Do what you love, and you’ll do it a lot. If you’ll do it a lot, you’ll be the best at it. And when you’re the best at it, you’ll love it even more.
Please give us a brief bio of yourselves.
Levi: I’m an entrepreneur and a product person at heart, one of the co-founders of Halcyon Mobile, aiming to improve lives with simple and well designed apps & tech products.
l was born in Sighisoara, a small medieval town in the center of Transylvania. I've found computers fascinating ever since I had my first contact with them, so I went on to study Computer Science in high school, and after that I moved to Cluj to follow the same path in college. I received a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and a Master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence, which for me is - although there is still a lot to be done in this area - one of the most interesting technological developments of our age.
In my second year of college I founded Halcyon Mobile together with my friend, Szabi Szekely, to build mobile apps for Blackberry and Symbian - the top smartphone platforms back then. In 2007 the iPhone came along and changed everything. We slowly grew out of our small app development studio and started doing work for clients all around the world. In 2013, I lead the development of the "Dollarbird" personal finance app, our first (own) product at Halcyon Mobile, which ended up enjoying quite some recognition from both users and influencers. Currently, I’m working together with the Halcyon Mobile team on our next line of “Apps to Delight” - both our own products and apps for forward-thinking clients who want to stand out in this mobile world.
Jozsi: I’m a 24 years old self taught UX/UI and web designer, currently working at Halcyon Mobile. I got into web design 9 years ago in high school when I first got in touch with Dreamweaver and Flash. I had a pretty slow PC back then and while most of my friends were playing games, I mostly experimented with Photoshop and Flash. I also spent a couple of years producing music and making websites for friends, but then realized that I was not that good at the music part and started developing my web design and front-end skills.
Later on, I moved to Cluj Napoca to study Economics, but I never really wanted to work in that domain. I mostly moved because I wanted a change in my life. After just a couple of months, I gave up on Economics and started educating myself in design and front-end development. I worked as a freelancer and in-house designer for 3 years for agencies and startups from around the world.
What do you do for inspiration?
Levi: Reading, listening, observing... It might take away a bit from the “magic” of design, but I think most of the innovation in the world happens through crossover and slight change of different, interesting ideas. And most of those ideas are already out there in the world, so you just have to combine them in a smart way. I think great design is less about a strike of genius and more about hard work and a laser focus on something you’re passionate about.
Jozsi: Usually I just go out for a walk in the city, have a coffee in my favorite bistro, observe people, architecture, basically everything that surrounds me. I’m happy to have some creative and inspiring friends around too. I also read blogs, mostly about architecture, fashion, lifestyle, and not necessarily web or mobile design related ones...
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
Levi: http://medium.com - the rest are mobile apps :)
Jozsi: I have a few of them, but here are the ones which I check regularly for inspiration:
http://convoy.tumblr.com/ - great blog, showcasing a lot of beautiful things; I really love it.
http://www.swiss-miss.com/ - you can always find some interesting stuff here.
http://www.freundevonfreunden.com/ - showcasing creative people and their workspaces, homes; has interviews. I check it every 2-3 days.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Levi: Building Halcyon Mobile - which slowly earns its title as one of the top app development companies in the world. And defining and leading the development of Dollarbird, the calendar-based personal finance app.
Jozsi: It’s already a big achievement that I do what I love for a living and that my work reaches people all around the world.
How many hours do you work each week?
Levi: 50 in the office + lots of additional hours at home, which I don’t really consider work time.
Jozsi: Usually, I work between 40-45 in the office, sometimes a bit more if needed. Besides that, I always experiment at home as well, working on side projects, trying out new ideas, thinking about the next big thing.
How do you relax or unwind?
Levi: Fishing and just spending some time in nature.
Jozsi: I’m pretty bad when it comes to relaxing. I can’t really turn off my brain and not think about work or some side project. However, sometimes it feels good to get away from technology for a couple of days, to go on a trip with friends in the mountains, play some video games, or just enjoy a cold beer.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
Levi: Building tech products without internet or researching Artificial Intelligence. Or perhaps fly-fishing in Canada.
Jozsi: I would probably be an architect or a product designer. I have a really big passion for both, I read architecture magazines and blogs on a daily basis. They really inspire me.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
Levi: Favourite: designing and building products. Hardest: juggling 1000 different things at once. When I get stuck, I try to take a break - it resets me to a high level view again and usually that’s enough to consider alternatives and find a solution.
Jozsi: My favorite part is the beginning of a project and also the product release phase. I really like it when we start a project and we just experiment with different ideas. That’s the part where I can be really creative.
The hardest part sometimes is selling my ideas to clients. Usually they come to us with something in mind and we try to develop that into a great product.
When I get stuck I go away from my computer for a couple of minutes and have a cigarette, a coffee, or I just go out for a beer and discuss my ideas with some friends. Then get back and try to look at the problem from a different angle, try out something completely new.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
Levi: Probably never more than one full day. I found that sleeping enough (7-8 hours / day) is the best thing you can do towards progress.
Jozsi: 40 hours, when I still experimented with music production and also started my career as a freelance designer. Those were hard times.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
Levi: Deciding to do what I loved and cared about in face of other expectations. There are always trade offs, but I try spending most of my time with things I love doing.
What software could you not live without?
Levi: Workflowy, Google and Simplenote.
Jozsi: Photoshop CC and Textmate. However, I don’t do that much coding these days; still, it’s always good to have them. And some music streaming app, of course :)
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
Levi: Timely, a really cool Android alarm clock.
Jozsi: Adobe Photoshop CC and Adobe Muse. The new Photoshop features are pretty impressive, Adobe Muse is the new big thing in web and interface design. Both are boosting our design process.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
Levi: Teehan+Lax and Rally Interactive.
Jozsi: Fantasy Interactive, Hello Monday and Rally Interactive. I’ve been following them for a couple of years now and they all produce fantastic work. I consider them as pioneers in the web and mobile industry.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Jozsi: I think responsive design didn’t bring only good for the web industry, it also had some unwanted “side effects”. On one hand, it makes browsing content on any device much easier, but on the other hand it limits the creativity of designers.
Don’t get me wrong, I see some amazing responsive websites out there displaying a huge amount of data, which look good and work good, but I see more and more flat, one column, template-like ones, as well. I think it’s usually because the designer or the client doesn't have the time and/or money to invest in a more complex responsive site and opts for a quick one- column-flat-solution. Sure they do the job, and are relatively quick to develop, but I think there are too many of them. I also think that responsive design is “still” in an early stage, technology is changing so fast, so I’m sure we will see some more amazing projects in the future.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Levi: This is our first one, but I’m sure it will be an important step in putting Halcyon Mobile on the “Top App Developers” Map.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
Jozsi: It’s not online, actually it never was. It was a school project, with the design made in paint, the coding in Dreamweaver with the old drag and drop absolute DIVs. It was 9 years ago…
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
Levi: I probably will at some point. For now I’m focused on doing things (which some day might be worth writing about).
Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?
Levi: Fishing and spending time with family and friends.
The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?
Levi: Not really. For now there’s still a lot to be done, and the possibilities are endless in Digital.
Jozsi: Don’t really think it hinders me. You can approach a problem from many different angles and come up with different solutions, using different mediums. It’s important to know your target audience and focus on the medium which is the closest to them. There are many creative ways to combine different mediums, QR codes in print + mobile apps, interactive showrooms, desktop site that interacts with your mobile phone...
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Jozsi: Absolutely. I never went to any design school either, mostly because I’m pretty bad at drawing and you need to know how to draw to get into a design school here, but I know a couple of successful designers out there who are also self-taught. I saw a short documentary about the future of education (don’t remember the title) where it said you don’t need to teach people, you just need to give them resources to learn things from.
Everything depends on motivation. If you’re motivated enough you can learn nearly anything. Also, the designer community is really supportive, you can ask almost anyone for feedback or help on Twitter and all the portfolio sharing platforms.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
Levi: I think it’s actually pretty easy. In this area, your work speaks for itself.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
Levi: The Hyperloop.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Levi: Referrals from the very first clients.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
Levi: Reading daily and occasionally doing a deeper research into a specific area.
Jozsi: I check the web design showcase site every day looking for cool new stuff others come up with. I start my day with going through the tech news and spend a bunch of time on Twitter.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
Levi: US and Japan.
Jozsi: While the U.S. is still number one in tech companies and startups, I would say Sweden, or most of the Scandinavian countries. A couple of big, innovative agencies, as well as a lot of small startups with fresh ideas come from there. But it’s really hard to pick just 1-2 countries, as we see lots of creative ideas every day from all around the world.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
Levi: It’s more like a dream with today’s technology, but it would be building real Artificial Intelligence, bringing computers to life.
Jozsi: As I’m still really into music, still experimenting with it (having producer and DJ friends around me), I would really like to work on some app, software or even hardware related to music production, DJing, combining analogue with digital.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
Levi: We think we’re in the right place at the right time. Mobile is taking over the world, and we’re determined to have our say in this. We’re looking forward to our next own product and helping other companies innovate in mobile.
Jozsi: As I mentioned before, I really want to get closer to music. I don’t really know how I will bring design and music together, there are so many different ways. We’ll see.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
Levi: Building and launching our first really big, world-changing mobile product.
Jozsi: I would like to learn Adobe After Effects which starts to be very popular among UX designers for prototyping and showcasing design to clients.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
Jozsi: A blazer. I’m a bit of a fashion addict so I usually spend more money on clothes.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
Levi: Simple things. No labels.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Levi: Success = doing things the best you can. Not trying to find tricks and shortcuts to get around it, instead just do it. Delight your customer and the rest will follow.
Jozsi: Always say yes to new opportunities, challenges, you can think about the rest later.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
Levi: My pleasure, thank you.
Jozsi: It was an honor, thank you too.