We can’t believe it! Graphic Mint are celebrating a decade of making people’s lives better through good Design. That’s 10 years of co-creation with Users and stakeholders, 100’s of collaborations with our clients across many disciplines and 1000’s of Design reviews and iterations – all with our User-Centred focus. The Graphic Mint journey is one that has taken us from Silicon Valley in California to Dublin’s City Centre, and beyond!
To mark this historic moment for our company, Co-founders Julián Becerra and Séamus Byrne tell the story of Graphic Mint. From the early years setting up in Dublin, growing a Design Agency to plans for what’s in store for the next decade.
Activate Plan B
“The story of Graphic Mint started off as the perfect antidote to the global economic bubble bursting”, says Séamus. “The climate in Ireland in 2008 was like the climax of the Fight Club movie, with companies collapsing everywhere around us, people losing their jobs and emigrating. Austerity was consuming Ireland and it wasn’t an ideal time to start a business.”
“It was always our plan B,” says Julián. “We had talked about starting a Design company many times, but the global economy going down the tubes was the catalyst for us to get up and actually do it. With our skill set and background – we knew we could make something happen on our own.” Julián continues, “Initially, it was literally Séamus and I working out of our living room. After six months with our work strewn across the living room and kitchen-table, we felt it was time to get out of the house and we went on a hunt for a suitable office space. We rented our first office on the top floor of a 4-story building on Camden Street, sharing the building with an English language and study abroad school. We had a great view of Dublin and the stairs kept us in good shape.”
Séamus adds, “I went to Synge Street for primary school around the corner, so I knew the area would suit us well. Thankfully at the time the area had not been gentrified by the ‘Celtic Tiger’, so we felt we were on the edge and that we were representing different perspectives!”
“It was thrilling to have our new office space and being in the bustle of the city,” says Julián. “We were a part of the community, even started the ‘Keep it Local, Keep it Camden’ movement with a few other small businesses in the area to try to generate a buzz around the place. We were there for four years, and at that time it was a really exciting part of town.”
“When the area became more hipster than hip, we knew it was time to move on,” Séamus adds.
Honing Our Craft
“It was challenging in the beginning because no one really knew who we were”, explains Julián, “or understood what User Experience (UX) or Interaction Design (IxD) was. Initially, we relied on newsletters, SEO and AdWords to get our name out there, as well as word of mouth.“
“Our uniqueness as a studio also came from the fact that Julián and I approached Design differently,” says Séamus. ”Our individual perspectives often unearth a healthy creative tension which helps us improve the overall quality of the output. It meant our work was always well-thought-out, evaluated thoroughly and the attention to detail was impeccable. We always saw ourselves as the ‘haute couture’ of User Interface and User Experience Design.”
“Clients started seeing the high-calibre results and that we knew what we were talking about – so the word began to spread about our studio. Clients referred us to their friends and luckily it snowballed from there,” Julián elaborates.
Design Community Volunteerism
“We were also heavily involved in a number of organisations, primarily the Interaction Designers Association (IxDA). Séamus was not only the founder of the local chapter, but also the first European member of the Board of Directors.”
“I remember the first meet up back in 2008”, Julián continues, “when the economy was as grim and dark as the weather on that particular day, but somehow we knew the tide would turn in due course. Together we helped bring the Interaction Conference to Europe for the first time ever, including over 800 experts in the field of Interaction Design from around the globe.”
“We continued to volunteer for the organisation for a few years after. This further helped to get the company name out there. It was through this community that we unraveled the potential of our local industry and our service offering, learning how to communicate what exactly User Experience (UX), Interaction Design (IxD), User Interface (UI) and Usability Testing (UT) were. Over time, the skeptics and the believers began to understand what these terms actually meant, without having to camouflage them as Marketing, Branding or Web Design as we did in our humble beginnings”.
The story will continue in a future blog post. Be sure to follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with our latest updates.