Xavier Bertels
18 Jan 2017

Looking Back on 2016

Recent history is a good predictor for the future. I want to look back on 2016 for a moment to see what went well, and what we can do better. To see if Mono is still on track to help create less, but better digital tools.

The idea is simple. Bring together great designers. Give them a chance to solve exciting interface problems for customers. Identify common problems throughout projects. Build universal solutions for those problems. Let the world benefit.

That is idealistic, which is okay. Here is what we did to move the needle in 2016.

Bring together great designers

Mono is a symbiosis of people and technology. Many things have impact on the company and on the work. In a small company, people have the most dramatic effect. To succeed, we need to work on the right problems. And we need to bring some of the brightest interface designers together.

We set the bar high. Last year, 74 designers formally applied for a job. We decided one in 74 was an excellent designer. As a small company, we offer designers a high degree of independence and control over their work. No project or account managers. No hovering art directors. That also means a high degree of responsibility. It takes a special kind of designer to make that work.

We are grateful that Simon decided to start work with us in 2016. Hannes, who we have worked with since 2015, decided to join us as well. This meant we could start working on problems together. When we started Mono, one designer worked on one project. Now, two to four designers work on one project. Multiple points of view and discussion improved the design work.

Yes, I am aware that we are a group of middle class guys from the same age group. All of us believe diversity of ideas leads to stronger projects. And we try hard to find people who have a unique background or point of view. That said, we can do even better and this is something we will improve in 2017.  If you feel you or someone you know can add something unique, check out the job description and hit apply!

Work on exciting interface design problems

Let great designers work on the wrong things and it will amount to little. Let them work on the right problems and magic happens.

The following are my favourite Mono projects from 2016, in no particular order.

SweepBright

A suite of applications to make real estate brokers more effective and more efficient at their job. Interesting because of the multi-platform approach and complex customer journeys. We had to come up with less, but better digital tools for real estate brokers, so they can focus on their job again. Simple is hard.

Schoolonline

New feature designs for Schoolonline, with a focus on student care and evaluation. Interesting because of the impact on thousands of teachers and schools.

Schoolonline Calendar User Interface Design

Parcify

A business-critical operations center for startup Parcify. Interesting because we needed to assess the current situation, design a scalable solution and challenge the business logic.

Parcify User Interface Design

Identify common problems and build solutions

I am proud that we shipped two solutions publicly: Keynote Extractor and Bedrock.

Sharing Keynote presentations with presenter notes is impossible

Johan often shares Keynote presentations with presenter notes. He was frustrated that there was no good way to do that. Keynote Extractor is our solution. And we’ve made it free for everyone.

Screen recording of Keynote Extractor extracting a file

Building advanced HTML prototypes with documentation and navigation is hard

When we design a web app, we deliver an interactive prototype. It looks and feels almost exactly like the end product. It contains a UI guide with components, sidebar navigation, instant browser reload while coding and much more. Simply put, Bedrock helps us to create quality prototypes, fast. It is open source and free of charge. If you are a designer, you need to check it out.

What I look forward to in 2017

Tech has never been more exciting. If we feel things are moving fast right now, I think 2017 will feel even faster. I want to learn more about artificial intelligence. I think it will have a tremendous impact on the way we interact with machines and by extension the world around us.

I also think virtual reality is an interesting field, which needs exploration by designers and tinkerers alike. We are cooking up something around that topic. Watch the newsletter if you are interested.

Most of all, I hope 2017 will be as good as 2016. If I can post something similar to this next year, I will be one happy designer:

A collection of photos from 2016

Xavier Bertels

About the author: Xavier Bertels is a designer and managing partner at Mono, where he helps companies deliver simple, useful & beautiful digital products. He tweets as @xavez.

2 thoughts on “Looking Back on 2016”

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When I read this, I end up thinking “I wish I was a designer so I could work with these people”. Which I think is the biggest compliment I could give.

Looking forward to reading your future stories, avidly following from the sidelines :)

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@Wim thank you so much for the kind words!

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