A Creative Twist on Video Conferencing with Whereby
There's a new player in the world of video conferencing tools, and they're using creative design to shake things up.
Over the last year and a half, much of the world has become reliant on video conferencing. A huge percentage of the workforce is still doing their job remotely, which means that video conferencing tools are necessary for staying productive and connected.
Video conferencing products, however, are nothing new. They've been around for years, and a handful of major companies have cornered the market and are synonymous with telecommunication.
While these brand names continue to produce tools that are widely used, most of what they make feels and looks the same as their competitor's products. What this means is that these tools are, to put it bluntly, generic.
This is how Whereby managed to disrupt a competitive sector in technology; instead of creating a carbon copy of other video conferencing tools, Whereby is on a mission to revolutionize the industry by bringing a deeply human and personal feel to their products.
A Chat with the Whereby Design Squad
At the heart of the Whereby video conferencing revolution is remarkable design. Design is one of the key ways Whereby can stand out amongst the competition and shake things up in this competitive product space.
We sat down with Whereby's Director of Product Design, James Ferguson (aka "Fergo"), and Product Designer Jordan Amblin, to learn more about their mission, and how their team employs a creative strategy to win over the hearts of their customers.
James "Fergo" Ferguson Dives Deep on Design
As the Director of Product Design, Fergo is still relatively new at Whereby. However, his 17 years of experience and a long list of impressive design roles speak for themselves, and his skills and vision are already impacting the product's success.
Here's what Fergo had to say about creating an unforgettable tool, and how he sees design playing a major role in redefining video conferencing.
Blush: It's great to sit down and chat with you! To kick things off, why is creativity one of the cornerstones of Whereby's mission? What is it about creativity that was hard to capture via video calls?
James "Fergo" Ferguson (JF): Creativity is a crucial part of our strategy and product. Simulating the feeling of being in person whilst remote is no easy feat and one we continue to challenge ourselves to think differently about.
Blush: Speaking of things that aren't easy, your superpower is bringing design, product, and engineering teams together to bring digital experiences to life. How are you and the teams at Whereby able to create a digital experience that stands out from the competition?
JF: As cliché as it sounds, everything we do starts with the customer. By putting them at the center of everything we are able to craft experiences which not only solve real problems, but also manage to create experiences that people love.
Blush: I'm glad you brought up the customer experience because we wanted to know, in your opinion, as the Director of Product Design, how do you see illustrations help improve the experience of Whereby?
JF: At Whereby, we're all about connecting people no matter where they are in the world. It's when people connect that magical things can happen - whether that's a workshop with your team, a call with your doctor or an online event, these moments create memories and for us, illustration is a crucial part of articulating these moments to help continue conversations beyond our platform.
Blush: After 17 years of experience as a creative explorer and maker, what do you see as the future of creative digital experiences? Will illustrations continue to be crucial in the future?
JF: Illustration has been around since the start of time – be it cave drawings or hieroglyphics, people have used illustration as a way of communicating and I don't see that changing anytime soon. As we continue to invest in more remote experiences, I believe we'll need to invest in richer communication methods and illustrations have a big part to play in that. Be it a diagram on a whiteboard or a character in a children's book, illustration helps make ideas come to life much quicker than any verbal or written description could.
Blush: Whether it's for product design, engineering, or trying to encourage your team, how do you find inspiration for creativity? How do you try to inspire those around you to come up with creative solutions?
JF: For me, it's all about investing in non-digital creative pursuits. Whether it's cooking, woodworking, or building lego - getting away from the screen and allowing your brain to do something else is critical to keep the creative juices flowing.
Blush: Last question for you Fergo: What's different about the design process at Whereby? What makes your team and this company unique in the way you collaborate?
JF: Because we're fully remote, we have team members all over the world. From Bali to London, and Cape Town to Chattanooga, we work wherever and by whatever means works. This means we rely less on in-person meetings and more on asynchronous work. The tools we build and the culture we invest in is crucial to our success.
Blush: Love that! Thanks so much, Fergo!
Jordan Amblin: A Product Design Perfectionist
Jordan is another of Whereby's Product Designers who is constructing a tool and experience that shines against the competition. We spoke with Jordan about the path that led him to where he is now, and dove into his perspective on how design is a critical component when it comes to shaking up an industry's status quo.
Blush: Hey Jordan! Thanks so much for sitting down with us today. Let's jump right in, shall we? First off, we noticed that you have a very diverse career path in the field of design. Could you describe how you've ended up where you are today, as well as a little bit about your inspiration for getting into Product design?
Jordan Amblin (JA): I feel like there were a few stepping stones along the way before landing in product design. It all started with my fascination for cameras when I did some acting as a child for a local film. I begged my mum for a camera, which served as my creative output for years. Photography pushed me to download Photoshop and with those skills, I ended up designing loads of Bebo themes for my friends. I then started to push this further learning how to build websites in flash and DreamWeaver. You could say I was obsessed with learning tools, so I picked up After Effects, Illustrator, and many others, all to challenge myself.
After helping my school design websites, posters, and animated backdrops for school productions, I ended up going on to study Advertising Design. Quite quickly into my degree I started designing iOS apps, and loved the combination of technical experience and visual design.
What does it for me is how tangible product design is. You can observe customers interacting with your designs and then quickly learn, iterate and improve in quick succession.
Blush: Building off your years of experience with design, your colleagues have described you as a designer with "true passion and talent, with real motivation and energy." How do you maintain this motivation? How do you inspire this passion in your team?
JA: There's no doubt I'm a perfectionist. Even if there is no perfect destination in product design as such. There will always be areas to chase and improve. What I learn tomorrow can impact the work of yesterday. All of this results in a better experience for the customers I'm designing for.
I inspire this motivation in my team by sharing work that enables me to deliver the best work I'm capable of, which in turn hopefully motivates them to do the same. I also strive to provide true, honest feedback to allow us all the opportunity to improve and build better products.
Blush: Given that you've worked for more than a few companies in different roles, What's different about the creative relationship at Whereby? How does creativity stand out in this position?
JA: The Whereby mission is to give people the freedom to work and live where they thrive. As designers, we’re given the freedom to explore the work we believe will help people thrive. We don’t follow the status quo, and we aren’t scared to stand out. We always look at the in-person counterpart we’re aiming to achieve digitally, and bring as many metaphors as possible.
Blush: Obviously we love that Whereby uses illustrations to enhance the user experience. From your perspective, how do illustrations enhance the overall experience of a product? What is it about illustrations that make UI, UX, and the overall product more appealing?
JA: For me, illustrations sit alongside other variables (like type, color, motion) where brands can truly stand out and represent themselves in digital products today. Illustration allows us ultimate freedom and creativity to express emotions that aren't possible with photography.
As the platforms we design introduce more common components, which greatly improve the usability and familiarity for users, we now have to put greater emphasis on the visual elements in order to provide beautiful experiences.
Blush: Following that up, do you see illustrations playing a bigger role in design? Specifically in Product, UI, and UX design?
JA: Absolutely. You open any inspiration site today and you’ll be filled with illustrations as part of the designs. They offer us so much flexibility and freedom. The possibilities are endless when it comes to illustrations.
Blush: Thanks so much for your time, Jordan!
What Change is Made Of
Whereby is a successful product for many reasons, but part of what makes it such a special and collaborative tool are the dedicated top-tier professionals who focus on user-centric design. The experience with Whereby is personal, enjoyable, and completely different from the duller competition, and there's little doubt that this tool will continue to thrive as it grows into a globally recognized brand.
Have you used Whereby? Drop us a line and let us know what you think of their video conferencing tool!