We started Uncommon (now Obvious) eight years ago with a view to building beautiful, performant mobile applications. We were excited about the possibilities afforded by a powerful computer in everyone’s pocket. Back when good design was yet to be recognised as ancillary to performance, we saw the possibilities that existed. We began with this vision:
Like many other companies that started from a design-first approach, our clients often approach us as if we were interior decorators, whereas, a better analogy for the role we play is that of an architect.
Rather than just picking out a new rug to tie a room together, we look at the purpose that each space has, break down some walls to allow people to flow from the kitchen to the dining room more easily, put in a modular shelving system to house a future book collection, and, in some cases, bring in a geologist to survey the bedrock that the house was built on.
Having worked with over 120+ clients, where others see dots, we see patterns. We have the advantage of…vantage. Of both having solved similar problems across different industries and having solved so many types of problems, that we’ve evolved a series of processes and ways of working that allow us to rapidly get up to speed on where our client’s problems lie, and what methods to follow to allow us to get to the right solution.
As technology becomes a necessity rather than a luxury, we hope to be the first port-of-call for any organisation that’s looking to use technology as a force-multiplier. We believe that co-creating solutions with end-users, validation through prototyping and rapid iteration are the ways in which design can be channeled as a business-enabler. And we believe this is regardless of whether it’s an app-based startup, a paint manufacturer that’s looking at creating an internally-focused inventory management solution, or a massive consumer giant that’s looking to deliver a personalised experience for its customers.
From Uncommon to Obvious
We started our journey as a digital agency by setting ourselves up as an alternative to mainstream ways of thinking about software – we wanted to be, and were, uncommon. Over these years, we’ve now realised that we don’t want the processes that we follow or the ways in which we run our organisation to be limited to us. We don’t want these to be uncommon, we want these to be followed by everyone: we want to be more obvious.
We’re moving to a policy of public-by-default on all our processes, work and policies (check out our Playbook here). We’re making our work—and our ways of working—more obvious. We want our clients (and other designers, people who aren’t clients yet—anyone really) to take our ways of working and build on top of them. We will come up with solutions so well thought out that what was once unimaginable now becomes obvious.
As more of our work shifts to massive scale (into the hundreds of millions range from the tens of millions), product design and engineering will need to be more accessible. They have to fit in with people’s lives, fit in with their contexts. Thoughtfully designed accessible products needs to be less uncommon, and far more present. It needs to be available. It needs to manifest less as the difference, and more as the default option.
Good product design: it’s got to be Obvious.