How did the bisons start flying?

Łukasz Kowalski
Łukasz Kowalski
May 08, 2017
6 min read
How did the bisons start flying?

[The original text is from 2017]

More and more often we employ people who are at the beginning of their career and I decided that it is worth sharing the history of Flying Bisons – until the moment when we started competing for the biggest projects on the Polish UX/UI market.

I regard this text as a form of a loose statement of the very short road that we have traveled with my business partner Kamil. Maybe it will inspire you to do something of your own.

Happy beginnings

I met Kamil on one of the crazy projects that came to my mind. The four of us, my brother, his girlfriend and my friend, traveled around Poland recording films on a tripod of the coolest landscapes (a sunset in Łeba, mountains, Masuria, etc.). The purpose of the project was to obtain an EU grant for the promotion of tourist regions in Poland. Each place had only one “visit this place” button. For this project I needed, as I called at the time, “professional” graphics. I came across Kamil, who in a few moments made the fantasticpoland.com project for me. He didn't want money, so he got a good whisky, which we drank together over 5 years ago.

 

Ready, set, Startup!

Over whisky together, another common adventure lasting more than one and a half years was born — with a party owl, namely Owller. In 2013, we started to create a startup to show who is going to a party, with whom, why and what for.

 

Owller taught us, first of all, how important it is to immediately match design goals with market needs and how quickly the relevance of the assumed business model is verified. This financially unsuccessful project was also the best business lesson we received in our lives. All the mistakes we could possibly make in the production process were made. Starting without verifying the design assumptions with the market prior to production, up to improvements on the finished product which resulted only from our thoughts and not those of the users. However, the biggest mistake that we are still seeing in more business- experienced people than we were at the time, was to undertake a very “technological” project without a technically experienced partner.

Lesson learned.

What is interesting and perverse, the idea with which we wanted to conquer the Polish market is successfully implemented by one of our clients, namely Going. We wish you luck! :)

   

Super acceleration with business knowledge

During the construction of Owller and then SpareTime (associations with the hyped Spontime 2 years later are absolutely correct), which was to put our party owl back on the tracks of broadly defined
activities among friends, we participated in business accelerators. The dozens of hours of training sessions and meetings with mentors instilled in us a lean approach and a business-oriented view of each project. We learned to present projects publicly and visually a lot better. Looking back, it was a period that also defined us as the designers we are now. Here we also met a lot of people with similar goals and ambitions. We recommend it!

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Isobar, i.e. quickly gaining invaluable experience.

Starting his adventure with the international agency Isobar, Kamil already had considerable formal experience and took the position of UX/UI Designer, and a few moments later, bringing me there. During our more than a 2-year adventure in Isobar, we worked for the biggest and coolest brands present on the Polish internet. Kamil led key projects for such brands as McDonald’s (he designed the UX and UI for the new McDonald’s application himself), Play, Coca-Cola, Grupa Żywiec, and I managed to rework dozens of projects for: Axa, Benzina, Canal+, dr Gerard, Finuu, Fisher Price, Gillette, HUAWEI, Johnson’s Baby, Lech, Loreal, Liberty, Mattel, NC+, Nivea, Opel, PKO SA, Samsung, Virgin Mobile, Tyskie, Unilever, Xbox, Zelmer, BIEDRONKA, MasterCard and CARAT. I calculated that we worked together on more than 100 projects and I can certainly recommend the structures of the agency as a step that every good designer should take.


During our corporate career, we managed to fill the gap that was an obstacle with Owller — the lack of technical knowledge. I learned how to code iOS apps. This was the moment when we started to
understand that there is sufficient value in the two of us to build our own company.

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A combination of failure, success and experience.

Ten years of Kamil’s experience, almost 5 years of my own, skills gained during that time and a lot of important contacts, spectacular failures and big successes in the corporation — that’s what we needed to take the courageous step. We left Isobar and established Flying Bisons.

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We are not a creative agency (a bit about why we exist)

We noticed a market gap.

Customers are increasingly aware of and expect a production process where business goals and users are the most important. Creative agencies incorporate user experience designers into their teams, but they do not fully exploit their potential in the production process. The agency structures are overfilled with strategists, art directors and accounts, who take over the helm of the projects at the end of the day.

Don’t get me wrong, these people are needed by the agency, but this text only talks about the production process on the Internet. Here, usability, intuition and perfect implementation should prevail.

 

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Working in the “old” agency process, we still approached each project as if it were our own startup. We always cared about the quality of the final product, and often this meant acting as the project’s advocate, i.e. in opposition to the client. The agency’s clients pay for the project to be done well, and this often means something different from what was expected by the client. Together, we noticed that our consistent approach enabled us to “do a good job”, and thus to gain more and more trust, design freedom and ever larger projects. Of course, there were also projects where the speed of the agency’s work and the number of parallel projects did not allow us to “deliver” everything we would like.

This experience has resulted in Flying Bisons approaching the production process in our own way, and every person we employ is matched to the process, not the other way round. Over the 5 years that we have known each other, Kamil and myself have noticed that almost every time we worked together on a project, we were able to take it to a higher level. We use the same approach today in our company, focusing primarily on teamwork.

Who are we?

 

Flying Bison, which is what we call ourselves, — a UX/UI studio, was created in February last year. Today, the team has 15 people and a new company partner, Michał. We run, among others, large
international projects for PwC Polska and PwC UK. We are working on Orange’s internet sales process. We design for one of the largest Polish banks and one of the leaders in the transport industry — both projects will soon be online and therefore you’ll have the opportunity to experience and learn about our
idea of developing useful products.

 

 

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Łukasz Kowalski
Łukasz Kowalski
May 08, 2017
6 min read

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