Ambitious, engaged and devoted to helping their clients visualise innovation, the creative team at Ampersand & Ampersand thrive in the face of a challenging brief. Beautiful design is subject to opinion and it takes a certain type of team break down the metaphorical box and drive blue sky thinking. We spoke to Nader Alaghband, Jose Fernandez and Boris Cardozo about working with a diverse pool of clients, driving successful products and the subjective reality of creativity.
“We ask how technology is going to play a part in helping address the challenges of the future.”
In the heart of the buzzing Great Portland Street in London, lies a straight talking, passionate mobile and web agency, Ampersand. They’ve been running for five years and house talented creatives, engineers and visionaries who are working towards a solid and simple mission. To do absolutely the best work they possibly can. Nader Alaghband, Founder and CEO, Jose Fernandez, Art Director and Boris Cordanzo, Creative Director joined us for a casual chat about how they do business in design.
“A lot of people use us as an innovation function within their businesses to look inward and devise better internal workings or to explore the future of the industry they’re working in”, Nader explains. “We ask how technology is going to play a part in helping them address the challenges of the future”.
Ampersand work with both early stage, high growth start ups who are looking at industries they could disrupt and enterprises and institutions like the NHS, to think about how they can deliver services differently to avoid being disrupted.
Once a brief has been set, Jose and Boris mockup designs, send it to the market research team and test the response. More often than not, the original design gets pivoted many times. “The initial brief that clients provide is almost always very different to what we eventually deliver, based on the research we do, A/B testing and quantitative analysis. Research and strategy are very much a part of what we do, we’re not just a production shop.”
“We are 75 per cent people who make things beautifully. 20 per cent people who sell things beautifully and 5 per cent me sitting on the sidelines, cheerleading.” – Nader.
When discussing the structure of the business and it’s creative focus, it’s really all user experience, identity and content strategy. They are the important aspects of helping clients to define themselves from a business perspective and then bringing that into a practical vision.
In order to give their clients visibility into the experiences that Ampersand are building for them, the team use Marvel for each of their projects. Nader tells us that for ideation and concept development, you can use Marvel. From thought to prototype. This is what Jose loves about his job, creating and pulling it into something tangible for the client. Seeing ideas come to life.
We asked Jose and Boris if they knew that design was their calling their whole lives. Boris spent some time following in the footsteps of his family, trialling sailing and investment banking. Until his family told him, “It’s clear what you’re going to do – just go do it!” Whilst Jose, utilised studying economics in Madrid to understand the way the world works before going to work in marketing for Disney and Marvel games. His move to London brought on his transition from marketing to graphic design. “I’ve been working in creativity my whole life – anyone working in creativity loves their work.”
Although, it is not without its challenges. Jose tells us, “There is a lot of pressure when you have a blank sheet in front of you and a brief beckoning. It’s not easy. You don’t always have the same state of mind to create things. You have to motivate yourself everyday, to be engaged and optimistic.”
Helping clients to visualise innovation is not without its challenges. In design, there is no right and wrong. It is subjective and beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Boris tackles this issue head on and explains, “You have to get out your own comfort zone and really accept that what might look best in your head might not to someone else.”
“Great UI wouldn’t actually mean anything without great UX or great engineering. It would just be art.”
“I think that there are trade offs between building things that function as you want them to and things that look how you want them to. A lot of the talent that our team brings to the table is actually a fusion of those two things. Sure, we build great UI, but great UI wouldn’t actually mean anything without great UX or great engineering. It would just be art. It’s about finding that happy medium, recognising that there’s often no right and wrong answer and about UX and best practice.”
“Some of our best work is achieved when we are pushed out of our comfort zone.”
Some of our best work is achieved when we are pushed out of our comfort zone. The proof is in the practice, Boris tells us that the difference between what they produce today compared to what they produced three years ago, is night and day. Whilst it can be frustrating when a client is unhappy with initial prototypes, taking feedback on board helps make products better and drives and inspires the next project.
Prototyping really helps clients to visualise the results of their creative briefs in a realistic and effective way. Providing realistic mockups allows you to test quickly, without delving into the time consuming and expensive process of coding and eliminates ambiguity. Using prototyping tools ensures that designs and UX are combined in one space, enabling the visual to spark conversation and fluidity in the creative practice.