• Weeknote 481

    February 9th to 14th

    When we started the second chapter of precious in the fall of 2012, we defined a list of principles. Among them were transparency and participation: we wanted everybody in the company to know how much money comes in and how much goes out (and for what). And if we make more than we spend, everybody should benefit from our financial success.

    Just allowing everybody in the team to see our bank statements wouldn’t have made much sense. It’s just numbers, hard to interpret correctly for someone without a knack for financials. What looks good to a financial lay person could be disastrous in the eyes of an expert.

    Honestly, even Christophe, Michael and I, the three partners, felt insecure to make meaning out of our financial statements. So we hired Sören, our “CFO to go”. Over the last months, he has been working with us to understand our financials better – and to find a format that lets us share them with the whole team.

    It took longer than we hoped for, but this week we were able to present the outcome of this long process. Sören gave a great introduction into the financial basics of a company like us and explained the results of 2014. Then he presented the “monthly fact sheet”: a one-page financial summary of the previous month. As plain as possible, as accurate as neccessary. And visual of course. It breaks down our revenue and costs by project and puts it into perspective to the previous months.

    From now on we will present and discuss this fact sheet once a month with the whole team (of course everybody can have a closer look into our financial accounts if she is inclined to). Everybody will know in (almost) real time how the company is doing and together as a team we can make better informed decisions. Should we take on this project? Do we want to spend amount x to remodel our office? What can we do to be more profitable? Do we want to be more profitable at all?

    In this half day workshop with the team, we also introduced and discussed our idea of a profit sharing plan. I might get into detail on this in another post.

    I was glad and even relieved after we presented our ideas to everybody. It was long in the making and I consider it a major step towards our goal of a sustainable, responsible and humanistic company.

    Actually, this whole issue was so important to me that all the other events of this week got a little blurred in hindsight.

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 479 - 480

    January 26th to February 8th

    With the constant stream of client work, you easily forget to work on the company, rather than just in it. There’s always something else to do which seems to be more pressing. And why bother? Everything is going alright.

    One of things we learned as designers over the years is that you have to leave your comfort zone to do great work. If it rarely feels uncomfortable, you probably just took the easy road. Not the best one.

    It’s similar with a company (which we always think of as a design project anyway). You can take the autobahn like most people do. Until you get stuck in a traffic jam. Or speed up until you loose control and crash. And even if you don’t, taking the little, steep, winding roads that aren’t even on the map is always more rewarding.

    So we are trying to get out of the autopilot mode more often and think about where we want to steer our little company.

    In the last two weeks, Christophe, Michael and I were working on strategic matters and we’ve started to prepare the results of this process, so we can share and discuss them with the whole team. It’s something we’ve been postponed for too long and I’m glad that we are finally addressing it properly.

    Back to the stream of client work I mentioned in the beginning. We’ve kicked-off two new projects in the last two weeks. Best thing about it: we get to see more of our Berlin friends Silke and Philipp, who will be in the studio regularly. I’m not sure if they ever worked together before, but I’m excited to see what will come out of the collaboration of such amazing designers.

    In the last months, David's screens are usually gleaming in subtle greys, blues and glues, interspersed with the occasional pale yellow. Now it seems like he is testing if his Eizo monitor is really capable of displaying millions of colors, as he is defining a pretty extensive color palette for Puichon.

    This – along with Christophe’s current main focus, labeled in our calendar as “config sessions” – fired up our constant discussion about new Sketch plug-ins. Watch this space (or this) for further announcements.

    Amanda illustrated logos for Malakwa and started a new, small reprise of a project we worked on last year.

    Sean was snowboarding in the Alps, so Florie continued alone with the concept and interaction design for a suite of apps.

    While Marcel is intensely working with a team from mindmatters on Malakwa, my involvement in the project has become less time-consuming. That’s why I started to work on something new. It has a very small screen, a limited color-palette, few typographic possibilities and many other constraints. Challenge accepted.

    As always, Aisha made sure that the studio is running smoothly. I guess that there was a lot of tax stuff involved, but more visible to the team were the fresh fruits subscription she organized, the acquisition of certain kitchen utensils and our new soy milk, which makes wonderful cappuccinos, flat whites and the next big thing in coffee culture: africanos.

    We also had some visitors. Svenja dropped in with her adorable baby boy, a gang of toddlers converted the studio to a bobby car race track and students of the Zurich University of the Arts came by to learn about the way a design studio works.

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 478

    January 19th to 25th

    Every week, usually on Thursday afternoon, we do a weekly review. Everybody gathers in The Box and presents what she or he has been working on in the last days. We experimented with different formats and lately it has evolved to this: three keywords/hashtags and three slides that describe the week, one learning, two minutes time.

    I missed this week’s review, but I had a look at the slides on the dropbox. Here are some hashtags that safe for work and don’t violate our NDAs:

    ContentCreationism, #sliceanddice, #ErstdieNasedanndieBrille, #überüberüber, #ThinkingLessComplicated, #TAGSTAGSTAGSTAGSTAGSTAGS


    That's what we did this week.

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 477

    January 12th to 18th

    We have a new temporary team member: Luna is doing her high school internship at precious. For two weeks she will be in our studio to get a glimpse of what it’s like to make digital products – and design her own smartphone app!

    It’s interesting to have a true digital native around. Usually we work with people like ourselves, who experienced the olden days, when you had to drive to a store to buy music and dial in with a modem to receive emails (around 1 to 5 per day). It’s refreshing to listen to someone who doesn’t think about the iPhone as a piece of magic, but as something as trivial as tap water. It also makes you feel a little bit old, though… (No, never heard about this latest chat app, but hey, I was among the first 50.000 people on friendster!)

    Part two of our soul searching sessions: this time we talked about what kind of “impact” we want to make with our work. We didn't came to a conclusion during our 2-hour workshop, but it was great to listen to everybody’s thoughts on this topic. To be continued.

    Projects: nothing new, we are all still busy with the same projects as last week.

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 476

    January 5th to 11th

    It’s been a long time since I wrote the last weeknote. After my return from the Pacific Northwest, where I spent three months on parental leave, I dived right into a project that demanded at lot of my presence with an external team. I spent more time at betahaus than our studio, which disqualified me for writing about the activities of the rest of the precious team. Thankfully Christophe carved out some time to prevent the weeknotes from withering away.

    Before coming to the main act – week 476 – a few more words on the recent weeks.

    Three month is a long time. And although I wasn’t completely out of the loop while away, a lot happened which I wasn’t aware of. When I left in the summer, we couldn’t complain about a lack of work. When I came back to Hamburg, I was kind of shocked – in a good way – how busy the place was. I said goodbye to a handful of people before leaving the country, I said hello to almost a dozen in November when I returned to the studio. During my absence, some familiar faces started to work on projects with us again, new people joined the team and a few freelancers supported us. Actually so many people worked there, that I didn’t even have a desk on those few days when I wasn’t at betahaus.

    I can only imagine how intense the time must have been for Christophe and Michael. They did a terrific job, because the company was doing better than ever. Despite – not because – my absence they assured me. Phew…

    Fast forward to last week, which started yummy. Louise cooked for the whole team to celebrate Michaels birthday, which usually doesn’t get too much attention in the studio, because he shares it with this guy who was supposed to be born 2014 years ago (give or take).

    More food was brought in on Thursday. Florie introduced us to the French tradition of Galette des Rois. David was appointed king and had to wear a crown for the rest of the day.

    Between all those meals and cakes and the usual cappuccinos we even managed to get a significant amount of work done.

    Jan worked on a search algorithm, which in itself is a small new project, but could be the basis for a more extensive one. Unfortunately this was the last project with us for a while. After supporting us for about 5 months, he will pursue another endeavor for the time being. But we hope to get the chance to work together in the future.

    David, Michael, Marcel and Jan finished a prototype of a news app that will be tested with a couple of hundred users in the coming weeks.

    Marcel, Amanda and I, together with a developer team from mindmatters, kicked off the next phase of Malakwa. After a month focusing on conception, prototyping and evaluation, we now entered the production stage.

    David and Christophe worked mainly on Puichon. I would love to give you some more info on it, but it’s kind of hard to describe it in a few sentences. I hardly understand it myself, although I was very much involved in the project at some point. But it has evolved a lot. It’s crazily complex, but somehow they managed to get a grip on it.

    Florie has worked on the same overall project, but in a totally different way. Her output was research findings and scribbles related to a type of application we all use on a daily basis.

    So much about our current projects. To get a better idea of the type of work we want to pursue in the future, we had an internal workshop with the whole team. We explored what makes a project worthwhile for each of us personally. I won’t go into much detail this time, because we will have some more follow-up workshops about this topic. Once we get a clearer picture we’ll share the results.

    Happy new year!

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknotes 472 + 473

    December 8th to December 19th

    The last two weeks of 2014 have been pretty packed: with final spurts for ongoing projects, many lovely people in the studio and some christmas festivities. And there's also sad news: Chiara, one of our design interns left us to go back to Venice/Italy to finish her Master degree in Design. Thank you so much, Chiara, for having been part of the precious family for the past 6 months, for bringing in your talent and skills, your valuable time and your dry humor. We hope you learned something and we'll stay in touch. Ciao e a presto!

    On December 11th, we started our precious xmas bash around 13:00 in the studio – with 15 people involved this year for the first time! Our wonderful cook Louise was here and prepared another delicious meal for everybody, including a very photogenic dessert. After our (not so) secret specialty food Santa and the first appearance of our collaborative xmas playlist, we all took the bus to the Hamburg Museum for 1,5 hrs of Hamburg history injection with our highly amusing guide Frank (if you need an english speaking Hamburg city or museum guide: hire him!).

    Since the Winterdom was already closed, we took a walk to an en route Christmas market to enjoy some sweet and sticky Glühwein. We ended the night at cozy Café Leonar with a relaxed and tasty dinner. Over there, we've been welcomed by a nice drink and Nis playing a blend of diverse pop songs on the grand piano (identifying "Where is my mind" by The Pixies was the hardest I think).

    On December 18th, parts of the team working with our beloved client and partner NumberFour took the train to Berlin to spend an afternoon and evening of preparing, cooking and eating together with more than 40 people at Bio Lüske. It was another great chance to meet and interact with the full team, and although my personal main cooking activity was drinking red wine, I really enjoyed it. So thanks again for inviting us!

    I hope we'll be able to give some more insights and reflection about our project activities again in 2015. So far I would like to close with a heartfelt Thank You! to everybody we worked and spent time with this exciting and eventful year 2014. Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year to you and your families – we're looking forward to see you all again soon.

    As promised, here are the last few missing precious #teamselfies:

    David

    David
    Designer

    David joined precious in 2010, when we were just 3 people and still in our old studio. Almost everything he touches turns to IxD-and-UI-gold. He's the only High German speaking person in the team and his High Sketch skills are unrivaled.

    Michael

    Michael
    Co-founder & Designer

    Michael is a designer who thinks like an engineer and likes to use the tools of a programmer (when he's not currently running a design workshop). Joining precious as a partner in 2012 is one of the best and most enriching things that could have happened to this company.

    Johannes

    Johannes
    Co-founder & Designer

    Johannes co-founded precious together with Christophe in 2005. At that time, the two were already running a record label together, with a lot of attention on design and novel music business approaches and products – a business they eventually turned into a design studio. So what's next?

    Christophe

    Christophe
    Co-founder & Designer

    Christophe played the drums in a punk rock band, which was "discovered" and signed by Johannes' first record label venture in the late 90s. This was the beginning of a very long-term partner- and friendship and the rest is history, as they say.

    Over and out. See you in 2015!

    Posted by Christophe.