve probably had a brief from a client that’s said “Make this go viral“, often followed by some tragic content that no one you know would ever bother sharing and will fade into the abyss a week after launching.

The next time you get that brief take a look through The Useless Web and see if you can find some inspiration, there really is something to be learned from a site that takes very little time to make yet is shared like crazy.

0 – Our Hackday Winner


Once me and @frasiocht arrived in San Francisco for our month-long tour we didn’t really have a plan of what to do. Luckily the city has plenty to offer tech tourists like us with tons of meetups, talks, events and hackathons happening everyday.

After spending our first week eating burritos and going to dive bars, we slowly began getting into work mode and found out about a hackday on at the Mashape offices. Mashape are an Italian originated startup with a very cool hacker house setup near downtown San Francisco.

The challenge was to create any idea using their API aggregation platform and complete it by the end of the day, ready to demo and present to the rest of the house at 11pm.

After the 10am briefing we got to work, @frasiocht took care of the front/backend coding and I did the design (click the image above to enlarge). My instructions were clear “Don’t do any of that gradient/dropshadow shit, we don’t have enough time” , I duly obliged because of rule #1 – never upset your developer during a hackday

Fuelled by free cookies and pasta, we created Tuner, a website that pulls in the songs in the Billboard 100 then runs the lyrics through a sentiment analysis API to organise results into several categories which we wanted to draw attention to such as ‘Most Profane’, ‘Most Sex Obsessed’ or ‘Most Negative’. We used the Musixmatch API for the lyrics and chart ranking and Text Processing for the sentiment analysis.

Our idea came from a conversation I had with @frasiocht about how generic rap music was these days and if it was possible to show common lyrics automatically. This expanded into looking at the entire Billboard Top 100 and using all this overlooked lyric data to analyse songs in a new and interesting way.

We presented Tuner to the house and after a nervous wait we were awarded with the $500 1st prize!

We’re only scratching the surface with what Tuner can do. There’s some real potential to do cool stuff with this data, especially if we add the ability to show trends over time. For example how much has profanity increased in songs over the last 20 years? Have songs been more positive or negative during the financial crisis? What type of song is more likely to get into the top 10?

All in all it was a great experience for me, putting yourself under pressure to complete something in a day really helps you strip to the core of a idea.  If you ever get to San Francisco make sure you throw yourself into a hackday.

The guys at Musixmatch loved Tuner and we’re now in discussions to turn it into a great web service.  Stay tuned.

Check out Tuner and let me know what you think!


The Art Of The iOS Icon

One of the great things about the App Store is that it inspires so much creativity from designers, it seems like there’s great new ideas for interfaces and interactions every week that delights the design community.

There’s one sub-section of mobile design that never seems to get enough exposure – App Store icon design. It seems to have developed into its own art form, with immensely talented icon designers finding more and more clever ways to showcase the app in a small square space.

I can’t say it enough – never underestimate the importance of a great app icon. It’s the first thing a user sees before downloading your app (I’ve downloaded apps in the past solely on the icon making the app seem interesting).

Agencies never seem to make decent ones for their clients. It’s really easy – 1) Put £500-800 of your budget aside, 2) Contact one of the guys below 3) Get your gorgeous app icon made.

You can watch a great video of one of the designers making a icon here. Or if you fancy making your own, here’s a handy iOS icon PSD template that resizes and exports using actions.

Update: Many people have asked what these icons would look like at 57×57 and 114×114, check out to toggle between sizes

Here are my favourites:

By Ramotion

By Roman Jusdado

By Konstantin Datz

By Konstantin Datz

By Konstantin Datz

By Aditya Nugraha Putra

By Saturized

By Konstantin Datz

By Dash

By Ryan Ford

By Roman Jusdado

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Never stop making – Great Talk From Threadless Founder Jake Nickell

Here’s a really inspiring talk by Jake Nickell, the founder of Threadless and follows on nicely from my last post.

Jake explains the importance of creating things and gives some great advice to anyone looking to start their own project.

“Making stuff is the most joyful occupation that we ever engage, it’s the closest we come to god”

Threadless started off as a side project and is now generating over $30 million in sales.

Check it out:


Just Make Stuff.

Back in November 2010 whilst I was in full-time employment, Apple had just launched iOS 4.2 and I was spending a bit of time reading about all the new features of the latest OS update on Mobilexweb.

I stumbled upon one in particular that really got me thinking – the ability for Safari to use the iPhone’s accelerometer (the tech in the phone that detects movement).

This seemed like the perfect opportunity to quickly release a proof of concept using the new feature, right in time for Christmas and get it out there before anyone else.

I reached out to the senior management of the agency where I was working at the time for the funds to hire a HTML5 developer for a couple of days. I suggested  an accelerometer-based Christmas card that we could send to clients, thanking them for their custom over the past year (and showing them what cool stuff we do, maybe even get some press). Standard agency stuff.

My request was rejected.

It was decided that the money would be better spent on Google Adwords campaigns to generate new business leads for the agency. Anything innovative would have to wait until a client came along and wanted it.

Two things happened at that moment… 1) I decided that I needed to go back to freelancing  (I handed in my notice after the new year) and 2) I would make something using the new iOS feature in my own time.

Sadly I’m not a developer so I did what I always do in these situations – ask my good pal Brendan (@oh_moore) if he fancied coding a ‘mobile snowglobe’ that animated everytime you started shaking the phone. Without any hesitation Brendan said yes and that evening he already had a hacked-up prototype of the snow.

I put together the design for the page and asked another friend Leigh (@leighpearce) to do the illustration for the snowglobe. We all worked on the idea a couple of hours here and there in the busy run up to the holidays.

We released the snowglobe into the world just before Christmas and I followed up with a blog post on boxing day.

It got around 25 retweets in total, a couple of nice comments here and there but nothing crazy. We had a fun experience and moved onto the next spare-time thing.

I think both Brendan and myself would agree that it wasn’t the most polished of sites, however as a proof-of-concept it was brilliant. It would have been great to spend a bit more time to iron out the kinks and design but hey, we had presents and turkey to attend to.

Fast forward to almost a year later and the highly regarded mobile design and UX expert Luke Wroblewski (@lukew) announced he was releasing a book called Mobile First.

There was a lot of buzz on Twitter and lots of positive reviews when the book launched- after a while I figured I should probably read it and got around to ordering a copy from the States.

When it arrived a few weeks later, I opened it up and skimmed through the pages…. there it was! Sitting on page 41 ….

Our snowglobe!

I had no idea it was going to be in the book and I’ve never even spoke to Luke. The blog post and the snowglobe barely got any traffic (note to self – never launch anything on Christmas Eve or write blog posts on boxing day), so it just goes to show the importance of getting your ideas out there because you never know who could be looking.

Life at a agency can be tough if you want to explore this big new technological world we live in and create stuff. It’s often expected that ideas only form around clients or projects – the reality is that the best ideas often don’t and never will involve either of these things.

You simply can’t rely on clients to help you innovate – by the time they know what they want it’s already years old. Nobody needs or cares about another QR Code or Blippar campaign but clients seem to think it’s the dogs bollocks.

We are in the most exciting time ever in our industry. The speed of change is huge, every OS update, device or social network brings more and more opportunities to make amazing, fun and interesting stuff.

Things like apps have lowered the barrier to entrepreneurialism – Eeeeevveryone has a idea for a app, some of my mates don’t even know how to use a computer and they have app ideas. Everyone wants a slice of the pie, they know the time is now – everyone apart from agencies that is.

And this is the problem – the current culture of agencies is creating a workforce of idea hoarders. Creatives, planners, copywriters and developers keeping the best ideas for themselves because they would rather do that then give them over to their employers – even if that means those ideas may never see the light of day.

You only need to read the comments and the tweets around my post ‘Can agencies create the next Angry Birds? to see that even with all the resource and skill that an agency has, people see no personal or professional incentive to give away their best ideas.

This great comment from Alec hits the nail on the head (goes back the entrepreneurial mindset in place right now)

There’s no incentive/ownership structure within any of the agencies for which I have worked that addresses ownership of IP on an individual level. On the outside chance that my idea does turn into a million or billion dollar enterprise, I will not be happy with just a pat on the head or an advertising award.

I use to be of the opinion that getting my ideas made at work was the best strategy, I have so many that it was unrealistic to think that I would be able to make most of them even if I had all the spare time in the world. I’d rather have seen my stuff out there than sat on a notepad somewhere in my flat.

But now when the most simplest ideas get rejected internally, with no incentive to generate concepts unless there’s a P.O – it’s apparent the only way to do this stuff is collaborating with like-minded people in your own time.

If you’re working in a agency and you feel like your ideas aren’t being engaged, in my experience there’s a strong chance that others feel the same – team up with them. Get your ideas out there, whether it’s a sketch, prototype or just a simple blog post.

Who knows what might happen.


Spare Time Project! The InstaBAM! iPhone App – Find Instagram Photos Around The World

At the beginning of 2011 the popular photo-sharing network Instagram announced they would be opening up their platform to allow developers to create their own funky applications and tools.

I hooked up with expert dev Brendan (@fraislocht) and got right on the case to create a mobile website called InstaBAM (works on desktop too) which uses the location information attached to photos uploaded on Instagram to enable people to view pictures around where they are standing.

It was a very simple site for a simple concept – ‘View the world around you through the eyes of others’ . We knocked it together one Sunday evening and launched. The site was surprisingly popular and still is to this day, it should pass 60,000 view by the end of the year.

This led to a conversation with my iOS dev homeboy Jonathan about what we could do next. We decided to use some of Brendan’s hard work and quickly create a iPhone App version of InstaBAM.

In May InstaBAM hit the App Store, available to download for free, it was pretty much a replica of the mobile site and after a initial burst of downloads, they dropped heavily and we left the app unloved, languishing in the depths of the store.

I never blogged about the app or told many people because I always knew it needed more work to get it to a point where it could be used regularly.

Towards the end of the summer we decided to give InstaBAM a refresh, add some new features and a whole new design. We’ve both managed to nick a few hours here and there each week and get something out which is pretty interesting tool to explore photos.

All of the credit has to go to both Jonathan and Brendan, two insanely busy developers that are still willing to take time out and stay up late to work on my crackpot ideas.

So if you have a iPhone click the button below (or click here) and download InstaBAM, it’s completely free and you don’t need a Instagram account to browse local photos.

download Instabam from the App StoreCredit for the photo donation goes to Chris Constantine, photographer and head of design at Sponge.

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