Once upon a time there was a Jess and an Amy.
We worked together for the same company for five years. Jess led the UX Design team and Amy led the Project Management and Technology teams. We worked with a fantastic group of folks to build a pile of challenging, experimental and creative online products in the early days of Social Media and Social Business Design. We were lucky enough to be given the flexibility to build our teams to respond to the projects, best practices, new ideas and culture that we were experiencing. That was a very special opportunity.
Design and delivery often present challenges that require opposite resources. Over lunch or a Guinness, we often discussed ideas about how to design & deliver more successful products for the user and for the stakeholder or client. There was constant balancing, levelling and knolling.
We slowly started to form a hypothesis: that joining-up the traditional roles of strategy, design & development, putting some power and klout back into the hands of the ‘doers’, and using a process that allows a team to iterate, learn and course-correct, will yield better quality products.
We also noticed that when team members have the opportunity to act as equals, they will be more engaged and genuinely motivated to do their best work. Perhaps the entire Agency business model could be improved. We had the luxury of working with some fantastic designers and developers over this period and were reluctant to detach from them. But we felt the best way to test our hypothesis and achieve our goals was to be as lean and small as possible, then assemble teams with the best folks for the job, project by project.
One year later: Jesamy LTD
We had a few questions about working as a two-man ship. How do we sell the value of a UX & Producer pair? Can we make an impact on large or small teams and big product ideas by just being two people? Can we design the company we want to work for and the benefits that will keep us excited? Will the HMRC really let us name our company Jesamy? It’s been a fantastic year and we’ve engaged with some great clients. To drop a few:
- We worked with a well-established enterprise product company who were redesigning and undertaking a switch from distributing their software on-premise, to cloud-based SaaS distribution. We helped them integrate UX design & research and inputted on their transition from Scrum to Kanban.
- We worked with a fabulous group of game designers to help design a mobile app that subsequently achieved an ambitious Kickstarter goal.
- We worked with a government body to build two mobile-first financial and budgeting tools.
- We went to India to teach the latest in design and development methodologies to an enthusiastic Development team.
- We designed workshops for two early start-ups to help shape their minimum viable product.
- We contributed our product vision, UX and interaction design tinkerings to a fabulous team who were building a new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platform.
- We worked with a well-known beverage company to build an online identity and social campaign for their brand redesign.
We discovered that the two-person UX & Producer pair does in fact make sense. Two heads – one with a penchant for Design and the other with a penchant for Technology – cover more outliers, have lightening bolt interaction design ideas and argue about important things that our clients wouldn’t necessarily pick up on. We confirmed that we can make an impact and that our voice is clearer together somehow. Yes, you can design the company you want to work for: holidays, sick pay, maternity leave, day spas, the works. And, well, HMRC did indeed let us name ourselves Jesamy. Not bad.
Why the grass raft?
In the summer of 2012, we were taking our standard Thursday lunch break on the River Thames in London. We were pipe dreaming about working together. There was a 80’s motorboat anchored 20 meters from our bench. We laughed about plotting a motorboat escape (read: hair blowing in the wind, white unitards, oversized champagne glasses). We identified that our plan fell short only because there was no way to get on the motorboat. Shortly after, a large panel of grass floated by. Naturally, we suspected that this was our portal to the boat. The grass raft became our exit strategy from our Agency-bound lives and, sensibly, a critical staple in Jesamy identity as a symbol to work in a non-traditional, lean way. We’re yet to recount this story without chuckling, but the fact remains: one often sees a sign, when one’s ready.